Awesome ensembles

Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society continues tradition of world-class performances.

For over half a century, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) has been bringing world-class musicians to Island audiences. This year, after scaling back due to COVID restrictions, the nonprofit organization will be back with a full summer season of in-person concerts.

And, as always, the lineup is impressive. Scheduled so far are three acclaimed groups that hail from around the country and represent both string and wind ensembles. This year the MVCMS has partnered with the Chappaquiddick Community Center to offer nationally renowned groups the opportunity to double their Island exposure. The center will continue with their traditional  Saturday night concert series, while the MVCMS will host the performers on Sunday afternoons at either the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown (July 24 and August 7) or the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury (July 17).

“By combining our abilities we are able to have musicians come over for two concerts,” says board president Kim Baumhofer.

First up will be Chatham Baroque from Pittsburgh. The trio, established in 1990, has become known for its productions of world-class early music, performed on period instruments. Collaborating frequently with opera, theater, and dance companies — both national and international — Chatham Baroque has been described in the press as “one of the country’s most distinguished period ensembles.”

According to their website, “The mission of Chatham Baroque is to connect diverse audiences to the passion and depth of the music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and Early Classical periods.”

On July 23 and 24, the Grammy-nominated Borealis Wind Quartet will grace the stages of the Chappy Community Center and the Old Whaling Church. Comprised of oboe, horn, clarinet, bassoon, and flute, the quintet has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet, Radio City Music Hall, and throughout Japan. Both Daniel Culpepper (horn) and Keith Bonner (flute) are veterans of Broadway pits. Culpepper is currently principal horn of Phantom of the Opera on Broadway.

The Verona Quartet, which has performed as part of the MVCMS season in the past, will return to the Island on August 6 and 7. Members of the quartet have established themselves as a premier string ensemble, performing at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Wigmore Hall in the United Kingdom, and Melbourne Recital Hall. The New York Times hailed the group as an “outstanding ensemble … cohesive yet full of temperament.” The quartet serves on the faculty of the Oberlin College and Conservatory as the quartet-in-residence.

Further concerts may be added as the summer progresses.

Not only does the MVCMS bring live music to the Island, they also have a longstanding history of fostering young musicians through their various education initiatives, including instrument loans, lesson scholarships, college scholarships, the Artist in Residence program, and Project Cello. Inspiring young people has always been part of the organization’s mission. Baumhofer, who has served as the MVCMS director of educational programs for many years, says, “I think every year new people find us. We have longtime supporters and we’ve also had great success with the education programs. Even students are becoming more interested in chamber music.”

In 2019 longtime artistic director and pianist Delores Stevens (described by board member Nora Nevins as “the pole star, the steady but driving force”) stepped down from her position with the MVCMS and was honored by the organization last summer with a concert featuring luminary chamber musicians from around the country. Stevens, one of the country’s leading piano soloists, educator, and champion of contemporary composers, was the recent recipient of the “Living Legacy Award” from the Young Musicians Foundation, presented by composer/conductor John Williams in ceremonies at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.

Although pandemic conditions may prevent Stevens from traveling to the Vineyard from her home in Los Angeles this summer, she will continue her involvement with the MVCMS and will be cheering the organization on from the West Coast.

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