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Chamber Music by the Sea returns in August

A capacity crowd at the new Berlin library on Harrison Avenue last Wednesday was treated to a performance by internationally acclaimed violinist Elena Urioste. Urioste was in town promoting the upcoming Chamber Music by the Sea concert series.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(July 19, 2018) The third annual Chamber Music by the Sea series returns next month with four concerts scheduled in Snow Hill and Berlin, as well as a day of educational activities planned for student musicians.

Festival Artistic Director Elena Urioste, a Philadelphia native, attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Juilliard School in New York City.

She has graced the cover of “Symphony” magazine and performed in the United States with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and Boston Pops, and in Europe with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Wurzburg Philharmonic and Hungary’s Orchestra Dohnányi Budafok, among many others.

Last Wednesday she became the first musician to play at the new Berlin library on Harrison Avenue, drawing a capacity crowd in the upstairs meeting and performance space.

“It’s such an honor!” Urioste said. “It was actually very last minute. I had been talking to [local music teacher] Katherine Munson about organizing our day of education activities for Aug. 16 and she said, “‘By the way, do you think you could do an event at the library in August?’”

There wasn’t time in August, but Urioste said she would be in Berlin in early July to promote the festival.

“She made a poster and then, six days later, all these people showed up,” Urioste said. “I couldn’t believe how full it was!”

During the performance, Urioste talked about the violin she’s currently playing – an Alessandro Gagliano model built in Naples, Italy circa 1706.

“It’s on loan to me through the Stradivarius Society in Chicago, but more directly by an amazing man who lives in Maryland, near Annapolis, Dr. Charles King,” Urioste said. “He had been loaning me a different instrument from 2003 until 2009.

“One day I received a call that he was really pleased with how my career was going and would I be OK if he upgraded the violin to something else?” she continued. “I remember bursting into tears and just being so moved by that.”

Additional scheduled performers during Chamber Music by the Sea this year are violinist Bella Hristova, violist Vicki Powell, cellist Guy Johnston, clarinetist Anthony McGill, and pianist Tom Poster.

Urioste said Johnston and Poster competed for the 2000 BBC Young Musicians of the Year honor, which Johnston won. The two men today are frequent collaborators and Poster is returning to Chamber Music by the Sea for the second-consecutive year.

She and Hristova “Have been best friends since we met at Curtis [Institute],” Urioste said. “She’s an international soloist and chamber musician who is an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner.”

Powell is the principal violist for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, and McGill is the principal clarinetist for the New York Philharmonic and is “recognizable from his appearance at the 2009 Presidential Inauguration,” Urioste said.

The Chamber Music by the Sea series debuted in Berlin in 2016 with one concert at Buckingham Presbyterian Church and one house concert in the Isle of Wight.

This year two house concerts and two church recitals are planned, as well as a daylong educational event for students at Zenna Wellness Studio in Berlin.

Urioste said the program this year was developed around composer Olivier Messiaen’s epic “Quartet for the End of Time.”

“It’s an incredible 45-50 minute work for the relatively unorthodox combination of piano, clarinet, violin and cello,” she said. “It’s an absolutely spellbinding work that was composed while Messiaen was in a prisoner of war camp and the premier was at the camp with three fellow musicians.

“It’s a very complex work, but the redemption at the end – it’s really an experience and I hope the audience appreciates this journey,” Urioste continued. “It’s a really important piece of music to me and just in the general context of classical music.”

Additional music in the program will include Mozart’s “Clarinet Quintet” and the world premier of a new composition by Berlin native Lila Quillin on Aug. 17.

“I met Lila through a mutual family friend, the piano teacher Philip Bogosian who is also an amazing supporter of the festival, and one of the house concerts will be at his home on South Point,” Urioste said. “We met at the very first festival in 2016 and just developed a friendship.

“I’ve played two of her works at fundraiser concerts and thought it would be an amazing idea to sort of bridge all these areas of my life by commissioning her to write something for this year’s festival,” she added.

Back for the third year, Urioste said she is not afraid to take a few risks with the music selection.

“The audience here is so incredibly trusting and gracious and they seem really open to having these creative experiences,” she said. “I don’t know how I got so lucky as to stumble upon an audience who was so open and appreciative. As an artistic director … I really feel like I hit the jackpot.

“Classical music is new to a lot of the people who come to the concerts, yet they have no preconceived notions about what it should be or what they want it to be,” Urioste continued. “They’re not turned off by music that was written after 1850 and a lot of very educated, knowledgeable audiences are like that.

“I feel so fortunate that the community here has been so open and trusting to new experiences,” she said.

The Worcester County Education Foundation sponsors Chamber Music by the Sea and ticket sales benefit scholarships given through the nonprofit.

“The Worcester County Education Foundation is very excited to be hosting the Chamber Music By the Sea Festival for the second year,” Melissa Reid, foundation representative, said. “The education foundation is committed to supporting such exceptional musician in our local community. The funds raised from the festival will be used to support arts programs in Worcester County Public schools.”

The 2018 Chamber Music by the Sea festival schedule is:

Aug. 14, 7 p.m.: house concert, Snow Hill

Aug. 15, 7 p.m.: house concert, Berlin

Aug. 16, 11 a.m.: educational activities, Zenna Wellness Studio, Berlin

Aug. 17, 7 p.m.: concert at Buckingham Presbyterian Church, Berlin

Aug. 19, 7 p.m.: concert at All Hallows Episcopal Church, Snow Hill

For more information and tickets, visit www.chambermusicbythesea or