Orcas’ Chamber Music Fest illustrated by George Shangrow in Music Lovers’ Seminars

  • Wed Aug 13th, 2008 11:00pm
  • Life

George Shangrow

Last year’s inaugural Music Lovers Seminars with George Shangrow brought familiarity and heightened pleasure to the classics of chamber music as performed during the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival (OICMF). This year, OICMF brings Shangrow back for another series of seminars, each taking place over two days, to familiarize concert-goers with the pleasures of the four major concerts during the 11th annual Music Festival. The lectures are a component of the OICMF’s IM: In Music year-round education program.

Chamber music is the term used to describe music that is played, not in a stadium or even a symphonic concert hall for audiences of thousands, but in a room, or chamber, often just for the pleasure of the performing musicians. The chamber musicians are rarely directed by a conductor, but rely on each other to bring out the expression of the composers’ music. At the OICMF, “intimate” audiences of several hundred can listen to the delights of that the Orcas Center “chamber” offers.

Whether the audience’s listening style is an immersion into the entire flood of the music, analysis and recognition of the structure, or comprehension of the “story” behind the composition, Shangrow’s Music Lover lectures are chock full of explanations and anecdotes that will enhance the pleasure of the performance for experienced chamber music lovers and neophytes alike.

This year’s Music Lovers schedule is as follows:

First Night! Music Lovers’ Seminar

Monday Aug. 18 and Tuesday Aug. 19

10 a.m. to noon, St. Francis Catholic Church

Sponsor Margrit Englehartson

Kaleidoscope Music Lovers’ Seminar

Thursday Aug. 21 and Friday Aug. 22

10 a.m. to noon, St. Francis Catholic Church

Sponsor Catherine Pederson

Orcas~trations: Parker and the Miro Music Lovers’ Seminar

Monday Aug. 25 and Tuesday Aug. 26

10 a.m. to noon, St. Francis Catholic Church

Sponsors Trisha and Jonathan Loop

Fantasy and Finale! Music Lovers’ Seminar

Thursday, Aug. 28 and Friday Aug. 29

10 a.m. to noon, St. Francis Catholic Church

Sponsors Karen and Lee Hedge

Shangrow is a renowned Conductor and Music Director who founded the Seattle Chamber Singers in 1969 and Orchestra Seattle (formerly the Broadway Symphony) in 1979. A University of Washington graduate, Shangrow began his professional conducting career at age 18 and has concentrated his musical efforts with Orchestra Seattle and the Seattle Chamber Singers. He has appeared as guest conductor with many Northwest orchestras and symphonies and the Sapporo (Japan) Symphony. He has conducted world premieres of operas, orchestral, and choral works. As an educator, he has taught music history, theory, and composition at Seattle University, Seattle Community College, and Seattle Conservatory of Music. Shangrow also performs as pianist and harpsichordist in partnership with flutist Jeffrey Cohan as the Cohan-Shangrow Duo and has toured Europe as a keyboardist and a conductor. Formerly, Shangrow was an announcer and host of the Live! By George radio program on Classical KING-FM.

Earlier this year, Shangrow gave a preview of this year’s Chamber Music Festival program and of the Music Lovers’ Series. He characterized OICMF Artistic Director Aloysia Friedmann’s 2008 program choices as “a fascinating season program – a little further out of the box than programs in the recent past.”

Shangrow outlined some of the genres of chamber music and their interpretations by composers over the past three centuries, such as the sonata form, trios, concertos, and the formidable String Quartets — “Finally we get to the real chamber music” says Shangrow.

Aloysia Friedmann has said that string quartets are “probably one of the hardest combinations of instruments to blend together, both tonally and stylistically.”

“With string instruments only, it is much harder to create a unified overall sound. The way the instruments work together requires art and experience,” said Friedmann.

