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String quartet ETHEL to present program of varied devotional music

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People from all over the world admire the scope and achievement of the Western classical music canon. But cellist Dorothy Lawson said Western classical music can often seem condescending to those of other musical traditions. Lawson, co-artistic director of the string quartet ETHEL, is devoted to combatting that trend.

“We’ve worked very hard in various relationships over many years to overcome that, to detoxify that, to actually bare our own vulnerabilities to people from other places and learn from them,” Lawson said. “We want to use this beautiful equipment from the Western tradition to partner and dance with people who have their own perfectly authentic and deeply developed masteries — centuries and centuries of tradition — in other musical languages.”

ETHEL will be speaking many musical languages in its recital at 4 p.m. Monday, July 16, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. The program, “Devoted,” features devotional music of a plethora of cultures, from South Asian Qawwali music to Native American Zuni chants.

ETHEL, formed in 1998, consists of cellist Lawson, violist Ralph Farris, and violinists Kip Jones and Corrin Lee. Each of the four began at prestigious music schools but would go on to have distinctly diverse artistic careers. Their cumulative resume includes Broadway shows, experimental folk music, Brazilian jazz and solo appearances in classical music’s hallowed venues.

In the group’s own words, ETHEL is a fusion of “uptown, conservatory musicianship with downtown genre-crossing,” making it difficult to tell whether ETHEL is a band or a string quartet. ETHEL’s exploratory spirit has led to collaborations with a menagerie of artists from around the world.

One of those collaborations was a 10-year partnership with the Native American Composer’s Apprenticeship Project. Each fall, the quartet worked with a group of high school students from the Navajo Nation, helping them to record and share their musical ideas with the larger world.

Lawson said ETHEL’s decade-long experience with those Navajo teenagers was transformational because it revealed a new way of relating to music.

“Music is an applied art among Native American communities,” Lawson said. “They don’t even really regard it as something for specialists, they regard it as a human birthright. Music is something that people do. They make songs when they need them, and then they share them with each other.”

By participating in that holistic approach to music-making, Lawson began to realize how intellectual Western classical music can be. She said she found herself wanting to go deeper — to search for a greater depth of emotion and spirituality in her own musical life.

The “Devoted” program, which will receive its first performance this afternoon, is a sampling of the many different ways cultures around the world engage music in worship. Lawson said she’s excited to premier “Devoted” at Chautauqua Institution because of the Institution’s reputation for exploring those themes.

“Devotion itself is such a beautiful human capacity,” she said. “We love to illuminate that, bring that into a concert environment and let the audience embrace it themselves.”

Vamos, Pacht, friends bring family together for chamber music

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Almita Vamos
Rami Vamos
Nurit Pacht
Eugeni Monacelli

 

For Chautauquans, this weekend’s chamber music concert will be an eclectic mix of familiar and foreign repertoire presented by members of the School of Music faculty. But for the performers, it will also be a miniature family reunion.

“It’s really fun to play with your family because you get to see each other,” said violinist Almita Vamos. “We don’t always get to see each other because we’re all so busy.”

At 4 p.m. Saturday, July 14, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Vamos will be joined by her sister, Eugenia Monacelli, daughter-in-law, Nurit Pacht, and son, Rami Vamos, for the latest installment in Chautauqua Chamber Music’s Resident Artist Series.

For Vamos, music and the arts are at the center of the family. The extended family includes actors, a painter, and classical musicians; each of the four performers in Saturday’s concert hold impressive resumes, as well.

Pacht, a concert violinist, has given recitals and concerts all over the world, including a U.S. State Department funded tour of Ukraine with Monacelli, a pianist. In her own career, Monacelli has performed as soloist with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.

Guitarist Rami Vamos has a multifaceted career as an educator, composer, and performer in New York City. He teaches at all levels, coordinating the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s children’s concert series while also serving on faculty at Concordia University.

Violinist Almita Vamos, the coordinator of Saturday’s concert, is one half of the teaching duo affectionately referred to as the “Famous Vamoses.” In addition to leading performance careers, Roland and Almita Vamos have taught many most prominent violinists, including Rachel Barton Pine and Jennifer Koh.

Pacht was also a student of the Vamoses. In 10th grade, she left her home in Texas for Minnesota, where she moved in with the Vamos family to study with the couple. She lived in the room next to her future husband, Rami Vamos — but they didn’t immediately hit it off.

“We didn’t really get along — we didn’t even like each other too much,” Pacht said. “It was when we met at a party of musicians many, many years later that we became friends, and then more.”

Now, they’re married with three children. Saturday they will perform “Two Pieces for Violin and Guitar,” which they composed together. Pacht said that the couple enjoys writing and performing their own music because it allows them to write for their own instruments in the way that they want to play them — so it ends up being more fun.

