Contributed by the Redfern Arts Center

Cristian Valentin

Equinox Staff

On Friday, February 8, the ensemble group Castle Of Our Skins performed a concert, “Hot, Cool, And The Boogie Woogie” at the Redfern Arts Center.

The show featured five women: Gabriela Diaz and Mina Lavcheva on violins, Ashleigh Gordon on viola, Francesca McNeely on cello and Dr. Christina Wright-Ivanova on piano. They played works from David Baker, Florence Price, George Walker and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

The performance ran for around two hours, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with a 15 minute intermission. After the show, the performers answered questions from fans in a Talkback and hosted a reception in the lobby of the Alumni Recital Hall.

During the Talkback, Dr. Christina Wright-Ivanova said that she loves doing shows like these because she enjoys being able to “foster diversity through music.” She also loves these shows because the Castle Of Our Skins group is never the same, with different people every time. She said she enjoys this because she is able to discover her fellow artists as they play, even if they hadn’t done shows together before.

Gabriela Diaz also said that it is amazing to learn the music, calling it “eye-opening” and saying that it led her to do continued research and delve more into the artists’ works. She also said that she hopes the audience will do the same and look into the music. Francesca McNeely said that due to the music being old and not having many digital recordings, they were able to really discover things and choose to play parts the way that they wanted.

Keene State Students, along with students from other local schools, filled tha Redfern Alumni Recital Hall. The audience enjoyed the show very much, giving lots of applause and causing the group to take bows on several occasions.

Audience member Paul Fagly called the show “wonderful” and said that he enjoyed the each group member’s variety in styles. Another audience member, Delene White, said that she “enjoyed the atmosphere” and called the quartets and quintets “beautiful.” She also said that she came because she had heard the group, enjoyed their message, and wanted to be able to hear them live.

According to the Redfern website, Castle of Our Skins is a “Boston based ensemble dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music.” The group was created to try to spread cultural curiosity, which they do through their “inventive range of programming and exploration into Black Heritage.”

The women that played have plenty of experience and perform in various places around the globe. Gabriela Diaz’s musical experience goes back to the age of 5, and since then, she has received praise from critics, calling her “a young violin master” and “one of Boston’s most valuable players.” Mina Lavcheva is from Sofia, Bulgaria and is a highly sought after artist by many ensembles in New England.

Ashleigh Gordon has performed in North America, Europe, and Hong Kong and performs regularly with Grammy Award Winner, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Francesca McNeely is a Haitian-American Cellist who has learned from great chamber musicians such as Lucy Chapman and the Brentano Quartet. Dr. Christina Wright Ivanova is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Piano at Keene State and has been described as “a brilliant pianist” and “an ideal partner” by critics.

Cristian Valentin can be contacted at


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