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Chamber Music

Sō Percussion to present new music from Dennehy, Iyer, and Shaw in Chamber Music’s Guest Artist Series

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Sō Percussion

Jason Treuting’s musical mentors include the drummer for Steely Dan, a Balinese gamelan master, the timpanist of the Rochester Philharmonic, several renowned marimba players, a pianist and a jazz trumpeter.

That’s the kind of diverse training that Treuting and the other three members of Sō Percussion — Eric Cha-Beach, Adam Sliwinski and Josh Quillen — will bring to Chautauqua Chamber Music’s Guest Artist Series at 4 p.m. Monday, July 30, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

As a result of his diverse training, Treuting possess a wide range of skills — and as a percussionist, he said versatility is critical.

“Even in an orchestra, if somebody writes for a police whistle, they’re not giving it to the piccolo player,” said Treuting. “You know they’re going to give it to a percussionist. So we’re kind of always being called upon to do the other thing.”

Sō Percussion are experts in “the other thing.” When Sō performed at Chautauqua in 2016, the group played the expected drums and mallet instruments, but also used a trumpeted conch shell and the Chordstick, a newly invented instrument described on the group’s website as a cross between an electric guitar and a hammer dulcimer.

Founded in 1999, Sō Percussion has gained a reputation as the standard bearer of the percussion quartet genre. As the group’s career has developed, so has percussion music in general: The New York Times credits Sō with setting off an “explosive new enthusiasm for percussion music old and new.”

Treuting thinks the inherent nature of percussion instruments has something to do with the recent surge.

“I feel like percussion is a wonderful vessel for new things because the audience can relate, in a certain way, to the way sound is made. You can look at these objects on stage — whether it’s a drum, vibraphone or flowerpot — and everybody can imagine hitting them to make a sound. It’s very primitive in a wonderful way. But then the way these sounds and notes are put together makes something extraordinary.”

-Jason Treuting, Percussionist, Sō Percussion

The group will be playing several “new things” on today’s concert. “TORQUE,” a mallet quartet by jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer, was commissioned by Sō and premiered last month. Iyer’s music often explores the interconnectedness of music and human movement — fitting for Sō, as it has been praised for the choreographic quality of its performances.

Sō will also play Caroline Shaw’s “Taxidermy” and Donnacha Dennehy’s “Broken Unison,” both written specifically for the group. “Broken Unison,” also a mallet quartet, involves “crazy canons all over the place,” according to Sliwinski (a canon occurs when a melody is begun at different times by different players — think “Row Your Boat”).

Dennehy included many canons after attending a rehearsal of “Broken Unison” when the piece was still in draft form, and he saw that the quartet was particularly good at playing them. In a way, the piece is custom-made for the group’s specific strengths. “Taxidermy,” written for  the group in 2012, makes use of mallet instruments, flower pots and spoken word. Towards the end of the piece, according to the composer, the group repeats the phrase “the detail of the pattern is movement,” which comes from T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton.” Shaw said she loves trying — and failing — to imagine that concept, which she describes as “a kind of whimsical existentialist mantra.”

In Sō Percussion’s mission statement, the group says that it aims to create and present “new collaborative works to adventurous and curious audiences.” The group is certainly doing its half: two of the works mentioned were premiered this year, and all were written in the past 10 years.

Resident Artist Chamber Music Series continues with pianist Jon Nakamatsu in collaboration with CSO members

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In May 1997, Jon Nakamatsu was a German teacher. By June, he was an internationally known concert pianist.

That’s because in June 1997, Nakamatsu won the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. It changed Nakamatsu’s life forever. In addition to international notoriety, his winnings included a debut recital at Carnegie Hall, concert tours, two years of professional artist management and a record deal. His career as a concert pianist had officially begun.

“Getting to the competition was amazing. Winning was completely unexpected, but the next day I was on tour, and it hasn’t stopped since then. That was 21 years ago.”

-Jon Nakamatsu, Artist-in-residence, Chautauqua Piano Program

At 4 p.m. Saturday, July 28, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Nakamatsu will present an afternoon of chamber music by Mozart, Faure and Clementi as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series. Nakamatsu will be joined by Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra members Vahn Armstrong (violin), Eva Stern (viola) and Jolyon Pegis (cello).

Nakamatsu would find his way to a performance career in circuitous fashion. He never went to a music conservatory — instead, he chose to attend Stanford, where he would earn degrees in German and education, making him an unusual victor for a major piano competition.