The program will also feature Almita Vamos performing music of Respighi and Schnittke with Monacelli accompanying her on piano. Vamos is particularly excited for those two pieces, she said, because they will likely be new to audience ears but are extremely interesting and enjoyable pieces.

Vamos said the Respighi is rarely performed because it’s difficult to put the violin and piano parts together due to their rhythmic complexity. But she’s not worried — performing with her sister is easy, she said.

“(When we were young), we had lessons and coachings together many times, even though we play different instruments,” Vamos said. “So we think of music similarly.”

Some of those lessons and coachings took place at Chautauqua Institution. While in school, Vamos and Monacelli came to the Institution in the summer to study with Mischa Mischakoff, then concertmaster of the CSO.

That’s part of the reason why Vamos chose to organize this concert — she said that she only gives performances at special times, and her time at the Institution this week is certainly that.

 

 

Massey Organ recital to showcase humor and laughter through music

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Jared Jacobsen directs the the Chautauqua Choir during the Sacred Song Service in the Amphitheater, Sunday, June 24, 2018. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The fun and laughter will continue this week during the Massey Organ Mini-Concert, with a selection of humorous music.

At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, in the Amphitheater, Jared Jacobsen will perform “ROTBLOL, Again!” on the Massey Organ. This mini-concert is an extension of last year’s “ROTBLOL!,” an abbreviation for “Rolling Off the Bench Laughing Out Loud.”

“I’m doing a couple pieces I did last year to repeat them, then I’m doing some different stuff that I’ve discovered out of my fun piece drawer,” said Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music at the Institution.

Within his “fun piece drawer,” Jacobsen discovered “Birthday Parodies for Organ” by Dan Miller, a collection of “Happy Birthday” variations. Jacobsen noted that the song “Happy Birthday to You” only recently became public domain, and that is cause for celebration.

“The woman who wrote ‘Happy Birthday’ copyrighted it, and her family sensed a cash cow because everyone sings ‘Happy Birthday,’ ” he said. “For years, theoretically, you were risking jail time to play ‘Happy Birthday’ at your kid’s birthday party.”

The “Happy Birthday” copyright case surfaced in 2013, and the dispute was settled about three years later when the song was released for public use.

Jacobsen will also play “Variations on an Oriental Air,” which he developed as an ode to the classic tune “Chopsticks.”

“ ‘Variations on an Oriental Air’ is my fool title for this,” he said. “The Oriental Air is chopsticks, which everybody who has ever sat down at a keyboard has to try.”

The mini-concert picks up with the “Showpan Boogie,” a variation of the “Minute Waltz.” The “Minute Waltz” is a popular piece of music known for its lively tempo, though not all variations clock in at exactly a minute. The waltz, Jacobsen said, has created friendly competition among musicians who write variations in hopes of being the shortest.

In the spirit of carefree laughter, Jacobsen will include a piece from musician Charles Edward Ives. Ives, an American composer, created music that Jacobsen deemed “ahead of its time.”

The concert will include Ives’ “Variations on ‘America’ for Organ.”

“He had enough money to buy musicians to play his music, even if they didn’t understand it,” Jacobsen said. “So he’d have these legendary concerts in his home just so that the pieces would get heard once or twice. He didn’t really care if anybody understood it.”

Though much of Ives’ work went unnoticed during his time, Jacobsen sees value and humor in his compositions. The selected piece is fast and bold, and Jacobsen knows it will be well-received.

“It works at Chautauqua because here, audiences get the joke,” he said. “I’ve played it a lot of places around the world and most of the time people don’t get the joke because they’ve never been to a concert where they’re allowed to laugh.”

The concert concludes with a “Television Theme Trio” by Mark Peterson, a piece that includes three famous theme songs: the theme from “Perry Mason,” the theme from “Mission: Impossible” and Fugue in F Minor from “The Munster.”

“I’m going to try this out because I haven’t played it anywhere yet before,” Jacobsen said.

Chamberfest Cleveland to bring audience ‘Behind Bars’ in Lenna program

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Thematically programmed concerts are usually centered around grand narratives or specific time periods, not around prison. But at 4 p.m. Monday, July 2, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Chamberfest Cleveland will be performing the music of four composers who have all served jail time in a program titled “Behind Bars.”

The subject of imprisonment plays into the Chamberfest Cleveland’s larger theme, “In Search of Freedom.” In this case, it’s a lack of freedom that unites the composers.

Some of the names might come as a surprise — Johann Sebastian Bach is featured because the composer was jailed for a month by an angry boss, and Franz Schubert because he spent a few nights in prison for opprobrious language.

