About Arcturus

A Message from Director Sarah Darling

Sarah Darling, photo credit Susan Wilson

First of all, welcome. I'm glad that you've found your way here.

I officially "founded" the Arcturus Chamber Ensemble in 2000. But of course, the idea had been growing in my mind for as long as I've been playing music. Every musician remembers the first incredible thrill of playing chamber music with others; the realization of just how important this form of communication is. (For me, that moment was a harmonization of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," which haunted my 5-year old self for weeks!)

On an even broader level, we - musicians and non-musicians alike - all know the feeling of wanting to bring people together. Who hasn't said to one friend at some point: "I'd love for you to have a chance to meet So-and-So; I think the two of you would really understand each other well."

Abigail Karr, Jesse Irons, and Justin Haynes

For musicians, this process is even more extreme. As we float between our different engagements, getting to know a variety of colleagues in different places, the variation on the above quote becomes: "I'd love for you to have a chance to play with So-and-So; I think the two of you would really understand each other well." Music is such a huge and vibrant part of the way that we communicate that finding a true "musical friend" is cause for celebration!

These thoughts were circling in my head during a masterclass I was attending in the Netherlands, nearly 10 years ago now. Once again, I had found myself in the wonderful yet frustrating situation of getting to know musicians from all over the world - over a time span of three weeks, at which point we would all go back to our various countries. Again and again, I found myself wishing I could introduce these players to musician friends that I had in America, and vice versa. One day, it occurred to me quite simply and naturally that of course it was possible.

Musicians come together to work together; if I wanted to give these musicians a chance to know each other, I would simply have to create a situation in which they could do just that.

at the Darling residence

The first session of the Arcturus Chamber Ensemble took place in the fall of 2000. It put a model in place that has changed very little over the years. About 10 musicians (out of a pool of about 40 that I contacted) came to live at my house during Thanksgiving vacation: getting to know each other, rehearsing together, and giving concerts at the end of the week. A few months later, we did the same thing, again. As you might expect, some of the members were the same; others were new, and got to know the previous community. And so it goes!

We settled on the name "Arcturus" after looking through lists of constellations for a word or a concept that we particularly liked. The ensemble is, of course, very constellation-like since our overall shape is defined by a group of distinct, individual, points. Arcturus is the primary star in the constellation "Bootes," or "The Shepherd" that watches over the two bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor — the Big and Little Dippers. One of the defining characteristics of Arcturus is that it is visible in every season, present in the sky every time we come together to play.

With each successive session, our musical process becomes more and more organic as everyone gets to know each other. Nearly always, the mix of old and new continues — as people that haven't yet seen each other, or played with each other, begin to make chamber music together with others who might have been playing together for years. And of course, exciting new members keep popping up! In my mind, this process helps the group stay "alive" — giving a continual twist to a community that, at this point, knows itself very well.

I continue to be fascinated, as I watch a week of Arcturus unfold, and to feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it. The experiences of a group of individuals come together, for a short time, in support of a unified purpose. To see that process from beginning to end never gets old - if anything, I'm astounded every new time, and reminded of what an honor it is to be facilitating this meeting of minds and hearts!

And then, there are the concerts... but you know about those!

Related Sites

Some other groups that Arcturus members are involved with: