Tag Archive | "bridgehampton chamber music festival"

World Music on a Local Scale

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by Annette Hinkle

Those who have lived on the East End for any length of time realize it can take years of building a presence in this community before someone (or something) is considered “local.”

Which means, at this point, with nearly three decades under her belt, you could say Marya Martin and the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival have truly arrived.

It was way back in 1984 when Martin, a flutist and part-time Bridgehampton resident, set out to change the classical music scene on the East End. She did so by founding the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival (BCMF), a place where musicians like herself could expand their repertoire in the summer by exploring scores that both intrigued and challenged them, yet still enjoy a relaxing few weeks by the shore.

It’s a concept that seems to have stuck. Tonight, the BCMF kicks off its 29th season with “Beginning Brooklyn,” a free hour-long outdoor concert at the Bridgehampton Historical Society featuring the group “Brooklyn Rider.”

While the term “chamber music” typically implies a certain 18th century stuffiness, the fact is, just because it’s classical doesn’t mean it’s not cutting edge. Over the years, Martin, director of the BCMF, has prided herself on introducing a wide range of classical pieces to East End audiences, including many contemporary works.

The festival has developed a loyal following over the years, and Martin hopes tonight’s concert will bring even more new listeners through the door. She points out that groups like “Brooklyn Rider” are helping her do just that by re-defining the genre with a unique vision that appeals to younger audiences.

“They start singing sometimes in harmony,” explains Martin. “They have done a lot of world music, and often they play electronically enhanced. They’ll put a pick up on a violin to give them more sound color to work with. They’re impeccably classically trained, but they’re going in a way I think young people will enjoy. They have a huge following. It’s really amazing and it couldn’t have happened 20 years ago.”

For the remainder of the festival, which runs through August 19, most of the 11 BCMF concerts will be held at the venerable Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church on Main Street. But tonight’s free opening night concert, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is held in the much more laid back setting on the lawn of the Bridgehampton Historical Society. Martin has found it’s a great venue for introducing chamber festival newbies to the unexpected pleasures of classical music.

“The numbers go up — we have about 1,000 people for the free outdoor concert,” she says. “People bring blankets and bottles of wine. We love to get people there because if they haven’t been to a chamber music concert, they often don’t think of going. They think it’s an elite and stuffy thing.”

“But I don’t feel our concerts are that at all,” she adds, “and I feel if I can get them in the door, I can get them to come back.”

If the parameters of what constitutes chamber music has expanded in ways Martin couldn’t have envisioned just a couple decades ago, so too has the festival’s own capabilities. Martin is particularly excited that BCMF now has its own recording label and is distributing its music on CDs and via Internet downloading. The festival’s first two CDs — “BCMF Live 2011 – Works by Mozart and Spohr” and “BCMF Premieres,” were recorded during last summer’s festival and are now available for purchase.

It’s a reality she couldn’t have imagined even just a decade ago

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while,” explains Martin. “The whole technical change has made it possible and the idea that 10 years ago we could actually have a label, produce our own CD and partner with a big firm to distribute them would have been unthinkable. The idea you can do this is amazing.”

What’s changed, of course, is technology. Martin explains it used to be that in order to make a recording, the musicians had to go into a studio or, in the case of live recordings, an engineer would bring along massive amounts of equipment to do the job on site.

“Now, it’s a minor thing — just a laptop or two and these incredible programs that allow our Grammy Award winning recording engineer to do his job,” she adds. “He comes out and sets up in a little back room in the church and runs cables, sets up the mics and tapes it. He can record the concert and have all the data he needs. Then he goes home and cleans up anything he needs to, gets the codes on it, adds reverb and gets it ready for production.”

But recording is only part of the equation. A bigger challenge, notes Martin, was getting the music into the hands of the public.

“It took us a while to find out how to do this through distribution,” says Martin. “The idea of us trying to publicize these CDs or be a mail order place on our own was daunting. We found the best thing to do was make our own label and partner with a distributor. It’s now on iTunes and Amazon. The biggest thing is having them digitally available.”

Martin expects that BCMF will make three CDs from this season’s concerts, which concert-goers can receive by joining the festival’s recording club.

“When people buy tickets they can sign up for the club, then they will automatically get the CD sent to them from the past season,” explains Martin. “I like that idea.”

