July in Maine holds many delights — sea breezes and sailboats on Casco Bay, picnics under shady trees, hikes in the mountains and along the coast. And yet, like every part of the earth, this climate is changing in ways both apparent and, as yet, unknown. We can experience the joy of the beauty surrounding us while also holding the complexities of living in a climate-changed world — and the arts offer us new language to engage this new world.
This July, we invited you to join us for a special, in-person concert featuring Halcyon String Quartet and the visual art of climate scientist, educator, and artist Jill Pelto. We hope you allowed the music to soothe, to challenge and stir your emotions — all within the graceful and historic structure of Portland’s Williston-Immanuel United Church.
Halcyon is a string quartet based in Midcoast Maine. As performers, artists, and collaborators, violinists Sophie and Josie Davis, violist Colin Wheatley, and cellist Nora Willauer strive to share their love of music in ways that foster connection, community, vibrancy, joy, warmth and accessibility. By combining music with visual art, Halcyon inspires its audiences to notice, observe, and actively participate in community while acknowledging and protecting the natural environment that sustains us. The quartet creates programs that build partnerships with local community organizations, promote environmental stewardship, and respond to the urgency of climate change. Halcyon’s performances combine music, narrative, film, and art to draw attention to the daily challenges, rewards, and realities facing our communities — acknowledging the need for creative and diverse communication that harnesses the power of cultural traditions, storytelling, music, and visual art to translate numbers and facts into something tangible and human. For more information on Halcyon's upcoming programs visit halcyonstringquartet.org.
Sophie grew up in Maine where she studied violin with Janet Ciano and Gilda Joffe. She received degrees in violin performance and environmental studies from Oberlin College and Conservatory. Playing and sharing music are integral to Sophie’s creative and professional practice. She has participated in the Perlman Chamber Music Workshop, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Program, as a soloist with Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble, and with her sister on NPR’s From the Top. She has performed at the Kennedy Center, Chicago’s Symphony Hall, the Monte Music Festival in India, and with the Jordan National Orchestra (JOrchestra) in Amman, Jordan. In 2017, Sophie was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant to spend nine months in the South Pacific island nation of Samoa where she explored the ways in which the arts can raise awareness of climate change. In addition to pursuing research, Sophie taught and performed with the National Orchestra of Samoa. Sophie divides her time between musical performance and pedagogy. She serves as violin faculty and chamber music coordinator at Bay Chamber Music School in Rockport and is the co-founder of Halcyon — an ensemble dedicated to using music and art to cultivate environmental stewardship. Sophie performs throughout New England with Halcyon, as a duo with her sister and plays frequently with the Portland-based chamber orchestra, Palaver Strings.
Josie Davis received her undergraduate degrees in violin and sociology at Oberlin College and Conservatory where she was a student of David Bowlin, and her Ed.M from Harvard University. She has performed in a wide range of venues from Carnegie Hall to the Monte Music Festival in India and has appeared with her sister on NPR’s From the Top. She actively explores ways to share classical music in new contexts and has performed chamber music with Emanuel Ax in a taco shop, played solo Bach for Chris Thile, and shared music on a mountaintop in India. Her teaching has brought her to Panama, India and Community MusicWorks in Rhode Island where she completed a two-year Fellowship. In past summers, she has studied at the Juilliard String Quartet Seminar, Bowdoin International Music Festival and Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival. She is committed to creating more chamber music opportunities for young people and is the founder and director of summer workshops for young people in Maine and Connecticut. As a violinist, educator and arts administrator, Josie is interested in how the arts can be used as a form of cultural empowerment to build bridges and strengthen communities. In addition to her work with Halcyon, Josie is a member of Palaver Strings, and works at Bay Chamber Concerts and Music School.
Nora Willauer is a passionate musician, devoted not only to her instrument, but also to the relationship between music and community. Last spring, Nora graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music with her Masters of Music Performance. She is currently pursuing a performance certificate with Dr. Melissa Kraut. In the past few years, Nora has performed as a soloist with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, the Liceu Cello Ensemble in Barcelona, and the University of Oregon Symphony Orchestra. She has won numerous prizes including the Labberte-Hoedemaker Award from the Peter de Grote festival in the Netherlands, the University of Oregon Undergraduate Performance Award and the Eugene Symphony’s Young Artist Competition. Nora serves as Executive Director of DocSong, a non-profit dedicated to co-writing authentic songs with communities in crisis. She is the founder of “Songs of #MeToo,” a multimedia presentation that paired documentary songs written with women who had experienced sexual misconduct or domestic violence with the preludes from J.S. Bach’s cello suites. This performance raised over $8,000, benefitted the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and included more than 20 different female artists from across the globe. Nora is excited to continue exploring the intersection between documentary songwriting and social justice: in the next few years she hopes to raise awareness around climate change through workshops and performances.
Colin has been teaching violin and viola to students of all ages for 15 years. He is currently the Orchestra Director for Waterville Public Schools, and also teaches at Bay Chamber and with Pineland Suzuki School. Originally from Bellingham Washington, Colin earned his BM in Viola Performance at Oberlin Conservatory studying with Peter Slowik, his MM in Viola Performance from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he was a student of Atar Arad, and his graduate degree in teaching from Oberlin Conservatory. An avid chamber musician, Colin plays with Halcyon and has performed for members of the Emerson, Pacifica, Cleveland, and Takas quartets and for Yo Yo Ma. He has collaborated with Stevie Wonder, Robert Spano, Menahem Pressler, and Jeremy Denk. Colin's teaching is influenced by his work with Mimi Zweig at the Indiana University String Academy, Suzuki Teacher training, and the many musical and pedagogical mentors that have shaped his approach to sharing music with young people. When not performing and teaching, Colin enjoys spending time outdoors, running marathons, beekeeping, cooking, and traveling.
Jill Pelto is an artist and scientist whose work focuses on communicating human-environment connections. She incorporates scientific data directly into her paintings — from local trends to global changes. Jill's goal is to create artwork that engages broad audiences with climate change data in ways that are emotionally relevant. Jill Pelto grew up in Worcester, MA. She attended the University of Maine from 2011-2018 during which time she completed two B.A. degrees in Studio Art and Earth Science, and a Masters of Science focused on studying the sensitivity of the Antarctic Ice Sheet to changes in our Earth-Climate system. Jill lived near Portland, Maine from 2019 until this spring of 2022. She moved to Washington State in May. Her love of nature drives her to creatively communicate information about environmental issues with a broad audience. She’s passionate about outreach and collaboration, and works with K-12 students around the country in creating their own data-art.