Cordis Quartet opens SOPAA season, Sept. 30

By Ryan Ottney

September 16, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

You might make certain assumptions about the type of music Cordis Quartet plays upon hearing their name. You might also glance quickly at their website and only see the word “Chamber” under their name and miss the word “Rock.” When you listen to them play, you won’t confuse them with other chamber groups you may have heard. Cordis Quartet performs at Vern Riffe Center for the Arts (VRCFA) at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth on Monday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Cordis appears as part of the series presented by Southern Ohio Performing Arts Association (SOPAA) and Shawnee State University.

“When the committee first met to consider the group and listen to their music, they sat up a little in their seats and said, ‘that isn’t quite what we were expecting,’” said VRCFA Director Joe Patti, who is beginning his first season since joining the Center in May.

Prior to being hired by SSU, Patti worked as the Theatre Manager at the University of Hawaii-Leeward Community College Theatre. Previous work experience includes Events and Festival Coordinator for the Appeal Farm Arts and Music Center in Elmer, N.J. and Business Manager/Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Theater at the University of Central Florida among others. Patti has a master’s of Fine Art in Theatre Management from Florida State University and a bachelor’s of Arts in English, certificate in Theatre Arts from Siena Collage in Loudonville, N.Y.

Patti’s first SOPAA season begins Sept. 30, when Cordis kicks things off at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts with a little something different. Indeed, the combinations of instruments used by the ensemble are a little unusual, but intriguing. Cello, concert cimbalom, (similar to the Appalachian hammered dulcimer), piano, and percussion form the basis of the instrumentation. To these the band adds custom made instruments like electric mbiras (thumb piano), melodica (key-flute), and the world’s longest playing cylinder driven music box.

Knowing that their instruments are unfamiliar, the group talks about each of them during the concert and invites the audience up on stage to take a closer look at the end of the performance. Cordis includes Jeremy Harman (cello), Richard Grimes (concert cimbalom), Brian O’Neill (piano) and Andrew Beall (percussion).

Commenting on the type of music the group plays, Grimes said, “We are catchy.” He notes that, although the words “chamber music” might scare some people away, the music is relatable and easy to enjoy. “People who like rock can get into it. People can also listen to it at a deeper level.”

Time Out New York said, “(Cordis) makes a strong case for both sides of its musical personality - expanding the boundaries of chamber music.”

Cordis will play at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts, at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30. More information about Cordis is available at

“We’re going to have them do a class for our students here on their instruments, which are not typical, so it’s really kind of valuable even to our mission as an instructional institution to have these people come in as well and expose them to music and different thoughts about what chamber music can be. It’s not just Mozart played by a strig quartet; you can have percussion instruments in chamber music as well,” Patti said.

Cordis Quartet tickets for lower tier seating are $36 regular, $34 senior, $30 students, $15 children under 12. Upper tier prices discounted. Special discounts for families and groups. Tickets and information are available 10-5 p.m. at the McKinley Box Office, 740-351-3600. Online through Ticketmaster at, or any Ticketmaster outlet.

Following Cordis in this year’s SOPAA season is The Columbus Jazz Orchestra on Oct. 21, “Mamma Mia” on Nov. 13, “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 3, “Rock of Ages” on Feb. 5, “The Miracle Worker” on March 25, classical musician Jenny Lin on April 9, and finally wrapping the season is “West Side Story” on April 21. Tickets for those shows will be available at the McKinley Box Office and through Ticketmaster.

“This season has really been selling well, and a lot of people have been saying they think this season is probably one of the best ones they’ve seen put together in a long time,” Patti said. “Our sales are up on tickets, especially subscriptions, so I think people in the community are showing support and people do like it.”

He said the board will begin already discussing ideas for their 2014-15 season next month.

Additional information about SOPAA at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts is available online at and

Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.