Music to remember
When the 39th summer season of the Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society opens on Monday and Tuesday, July 13 and 14, it will be with the world-class artists the society's audiences have come to expect. But the season is opening with an unprecedented twist.
Just weeks ago, with the summer's program set and ticket sales already underway, Chilmark resident Sam Feldman offered to underwrite the first program in remembrance of his wife, Gretchen, who died in November - covering the cost of all tickets, so both performances could be opened to the public free of charge.
Pianist Delores Stevens, the Chamber Music Society's artistic director, says, "This is something we've never done before - not ever," adding, "We feel it's a great opportunity for us and for the Island. This is a great chance for us to let people discover what wonderful music we're bringing here."
During lunch at his home overlooking Tilton Cove in Chilmark, Mr. Feldman says: "This is about Gretchen and her love of chamber music and about the Chamber Music Society."
The Feldmans' connection to the cellist William De Rosa, and to the idea of sponsoring this pair of concerts, goes back to last July, when the Chamber Music Society hosted a fund-raising event on an estate on Cedar Tree Neck in West Tisbury. Mr. De Rosa played the Bach cello suite in a barn overlooking Vineyard Sound, and Mr. Feldman sat next to his wife, who was then in the late stages of her battle with lung cancer.
He recalls the day: "William De Rosa was sitting at an open window. We looked at him and out at this magical view of the Sound, and he played for an hour and a half without any written music. It was such a magical experience - a kind of musical epiphany. Here Gretchen was with stage-four cancer at this point, and anything that brought brightness and uplift to our lives was so welcome."