Henry Cowell, the early 20th-century American composer, earned his spot on the program because of a much longer sentence. In the 1930s, Cowell spent four years in San Quentin State Prison after being arrested for committing homosexual acts.

Perhaps the most serious imprisonment featured this afternoon will be Olivier Messiaen’s yearlong stint in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. While imprisoned, the composer wrote one of his best known works, “Quatuor pour la fin du temps” (“Quartet for the End of Time”).

He also premiered it in that prison camp, to an audience of prisoners and guards. The Messiaen quartet, at almost an hour long, will be the entree of the program. It’s a challenging work on many levels, said Chamberfest clarinetist and co-founder Franklin Cohen. Messiaen weaves a complex tapestry of sounds that captures the frantic, apocalyptic fears of World War II Europe.

Messiaen weaves a complex tapestry of sounds that captures the frantic, apocalyptic fears of World War II Europe. From the audience, it demands an attentive ear, and from the performers, it requires tremendous focus and technical skill.

Despite the oppressive circumstances of its composition and the intense turmoil that takes place for most of the piece, Messiaen — a devout Catholic — ends the quartet with the violin slowly ascending to the highest extremes its range. Cohen said it represents hope for a positive outcome to a dismal situation.

“In the end, I think we’re all feeling this kind of uplifted feeling that Messiaen probably has been searching for throughout his whole life,” he said.

Cohen, principal clarinet emeritus of the Cleveland Orchestra, along with his daughter Diana, concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, are the minds behind the inventive program and Chamberfest Cleveland itself. The duo began the festival in 2012 at Diana Cohen’s suggestion. She knew that she and her father had a large network of friends and colleagues in music, and she saw potential for an organized concert series.

“When the opportunity to reach into our community even more deeply and more intimately through Chamberfest came up, we seized at the opportunity,” Cohen said. “Ultimately, when your daughter wants to be your partner, how can you say no?”

For the duration of the festival, the participating musicians stay in Cohen’s and his neighbors’ houses. In between rehearsals and socializing, they even have their meals together. Chamberfest — started by a family — still functions like one.

From pulpit, Gushee to focus on America, Kingdom of God

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“A moral compass and a spine. How desperately we need them today,” the Rev. David P. Gushee, Christian ethicist, tweeted on June 22.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous question: Who stands fast? Who remains steadfast? Who, in other words, has both a moral compass and a spine?” Gushee tweeted in part.

“When a regime is telling daily lies, who retains a hold on the truth? When every effort is being made to obscure reality, who sees clearly?”

Gushee is the current president of the American Academy of Religion and immediate past president of the Society of Christian Ethics. He will serve as chaplain for Week Two at Chautauqua.

He will preach at the Ecumenical Service of Worship at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, July 1 in the Amphitheater. His sermon title will be “The Kingdom of God and America.”

Gushee will share his faith journey at the 5 p.m Sunday, July 1, Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy. This week, his sermon titles include “On Dignity,” “On Justice,” “On Peace,” “On Love” and “On Community.”

At Mercer University, where he has worked for 11 years, Gushee is a Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life. He also teaches seminary students at Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology.

As an activist, Gushee has been involved in efforts dedicated to peace, justice and human dignity — specifically in regards to torture, climate change and, as his Mercer faculty webpage states, “the continued harm being inflicted on LGBTQ persons by Christian churches and families.”

Regarded as one of the world’s leading Christian ethicists, Gushee is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 22 books, including Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Texts, The Sacredness of Human Life, Evangelical Ethics, A Letter to My Anxious Christian Friends, Still Christian: Following Jesus out of American Evangelicalism and the upcoming Moral Leadership for a Divided Age: Fourteen People Who Dared to Change Our World.

Gushee holds a bachelor of arts from the College of William and Mary, a master’s of divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a master’s of philosophy and doctorate of philosophy from Union Theological Seminary.

 

Sacred Song Service to celebrate American progress and challenges

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  • Director Jared Jacobsen and the Chautauqua Choir perform during the Sacred Song Service in the Amphitheater, Sunday, June 24, 2018. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A true celebration of American independence means recognizing the country’s complete history, including aspects people wish to bury.

At 8 p.m. Sunday, July 1 in the Amphitheater, Jared Jacobsen will dig deeper into that history during the Sacred Song Service “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.”

“We do a lot of the traditional waving of the flag, roasting of the hot dogs and shooting reworks as part of the fabric of Chautauqua,” said Jacobsen, Chautauqua Institution’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music. “So for the worship part of it, we have tried to help people understand that there’s more to experience than that, than just the physical trappings of the Fourth of July.”

