The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Jan 06, 2011

Charlotte Chamber Music: Exhilaration in Less Than an Hour

Posted by bea.quirk

Albert Schweitzer said “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”

Charlotteans can turn to many places or feline friendships, but for music that soothes the soul – and doesn’t break the bank – the city’s residents turn to Charlotte Chamber Music.

The organization, founded in 1995, enriches the community with inspiring and soul-stirring chamber music performances in urban settings that break down the barriers between musicians and listeners. Concerts – lasting about 45 minutes – typically include music from the Baroque, classical, romantic and contemporary periods and by such beloved composers as Hadyn, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart and Bach.

It does this by holding two free concerts on the first Tuesday of every month, October through May, both at First Presbyterian Church in uptown. One is held at 12:10; the second at 5:30 p.m., followed by a free reception featuring wine and hors d’oeuvres at nearby King’s Kitchen.

“We are about connecting people to music, but creating a sense of belonging and community is also important,” observes Elaine Spallone, who’s been director for about three years.

The programming is creative and, over the course of season, takes attendees on a wonderful musical joyride of delight.  The Feb. 1 concert is entitled ‘Ebony & Ivories’ when the clarinet will take center stage. The Blue Ridge Chamber Players and clarinetist John Sadak will perform 20th century works including Prokofieff’s much-loved Overture on Hebrew Themes and Alan Shulman’s Rendezvous, written for the King of Swing, Benny Goodman. The program concludes with American composer Charles Griffin’s homage to Irish and Appalachian folk music, Weaving Olden Dances, in a new arrangement commissioned by Charlotte Chamber Music.

About 400-500 people attend each of the SRO concerts. Although the original purpose was to provide a musical respite for uptown workers, Spallone says most of the attendees neither work nor live in the center city.  Many are retirees.

The group performed at St. Peter’s Church for many years and moved to First Presbyterian about two years ago. “The audience experience is lovely,” Spallone observes. “It’s brightly lit, there are no columns, and the seats have cushions.”

In another effort to provide chamber music in an intimate setting, Charlotte Chamber Music also offers a Living Room series held in people’s homes.  The eight yearly concerts are open to the public. Cost is $60 per person or $100 per couple.

Another goal of the organization is to provide employment opportunities for area musicians.  About half the group’s musicians are with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.

Coming up on Friday, Feb. 11, is the group’s annual benefit.

This year’s event will be held in the atrium of the Mint Museum Uptown and will feature a performance by Grammy-nominated violinist Robert McDuffie.

Back to top