“(I went to Stanford because) I understood that a performance career may never happen, despite my best efforts,” Nakamatsu said. “It’s a business, and you have to break into it somehow.”

During his time at Stanford, Nakamatsu kept up his piano studies with his life-long teacher, Marina Derryberry. Derryberry, he said, was the kind of teacher that could teach a student their first notes at age 6, but also prepare a young concert pianist for a major career.

“That is, I think, the most rare kind of individual on the planet,” Nakamatsu said. “She was there at my first lesson, and she accompanied me to the Van Cliburn Competition 20 years later. It was an amazing journey.”

Now, as a artist-in-residence for Chautauqua’s Piano Program, Nakamatsu acts as a mentor for the next generation of pianists. He brings a unique perspective because of his non-standard path, and he tries to impart upon his students that there’s no prescribed path to a career, especially in the arts.

“The hardest part about what we do is that you feel so often that you’re alone on your journey because no one understands or has experienced your personal trajectory,” Nakamatsu said. “I think that’s partially true, and it’s partially not. … If you’re open to any possibility, then a career is probably on the horizon for you.”

Wilburs underwrite Phan’s performance as part of chamber series

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John and Margaret Wilbur pose, Friday, July 13, 2018, in their home on the grounds. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Like many people, John and Margaret Wilbur first heard about Chautauqua Institution through word of mouth.

“We came and we started to figure out what it really was,” John Wilbur said, “just like everybody else who has some sort of brief description that never is quite adequate to what the whole place is about.”

One of the many facets of the Institution they discovered and grew to love was the Chautauqua Chamber Music Series. They began to look forward to the performances every season, and their years of enjoyment led them to underwrite a show in the series for the 2018 season.

They were especially motivated to sponsor a performance when they heard the series might have been discontinued following the passing of its former namesake patron, Kay Logan.

The Wilburs’ donation is underwriting the performance of guest artist Nicholas Phan at 4 p.m. Monday, July 23, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. Phan has performed with San Francisco Symphony, Toronto Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The Wilburs’ interest in music goes back to their early adulthood. They enjoy many genres of music, including classical music, jazz and rock.

“My mother was very musical,” Margaret Wilbur said.

Growing up, her mother was a music teacher and played many instruments. Yet Margaret Wilbur was not very interested in music as a child.

“I had never heard an orchestra play until I was in college,” she said. “The first time I heard the orchestra was in Cleveland when I was in college. And, of course, we went to a lot of rock concerts in the ’70s.”

John Wilbur also discovered classical music in college.

“I got introduced to classical music mostly when I went to school at Case (Western University),” he said.

As a native of Cleveland, Ohio, he also enjoyed the Cleveland Orchestra, which he said ranks as one of the best orchestras in the world.

Although the music programs at the Institution stand out to the Wilburs, they also explore a variety of events — from lectures to the swan races during the CHQ Olympics. Their philanthropic investment expands beyond the Chautauqua Chamber Music Series, as they also have created a garden endowment in memory of John Wilbur’s mother.

Some of the couple’s most cherished memories at the Institution are the times spent with their families. For them, endowing a garden represents that the Institution is a gathering place for their family.

“Everybody does gather here at least once a year,” John Wilbur said. “That’s why we made the memorial gift. … As (our family) keeps coming and their children come, it becomes part of the family, and the family has a relationship to the space.”

For chamber series, tenor Phan to weave Baroque love stories into ‘A Painted Tale’

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Few things remain as constant throughout the ages as love — and the fact that people write songs about it. When tenor Nicholas Phan was learning Baroque love songs, he was surprised by how relatable they were given that they’re around 400 years old.

“The experience of falling in love with somebody is not really that different than it was 500 years ago,” he said. “As a teenager, I’m sure I could relate to the angst of it all, too.”

Phan will perform a selection of those songs in a program called “A Painted Tale” at 4 p.m. Monday, July 23, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. He will be joined by flutist Michael Leopold and violist da gamba Ann Marie Morgan as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.

The trio recorded “A Painted Tale” for album release in 2015. The album received outstanding reviews and earned accolades from the Chicago Tribune and Gramophone Magazine. In addition to collaborating with renowned chamber musicians, Phan has performed and recorded with the world’s foremost orchestras and opera companies.

Today’s program consists of just under 20 songs from Baroque composers that Phan has selected and arranged to form a narrative about two young lovers. It begins with the song from which the program’s name is derived — “A Painted Tale” by Thomas Morley, which serves as an introduction to the story.

