Thursday, December 12, 2013

On Their Toes!

This is the "spirit of the dance" in more ways than one, it came to me as I looked around me. This was no ordinary theater auditorium, but a special place inside the in the Circular Church.

It was a circle of life in many ways that afternoon.

The sanctuary was packed with families on a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon, and, I looked around and saw eager, younger children, many of whom were patiently waiting in their seats, on their parents' laps,  or sitting in the aisles. I was impressed with their manners...and all dressed up!

Then, lights up to reveal a almost bare stage which reflected by design the cold wintry scene of an old European town.

The lonely little match girl is standing alone, shivering, sad looking, in the street with a few match sticks in her hands.

The ballet ensemble of the Youth Ballet Company from the Charleston Dance Institute show great acumen and talent, under the direction of choreographer, Jonathan Tabbert.

They were excellent, on pointe, and dressed in some of the most beautiful and cleverly designed costumes I had ever seen in a children's dance performance.

We saw snowflakes, fire, wind, frost, the fire wind in human fairies flying through the air. The lighting made them sparkle.

As I sat, I looked up, there was another spectacle of sunlight streaming through the church's stained glass windows. It hit the inside of the church, on and around the seated audience.

It warmed my shoulders like a nudge.

Poetry in motion as the reader told the story in a dramatic, but lyrical way...all in sync with the perfect blend and timing of the musical ensemble.

Little match girl in solo tells her story in  mime. All the winter weather elements came alive, crossing the stage, including frost and snowflakes. The sun strolled past match girl, back and forth. Fire pursues her, beckoning her to light the last few matches she has left to sell. She hesitates and refuses.

Wind blows in suddenly in quick steps and leaps across the stage. I am surprised with his nude skin tight leotard and tights. A few parents looked as surprised as was, but it didn't break the beauty of his dancing. Masterful and lithe, he properly expressed the essence of his role.

The little match girl is not seduced by all the allure of fire. She hesitates, and, contemplates the results if she gives in too soon, especially if the matches go dark. She fights the temptation to take a chance.

It was a sight to be scene! Without missing a beat, this well trained group of young dancers created magic on stage. I was very impressed with their dancing skills and talent. The costumes were uniquely crafted.

Their spins, twirls, leaps, and, on pointe in perfect form spoke volumes about their dedication and aspirations. It showed serious, hard work, and discipline. 

Sweet, gentle and angelic, the young dancers were light on their toes. I could visualize running across a meadow, in spite of the winter scene. 

The Chamber Music Charleston, complete with string and wind instruments were in sync with the dancers on every note. From mellow to lively at an even,  easy pace, the music punctuated the dancing and the story line.
It was a triumph of young talent, aspiring dancers, and the living score of music all  rolled into one. I went home, fully charged, inspired, and satiated by the experience.

I privately thought to myself, one can never get enough of the "heart and soul" of classic stories, the dance in all of its forms, and, the richness of the music behind every step.

Diane Scher
762-6280, 324-0900

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Spirit of a Viennese Salon Comes to Charleston

Chamber music has always been a form of classical music best enjoyed in an intimate setting amongst a gathering of friends.  As the Romantic style of composition blossomed in the early 19th century, musical salons - gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host - became the format of choice to enjoy music.    Franz Schubert enjoyed tremendous success with such gatherings, inspiring the formation of “Schubertiades” as information gathering held in private homes to celebrate his music.  Such evenings could also include poetry readings, dancing and other social activities.   As the home to such great composers as Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Strauss, Vienna became the epicenter of such musical occasions.

On Saturday, November 9 Chamber Music Charleston will bring this spirit of a Viennese Salon to Memminger Auditorium through a program of exquisite Romantic music.   The evening opens with an ode to the “Schubertiad” through a performance of Franz Schubert’s “Shepherd on the Rock.”   Schubert wrote this work for the unusual instrumentation of Soprano, Clarinet and Piano upon the request of legendary soprano Anna Milder-Hauptmann (the creator of the role of Leonora in Beethoven's opera Fidelio).  Considered one of the composers most popular songs, Schubert never had the opportunity to hear the piece performed, as he died only weeks after completing the work.

Chamber Music Charleston’s soprano Suzanne Atwood will be joined by CMC clarinetist Charles Messersmith and guest pianist Andrew Armstrong for the performance.