But Martin notes, beyond distributing the CDs to concert-goers, the global reach of the Internet means BCMF music can be purchased and downloaded by people all over the world. This is particularly important, she adds, in the case of music which the BCMF has commissioned. Composer Ned Rorem, for example, has received a good deal of attention for music he wrote for the festival, and Kevin Puts, who had a BCMF commissioned piece in the festival last year, recently won a Pulitzer Prize in Music.

“That’s sort of a fun thing to have in our repertoire,” says Martin. “The pieces written for the festival are heard around the world. But a much quicker way to get them heard is by getting the recording made. I believe in these commissions, but unless you record them sometimes a piece can sit on the shelf. If you don’t have a press machine behind them, no one knows about these young composers.”

“I love commissioning something and being part of the process,” adds Martin. “When you feel you have helped make something logistically possible, it’s great.”

The 2012 Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival runs through August 19. In addition to tonight’s free concert, the festival hosts “Summer Celebration” a benefit concert with food and wine on Saturday, July 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Atlantic Golf Club (212-741-9073 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting for information), and “Shadow and Light” a concert at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church on Sunday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and full schedule, visit http://www.bcmf.org/.

 

Gypsy Improv: Stephane Wrembel Comes to Bridgehampton

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Chamber Fest adjusted

By Claire Walla


French guitarist Stephane Wrembel is hard to pin down.

His gypsy guitar music — steadily strum rhythms overlain with meandering guitar melodies plucked with impossibly nimble speed in the vein of the man who practically invented the genre, Django Reinhardt — not only alludes to the Paris he grew up in, it bears resemblance to the sounds of the world at large.

“What I play is not jazz,” Wrembel clarified. “My music is for everyone. What we do can be appreciated by a jazz listener, or by a rock listener, or by a world listener; by anyone, any age, any origin.”

Such flexibility is perhaps to be expected from a guitarist whose musical career began at an early age with an undying devotion to Pink Floyd (which remains just as powerful to this day—he saw Roger Waters perform “The Wall” 12 times last year); then expanded with his study of contemporary jazz, Indian, African and Middle Eastern music; and most recently earned him professional praise from filmmaker Woody Allen, himself an accomplished jazz clarinetist, who has used Wrembel’s songs in two of his films.

“I don’t project anything,” Wrembel explained. “I just do music and whatever comes, comes.”

As it turns out, next on the docket is a performance at the annual Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. Now in its 28th season here on the East End, the event has showcased dozens of world-renowned, classically trained musicians who — prior to playing the East End — have filled such famed chambers as the Royal Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall with their renditions of classical standards by the likes of Bach and Mozart.

Which might make you wonder: where does gypsy guitar fit in? It took the Bridgehampton program’s founder and artistic director Marya Martin a minute to figure it out, too.

Martin first learned of Wrembel about a year ago while finishing the final mastering of a CD with sound engineer Adam Abeshouse in New York City. As it happened, Abeshouse had just finished producing a record for Wrembel and he played a sample for Martin.

“I thought, that’s wonderful!” Martin relayed enthusiastically. “But I couldn’t imagine how I could make a program around jazz , gypsy-fusion guitar,” the classically trained flutist conceded, noting the obvious: “We play Brahms!”

But the idea stuck with her. Martin eventually spoke to Wrembel, and subsequently began listening to music by Django Reinhardt and the gypsy guitarist’s long-time accomplice, jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, both of whom greatly influenced Wrembel’s work. Soon enough, Martin’s research led her back to the music she knew so well.

“Brahm’s Piano Quartet in G Minor is a gypsy march,” she revealed. “It’s completely ethnic and wonderful. So, the more I started researching that, I had four programs of classical music inspired in some way by gypsy music of the ages, and I thought: We could make this work.”

Martin and Wrembel will collaborate with eight other artists on Friday, August 12 at Channing Daughters Winery for the annual Sm. Brian Little concert, where they will perform the fourth movement of Brahm’s Piano Quartet No. 1 (known as “Gypsy Rondo”), Osvaldo Golijov’s “Lulluby and Doina,” as well as song’s by Django Reinhardt and original works by Wrembel.

In the end, whether played by gypsy guitar or classical flute, as Wrembel effortlessly put it, “It’s all the same thing.”

At least for the most part.

