April 18, 2010

Andrew Cyr is having a classical gas in NYC

The Fort Kent native is happily making his way in Manhattan, bringing new chamber music to the city's hip night spots.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Thirty-four floors above the bustle of 67th Street, Andrew Cyr sits cross-legged on a sofa looking north over Manhattan. Beyond the immediate grid of the city blocks below and tall buildings that fan out before him, Cyr's gaze takes him to the George Washington Bridge, across the Hudson River and into New Jersey, then back into the room where he sits.

click image to enlarge

Andrew Cyr is founder and artistic director of the Metropolis Ensemble, a professional chamber orchestra based in New York City.

Joanna Williams photo

ON THE WEB

TO LEARN MORE, visit www. metropolisensemble.org.

It's a spectacular view, courtesy of a friend who has turned her condo over to Cyr and his friends for an afternoon rehearsal.

Seated before him are four musicians from the chamber group known as the Metropolis Ensemble. With exhausting earnestness, the players work their way through a piano quartet that has never been played before. The music, written by recent Yale graduate Timothy Andres, is receiving its first rehearsal in preparation for its premiere a few nights later.

Performing on piano, violin, cello and viola, the musicians

talk among themselves to work out questions of tempo, triplets and rhythm.

As founder and artistic director of the Metropolis Ensemble, Cyr listens and observes, sometimes closing his eyes and keeping time with a nervous, bouncy leg.

"They have to find their own solutions and discover things themselves," Cyr says during a rehearsal break. "This is something that is not in the repertory. This is not something they grew up with. They have to discover it and unveil it."

The setting is one that he could hardly imagine growing up in Fort Kent in the far reaches of northern Maine. Cyr, who graduated with a music degree from Bates College in Lewiston in 1996, finds himself at the apex of Manhattan's bustling new music scene.

His work involves making contemporary classical music accessible and appealing to the younger set of New Yorkers, who in a few hours hence will fill the bars and clubs of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Soho and other trendy neighborhoods with their bravado and merrymaking.

With boldness and vision, Cyr's Metropolis Ensemble is accomplishing what larger orchestras around the country can merely dream about: commissioning and performing new music for an eager and enthusiastic audience in non-traditional venues. 

WANTED: EMERGING ARTISTS

The Metropolis Ensemble is a professional chamber orchestra based in New York City. Cyr, 36, founded it four years ago as a vehicle for talented emerging composers and performers. Many, like Andres, are recent graduates of music conservatories eager to make their way in the world of classical music.

They are accustomed to running into roadblocks and rejections. But Cyr offers them a green light to proceed.

For performers, the Metropolis provides an opportunity to live and perform in New York while building a resume and honing skills that will make them appealing to larger orchestras when they get older.

For composers, it gives them the chance to write music that will be performed for an audience eager to hear it. In four years, the Metropolis Ensemble has commissioned 30 pieces of new music, resulting in money in the pockets of the composers who wrote it and the musicians who performed it.

"The opportunity that Andrew has created is the most important thing a composer can have," says Andres, 24. "You can write the best music, and that's all well and good. But if no one can hear it, what's the point?"

The ensemble -- a loosely knit collective of three or four dozen musicians that Cyr assembles for regular concerts -- has rapidly evolved, and lately is on an artistic roll.

Bloggers, critics and others are beginning to pay attention. This past winter, the Metropolis Ensemble released its first CD featuring performances of concertos by Israeli-American composer Avner Dorman. The disc is getting strong reviews. A quickly-organized February concert that raised $6,600 for Haiti relief also received an enthusiastic write-up in the New York Times.

(Continued on page 2)

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