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ANCIA Saxophone Quartet to play music from around the world in free concert at Nokomis Library May 5

Posted on 24 April 2018 by calvin

To step inside this Nokomis living room on a wintry Sunday morning was to be readily transported to a much warmer place: Cuba. ANCIA Saxophone Quartet was rehearsing a piece by Paquito D’Rivera in preparation for upcoming concerts, including a free one on May 5 at the Nokomis Library.

Titled “Monk-Tuno,” the song is a play on the word montuno, a traditional Cuban musical style, and renowned American jazz musician Thelonious Monk. These Latin rhythms offered a respite from the blustery day outdoors and a great preview of ANCIA’s upcoming performances. Featuring Latin jazz, South American tango, music from Mexico, Japanese folks songs, Afro-Funk and more, the quartet promises a trip around the world—inside the library.

Photo right: Left to right: Matthew Sintchak, Angela Wyatt, David Milne and Joan Hutton of ANCIA Saxophone Quartet will be performing a free concert of music from around the world at Nokomis Library May 5. (Photo by Daniel Soderstrom)

ANCIA (pronounced AHN-chee-uh, the Italian word for reed) was founded by Nokomis resident Angela Wyatt in 1990. One connection led to another and then another, and they became the four members who make up the quartet today. Wyatt plays the baritone saxophone, Joan Hutton, who is also from the Nokomis neighborhood, plays the alto saxophone, St. Paul resident David Milne plays the tenor saxophone, and Matthew Sintchak, from Madison, WI, plays the soprano saxophone.

Together the critically-acclaimed group performs music that spans cultures, genres and time periods, drawing on their talents as well as the range and potential of their instrument of choice.

“The saxophone is such a fantastic instrument,” said Milne. “It’s got versatility, flexibility, beauty, and power.”

Intended to be played as part of a group (according to Sintchak, there are actually 14 types of saxophone), the saxophone works as well at a concert as it does in church or at a jazz festival. ANCIA welcomes the variety of music that entails and are as at home playing with a chamber orchestra as they are in a university setting.

Dedicated to showcasing new works for saxophone quartet, ANCIA actively commissions work from modern composers.

“We’re eager for that repertoire,” said Wyatt. “Composers appreciate that we’re so versatile.”

Which means they’ve had to remain flexible. The group laughed while reminiscing about a couple of past tours. Like the time in South Korea when Sintchak was handed a 15-minute solo soprano piece just moments before the concert was to begin (they had received their other music a couple of months in advance). Or the time in Berlin when the composer was told to “make anything you want to” and greeted ANCIA by saying “I bet you hate me right now.” The quartet had agreed to play the material before it had been written, a sort of challenge they seem to embrace.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” said Sintchak. “It’s like a chef’s special.”

In commissioning a new composer, the idea of trying to embed meaning into the work is vital to the group. ANCIA collaborated with Minnesota-based composer Libby Larsen on “Confluence,” which they premiered in Strasbourg, France, in 2015. The composition draws on cultural aspects and environmental concerns at the confluence of rivers in four distinctly different regions: the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake in the Pacific Northwest; the Yangtze and Jialing in China; the Rhine, Mosel, and Ill in Europe; and the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri in the Midwest.

Each of the four movements gives different representations of culture and the sounds you might hear. For example, Mississippi Folk songs and steamboats, with the water itself adding distinctive qualities and rhythms and invoking different moods.

“[One movement] begins at a nuclear power plant,” said Hutton. “So it’s not happy.”

Quartet members share a love of teaching and passing it on to the next generation. Music educators themselves—Hutton at Augsburg College, Wyatt at Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools, Milne at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and Sintchak at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater—ANCIA members credit instructors they’ve had for encouraging them to play music.

“We’ve all been blessed to have world-class professors and mentors,” said Wyatt. “That’s a huge piece to playing our instruments at a high level.”

Sintchak said he had great teachers who said he should keep on playing. “I didn’t realize how fortunate I was in my music instruction until I got to college.”

To remain a group over many years while juggling families and other obligations is its own challenge, yet ANCIA has made it work. They practice one weekend a month, with Sintchak commuting the longest (from Madison), to make music.

“We all have crazy busy lives,” said Wyatt. “But we carve out this space to play music together.”

“It’s pretty special when you find people to make music with, and you love their company,” said Hutton.

Hear them play at a free one-hour concert at Nokomis Library on May 5 at 10:30am and at Highland Library in St. Paul on May 20 at 2pm. These concerts were made possible through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Cultural Heritage Fund. Stay tuned for ANCIA’s CD release later this year.

For more information on other upcoming concerts and to hear recordings, visit their website at

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