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Range Ensemble’s string quartet enchants, traverses eras with ‘Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift’

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Senior Staff

APRIL 03, 2023

On March 17, Taylor Swift launched her widely anticipated Eras Tour in Glendale — temporarily Swift City — Arizona. Fulfilling her promise that the show would be a “journey through all of my musical eras,” she delivered an astonishing three-hour set complete with 44 songs spanning across her 10 studio albums.

Just one evening prior, hundreds of Bay Area Swifties reveled in their own celebration of the beloved artist during the awe-inspiring “Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift.” The aptly named performance constituted one of San Francisco’s Candlelight concerts — a series which aims to “make concerts with classical instruments available to everyone” while showcasing the works of iconic artists and composers. 

Illuminated by innumerable battery-powered candles, the exquisite St. Ignatius Church proved to be the ideal environment for the Range Ensemble’s accomplished string quartet to orchestrate an enthralling selection of Swift’s greatest hits. Awash in a deep golden-orange glow, violinists Vita Yee and Jory Fankuchen, violist Ivo Bokulic and cellist Samsun van Loon settled in a circle beneath the church’s intricately embellished dome, prepared to usher audiences into their wildest dreams.

The foursome opened with a stirring rendition of “Love Story,” the lead single from Fearless, whisking listeners into a fairy tale fraught with forbidden romance. As they maintained whimsical tension with playfully plucked melodies, the group gradually crescendoed into the tune’s final chorus with a tender yet triumphant flair — a fittingly spellbinding start to the evening.

Leaning into the intimate ambience of the venue’s intricate interiority enhanced by twinkling lights, the quartet explored romantic motifs throughout the show, varying from the unrestrained devotion of “Lover” to the youthful yearning of “Enchanted.” Sweetly swelling strings helped evoke the breathless magic of these familiar melodies, still the pieces remained refreshing due to their spirited interpretations. 

In particular, “Lover” received an invigorating dose of dynamism, especially as the violins and viola bounced in tandem with deliberate ebullience during the tune’s bridge. Later, “Enchanted” began with delicate instrumental crests that deepened the audience’s anticipation before eventually erupting into waves of mesmerizing wonderment. Captivating in its intensity, the group’s thoughtful delivery perfectly encapsulated the progression from attraction to all-consuming infatuation reflected in the singer-songwriter’s original take.

Even sultrier moments wandered into an energizing yet elegant soundscape. Moody and rhythmic, “Lavender Haze” pulsed with addictive instrumental thrums that rippled throughout the venue. Meanwhile, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” a dramatic duet between Swift and ZAYN, dazzled listeners with dark desire in what was undoubtedly one of the night’s highlights. Elevated by versatility, the players reinterpreted these electrifying tracks with equal parts passion and precision.

Revitalization was the vibrant thread woven through the concert’s creative fabric. Swifties often take pride in their ability to painstakingly immerse themselves in Swift’s expansive lore — no unreleased song is left unlistened to, no hidden message or Easter egg is left untouched. However, even devout fans experienced a breath of fresh air listening to pop hits such as “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” reimagined through the performers’ uniquely classical lens. Glistening with melodic, feather-light runs, indie-folk “Cardigan” transcended to new levels of haunting ethereality. 

Repeatedly proving that profound strength lies in raw expressions of heartbreak and loss, Swift is also a masterful lyricist who crafts power ballads with striking emotional literacy. This vulnerability was captured perhaps most successfully in the members’ richly textured rendition of “All Too Well.” Just as Swift pieces together fragmented memories of an agonizing past relationship, the quartet twisted tortured violin strikes with a wistfully humming cello, resulting in an explosive, breathtaking performance. 

By the time the quartet closed with a trio of Swift’s most popular hits — “You Belong with Me,” “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off” — the crowd was on its feet, vigorously swaying to the beat of sparkling classics. As they bowed to ecstatic applause, the quartet had proven their point: Whether pop, country, classical or something else entirely, Taylor Swift never goes out of style. 

Contact Anne Vertin at 


APRIL 03, 2023