Bach to the Future

Portland String Quartet

Pictured: Dean Stein, Ronald Lantz, Julia Adams, and Patrick Owen. Photograph by Woody Leland, courtesy of the Portland String Quartet.

Julia Adams has logged a half-century with the Portland String Quartet.

The PSQ plays a set of 50th anniversary shows this month, and 78-year-old violist Julia Adams, along with 73-year-old violinist Ronald Lantz, has been with the group the whole time, even as the musical landscape has evolved.


Shutterstock I Svetlana Prikhnenko

Did you expect to be with the PSQ so long?

After the first 10 years, we just kind of kept going. We never really thought about the milestones until we got there. But now that we’re at 50, it’s really quite amazing to me.

How’s the scene changed in five decades?

We’re proud we’ve been part of propelling the arts scene in Maine. There were always summer programs, of course — wonderful musical experiences, where big shots came from Philadelphia or New York — but in winter, it was bleaker. We’ve helped to enlarge the arts presence to year-round.

How has it been integrating new members?

Every musician is a different personality. Their give and take with the ensemble is different, but the goals are the same, to bring this music alive. We can be flexible about how to shape a phrase or whether to pause or not pause — those discussions are exciting to have with new people. If you don’t have flexibility, you’re not going to last very long in an ensemble.

Do you and Ron ever talk retirement?

Well, we certainly aren’t planning to not continue — we won’t bow out as long as we have the love for it. We still have the energy to experiment and discover new things. I think this keeps us young.

The Portland String Quartet plays Bartók, Mozart, and Brahms on Dec. 2 at Woodfords Congregational Church (202 Woodford St., Portland) and performs Bach’s Art of the Fugue on Dec. 21 at Mechanics’ Hall (519 Congress St., Portland).


Will Grunewald

Will Grunewald is a senior editor at Down East magazine.