‘The music of friends’

Chamber Music Society’s Thanksgiving concert has a new venue.

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This year’s Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s (MVCMS) Thanksgiving concert has a new date, a new place, and an innovative seating arrangement. But it will offer the same high-quality music by topnotch professional musicians that delights Island audiences every season.

The rich and varied program of compositions by Glazunov, Mozart, and Brahms will take place on Friday, Nov. 23, a departure from the usual Saturday evening performance. And instead of taking the stage at Edgartown’s Old Whaling Church, the musicians will perform in the familiar up-Island setting of the Chilmark Community Center, the very place where the chamber music program was launched almost 50 years ago.

Even the seating plan has a fascinating new look. Musicians will perform on floor level, rather than above on the stage. The audience seats will wrap around the players in a semicircular format. The arrangement is believed to allow for better acoustics, and a more informal and intimate experience in the chamber music tradition.

The Thanksgiving concert once again features the Martha’s Vineyard Piano Quartet, a group well loved by local audiences. Scott Woolweaver, viola, cellist Scott Kluksdahl, and Stephanie Chase, violin, are the three guest musicians joining with MVCMS pianist and artistic director Delores Stevens. This talented foursome has played in every Thanksgiving weekend concert since combining musical gifts here in 2013, and has appeared on the society’s summer festival stages.

Although the concert will be as festive as ever, ushering in the bright Island holiday season, it will be marked by a somber note.

The performance will be dedicated to the memory of Tony Nevin, a staunch MVCMS supporter, past treasurer, and longtime board member who died in September. An avid sailor, music lover, and familiar genial presence at MVCMS concerts, Tony was the husband of board president Nora Nevin, who has written a moving tribute to her late husband in the concert program. The evening’s opening selection, Alexander Glazunov’s “Elegie, op. 44,” featuring Woolweaver and Stevens, will honor Nevin. The short “Allegretto” has been described as “lovely, valedictory, tinged with sadness but not pathos,” a fitting sendoff for this good friend of music.

All four musicians join together in Mozart’s “Piano Quartet, K. 493 in E♭ Major,” and once again following intermission for the dramatic “Piano Quartet, op. 25, in g minor” of Johannes Brahms, with its varied musical landscapes. From the “Allegro’s” haunting theme, an expansive “Intermezzo” and lyrical “Andante” lead to the wildly ecstatic “Gypsy Rondo,” an upbeat finish to this holiday celebration.

“I have fabulous musicians coming from all over to play, as they have every Thanksgiving for several years,” said Stevens. “We want to make this concert a wonderful thing, as a gift to the Island and to celebrate Tony Nevin’s life.

“I know that Tony would approve of the program!”

A frequent favorite on the Vineyard concert stage, violist Scott Woolweaver was a founding member of the Vaener String Trio, grand prizewinners at the Joseph Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. He has been a member of the Ives Quartet and the New England Piano Quartette. A champion of new music, he is a member of Alea III, a contemporary ensemble. Woolweaver has recorded widely, and holds numerous teaching posts.
Stephanie Chase has been called “one of the violin greats of our era” (Newhouse Newspapers). A top medalist of the prestigious VII International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Chase has performed with more than 170 orchestras worldwide, and is a recipient of the esteemed Avery Fisher Career Grant. Reviewers have praised her interpretations for “stunning power,” “matchless technique,” elegance, and virtuosity.

Cellist Scott Kluksdahl debuted with the San Francisco Symphony, holds diplomas from Harvard University and the Juilliard School, and has performed throughout the U.S., Europe, Israel, and Latin America. He is hailed as a master of the unaccompanied cello repertory spanning four centuries, and has received acclaim for his renditions of the Bach cello suites.

Vineyard audiences have long admired Delores Stevens for her dynamic and sparkling piano performances. A co-founder of the Montagnana Trio that evolved into the MVCMS, Stevens continues as festival pianist and artistic director. Los Angeles–based, she has concertized widely in the U.S. and abroad, and recorded extensively. With a dedication to contemporary music and teaching, she is director of Chamber Music for Young Musicians Foundation (YMF) at Mount St. Mary’s College, and is former head of Piano Studies at CSU–Dominguez Hills.

The chamber group offered reflections upon the change of venue from the stately Old Whaling Church that is under renovation to the smaller Chilmark Community Center with its comfortable ambiance.

“Music was classified by its social function in the Renaissance and Baroque eras as being either church music, theater music, or chamber music,” wrote board member Stephen Zablotny. “Chamber music is composed for a small group of musicians to be performed in a small space such as a house or other ‘chamber.’ Because of its intimate nature, chamber music has been described as ‘the music of friends.’”

MVCMS Thanksgiving concert, Friday, Nov. 23, 7:30 pm, Chilmark Community Center. Admission $20. Tickets are available online at mvcms.org and at the door.