Following the Schubert, we welcome guest violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti to perform two selections for violin and piano solo.  Ms. Moretti is an accomplished, award-winning chamber musician, solo artist and teacher who is currently Director of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Georgia.  She selected a Romance by Amy Beach and another Romance by Laura Netzel to perform for audiences on November 9.  Laura Netzel was a Swedish composer, pianist and conductor who lived from 1839 to 1927 and Amy Beach was an American composer and pianist who lived from 1867-1944.   Ms. Moretti has become a champion of the frequently under-appreciated female composers of the Romantic period, and the beauty of these two Romances will be a perfect compliment to the other works on the program.
Amy Beach (left) and Laura Netzel (right)

The evening concludes with Robert Schuman’s Piano Quartet in E Flat Major.  The work was written in 1942, his “Year of Chamber Music” – a period of time in which he composed three string quartets, a piano trio, piano quartet and piano quintet.  A beautiful work of unabashed romanticism, the piano quartet is full of virtuosic passages, soaring melodies and passionate climaxes.  
Robert Schumann
 These concerts at Memminger have become a yearly highlight in Charleston, pairing exceptional music with food, wine, and decor. You can choose table seating in front of the stage (with the option to purchase a Bistro Box filled with culinary delicacies) or raised theater seating, all with excellent views. Wine is complimentary with table seating but available for purchase by everyone.
Doors open at 6:30 and the performance begins at 7:30.
Get tickets at or call (843) 763-4941.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chamber Music Charleston House Concert Series begins

Sunday, September 29 was a perfect day for a house concert.  The morning started nice and cool, making it easy to pack 65 folding chairs into a minivan along with some nice wine, papers, plates and tablecloths.

At 12:30 I began my drive downtown and was fortunate to find the perfect parking spot on the battery, directly in front of 5 East Battery, the Palmer Home - also affectionately called "The Pink Palace."

Ever since we began presenting House Concerts, Francis Palmer has welcomed us into her beautiful Bed and Breakfast at least once each season.  I always look forward to our performances here, where we are able to set our musicians up in the beautiful bay window overlooking the Charleston Battery.

The Sunday performance would feature two violins, cello and harpsichord.  Soon after I arrived, I was greeted by our fantastic caterer, Jean Carlton, who had already began preparing the post-concert reception.  Next, volunteers arrived to set up the chairs and prepare for the concert.  Once our harpsichordist (Julia Harlow) and cellist (Timothy O'Malley) arrived, we were able to bring the harpsichord up the winding staircase to the second floor.

Yes, for each of our performances featuring harpsichord we get to move a gorgeous harpsichord in and out of each venue!

Luckily, Tim had ample harpsichord training as a student at the Oberlin Conservatory and Julia Harlow is an expert at directing us on how to move the delicate instrument.  With myself and our concert assistant/young violin student Karl Pless on hand, we were all able to safely bring the harpsichord upstairs.

Before I knew it, the musicians had all arrived and were warming up in the concert area and our volunteers were all in place to greet the audience.

It is hard to explain what happens when the audience arrives, but it is magical.  The weather yesterday was exquisite and the door was open to welcome guests in.  At first a few arrive, two by two, and made their way up the grand staircase and choose their seats.  As more arrived, friends greeted each other and delightful conversation filled the air.  The room filled up with only a couple chairs available, and before I know it, it was 3 o'clock.  After checking in with the musicians I walked in front of the audience and welcomed everyone.

It is always such a special feeling to introduce the first House Concert of the season.  While we perform a wide variety of concerts in an assortment of venues, it is our House Concerts that are the foundation of what we do.  In these concerts the musicians are so close to the audience, the audience truly feels a part of the performance.  Lighthearted banter before the pieces help put the audience (and musicians) at ease, and before we know it, the hour had flown by.

Yesterday's performance ended with a chamber version of Bach's double violin concerto, played beautifully by Frances Hsieh and Jenny Weiss.  It was a perfect ending to a wonderful concert.  Soon after the final notes disappeared in the air, the audience showed their gratitude with warm applause and then everyone was off to the dining room and piazza to enjoy a light reception.

I can not think of a better way to spend a Charleston Sunday afternoon!