by Dan Wood
From its inception, Friends of Music Concerts has offered countless chamber concert experiences locally. They have also worked to nurture and develop new and upcoming artists by giving them a stage to perform on.
As the organization prepares for its 70th season, President Susan Harris delved into the organization’s history and foundation:
“Some people near Croton liked classical music, and you used to meet in each other’s homes and listen to LP records.”
After a while they decided it might be nice to hear some live music. Their very first concert was in fact the Juilliard String Quartet.
In the years that followed the Juilliard String Quartet’s performance, Friends of Music Concerts continued to bring in big names to perform. For instance, Saint Martin in the Fields and Orpheus have been a part of the history. The Emerson Quartet has performed for Friends of Music 17 times and even performed last year during the quartet’s farewell tour.
Harris says that the basis of the organization is to present outstanding chamber music, and points out that the group does so in local high schools at extremely affordable prices with free parking.
By having performances in schools and offering free admission to students under 18, the organization has given opportunities for students to engage with chamber music as both from both sides – as performers and audience members.
Says Harris: “One of the things that we’ve done to encourage younger performances is that we participate with Young Concert Artists (YCA). Every year we have a YCA international audition winner and we give them a performance. So, we are exposing our audience to new and up-and-coming performers.”
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the auditions were put on hold until last year’s season. To make up for the seasons that were missed, Friends of Music Concerts and Young Concert Artists added two performers to the seasons that followed.
Friends of Music Concerts has also focused on expanding its repertoire over the years to feature a more expansive group of performers. In fact, Vice President Keith Austin attributes some of the organization’s longevity to its ability to expand the types of programs that they include. Last year’s program included a performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat” which featured narration by actor John de Lancie.
Discussing this year’s season, Austin adds: “We’ve pushed the envelope in terms of the repertoire and in terms of the people who are performing. Instead of the same old quartet after quartet, we have a wide range of people this year.”
As a part of that expansion, the organization began including vocalists in 2015 and is continuing that trend of firsts. Grammy Award-winning artist Jason Vieaux will be the first guitarist to perform with Friends of Music Concerts when he performs alongside the Escher String Quartet on October 21.
But first, this year’s concert series will kick off on September 23 with the NYC-based chamber group Manhattan Chamber Players. The concert will take place at Sleepy Hollow High School with a program that includes Phillip Glass’s String Quartet No.2, Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-Flat Major, Op.44 and Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet in D Major, Op.21. Also included this fall are Trio Zimbalist on October 7 at Ossining High School, Jason Vieaux and the Escher Quartet on October 21, and Le Consort on November 4 at Sleepy Hollow High School. The group will then pick up again to continue its season in March and April of 2024. Perhaps it will be the first season before 70 more.
Originally published Sept. 21, 2023