The title of the service comes from the sonnet “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus, which appears on a bronze plaque on the base of the Statue of Liberty. During large waves of immigration, those arriving at Ellis Island in New York could see the famous statue and read Lazarus’ words, which extended a warm welcome.

“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Lazarus wrote.

Jacobsen frequents Ellis Island and believes the sonnet has taken on a new meaning, given the ongoing debate over immigration.

“The whole reason for Ellis Island is much more in people’s consciousness with all of these issues that are going on with immigration,” he said. “We’ve switched the focus of it to border issues, and not so much people coming in by boat,but it is a part of who we are as a melting pot.”

He said he hopes the hymns will spark conversation among Chautauquans about immigration issues, rather than shying away from the debate. Jacobsen included “This is My Song,” a hymn by Lloyd Stone and Georgia Harkness, that speaks to a worldwide audience.

“Essentially, the hymn is telling us we don’t have an option on everything,” Jacobsen said. “We are part of a global community, but we are more than ever seeming desperate to build walls and tell people who can be there and who can’t.”

In addition to addressing immigration, Jacobsen included several African-American choral anthems to broach the topic of slavery and segregation in America.

“The choral music is really all over the map,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine any national celebration that doesn’t address the whole issue of slavery in America.”

In regard to America’s long, grueling effort to desegregate, Jacobsen noted that when Tuskegee University was established as one of the first educational institutions for black Americans, Chautauqua extended an eager invitation to the university’s choir.

“They were the first to invite the Tuskegee Choir to come and sing, and that was a gigantic step,” Jacobsen said.

To help celebrate and encourage a diverse Chautauquan community, Jacobsen’s choir will perform a “Freedom Trilogy” that encompasses a 16th-century chant, a South African song and John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace.”

The service will conclude, at last, with the song “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” for which Irving Berlin wrote the music to accompany Lazarus’ sonnet. Though this is the second year in a row Jacobsen will perform this service for Independence Day, he said the choice was clear.

“It’s important to repeat it because we are in a different place than we were last year,” he said.

“Every time you turn around, people are asking what to do when someone new comes into this country. Do we say get out, or do we say come in? Chautauqua exists because, from the beginning, people have been saying ‘Come in.’ ”

-Jared Jacobsen, Organist, Coordinator of Worship and Sacred Music

Berofsky, Gavrylyuk, Lipsky to open resident chamber music series

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Left to right: Alexander Gavrylyuk, Aaron Berofsky and Arie Lipsky

On Wednesday morning, the rain was coming down on Chautauqua Institution as three School of Music faculty members were setting up for rehearsal.

The mood might have been somber — in addition to the the weather, the trio was rehearsing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, a tragic and mournful elegy for the death of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Instead, the group was having quite a bit of fun.

“So sexy!” cried out cellist Arie Lipsky, when violinist Aaron Berofsky played a melodic passage with impressive delicacy.

“I’m the wise man, and he’s the beautiful girl,” Lipsky said with a laugh, again referring to Berofsky. The group, although having never performed together before, seemed to click immediately.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, the three School of Music School faculty members — Berofsky, Alexander Gavrylyuk and Lipsky — will perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, op. 8 and Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor, Trio élégiaque, as the first in the 2018 Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series.

The two pieces on the program share many qualities — they’re both Russian trios written by 20th-century composers, they were written when the composers were very young, and they are rarely performed. In a sense, they both represent the last vestiges of Romanticism in western classical music.

Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 1, written when the composer was only 17, was the last Romantic piece he would ever produce, according to Berofsky. It contains many of the dry, sarcastic elements that Shostakovich would eventually become known for, but it also has tender, expressive moments in which the violin and cello sing their melodies over delicate harmonies from the piano.

Rachmaninoff also wrote his Piano Trio No. 2 at a young age — he was just 20. Rachmaninoff would go on to write much more music in a Romantic style, but many consider him to be the last great composer to do so.

“(Rachmaninoff) took after Tchaikovsky, who was probably one of the most melodic composers of the 19th century,” Lipsky said. “Rachmaninoff lived well into the 20th century, but his musical language stayed pretty much in the 19th century.”

That Tchaikovsky-steeped language is on wonderful display in this piano trio, which starts with a heart-breaking theme that reappears in different forms throughout the work. But in Berofsky’s opinion, it’s best not to think about themes and form at the concert — he advises not to engage with the piece too analytically.

“I don’t know that (the audience needs) something to be talked about before, to hold on to. I sense that it will just kind of wash over them,” Berofsky said. “And if you’re analyzing it too much, thinking too much left brain, I have a feeling you might get impatient because it’s just so broad and singing. But if you don’t do that, then it’s very beautiful.”