Friday night’s orchestra will be playing a song composed by Wrembel called “Big Brother,” which was used to score the second half of Woody Allen’s 2008 Oscar-winning film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” But, in order for Martin and the handful of other musicians to learn the music, Martin said she had to find someone to copy the sounds onto sheet music. Wrembel didn’t have it. “He said, Marya, I don’t read music. I don’t write anything down… we just do it!” Martin explained.

“It’s very different from us,” she continued. “We’re taught to respect the score and play one note as beautifully as we can. With jazz, it’s a whole different ball game. It’s improvising, being free, going off on a tangent that at least has some tie to the original [melody]… They spend a lot of time going over and over [a song] and it just becomes part of them. It’s a very different way of learning or composing.”

When Wrembel was asked to produce a song for Woody Allen’s current film, “Midnight in Paris,” the writer/director commissioned the Parisian guitarist to — without any prior knowledge of the film’s story — simply compose a song about the famed French city.

“I just stepped out and recorded kind of a standard. I recorded the rhythm guitar, then the melody just came to me,” Wrembel began. “I don’t know how to explain it, it’s really weird. I just sat down with my guitar and the melody came. That was it. It just poured out of me, I don’t know why.”

He didn’t draw inspiration from a collection of gathered images, or meticulously outlined chord progressions. “It’s more like, Paris is my town. It’s where I’m from. So, the song was just a dream about Paris. I could feel it, because it’s like home,” Wrembel continued. “When you think about home, wherever you are, you know the vibe of it.”

This will be the first time Martin will be playing with another musician so strongly bent on improvisation. She said she and the other musicians will practice with sheet music the day before their performance with Wrembel.

“We will certainly be playing with some notes,” she admitted. “But, it will certainly be a collaboration.”

Stephane Wrembel’s performance at the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival will be Friday, August 12 at the Channing Sculpture Garden. Wine-tasting and appetizers will be served at 6 p.m. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $100.

Marya Martin: Twisting the Classics

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web Marya

By Andrew Rudansky

Marya Martin, Artistic director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival wants to dispel a few myths about chamber music. Primary amongst these myths, that you need to wear a tuxedo to enjoy chamber music. The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, a concert series Martin started 26 years ago, has been on a mission to dispel this and other myths about the music that has been a part of her life for decades.

This year the BCMF will hold 12 chamber music concerts performed at various locations. Most of the concerts will be held in the BCMF’s traditional venue, the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, 2429 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton. “The Church is small,” says Martin, adding that it was the intimate setting that attracted her to the venue. “In my opinion it is the best way to listen to chamber music.” The church houses from 330 to 340  people per concert, Martin explains that this small setting allows the spectators to really be invested in the music and “almost touch the musicians.”

“People who have come to this festival in the past know that this is a really fun experience, its not a formal concert…and nobody has to wear a tie,” says Martin. As Artistic Director of the festival she has made it a point to place contemporary groundbreaking acts amongst the “old guard” who prefer the classical masterpieces of Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms.

 When Martin puts the program together every year she invites different musicians she knows personally or professionally and places them together  to form small bands for each concert.  Martin describes how she has to strike a delicate balance of performers, taking into account experience and ingenuity, “We do a little of both, the ages of our musicians range from the twenties to the sixties. Martin explains that the older people while more technically proficient and experienced can sometimes lack the energy and creativity of a younger musician. “We believe in mixing things up here,” says Martin, who consistently aims for a balanced dichotomy when pairing older musicians with younger counterparts.

 The BCMF: Offbeat series is an example of Martin’s commitment to bringing  new and fresh faces in chamber music to the East End. Each year Martin invites bands in the chamber music community that are known for innovation and genre-bending performances. This year Brooklyn Rider, a wildly imaginative string quartet, and Real Quiet, a classical trio that isn’t afraid to delve into the world of electronic or contemporary music will both be playing at the festival, Tuesday, August 11 and Thursday, August 6 respectively. “Its like going to an art gallery in SoHo instead of going to the Metropolitan Museum,” says Martin using the analogy to describe the atypical and unique nature of these performances.