Shangrow helps the listener understand what the composer accomplished in his work, as he explains Beethoven’s s genius in counterpoint (where two or more melodies are played at the same time, creating complex harmonies), Chausson’s cycling the melody from one instrument to the next, Mozart’s preference for the viola, shifting tonalities from major to minor keys, and other composing techniques.

The Music Lovers lectures are filled with intriguing footnotes of the composers’ life stories, such as Chausson’s death at 44 from a biking accident, Charles Ives’ use of hymn tunes and folk songs, Bach’s employment by default, as he was the third choice to be his church’s organist, and St. Saen’s early genius, which was met later in life by expulsion from the French National Society of Music at the age of 64, followed by 22 years of world travel.

Beethoven’s eventual deafness is well-known, yet he heard his complex compositions, “hearing them in his soul and brain,” said Shangrow.

The Concerts

The First Night! Concerts present the piano concerto, with pianist Anna Polonsky playing the Bach D Minor Keyboard, a Cesar Franck sonata written for violin and piano, and featuring Chee-Yun, Korean celebrity violinist, a Debussy sonata for flute viola and harp, played by Karla Flygare, Aloysia Friedmann and Heidi Lehwalder, and the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. As did Mozart, Brahms “discovered” a great clarinet player late in his life and composed his clarinet quintet which Shangrow describes as “quite melancholy throughout, full of texture, beautiful on the ears – and [OICMF clarinetist] Frank Kowalski will make it so beautiful – you can’t by-pass this concert.”

The second concert series is entitled “A Kaleidoscope of Color” and features music by French Impressionist composer Maurice Ravel and Spanish composer Manuel DeFalla’s “Suite Populaire Espagnole.” Carlos Salzedo’s “Scintillation,” to be performed by harpist Heidi Lehwalder, is the 2008 Festival’s only solo piece. Also featured is the Haydn Piano Trio in E major where Shangrow has prepared listeners to tune into the violin and cello playing pizzicato – “The Haydn piano sounds positively jazzy with the bass hand playing legato and the melody in the right hand sounding improvisational, minor and scatty,” said Shangrow. Also featured is the modern composer Paul Schoenfield’s “Café Music.” Shangrow says this last piece beguile listeners with its “’ain’t she sweet’ rhythm — and two minutes later, here comes Beethoven.”

The Orcas~trations concert brings the highly acclaimed Miro String Quartet to perform a Beethovern String Quartet and American composer-insurance salesman Charles Ives’ String Quartet, followed by Festival Artistic Director Jackie Parker joining the Miro String to play the Dvorak Piano Quintet.

The Fantasy and Finale! Concert on the last two nights of the festival will again feature the Miro Quartet in Mozart’s Hoffmeister Quartet, composed in tribute to Haydn. Harpist Heidi Lehwalder plays the Saint-Saens “Fantasy,” followed by the impressionistic Chausson Concerto for violin, piano and string quartet.

Aloysia Friedmann says, “any aspect of what you know about the music will enhance your enjoyment.”

Shangrow’s lectures are like a glass of the finest wine preparing audiences to enjoy the emotion, restraint, and fulfillment of the performance of a small group of musicians playing a private concert for an intimate audience – chamber music.

Each of the four Music Lovers sessions are offered for $20 for each two-day session. Limited space is still available in each one. Register for the lectures by calling the Box Office at 376-2881 during business hours, Thursday-Saturday, 12 noon to 4 p.m. All sessions are offered at St. Francis Catholic Church.

Parker adds a special “Thank You” to the volunteer Music Lovers’ Seminar team “who have been instrumental in creating this year’s opportunity to hold the seminars at St. Francis Catholic Church and who have taken care of the many important details for a successful music education experience, including refreshments! Kudos to Velma Doty, Karen Hedge, Trisha Loop, Catherine Pederson, Mary Poletti, Eileen Pyka, and numerous treat makers.”

Parker notes, “There are also tickets available for most concerts and productive waiting lists.” Those who have not yet purchased tickets are encouraged to call the Box Office at 376-2281 or the Festival Office at 376-6636.