Garth Newel Piano Quartet brings adventurous program to Lenna Hall in 1st of 2018 Chamber Music Series

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Before the Garth Newel Piano Quartet had ever been to Chautauqua Institution, violinist Teresa Ling suspected that the two places — Garth Newel and Chautauqua — had some common ground.

After performing at Chautauqua in 2014, Ling’s suspicions were confirmed.

“(The Institution) seems to attract people who are searching for something important. And those people tend to find places like Chautauqua and Garth Newel,” she said.

The quartet will give the first performance in this summer’s Chautauqua Chamber Music series at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 25, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. Garth Newel — the name of the Virginia estate where the quartet is based — is a Welsh phrase that roughly translates to “new hearth” or “new home.”

The title is a fitting one, as the group’s adventurous programming often gives infrequently performed pieces a new home in the contemporary chamber music repertoire. Ling said that’s in part due to the relative scarcity of repertoire available for the piano quartet.

“At a certain point, you need to fill out your menu a little more because you don’t want to just keep playing the same pieces all the time,” she said.

On the first half of its program, the quartet will perform music of the little- known French composer Louise Héritte-Viardot.

Her Piano Quartet No. 1 will likely be a new piece for all in the audience — it has never been recorded, even though it was composed in 1883.

Garth Newel has been a champion of Héritte-Viardot’s music, performing her Spanish Quartet when they first visited Chautauqua four years ago.

“The discrimination she faced throughout her life for being a woman was really a shame because she writes so much wonderful music,” Ling said. “We just felt like it’s important to champion her music, which is just really beautifully written and I think emotionally interesting.”

The other piece on the first half of the program will be Frank Bridge’s Phantasy for Piano Quartet, another uncommon composition. It was written for a composition competition in 1910, and although it did not win, it certainly planted itself in the minds of the Garth Newel Quartet.

“When we became familiar with it, we just fell in love with it,” Ling said. “It’s probably eight or nine minutes, and it’s so colorful and beautiful and dramatic in a lot of ways, and there are a lot of French-sounding textures. It’s really just a lovely piece, and we wanted to include it on the program.”

Ling has been a member of the quartet for 20 years, but she took a rather unusual path to becoming a professional chamber musician.

Before she earned master’s degree in violin performance, Ling completed her bachelor’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University.

“I had always played the piano and the violin as a young person, and there was a mentality in my family that music was a wonderful discipline, and yet it wasn’t a reasonable career option,” she said.

In her junior year, Ling’s teacher encouraged her to apply for a fellowship to the Aspen Music Festival and School. She auditioned, was accepted and decided to attend as a break from her usual summer routine of doing research in laboratories.

“I went to Aspen, and I spent time with hundreds of violinists who were planning to go into music,” she said. “It had never occurred to me until that point that one could actually pursue that.”

After her experience in Aspen, Ling did decide to pursue a career in music, landing her current position as violinist in the Garth Newel Piano Quartet in 1998. She’s quite satisfied with her decision.

“What I love about chamber music and about our group is that it’s really the ultimate democracy where we each have a say, and yet we each have our own identity,” she said. “Every single instrument (in a piano quartet) is different, so it allows us to have our own voice, but we also come together in order to make a musical whole.”

Calmus to celebrate summer with 400 years of upbeat a cappella music

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Calmus

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

Variety is the spice of life. For Calmus, it also is an important part of the group’s musical philosophy.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a pop arrangement, a Bach motet or a Brahms setting or a secular piece,” baritone Ludwig Böhme said. “To bring the music to life is the most important thing that we do.”

The five members of the Leipzig-based a cappella group will make their Chautauqua debut with their program, “The Bright Side of Life,” featuring joyous music — from Johannes Brahms to Bobby McFerrin — at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

“We try to sing very different styles, different colors to entertain the audience,” bass Joe Roesler said. “Every piece has to be an event on its own.”

Böhme said the group’s varied repertoire, in addition to being entertaining, also fosters better understanding of the musical connections between styles.

“Ancient music is important to know for singing contemporary music,” he said. “And if you know something about singing popular arrangements, it helps you make pieces by Bach a bit more groovy.”

Böhme is one of the co-founders of the group, which was formed in 1999 by five members of the St. Thomas Boys’ Choir. Named for the first initials of each of the founding members, with an added C, Calmus quickly grew from a hobby into a professional endeavor. The current ensemble includes another founding member, countertenor Sebastian Krause as well as Roesler, soprano Anja Lipfert and tenor Tobias Pöche.

“The Bright Side of Life” opens with Hugo Distler’s Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, Op. 12, No. 1, which translates as “Sing unto the Lord a new song.” Böhme said Distler is one of the most important composers of the early 20th century because he offered new solutions of how to write vocal music to contrast Romantic conventions.