The tale then winds through a tale of unrequited (but consummated) love, complete with eroticism, longing, triumph, jealousy and ultimately, rejection. Phan modeled the program after Franz Schubert’s famous song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin, which explores similar themes. But composers in the Baroque era (which came before Schubert, a Romantic) didn’t weave their songs into 20-part cycles, so Phan researched the repertoire and put together his own cycle.

Phan said he discovered his love for Baroque songs when he was a student at Interlochen Center for the Arts. He was taking a class on early music and his teacher — Morgan, who will join him on stage today — had him learn a song by John Dowland, whose music will also be heard this afternoon.

“The first thing that grabbed me about it was the sheer beauty of the song,” Phan said. “I was fascinated.”

Those songs stuck with him, so when Carnegie Hall requested that Phan perform a concert of early music in the prestigious Weill Recital Hall, Phan put together “A Painted Tale.” Phan did many hours of research for the project, but he said the narrative that binds the songs together came to him naturally.

“This (program) is something that’s revealed itself to me through the song texts,” Phan said. “We tend to look at this music as if it were in a museum, when actually the reason we keep coming back to this stuff is because it still holds relevance today. There’s nothing timeless like a love story.”

Sacred Song Service to celebrate life and work of ‘West Side Story’ composer Leonard Bernstein

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The work of musician Leonard Bernstein illustrates a deep understanding of both classical music and musical theater. From West Side Story to Candide, Bernstein demonstrated his sweeping knowledge of the arts with each composition he wrote.

At 8 p.m. Sunday, July 22, in the Amphitheater, in honor of Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Jared Jacobsen and the Chautauqua Choir will present “Chichester Psalms and More: Celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s Centenary.” This Sacred Song Service includes excerpts from two of Bernstein’s most acclaimed works.

“I think Bernstein would have been tickled that in this American place, we are honoring him with these two pivotal pieces,” said Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music.

Jacobsen, who first heard Bernstein’s music on the radio as a high school student, believes the musician was the ultimate “crossover character” who redefined musical theater. Though some of Bernstein’s music was not understood at the time, Jacobsen said, it has left a lasting impression on the musical community.

The first Bernstein piece the choir will perform is a portion from the Chichester Psalms, which were written in 1965 for the Rev. Walter Hussey.

“They’re very difficult because it’s Bernstein exercising his musical theater chops and also including mid-20th century dance rhythms,” Jacobsen said. “These are dance rhythms done by some of the greatest dancers in the world that Bernstein had envisioned would be doing his pieces on Broadway and in concert halls. That unusual rhythm also parallels the rhythm of the text.”

Jacobsen said the texts, originally written in Hebrew, were a welcome challenge for the choir. Though difficult to perform, they are enticing and represent the true purpose of worship music.

“Sacred music of all faiths is sort of an attempt to wrap ourselves around things we don’t understand,” he said. “Something magical happens when you put words and music together. You don’t even have to know what you’re singing about. If the music is good enough, it just takes you and it says, ‘Come with me.’ ”

Following the Chichester Psalms, Jacobsen and the choir will perform “Mass,” a large composition written in 1971 for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Mass” was composed after Bernstein was approached by Jacqueline Kennedy following her husband’s assassination. She requested a musical piece that both honored the former U.S. president and celebrated the arts.

“I think it’s fascinating that what she wanted, after he was assassinated, was for his memorial to be a center for performing arts, a cultural center in our nation’s capital,” Jacobsen said.

In the Catholic faith, the word “mass” represents a structured form of worship with necessary elements and, of course, a priest. Bernstein’s approach recognized this type of order, but also added a theatrical twist, Jacobsen said.

“There are certain things you would recognize from the Catholic Mass, but then around the edges, Bernstein puts his unique touch on everything,” Jacobsen said.

This composition guides the audience through a warm-up but picks up speed with a narrative about a priest slowly unraveling during a service.

“He just gets so mad at himself that he tips over the altar and hurls the Communion cup out into the audience,” Jacobsen said. “It is the most amazing piece of theater.”

Though Jacobsen first acquired a portion of “Mass” in 1971, he saw the composition live for the first time this past spring in Los Angeles. Seated near the front of the stage in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, he said the experience was an unforgettable moment, as a musician.

“It was overwhelming,” he said. “Now as somebody who makes his way through life working through the church and also educating people, it was everything I am. It was Chautauqua wrapped up in a nutshell.”

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
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