“Chamber music has always been special, as it has an element of intimacy and personal connection with the audience. We perform as if we were in the chamber with our audience members – there is no hiding in a large cast of musicians, as each performer is heard so clearly. Chamber music is basically a dialogue between a small group of people, and our audiences sit in on this ‘conversation’ we are having with each other.”Christine Gevert, Founding Artistic Director of Crescendo
Crescendo brings multiple choral and baroque chamber music performances to the Saint James Place stage every year. Our arts and culture hub has been Crescendo’s Great Barrington home since we opened our red doors to our performance partners and audiences in 2017.
This spring/summer, Crescendo brings four concerts to our stage: each a unique representation of what Crescendo offers audiences in the Berkshires, in Litchfield County, CT, and beyond:
Period Instrument Orchestra;
Ensemble of Andean Instruments;
The first concert Mientras Me Abraza Baroque, Latino, and Folk Fusion is chamber music with a ‘twist’: Polish folk music influenced music by J.S. Bach and Telemann, and traditional and contemporary Latin American works arranged for an unusual combination of instruments.
It’s the perfect time learn a bit more about this chamber music organization and its founding artistic director, Christine Gevert.
How excited are you to perform in front of live audiences again, and what are you most looking forward to?
Very excited! While we have expanded our online presence – and it has been a silver lining of this pandemic to do that – the nature of music is the moment, the live interaction of the musicians with each other and with the audience in a beautiful space, such as Saint James Place. The whole point of music is to move the audience, and a live performance is one of the most precious and unique creative moments I can think of. The audience, and the space in which this takes place are very much part of the creative process.
We love both our Great Barrington audience, and Saint James Place as a performance space! That is also the reason why we record our concerts in this space. The response of the audience here is always special, very lively, connected, very present. Every nuance of sound and expression counts so much in a situation like that, and that makes us musicians give even more, stretch to the very limit of our artistic capability, and communicate the broadest possible spectrum of emotions through the music. It is as unique for us to perform live, as it is for the audience to hear a live performance. The pandemic has made us all even more aware of this.
Your offerings this season are so diverse! How does Crescendo’s mission expand to encompass all of these styles of music?
This is our from our mission statement: “Crescendo is dedicated to the performance of music with cultural significance that is of high quality, is emotionally alive, and personally meaningful for its audience and musicians…” So cultural diversity is right there when we mention “cultural significance.”
Like everyone else, we are just starting to understand and explore diversity, as it is not something we grew up with, nor were trained in. As a foreigner myself, it has come natural to me to program music from the continent where my musical journey began – South America. With Crescendo we have found that repertoire that has not yet been widely heard in this area of the Berkshires, or even in this country, is something that both audiences and musicians enjoy greatly, and appreciate. Our past programs have included many East Coast and even U.S. premieres of Latin American, Polish, Czech, Spanish, German and Italian works of the Renaissance and the Baroque. And we have been so fortunate to encounter local composers and poets who have written new works for us.
The subject of Black musicians – composers and performers – had not been a focus of our programming until the Black Live Matter movement. We programmed our very first large work by a fantastic Black composer of the early 20th century, Nathaniel Dett, in 2020 for our first completely virtual season. We were able to hire wonderful Black musicians from the East Coast. We continue to feature repertoire by Black and Latin American composers in our programs, with first class Black and Latino performers, and hope that this journey will help us all to grow, and expand our way of thinking about each other. It is very humbling to realize that as an artist you are as much part of the cultural bias as anyone else. And we are grateful to have an opportunity to start breaking down our cultural bias one step at the time.
What makes baroque and chamber music captivating to today’s audiences?
Baroque music is one of the most pleasing musical styles, because the time in which it emerged was the golden era of humanism. It was the rediscovery of the holistic human being, and of the power of art – and music – to reach our emotions, our mind, body and soul. Composers of both vocal and instrumental music realized how transformative sound can be, and how speech and meaning can and must be expressed through music. It is the moment that Opera was born! Baroque music pleases our senses, expresses a wide spectrum of emotions, is good at telling a story (with and without words), and can also be complex, and therefore appeal to many levels of our mind. Baroque music always has an element of improvisation also, which makes it ever new and alive. It is the music I live for…
My own first experience with the intimacy of chamber music was in my own home, when three generations of our family came together to play and sing. And going back one generation: my mother tells me how she and her sister at the age of three and four years used to hide in a coat closet (they were supposed to be asleep at that time) to listen to neighbors and her grandmother perform chamber music concerts during World War II, when homes had no more furniture. Many saved their musical instruments, and for these concerts every guest had to bring their own chair. Mom describes these as extraordinarily happy and intensely beautiful concerts, unlike anything else. I hope that we will be able to reach many different generations with both Baroque and chamber music concerts!
Thanks, Christine! We look forward to listening to Crescendo’s beautiful and fascinating music this spring.