Tuesday, September 6, 2011

'Concepts, not just concerts'

Eleven musicians from the Richmond area have launched a new chamber-music cooperative, the Atlantic Chamber Ensemble. ACE will give its first concert on Sept. 26 at Virginia Commonwealth University. The group has also been tapped as ensemble-in-residence at WCVE (88.9 FM), Richmond’s public-radio station.

Members of the ensemble are violinists Susanna Klein and Ross Monroe Winter, violist Kimberly Sparr, cellist Jason McComb, double-bassist Fred Dole, flutist Ann Choomack, oboist Shawn Welk, bassoonist Martin Gordon, clarinetist Ralph Skiano, French horn player Deb Fialek and pianist Maria Yefimova.

“Members of ACE don’t plan on presenting the old ‘been-there-done-that’ format of chamber music concerts,” according to a news release announcing the formation of the group. Its programs will include audience participation and “talk-backs,” and will feature untraditional mixtures of music in “atypical venues” – “presenting concepts, not just concerts.”

“The idea of a chamber music co-op affords us the opportunity to create art outside of the typical format,” says Klein, who heads the string program of the VCU music department. “[W]e are all leaders and we all take ownership for our product. It’s more of an umbrella, allowing us to change and adapt freely to what we want to play, rather than having to fit into a model.”

“Richmond is rich in music and culture, but this is one niche we find lacking here,” violinist Winter says. “The face of classical music is changing so rapidly and we are happy to ride on the front of the wave.

A less formal, more interactive “approach to chamber music as an experience for musicians and audiences alike makes ACE the exact kind of ensemble with which I have longed to partner,” says WCVE’s Bobbie Barajas. The group’s musicianship and the radio station’s “ability to share the experience with our listeners means new and great things for chamber music and broadcasting in Central Virginia.”

Among their collaborative plans are “Behind the Scenes: a backstage pass,” a series of “webisodes,” or productions on the Internet, “documenting the efforts that go into preparing the concerts: planning, meeting, rehearsal, etc., right up to the finished product.”

Winter and Skiano will join Barajas between 2 and 3 p.m. Sept. 8 on a broadcast to formally announce the ACE-WCVE partnership and discuss the ensemble and its plans.

ACE’s inaugural concert will feature three works written within seven years of the mid-20th century: Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 (1960), Samuel Barber’s “Summer Music” for winds (1953) and the Nonet of Bohuslav Martinů (1959). Flutist Jen Lawson will be a guest performer in this program.

For more information on the group, visit its website: http://www.acensemble.org/

The Atlantic Chamber Ensemble performs at 8 p.m. Sept. 26 in Vlahcevic Concert Hall of VCU’s Singleton Arts Center, Park Avenue at Harrison Street. Tickets: $5. Details: (804) 828-6776; http://www.pubinfo.vcu.edu/calendar/detailEvent.asp?ID=52212