Daily Bow: Chicago Chamber Musicians Celebrate 25th Anniversary


Chicago Chamber Musicians Celebrate Anniversary, Discuss Future Plans

In 1986, a group of musicians from the Chicago Symphony decided to try something new. In addition to their regular duties with the orchestra, they started playing chamber music, giving free lunchtime concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and playing as resident artists on WMFT-FM. Twenty-five years later, that group has grown fourteen members, including musicians not affiliated with the CSO, gives six subscription concert series in Evanston and Chicago, runs a program dedicated to contemporary composition, a family concert series, and much more.

The Chicago Chamber Musicians are the best at what they do in Chicago. With big name players like clarinetist Larry Combs violist Rami Solomonov, and hornist Gail Williams, it is easy to see why. The founding members wanted to start a chamber group that was completely dedicated to this sometimes underrepresented medium. While larger organizations like the CSO and the Lyric Opera do give chamber music concerts, the CCM wanted to organize an experience in which one group could deliver consistent and scrupulous performances of smaller works from several genres and periods.

The dream of the founding members was to form an organization that reflected their experiences at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont:

“I was at Marlboro about 17 years,’’ said [violinist Joseph Genualdi], who served as CCM’s artistic director for 17 years before relinquishing the post earlier this year. “We had had this incredible experience of chamber music concerts under these utopian circumstances that Marlboro could afford. You had concerts where you could hear just anything at all.”

With these goals in mind and twenty-five years under their belt, the CCM has no small plans for the future. Co-artistic directors Charles Geyer (trumpet) and Meng-Chieh Liu (piano) are the new co-artistic directors for the organization, and despite the troubling economic times, they intended to bring even more chamber music to Chicago.

One brand-new venture will bring CCM to Mayne Stage, a snazzy cabaret setting on the Far North Side that offers an eclectic schedule of pop, jazz and classical performances.  Just steps from the Morse Avenue Red Line El stop at 1328 W. Morse, it will be the site of three abbreviated CCM concerts, each beginning at 6:30 p.m. The idea is that busy music lovers will drop in after work, sit down with a drink, listen to a short chamber music program and talk with the artists and a guest program host. The series, titled Classical Conversations, runs Nov. 16, Mar. 21 and May 2.

This is an excellent direction for the CCM. Chamber music being such a versatile genre, it works both in small spaces and large halls. Works are written for all combinations of instruments, and styles vary so much from piece to piece that a single concert has the dynamic appeal necessary to keep a concert interesting. This combination of searching for new venues and innovative programming is exactly what classical music needs to draw new and younger audiences. The goal is to draw a larger audience and help the group become more well know, to turn the CCM into an icon on the Chicago music scene like the CSO and Lyric Opera. With a quarter century of experience behind them, they’re well on their way.




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