Asylum Quartet: Reminder of the Arts and Gift-giving

Musical gifts create mindful moments.

Posted Dec 21, 2015

Copyright Rita Watson 2015
Source: Copyright Rita Watson 2015

As we stumble into last minutes of the gift-giving season, perhaps it is time to think about gifts that will enrich relationships—special moments of togetherness.  Memberships to a museum, concert series, the ballet or theatre create a time for two people to share an uplifting or thought-provoking experience.  It is a guarantee of a date night which, in the hectic pace of today's world, makes special togetherness times a challenge.

In going through the boxes of holiday cards—that I have good intentions of sending—I found a CD of the Asylum Quartet that I had slipped inside an envelope to send as a gift. Then I remembered the creativity of an evening at the Boston Athenaeum, listening to this group from the University of Hartford who brought us their energy and talent last month. Awarded the Grand Prize at the International Chamber Music Competition in 2014, the musicians each play a saxophone that creates the sound of other instruments. 

The four saxophone players were Joseph Abad, soprano; Max Schwimmer, tenor; Anthony Speranza, alto; and Andrew Barnhart, baritone. With music from Gyorgu Ligeti, Anton Dvorak, and Claude Debussy their sounds transported me to a crowded, lively marketplace; the seaside with apprehensive fog horns; a forest path under towering trees; a whirlwind, bustling city; the solemnity of a memorial service; and then joyful moments of catching sunbeams on a carousel.

Ensemble-in-Residence at Hartford’s Christ Church Cathedral, the Asylum Quartet is a group of gifted musicians who give us mindful moments of reflection and inner smiles. They are also performing a second season of free community concerts in the downtown Hartford, Connecticut area. At the Athenaeum concert, their "Children's Corner" by Debussy, arranged by van der Linden, was filled with imaginative tunes including "The Snow is Dancing" and "Serenade for the Doll."

Although their CD contains music that differs from their concert: "Quartet for Saxophones in B-Flat, op 109," "Heaven Lay Close," and "Guillermo Lago," it is a reminder of an afternoon at the Athenaeum within a setting that prepares the heart and mind to embrace moments of joy. (

The Massachusetts Cultural Council supported in part the program at the Athenaeum, my second home. (

When couples share a museum membership, it guarantees them a time to put day-to-day stress behind them as they walk the halls of a gallery and exchange thoughts. Or with subscriptions to music or the theater they create for themselves another opportunity for uplifting moments. Those who chose gifts that support the arts also enhance their relationship by adding a creative dimension to their repertoire of shared memories.

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson


Harris, C., Barnier, A., Sutton, J., & Keil, P. (2014). Couples as socially distributed cognitive systems: Remembering in everyday social and material contexts Memory Studies, 7 (3), 285-297 DOI: 10.1177/1750698014530619