In concluding its summer season, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) is going out with a bang. The concerts on Monday, August 19, and Tuesday, August 20, should make an appropriate last hurrah following the excitement of the Vineyard summer trifecta of Illumination Night, Fireworks, and the Fair.
The upcoming pair of concerts (Monday’s at the Old Whaling Church, Tuesday’s at the Chilmark Community Center) are a little bit of a departure from the MVCMS’s usual fare. For one thing, the string instruments typical of chamber music will be supplanted by an all-brass ensemble and, adding to a program of both classical and contemporary music, the visiting Infiniti Brass will perform familiar music from the golden age of Broadway and a popular piece from the swing and blues dance era.
The latter, Duke Ellington’s jazzy “Rent Party Blues,” summons up all that defined the Gatsby age — the combination of glitter and ennui, hoopla and hangovers.
Moving along a decade to the 1930s, the quintet will do a medley of songs by George Gershwin from the hit Broadway opera “Porgy and Bess.” Dealing with the lives of poverty-stricken African-Americans living in South Carolina in the 1920s, many of the songs have made their way into the repertoire of popular American music. Songs like “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin'” have been recorded by many popular artists including Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra. “I think they’re some of the best songs that have ever been written,” MVCMS artistic director and pianist Delores Stevens said.
Next, the ensemble jumps ahead to the 1950s to perform songs from the immortal musical “West Side Story,” which was nominated for six Tony awards and, as a movie, won ten Academy Awards. The memorable songs run from love songs “Maria,” “Somewhere,” and “Tonight” to fun tunes “I Feel Pretty” and the fast paced “America.”
The two concerts start off with popular music from much earlier eras. Opening up the program is an arrangement of dance music from Elizabethan times, followed by a selection from Mozart’s fantasy opera “The Magic Flute” performed by Ms. Stevens on piano and her son, Infiniti Brass member Paul Stevens, on the French horn.
Also included in the program are three contemporary pieces — a modern tango piece; a trombone composition by Jack Hayes who orchestrated many films including “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “The Color Purple”; and something really innovative — a tuba solo accompanied by electronic music.
As with many of the MVCMS concerts, the programming for the upcoming concerts offers a lot of diversity. “I tried to pace everything,” Ms. Stevens said. “I think in a way I’m trying to give everyone something like a complete dinner. It’s not all dessert. I try to give a balance.”
Infiniti Brass has performed on the Vineyard for the MVCMS a number of times in the past. The quintet is made up of two trumpets, trombone, French horn, and tuba. “They’re outstanding musicians from all over,” Ms. Stevens said. “New York, Florida, California, the Midwest, they’re friends who play in orchestras and ensembles all over.” Among the groups that the various members perform with are the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York City Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Joffrey Ballet.
On Monday afternoon, MVCMS invites the public to attend an open rehearsal for the evening performances. “You’ll get to know some of the secrets,” said Ms. Stevens. “I think you’ll be very excited to see the incredible technique that these young people have. Even if they’d played these pieces many, many times before, they always find something new.”
Ms. Stevens is very pleased with the 2013 season. She especially enjoys performing at the Old Whaling Church with its marvelous acoustics and even more so this summer since the venue has benefitted aesthetically from the backdrop mural recently painted by Island artist Margot Datz. “I think we’re very lucky to enjoy this beautiful space and this gorgeous sound,” she said.
Of the upcoming program, Ms. Stevens says, “It will fill the whole place up. It’s uplifting, really fun and invigorating. You’ll go out with a happy face.”
Infiniti Brass Concert with M.V. Chamber Music Society, 8 pm, Monday, August 19, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown; and 8 pm, Tuesday, August 20, Chilmark Community Center. $35; free for students. For more information, visit mvcms.org or call 508-696-8055.