In the first half of the program, Krause favors the selections from Heinrich Schütz’s “19 Italian Madrigals,” written in 1611, inspired by the young composer’s trip to Italy.

“He made a real new style, as a German composer, taking Italian works and composing them in a very intelligent, very expressive way,” Krause said.

Roesler also named Schütz’s madrigals as some of his favorite pieces on the program.

“More than many other composers, I think (Schütz) knows everything about the human voice in a way that makes the music very easy to sing and to find the idea behind the music,” he said.

In addition to Schütz’s madrigals, Roesler also said he enjoys the program’s selections from Brahms’ Lieder und Romanzen, Op. 93.

“Brahms has a very direct connection to the German soul,” he said. “It is very easy for us to understand the music, development and emotion of the piece.”

The first half of today’s program concludes with Adriano Banchieri’s “Il Festino nella sera del giovedì grasso,” which Krause described as a very comedic scene, featuring the voices of people getting ready for the Carnival of Venice.

Selections from Francis Poulenc’s “Huit chansons françaises” open the second half of “The Bright Side of Life.” Krause described these as small, sweet pieces that resemble folk songs.

Today’s concert closes with several pop songs, including Böhme’s own arrangements of Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” and Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

In addition to their busy touring schedule, the members of Calmus just finished their album, “Mythos 116,” which features different compositions, all set to the text of Psalms 116. The album will be released in September.

Chautauqua is Calmus’ second stop on its summer tour of the U.S. The ensemble held concerts in the U.S. this spring and will tour here again for Christmas concerts. Calmus first visited the U.S. in 2009, after it won the Concert Artists Guild International Competition.

“The people in the U.S. love a cappella music, so we want to be there as often as possible,” Krause said. “With this award, we are able to do that. It’s very important to the group.”

Roesler added that he’s  looking forward to seeing more of the United States.

“It’s a big country with very nice people,” Roesler said. “In our last tours, we learned that they all love a cappella music. I like to be there to sing for the American people.”

Chautauqua Quartet to share intimate voices

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The Chautauqua Quartet. Photo courtesy of Caitlin M. Prarat.

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

The Chautauqua Quartet performs one concert a year. At 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, four members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will play a program of contrasting works from Mozart and Jean Sibelius.

The quartet was established in 1929 by the four principals of each string section of the CSO. Members in this year’s quartet include CSO’s Associate Concertmaster Vahn Armstrong, principal violist Thomas Dumm and principal cellist Chaim Zemach. Vahn Armstrong’s wife, CSO first violinist Amanda Armstrong, is in her third season with the quartet as a substitute for principal second violinist Diane Bruce.

Amanda Armstrong said it is her honor to play with the quartet.

“What struck me from the first is that there’s a richness and a musical wisdom and maturity from this quartet that I feel privileged to be a part of,” she said. “They know how it goes — let me put it that way — and they have a very natural and cultivated sense of how the musical phrases should be played.”

Because they play only one concert a year, Vahn Armstrong said there is no time to play anything but music they all feel strongly about.

Today’s concert will open with Mozart’s String Quartet No. 18 in A major, K. 464, one of the six quartets the composer dedicated to Haydn. Vahn Armstrong said this piece is the epitome of musical elegance.

“In a movie, if they want to establish that a party is fancy, they’ll have a string quartet playing,” he said. “If they want to establish that the party is truly elegant, the string quartet that will be playing is this Mozart quartet.”

Mozart’s Hadyn quartets were not commissioned and instead were composed as a labor of love. Mozart said as much in his letter to Hadyn, which is remarkable, Zemach said, because Mozart never mentioned the labors he spent in any other works

“I think that he wanted to put in this quartet everything that he knew: imagination, counterpoint, unusual harmonies,” he said. “He plumbs the depth of the soul. If everything was lost after (Mozart’s) death, by some accident, and only the third movement of this quartet remained intact, that would have put Mozart where he is now.”

Vahn Armstrong played the piece many times with The New World String Quartet, and said that the more he plays it, the deeper emotional resonance it has.

“When I think of this Mozart, I think of going on a journey — especially in the variation (third) movement — that takes you to a very rarefied place,” he said.

The Mozart quartet is contrasted by the program’s second piece, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ String Quartet in D minor, Op. 56.

Amanda Armstrong said that while the Mozart piece is sublime and requires a light hand, the Sibelius is a complete contrast with its rich drama and Scandinavian fiddling.

“It’s really two different styles of playing, which is a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun,” she said.

Zemach said the piece, like many of Sibelius’ works, reflects the unusual geography, unique history and soul of the Finnish people.

