Going for Baroque

M.V. Chamber Music Society is back with a full summer lineup after a two-year hiatus.

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Listen carefully and you might hear the sigh of relief and another one of happiness from residents and visitors alike when they learn that the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) is in full swing. After a two-year hiatus, the society, which has produced world-class chamber music concerts for more than 50 years, as well as supporting classical music learning opportunities for students, is offering a full summer concert series. 

MVCMS board president Kim Baumhofer says, “Technically, this is our fifty-third year of summer concerts. They started with Dee Stevens back in 1978, when they were the Chilmark Players. Dee has a home in Chilmark, and she played in a trio. They started presenting a couple of informal summer concerts at the Chilmark Community Center. In 1983 or 1984, they had been playing often enough that they put together the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society. They have been having summer seasons with musicians coming and staying with people and board members since that time — with the only interruption of the past two years of COVID.”

First up on Sunday, July 17, will be Chatham Baroque, which celebrates the passion and depth of the music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, and early Classical periods through compelling performances. There will be some 12 pieces, ranging from 1553 to 1700 in the group’s performance, “Art of the Trio,” which will be at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. In addition to the violin and Baroque guitar, the musicians will include the period instruments of the viola da gamba, which combines qualities of both guitar and cello, and the theorbo — a large lute, with the neck extended to carry long bass strings. As it turns out, having the group came about as their first collaboration with the Chappy Community Center, who will host them in concert on Saturday, July 16. Baumhofer says, “With COVID and looking at ways to be more collaborative, we reached out to the Community Center, and they had Chatham Baroque coming. Of course, groups who come always love to put two or more concerts together, so it was a perfect melding.” There is hope that they will be live-streaming the concert as well, with more information to follow.

Baumhofer explained the origins of the next performance: “As it turns out, board member David Behnke, who is friends with one of the musicians of the Borealis Wind Quintet, reached out with the wonderful result that they will perform on July 24 at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.”

Like the Aurora Borealis phenomenon, which inspired their name, Borealis is known for captivating audiences of all ages with dazzling and transformative performances. In addition to their Grammy-nominated performances, the quintet is recognized for its fundamental contributions to the wind quintet literature with voluminous commissions, recordings, and editions of both rare and traditional music. The quintet, which includes oboe, horn, clarinet, bassoon, and flute, will perform works by Bach, Charles Lefebvre, Navarro, Ungar, and a suite from Leonard Bernstein’s score for “West Side Story.”

On August 7, again at the Old Whaling Church, will be the Verona Quartet, named after one of the greatest storytellers of all time, William Shakespeare, since they feel that music too can be a powerful way to tell stories. Likewise, with members hailing from Canada, Britain, Singapore, and the U.S., the four musicians believe that chamber music is what unifies them. Visiting the Vineyard in 2018 and 2019, they return as a renowned quartet on four continents, and will offer a program of works by Giacomo Puccini, Anton Dvorák, and Gyorgy Ligeti. Known as a string quartet for the 21st century, the Verona Quartet champions the rich breadth of the string quartet repertoire from the time-honored canon through contemporary classics. In addition to advocating contemporary music, the quartet strives for a dynamic, imaginative approach to collaboration and programming that champions cross-cultural and interdisciplinary enterprises.

“We’re very pleased with the groups we have coming to play,” Baumhofer says. “It offers a nice, wide selection for chamber music fans.”

Tickets and more information are available at mvcms.org.