The strains of Franz Schubert’s String Quintet drift off the porch of a 1700s log cabin in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The music floats across the lawn where the audience is seated on blankets on this humid August evening. This audience is younger than most classical music goers. More than half of them are under the age of 12, and some are starting to get a bit squirmy despite the beautiful sounds of the “Sublime Quintet,” as this piece is known. It’s their fathers and uncles on the porch, the five brothers of the Marks family.
Bare feet on the stone floor, beards and cut-off shorts, it’s not a typical look for a chamber music group.
When they stand up to take a bow, you notice another striking family resemblance, they’re really tall. They all attended Indiana University and were often asked if they played basketball.
But, no. They played violas and cellos.
As classical musicians do, they spread out across the world to find jobs in orchestras. Their résumés include the Radio Philharmonic in Holland, the National Arts Center Orchestra in Canada, and the Austin Opera in Texas.
Paolo Marks traveled over the Blue Ridge to set up his violin-making shop in Hillsboro. When they get together once a year in Loudon County, Virginia, where they grew up, there is music in every corner of their mother’s house.
It’s not just classical music, and it’s not just the brothers anymore.
The brothers met their partners through music, and not surprisingly, the five women in their lives are musicians.
The next generation is carrying on the family tradition.
After the uncles played the Shubert, many of the squirmy children found their composure and performed pieces with violin, piano, voice and drums on the log cabin porch.
The brothers and partners formed a 10-piece orchestra and played a piece by Joseph Haydn. Then all of the children put on a play.
It was a typical Marks family reunion.
“Yeah, sometimes I blackmailed them a little,” said Lucretia Marks when talking about how she raised a family of musicians and got them to practice. “But mostly it was just fun. If you want the kids to do something, you do it, too.”
Music was a big part of their household.
Their father, the late Tom Marks, started the Loudon Symphony Orchestra because he thought there should be more music in the community. He was a violist in the Vancouver Orchestra before starting a family.
“He was just like the kids,” Lucretia said, “going on adventures in the woods and playing music. It was always fun to play with Dad.”
Four of the brothers and their partners will travel to Hillsboro, to play a free concert at the Yew Mountain Center.
They will also host a “one day summer camp for growing musicians.”
It will reflect their varied tastes in music and their love of adventures. It is open to string players of any stripe, strummed or bowed, all ages. They should come with their adventuring shoes on.
The camp will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, August 11. The concert will be at 7 p.m.
The concert is free and the “summer camp” is just $25, thanks to support from donors and Pocahontas County Dramas, Fairs and Festivals.
For more information call the Yew Mountain Center at 304-653-4079 or email firstname.lastname@example.org