The Sibelius quartet is subtitled “Voces Intimae,” or “Intimate Voices,” and was completed in 1909. The composition is modern, but not inaccessible, Vahn Armstrong said.

“I think there are a lot of aspects that point away from (modernism) towards minimalism and the kind of music we hear from John Adams and Philip Glass,” he said.

“Intimate Voices” is a perfect example of a real-life scenario in music, Dumm said.

“There are moments in this quartet when Sibelius very cleverly depicts the voices of a small group of friends engaged in an animated discussion,” he said. “Each has a definite opinion, expressed with musical exclamations, pauses, interruptions and give and take.”

Chamber music is intimate, but this intimacy is doubly strong for the Chautauqua Quartet, since its members also are members of the Chautauqua community. The audience has a personal relationship with the musicians and will usually stop by after the concert to say hello and catch up, Zemach said.

“It’s almost like you’re playing for your family,” he said.

Zemach is celebrating his 44th year with the CSO and the quartet. He has seen other members join and leave, but the current quartet roster has been in place for more than a dozen years.

Friendship doesn’t always develop with time, but it has for this quartet, Dumm said.

“We’ve all heard of quartets where the members would hardly speak to one another,” he said. “In one, there was actually a lawsuit between members. I’m grateful to count each of my colleagues as true friends.”

New Arts Trio celebrates 33 years at Chautauqua

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The New Arts Trio

Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

“It’s just like getting together with old friends and having a musical glass of champagne,” said cellist Arie Lipsky about the New Arts Trio, which performs at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Logan Chamber Music Series.

The New Arts Trio has been in residence at Chautauqua for 33 years and was founded by pianist Rebecca Penneys. Lipsky joined the trio in 1996 and violinist Jacques Israelievitch joined in 1999. Each member of the New Arts Trio is deeply involved with the Chautauqua School of Music: Penneys is Piano Chair, Lipsky is Chamber Music Chair and Israelievitch is Strings Chair.

Penneys said because the members of the trio all have similar backgrounds, they’re a good fit. As experienced performers, they work together with minimal rehearsal time but are still relaxed and easygoing.

“It evolves in a much more mature and seasoned way, like a bottle of wine,” she said.

Though they work together smoothly, Israelievitch said the three-program season requires intense preparation.

“We hit the ground running,” he said. “The first concert is in Week Two, so there’s no time to be wasted.”

Today’s program will open with French composer Jean Françaix’s Piano Trio, written in 1986. Israelievitch spent years studying music in Françaix’s hometown, Le Mans, home of the 24-hour auto race by the same name. Israelievitch said that though some music critics call Françaix’s neo-classical compositions “musique facile,” or easy music, the Piano Trio is virtuosic and quite difficult to play.

“It’s music that appeals to the public because it’s easy to understand, which doesn’t mean that it’s not sophisticated; it’s just a language that is easily accessible,” he said.

Penneys said the piece is very bubbly, wistful and tongue-in-cheek, with a feeling of unsteadiness because of its first movement, which is in 5/8 meter.

The Françaix Piano Trio is contrasted and complemented by the program’s next piece, Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 7, known as the “Archduke” trio, which Lipsky characterized as a cornerstone of piano trio music.

“It was Beethoven who put the piano trio, as we know it, on the map,” he said. “Beethoven was the first composer to have three individual voices completely independent.”

Penneys characterized the “Archduke” as transcendent and spiritual.

“It’s got an enormous consciousness. It’s bigger than life in a way, like the Symphony No. 9,” she said. The piece is unusual because of its high cello and low violin parts.

“Sometimes, if you’re not looking and you’re just listening, you can’t tell which instrument is playing,” Israelievitch said.

The New Arts Trio is performing the “Archduke” in celebration of the 200th anniversary of its completion. Beethoven wrote the piece and a passionate, anonymous letter around the same time, sparking debate that the slow second movement might be dedicated to his “immortal beloved.”

“It’s full of love and passion, and I can grant you that we’ll play it with that spirit,” Lipsky said. He characterized the New Arts Trio as “organized gypsies.”

“We are all free spirits in essence, but since we are dealing with an art which has to be organized, it’s a combination of the free spirit, structured by the notes we have,” he said.

Penneys said that chamber music relates directly to the Chautauqua experience, where people of many opposing views come together in peaceful exchange.

“There’s many, many ways to slice an apple,” she said. “It’s not for any of us to say which way is the right way. It is our responsibility to have a civilized dialogue. In a way, that’s the essence of what chamber music is. Even though I know Jacques and Arie very well, we don’t have identical ideas. Chamber music is about exchanging and making a compromise. The sum is greater than its parts.”