Brooklyn Rider started when brothers Eric (cello) and Colin (violin) Jacobsen teamed up with Johnny Gandelsman (Violin) and Nicholas Cords (Viola) during their studies at Juilliard. Colin Jacobsen is a veteran of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival stage, having come to the festival seven times. However this is the first time he has brought Brooklyn Rider with him. Musicians who come back year after year isn’t uncommon  to the BCMF says Martin, “some people have been back for 14 years strait.

Real Quiet is comprised of Felix Fan (cello), David Cossin (percussion) and Andrew Russo (piano), each accomplished soloist in their own right. The trio specializes in world music or what Martin describes as “offbeat contemporary.” This mix of classical arraignments and contemporary sound might sound strange but Martin does not believe the two need to be mutually exclusive. “Any music where people play together is chamber music,” says Martin, and most definitions of the term describe chamber music as any group of musicians (under 13 total) that play without the aid of a conductor.

Bringing burgeoning and new acts to the festival seems natural to Martin, “we were the younger crowd when we started this festival,” she says.

Of course there is something for the tie-wearing crowd as well, scheduled next to these untraditional acts are some of the biggest names in classical chamber music. “I like mixing the old and new pieces together,” says Martin, “You have to keep things interesting, if I served up Beethoven and Brahms every week I would be bored,” to say nothing of the people in the audience.

Famed Clarinetist Anthony McGill will make two appearance at the BCMF this year, first on Wednesday, August 19 and then again on Thursday, August 20. McGill, who has already come to the festival twice before, is highly lauded throughout the world of music, he is the principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and played along side Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman at Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration, a performance in which he had a solo.

This blend of innovative newcomers and established masters has spelled success for the BCMF. The BCMF has made three albums if chamber music and the festival adds concerts to the schedule every few years. But despite the sold out concerts and growth of the festival Martin isn’t terribly interested in expansion, “I’m not craving more concerts under my belt.” Martin has been more interested in quality over quantity, “the most important thing I believe is to focus on the best possible performance in any one piece…bigger doesn’t always mean better, usually bigger just means more headaches.”

Martin says that after everyone is in their seat, the musicians are on stage and the music starts, “its just wonderful to have that energy and sense of awe around.”

The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival’s 26th season starts at July 29 and runs to August 23. For more information about any of the concert dates or tickets please call 537-6368 or visit their website at www.bcmf.org.

Fest Celebrates Silver

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Marya Martin believes a good music festival is a lot like a good restaurant.
“If the food is consistently good and contains excellent ingredients, it will be word of mouth and it will slowly, but surely, succeed,” she said. “I’m dedicated to excellence and I want to make sure that every single concert is incredible. To do that properly you have to put a lot of time into each concert.”
Martin, a classical flutist, is the artistic director of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, which is celebrating its silver anniversary this year and has “slowly but surely” grown into one of the premiere music festivals of the season.
“We, as an organization, have been extremely diligent in making sure we don’t make the mistakes other festivals have made, which is getting too big too soon,” said Martin.
When she and her husband began the festival in 1984 it consisted of just two concerts at the Presbyterian Church in Bridgehampton. This year there are 13 concerts at five venues.
If it had been up to Martin alone, she admitted the festival might now be younger than it is. She gave her husband, Ken Davidson, credit for pushing her to start it.
“He saw it as a real opportunity,” she said. “There were writers and artists and all sorts of smart, interesting people. There was no reason they wouldn’t enjoy good classical music.”
The festival opens this Sunday with a concert at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, a location with special significance for Martin. When she and her husband decided to give the festival a go, it was the first venue they contacted.
“I lucked out because the pastor was a classical music buff and he had heard me on the radio,” she said. “I took my flute and played a couple of notes for him in the church and it was just the sweetest sound. The acoustics were a real surprise. They were better than good. They were great.”
Martin is excited about the concerts and performers on this season’s schedule. She is looking forward to the concert at the Channing Daughter’s Sculpture Garden on August 8 featuring Martin on flute, David Krauss on trumpet, Nathan Hughes on oboe and violinist Lily Francis, among others, playing Johan Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
Another highlight comes the following Sunday at the church when performers will be joined by special guest Roger Waters, lead singer of the seminal rock group Pink Floyd, who will play the role of the narrator in Igor Stravisky’s “The Soldiers Tale.”
The Bridgehampton Music Festival runs through August 17. For information on concerts and tickets call 537-6368 or visit www.bcmf.org.