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Bits and Pieces

What's intimate, passionate and exciting to watch? Chamber music! (Of course.)

September 29, 2012 9:17am (EDT)
The Macon-based Cortona Trio
The Macon-based Cortona Trio

Do you like your music up close and personal? Let's look at what's so great about live chamber music in general, and then let’s talk Georgia chamber music in particular. There’s a lot going on.

Radio may be an intimate medium, but frankly there are limits to the intimacy. As host and and listener we can't see each other, and neither of us is seeing the performers. But live chamber music—now that’s intimate. You’ve got a handful of musicians, each with a unique role and each completely dependent on the others. Everyone is listening and watching intently for the subtlest cues, responding instantly and flexibly to share their lines and meld their individual voices into a coherent greater whole. That’s the dynamic of chamber music whether it’s amateurs who are sight-reading for fun, as sometimes happens in my living room, or a professional group that spends hours a week honing every nuance of a piece.

Even from the audience, we get drawn into the intimate drama of it all. In a concert we see the musicians breathe together as they start a phrase, we notice eyes meeting, arms moving in unison, expressions of intense focus, the striving for unity, working to fit in rather than drown out, weaving lines together.

And simply by watching and listening, we observers share a powerful experience as well. Live performance has soul, and live performance builds community. I recommend it.

So where can you get your chamber music on? All over.

Touring Artists in Georgia
These venues and organizations present visiting chamber musicians.

  • The best of the best come through Spivey Hall, a 400-seat jewelbox on the Clayton State campus in Morrow. Joshua Bell, Jupiter String Quartet, Jeremy Denk, Andreas Scholl, Xuefei Yang.
  • In Athens, UGA's Performing Arts Center has a Franklin College Chamber Music Series. Tokyo String Quartet, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, etc.
  • In Augusta, the Harry Jacobs Chamber Music Society brings half a dozen touring chamber ensembles each year. Cantus, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Miles Hoffman and the American Chamber Players.
  • Symphony Orchestra Augusta runs the Columbia County Music Series at the Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans. Perlman Quint Bailey Trio, Harlem Quartet.
  • Emory University’s Candler Series takes place at the Schwartz Center in Atlanta. Gil Shaham, Assad Brothers, Brooklyn Rider.
  • The Bailey Performance Center at Kennesaw State University in Cobb County has quickly risen to top-tier.
  • Columbus State University’s LegacyLive! chamber music series brings talent to the RiverCenter.
  • Just over in Alabama, Virginia Transue runs the Auburn Chamber Music Society. Awaiting word on 2012–13.
  • Lots of concerts at Mercer University in Macon. In particular, check out the McDuffie Center for Strings’ Fabian Concert Series. Emerson String Quartet, James Ehnes.
  • In Waleska, hear chamber music at Reinhardt University’s Falany Performing Arts Center. Carducci String Quartet, Calmus.
  • Valdosta State University presents the Azalea String Quartet this fall.

Local Georgia Ensembles
These groups are home-grown.

  • The newly named Cortona Trio (pictured at right) features three acclaimed musicians now part of the McDuffie Center for Strings in Macon. They played on the Macon Symphony’s season opener and will give their own concert at Mercer on January 11.
  • The Atlanta Chamber Players play venues around Atlanta including art spaces, sacred spaces, Spivey Hall and the Shakespeare Tavern. Features pianist and music director Paula Peace and a flexible cast of mostly Atlanta Symphony players.
  • The Georgian Chamber Players brings together solo-caliber Atlanta Symphony section leaders and McDuffie Center for Strings faculty. Three concerts at Atlanta churches.
  • Riverside Chamber Players. Yet more off-duty Atlanta Symphony players and friends play some interesting repertoire. Concerts in Roswell, Jasper, Decatur and Norcross.
  • The Savannah Philharmonic presents Georgians in three chamber concerts at the Telfair Academy.
  • The Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta, William Ransom, music director, is celebrating its 20th season with free concerts. Hybrid organization presents both visitors (e.g. Eroica Trio) and locals (e.g. Vega Quartet).
  • Following the Peachtree String Quartet's successful April debut, they’ve scheduled five concerts for 2012–13 around Buckhead in Atlanta. Christopher Pulgram, director.
  • In Praise of Music (Ruth Berry, artistic director) is an entrepreneurial umbrella organization for a stable of Georgia chamber groupings. Ensembles Intermezzo, Magellan String Quartet, Kiokee Quintet, Event Horizons, Lyra Vivace.
  • The Blue Mountain Chamber Players play around the Rome area.
  • The Vega String Quartet is the dynamic quartet-in-residence at Emory University. Emory recently received a new challenge grant toward making their residency permanent.
  • And lest you think that chamber music only comes from the dead white men of yestercentury, check out Atlanta's new music groups: Bent Frequency ("brings the avant-garde music tradition to life"), Sonic Generator (Georgia Tech's "hi-tech contemporary chamber music ensemble-in-residence") and neoPhonia (Nickitas Demos's new music group at Georgia State).

Chamber Orchestras
My post listing Georgia orchestras focused on symphonies, but let's not forget these fine midsized groups!

  • The ARCO Chamber Orchestra was founded in Moscow by Levon Ambartsumian. Now that he's at UGA, his group by that name is based in Athens. They perform in New York and Venice and twice a year at UGA.
  • The Atlanta Baroque Orchestra plays in Roswell. In good Baroque style, music director Julie Andrijeski leads from her violin.
  • New Trinity Baroque also focuses on 18th century rep and style. Perform at Atlanta’s St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, director Predrag Gosta.

Chamber Music Festivals
When one concert just isn't enough.

  • The Savannah Music Festival is a multigenre extravaganza that takes over historic Savannah each spring. Its big-league chamber music series is curated by violinist Daniel Hope. Lineup for 2013 (March 21–April 6) to be announced November 8.
  • The Madison Chamber Music Festival, run by Atlanta Symphony principal cellist Christopher Rex, takes place at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center. Artists for 2013 (May 26–July 13) include Rachel Barton Pine, David and Julie Coucheron and the Linden Quartet.
  • Chris Rex also directs the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, off the coast just south of the Georgia-Florida border.
  • The summertime Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival in nearby North Carolina has been around more than three decades. William Ransom, artistic director.
  • The North Georgia Chamber Music Festival made its debut in Dahlonega with four concerts last June, masterminded by former Atlanta Symphony concertmaster Cecylia Arzewski.

Whew!

Not that those aren't enough ways to experience the intimacy of chamber music concerts in Georgia, but did I forget anyone? If so, please leave a comment.

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