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SFCO closes final Classical at the Freight event of season

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The Monday Night Chamber Music Society group performed at the SFCO's final Classical at the Freight, skillfully playing two Schubert quartets.


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Senior Staff

MAY 17, 2023

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, or SFCO, closed its final Classical at the Freight event of the season with an ecstatically received performance Monday evening.

The program, meant to showcase chamber orchestra “all-starsand their guests, consisted of multiple performances over the course of several months, according to the SFCO website.

Each performance took place at the historic Freight & Salvage coffeehouse in Downtown Berkeley. According to its website, the venue, originally founded in 1968 by Nancy Owens, was converted into the now-coffeehouse from a dilapidated furniture store on Addison Street. 

The final group of performers goes by the name “Monday Night Chamber Music Society.” Originally made up of Liana Berubé and Hrabba Atladottir on the violin, Stephanie Ng and Benjamin Simon on the viola and Michael Graham performing on the cello, they performed one member short, with Simon filling in the second violin position.

After a brief introduction and performance guidelines, Simon, by turns a conductor, accomplished violist and experienced symphony music director throughout his career, walked on stage and addressed the crowd of nearly 100 people. Though they were missing a performer, most of the secondary violin pieces could be played by his viola with little variation, he noted.

“This is an improved string quartet,Simon joked during the event, eliciting audience laughter while referring to the addition of an extra member to the regular quartet format. 

He went on to explain that the 75-minute performance would run through two quartets — musical compositions for four musicians — both by Franz Schubert. 

The first was Schubert’s string quartet number 13 in A minor. Simon mentioned that the quartet was composed only months before Schubert’s death, recounting its “agitated” and “dramatic” movements in addition to those that sounded “sweet” and “simple.” Simon further highlighted how some of Schubert’s movements went so far as to sound “almost otherworldly” in their spectacle. 

“This is a very familiar quartet for all of us,” Simon said during the event. “Its intimacy and power draws us all in.”

The group skillfully played through each quartet, stopping only to draw breath during brief water breaks. During the performance, the audience sat in complete silence, enthralled by the music around them.

The group’s performance was well-received by its audience, who applauded loudly as the performers finished and thanked the crowd. As they filed out, members of the crowd chattered to one another about the performance while others donated to the coffeehouse in the lobby.

Though the performance marks the end of the 2022-2023 Classical at the Freight calendar, Freight & Salvage continues to host a range of shows during May — next weekend comes an annually performed tribute to Patsy Cline by artist Margaret Belton.

Contact Sebastian Cahill at 


MAY 17, 2023