Written by Bailey Ridenour // Photo by Macy Cox
Harding University hosted the 242 Strings Concert chamber ensemble in the Reynolds Recital Hall Tuesday, Feb. 21.
242 Strings is a group of four Harding faculty — adjunct instructor of strings and director of the quartet Alicia Walls, associate professor of music Scott Carrell, music adjunct instructor Leigh Wing, and music adjunct instructor Micah Donar — who play mostly classical music with stringed instruments, mainly the piano, violin, viola and cello. Their group name comes from the number of strings in each instrument — the piano has 230, the violin four, the viola four and the cello four, making a total of 242 strings.
“It’s just a way to play with some really outstanding colleagues,” Walls said. “You can’t play well if you don’t trust and respect each other, and we have that trust and respect in this group. You depend on each other musically … It’s just a lot of fun.”
The group’s inception dates back to about 2019 when the four professors were looking for more ways to become involved in practicing their craft. The members of 242 Strings will usually bring music to rehearsals and decide as a group the list of songs they want to perform. Walls explained that they will meet once a week either in Little Rock, Arkansas, or here in Searcy to practice but that the majority of the practice happens individually.
The members came together on Feb. 21 to play pieces that were more challenging and outside of the realm they would normally get the chance to play. Some of the pieces performed were movements from Johann Brahms, Johann Christian Bach and even an arrangement of “My Favorite Things” by Carrell. 242 Strings would be considered a chamber ensemble and not a band because it is a small number of people and does not include any brass or percussion instruments — depending on how one classifies the piano.
“I think that the education of being able to experience and to see and interact with different kinds of groups and different kinds of artists is invaluable,” Carrell said. “This is the time when [students] start to get a glimpse of what all is out there, with all of the various ensembles that are a part of the department and the additional things. It gives them opportunities right here, where you don’t have to drive anywhere or go anywhere or pay big ticket prices … to bring exposure of the wider world … beyond what our students have seen before.”
“Quartet in G Major W.B 66” by Bach and “Alla Italiana” arranged by Walls were bright and fast-paced pieces, while “Quartet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 26” by Brahms was much slower and moodier. The concert drew students, faculty and local community members together to listen to the differing styles and moods of music.
“I really enjoyed the last one — [Carrell’s] own arrangement — that was really neat,” Avery Litten, an Arkansas State University-Beebe music student, said. “We don’t have an orchestra, but we could be a conductor for an orchestra, and I think this is really good experience for us to witness a string quartet or the orchestra that [Harding has] here.”