For many Islanders and visitors, the annual Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) Thanksgiving Concert is as much a part of the festive holiday weekend as turkey, football, and pumpkin pie. In the elegant setting of Edgartown’s historic Old Whaling Church as the weekend winds down, the musical evening feels like the perfect prelude to the magical Christmas season around the bend.
A Thanksgiving cornucopia of pieces by composers from Bach to Brahms will fill the rich program on Saturday, Nov. 25. The three visiting guest musicians, along with the society’s pianist and artistic director Delores Stevens, have played together in several Thanksgiving concerts, including every one since 2013. The foursome was recently named the Martha’s Vineyard Piano Quartet.
Topping the list of Vineyard favorites is violist Scott Woolweaver, who has performed frequently in Chamber Music Society programs for many years. Mr. Woolweaver, who has trimmed back his signature flowing locks for a more urbane, clean-cut look, will nonetheless be recognizable for his viola virtuosity.
Founder of the awardwinning Boston Composers String Quartet, and a founding member of the Vaener String Trio, Mr. Woolweaver was a member of San Francisco’s Ives Quartet, and has been a member of the New England Piano Quartette for more than 25 years. On the faculties of Williams College and Tufts University, he directs the Adult Chamber Institute at Kneisel Hall, in Blue Hill, Maine.
The society is delighted to once again bring violinist Stephanie Chase to the Old Whaling Church. Complimented as “one of the violin greats of our era” by Newhouse News, she has been featured soloist with more than 170 orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, and London Symphony. Adept at a wide repertoire, Ms. Chase is recognized as a specialist in Beethoven’s music and for performing on period instruments. Along with her widely acclaimed violin virtuosity, lauded for “elegance, dexterity, rhythmic vitality” by the Boston Globe, she is known for her abilities as a musical arranger.
Ms. Chase has taught at the Boston Conservatory, M.I.T., and now at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and is an adjunct artist at Vassar College.
Scott Kluksdahl, cello, rounds out the trio of visiting artists. With diplomas from both Harvard University and the Juilliard School, Mr. Kluksdahl has performed solo and with chamber ensembles in this country and worldwide.
Recipient of the Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship, he has also won prizes in the Naumburg Cello Competition. He holds teaching posts at the University of South Florida, the Killington [Vermont] Music Festival, and California Summer Music.
Most familiar is Delores Stevens, loved and admired by Vineyard audiences for her dynamic and sparkling piano performances here beginning in the 1970s with the Montagnana Trio, which she co-founded. As that original group evolved into the MVCMS, Ms. Stevens has steadfastly remained as performer and artistic director. The Los Angeles-based Ms. Stevens, whose style is as scintillating as her piano virtuosity, has concertized widely in the U.S. and abroad, and recorded every genre of music from Mozart to Hindemith.
A staunch supporter of contemporary music, Ms. Stevens is equally dedicated to teaching. She is director of Chamber Music for the Young Musicians Foundation, Mount St. Mary’s College, and is former head of piano studies at California State University (Dominguez Hills).
Ms. Stevens has countless friends and colleagues in the chamber music universe, many of whom she has brought to add their world-class talents to Vineyard concerts. Unlike many of their summer programs, which feature a mix of recognizable and newly minted or seldom-heard compositions, this program comprises familiar favorites.
Aficionados of J.S. Bach will thrill to hear Ms. Chase open the evening with his four-movement “Partita in b-minor” for violin solo. The quartet of traditional dance pieces from the graceful opening notes is soaring here, quietly meditative there, then filled with spirit — the perfect setting for Ms. Chase to excel.
Boccherini’s “Trio in B-flat Major,” Op. 47, No. 3 twines together violin, viola, and cello in its sweetly haunting theme. The final movement may have concertgoers dancing in the Whaling Church aisles to its graceful minuet rhythm.
Schubert’s “Adagio and Rondo Concertante in F Major,” D 487, penned in 1816 for a piano quartet, turns the spotlight on the piano soloist. Ms. Stevens is sure to shine as the familiar themes dance with pure delicacy across the keyboard.
After intermission, audience members should fasten their seatbelts as Brahms’s “Piano Quartet,” Op. 25 in g minor, will lead them on a meandering journey through rich emotional landscapes. From the opening Allegro with its stately, haunting theme, through a dancelike and expansive Intermezzo, a lyrical and thoughtful Andante, and the wildly ecstatic Rondo, each musician will have the chance to show their full talents.
Adding to the musical abundance of Thanksgiving season, Ms. Stevens and the society will be featured on WMVY’s first “Hot Seat” show, hosted by Laurel Redington. Highlighting selections from past summer concerts, the show airs Monday, Nov. 13, at 10 pm and again on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 10 pm. Find WMVY FM on the radio dial at 88.7, or online.
The society’s mission is to enhance the lives of Islanders of all ages by offering beautiful, high-quality chamber music, as well as providing musical learning opportunities for local school children with instruments and instruction. This festive season, the organization joins in the spirit with a luscious musical gift to top off the Vineyard’s multifaceted holiday feast.
MVCMS Thanksgiving Concert, Saturday, Nov. 25, 7:30 pm, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. Admission: $20. To purchase tickets, visit ticketsmv.com/event.php?id=29672, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 508-696-8055. Tickets will also be available at the door.