The New Arts Trio performs outside of Chautauqua a few times a year. In the off-season, Penneys is an artist-in-residence at St. Petersburg College in Florida and a professor of piano at the Eastman School of Music, a position she’s held for more than 30 years.

Israelievitch recently retired from his concertmaster position with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to focus on teaching at York University in Toronto. Lispky is the music director of the Ann Arbor Symphony in Mich. and the Ashland Symphony in Ohio.

In addition to today’s program, the New Arts Trio will perform other programs, sponsored by the Chautauqua Women’s Club, at 4 p.m. July 26 and at 4 p.m. Aug. 11. Both performances will be held in Lenna Hall.


Further reading:

  1. New Arts Trio bio

Del Sol String Quartet showcases contemporary chamber music

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Lauren Hutchison | Staff Writer

From panpipes to Persian modes,

The Del Sol String Quartet. Submitted photo.

brings contemporary composers from around the world to a chamber music setting. At 4 p.m. today, violinists Kate Stenberg and Rick Shinozaki, violist Charlton Lee and cellist Kathryn Bates Williams will fill Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall with the music of living composers.

The San Francisco-based quartet formed in 1995 when Stenberg met Lee. Shinozaki joined in 2003, and Bates Williams joined in 2010. All members of the quartet have connections to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The quartet’s violinists and violist do standing performances.

“(Standing up during performances) gives us a bit more physical freedom and helps us with our expressiveness in music,” Shinozaki said.

Del Sol also interacts with its audiences by introducing each piece and providing talking points to give a glimpse of the sound world and language of the composer, he said.

Del Sol is a two-time winner of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming. Lee said the group’s programming gives a cross-section to the type of musical arts that are being developed around the world.

“As you can probably imagine, the musical languages, as well as the expressive languages of each composer, is very different,” Lee said. “I think a lot of performances these days don’t really portray the breadth and the wealth of culture that is out there right now.”

Today’s program features works from American composer Gabriela Lena Frank, Canadian composer Ronald Bruce Smith, Cambodian composer Chinary Ung and Persian composer Reza Vali. Smith and Vali will attending today’s performance.

Vali’s piece for this evening’s program, Nayshâboorák, is written in traditional Persian modes. Lee said the tuning system is different from what might be familiar to Western viewers. The piece was conceived as contemporary Persian music and commissioned for Del Sol in 2006.

Smith will add electronic touches to his piece, String Quartet No. 3, which conjures images of fog swirling through the trees and streets of San Francisco. The composer has a close friendship with Stenberg and commissioned this piece for Del Sol in 2008.

In six movements, Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout takes audiences on a musical journey, which is inspired by Frank’s travels and musicological studies in the region. Del Sol imitates panpipes, a storm of serenading guitars and even the wails of hired mourners throughout the piece.

Ung’s Spiral X commemorates the Cambodian holocaust and the 1.7 million people killed under the Khmer Rouge regime. The piece is unusual and challenging for Del Sol because each musician must sing, whistle and shout while playing a divergent line of instrumental music. Del Sol and Ung received a standing ovation at the premiere performance, which took place at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress on Oct. 19, 2007.

In addition to chamber music audiences, Del Sol educates the next generation in contemporary music through a variety of youth programs. The group just finished the first of two annual QuartetFest summer workshops, where they coach young quartets with music from Vivaldi to Philip Glass. In collaboration with composer Katrina Wreede, Del Sol performs pieces that young composers create in their Composing Together program.

“Kids are having to go outside of the schools to get any kind of arts education,” Bates Williams said. “Bringing that into the schools and allowing them to see exactly what it is that a composer does, what kind of choices they have to make to create a piece, that’s very exciting for the kids, and it’s kind of revealing when we play the pieces for them — their excitement is quite tangible.”

For Stenberg, education is a natural extension of the quartet’s mission.

“Because we are doing solely contemporary music, we’re constantly being artistic ambassadors for different languages,” Stenberg said. “It comes with the territory that we have to learn how to engage people in something that’s a little bit foreign.”

The quartet’s mission is also forward-thinking.

“We’re sharing the musical language of today with the people who will be speaking it tomorrow,” Lee added.

As part of his own musical education, Lee was involved in the School of Music more than 20 years ago, where he studied with Nathan Gottschalk, members of the Audubon Quartet and with Chaim Zemach, the principal cellist of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.

Though she has never visited Chautauqua, Bates Williams has fond memories of her time at the Tanglewood Music Center and of touring the Finger Lakes region of New York.

The members of Del Sol are looking forward to their first group visit to Chautauqua.

“It has this reputation for being such a wonderful intellectual center — culturally, socially, politically, theologically, everything,” Lee said.