Sound Surfing: Norwalk music director’s album up for Grammy Award
Violist-composer Nick Revel was on his way to a solo performance at St. Paul’s on the Green in Norwalk in November, when he got the news.
“I glanced at my phone to check traffic and saw a text: ‘We were nominated,’ ” Revel recalled. The text came from a member of Revel’s classical music ensemble PUBLIQuartet, and referred to the fact the group’s album “Freedom and Faith” had just been nominated for a Grammy Award for best chamber music/small ensemble performance of the year.
“My heart nearly exploded. I was flushed with adrenaline, and everything for the rest of the day felt surreal and insane,” Revel said. “ ... But after the initial rush passed, I felt incredibly humbled and honored to be formally recognized in such a public way.”
“Freedom and Faith” also climbed to No. 4 on Billboard’s Classical charts and features works that highlight the diversity and legacy of women in music over the last millennium, including compositions by Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald.
Revel, a Wilton High School graduate, formed PUBLIQuartet about 10 years ago with other like-minded musicians who enjoyed turning rehearsals into adventurous musical experiences.
“PUBLIQuartet is an genre-fluid, improvising, new music string quartet committed to innovation and access,” Revel said. “The core of what we do really comes from a place of curiosity and desire to play music we feel most connected with. We just happened to be two violins, viola and cello playing on stages where classical artists also play. So the goal is not necessarily to be cutting-edge or to make a statement. It’s more like, the statement is a result of us choosing to include all of the sounds we like.”
Although the ensemble is based in New York City, and Revel lives in Queens, they both have special ties to Norwalk and St. Paul’s.
“PUBLIQuartet performed at St. Paul’s on the Green last April for our Connecticut CD release of ‘Freedom and Faith,’ which was a highlight for me, because St. Paul’s is like my musical home,” said Revel, who is artistic and executive director of the Norwalk Youth Chamber Ensembles, which meet weekly in The Warner Center in the church’s education wing. Revel also sits on the board of Seabury Academy, a music and arts nonprofit in residence at St. Paul’s. His concert in November was part of the church’s Mid-Day Music series.
“I have been performing in Mid-Day Music or recording concerts there since I graduated from college in 2008,” Revel said. “So many members of that community have supported me and given me opportunities and encouragement over the years. It was so refreshing to return and give back to the community that raised me.”
Revel’s bandmates include Curtis Stewart and Jannina Norpoth on violins. Hamilton Berry replaced original cellist Amanda Gookin.
“I feel very fortunate to be a part of a group that is so accepting of alternative sounds and is even willing and, dare I say excited, to play my own compositions,” he said.
Revel noted the Grammy-nominated record was supported with a crowd-funding campaign.
“A professional recording is such a huge undertaking in all aspects. It’s very expensive — as a classical group there is a guaranteed deficit from the project — and you have to hope and pray that you’ll be playing your absolute best and feel creatively charged when you hit the studio, because those sounds are permanent.”
The musician-educator will be attending the Grammy Award ceremonies, which take place Jan. 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. He flies to the West Coast not long after his Thursday sessions with the Norwalk Youth Chamber Ensemble at St. Paul’s.
“Got my tux, got the plane tickets,” he said. “Blast off on Saturday for an afternoon Grammy reception and then Sunday for the results.”
The Grammys will be telecast live on CBS.
Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Hour. Mike can be reached at: