Lark Dances

by Dr. Ellen Fishman
Photo by Julia Lehman

“The Lark” quartet by Franz Joseph Haydn was one of the first string quartets I studied as a music student. In 2009, I was commissioned by Jeanne Ruddy Dance to write an electronic piece loosely based on this quartet. I was excited to pay homage to my classical training as well as interpret this masterpiece through the lens of my musical language. This reimagining would also allow the dancers do the same. We had a wonderful run of performances at the Performance Garage in Philadelphia, and I had the intention of returning to the electronic score to make a version for string quartet but never did. With the pandemic of 2020-21, I, like many people, felt depleted as I wrestled with the shutdown. It was a perfect time to reflect on my past and revive this work for string quartet.


When composing the electronic version, I was working with students on a remix project that would become the accompaniment for a digital projection. I took the same remix approach and listened for short mannerisms or phrases from the Haydn which could be reinterpreted. You will hear the “lark” theme but may have to study the score to find other references. For example, the harmonic progression of the original “Adagio Cantabile” movement has been stretched over time to explore the complexities of each note of the harmony and the “Minuet and Trio” form was loosely interpreted with an asymmetrical meter in a jazz style. In all, the string quartet version is yet another version of this piece since some electronic sounds originally used were not possible on strings and all tracks had to be distilled down to four voices. As we near the spring of 2021 and the possibility of vaccines, this second reimagining has been a positive companion during a time of uncertainty, and the original string quartet remains a reminder of beauty and grace in our changing world.

Note: The Fairmount String Quartet will be performing the first and last movements of “Lark Dances” on June 16th and 26th, 2021.

Kind Words

Friday evening’s performance…by the members of the Fairmount String Quartet was splendid…the playing was expert to the point of perfection.

Michael Caruso, Chestnut Hill Local

From more classical music to fun contemporary songs, Fairmount Strings knocked it out of the park.

Alison F., bride

We are so grateful that Fairmount Strings made our wedding day vision come to life. 

Jocelyn G., bride

The quartet was magnificent and so very professional. One guest said the setting and the quartet made the ceremony storybook!

Joanne F., Bride

Last night the audience told you so well what I am trying to put into words now. Thank you for an unbelievably beautiful concert!

Alice Nugent, Candlelight Concerts at Laurel Hill

The beautiful sound of your music will stay with me always. It was simply stunning and made our day feel like a fairy tale.

Julie & Tom B., Bride and Groom

Adding to their laurels — professionalism, intuition and timeliness, we look forward to many future musical endeavors with the Fairmount Chamber Ensemble.

Kevin O’Malia, Director of Music, First United Methodist Church of Germantown

I made a point of standing off to the side in the back of the church to listen. It was….well….perfection.

Chris C., Mother of the Bride

It is such a privilege to work with musicians of their caliber who are so genuinely committed to supporting the growth and development of our students.

Stephen Kushner, Director of Choral Music, Germantown Friends School

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your beautiful performance, which helped to make the vision and dream I had for my daughter’s wedding day come true.

Jeanne B., Mother of the Bride

They are wonderful musicians, easy to work with, and deliver performances of consistently high quality.

Clair Rozier, Director of Music, St. David’s Episcopal Church

Sheet music background image.