Jeffrey Douma on Conducting the Human Voice

Conductor Jeffrey Douma may have grown up playing the cello, but when he was a junior in high school, he heard a really good choir and that, as they say, was that. “The first time I really heard a good choir, I realized how remarkable the sound of an a cappella choir could be,” he says, noting he had always sung but never taken it seriously. “I realized that’s where my heart was.”

“I love orchestral and instrumental music, but I do think there’s something even more direct and emotionally profound about the sound of human voice,” he continues. “It’s very personal and also very mysterious.”

While some might assume that singing is easier to do than, say, playing the trombone, Douma doubts it. “Most people don’t have a lot of ideas of how vocal sounds are produced,” he says. “As I’m speaking to you, I’m creating all these different vowels and consonants. My mouth and tongue are creating a complicated series of small manipulations to create these sounds.” MORE

Published June 15, 2017
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Martin Bresnick on The Passions of Bloom

By Janet Reynolds

Editor’s note: Composer Martin Bresnick has a long history with Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. We did a profile of him last year that you can read.

 Martin Bresnick

This year, however, marks a very special event: the premiere on June 21 of Bresnick’s Whitman, Melville and Dickinson—Passions of Bloom with the Yale Choral Artists. The oratorio, which is inspired by Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion, celebrates three American literary icons—Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville and Walt Whitman—and Yale literature professor and renowned American literary critic, Harold Bloom. We talked to Bresnick about his inspirations for this work. MORE

Published June 9, 2017
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Meet the Director:
Melvin Chen’s Vision for the Festival

By Janet Reynolds

Editor’s note: As you know, Melvin Chen is the Norfolk Festival’s new Director. As all new Directors do, Chen is mixing things up a bit and he wants to share some of the exciting things that are coming, beginning with this season’s thematic structure and additional musical opportunities. We started our “Meet the Director” series with a short Q & A that gives a few more personal details about Chen’s past. Want to learn the piece of chamber music he feels is the perfect introduction to the wonders of this type of music? Take a moment to read the Q &A.

In this part of the Meet the Director Series, Chen talks about his vision for the Festival and where he hopes to lead it in coming years.

Melvin Chen has plans as the new Director of Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Learn more about what this acclaimed chamber performer has planned.“The Festival has a long history, a distinctive history of having the best musicians performing at the festival and also serving as an incubator for the next generation of musicians. I want to continue that tradition. Norfolk faces the same challenges most performing arts organizations face, which is to keep their current audience and to expand and build a broader base of audience support for the festival. One of the things I want to do is to find interesting and innovative programming to bring in a broader audience geographically and age-wise.”

Part of that strategy, Chen says, is to expand the festival’s geographic reach. “The goal is to make Norfolk a destination spot so that not just people who live in the area come to concerts but people come from around the country,” he says. ”They plan a special trip because they know they will hear something exciting.” MORE

Published June 6, 2017
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David Kaplan appointed Lecturer
in Piano at UCLA


David Kaplan | Photo by Samantha West

Pianist David Kaplan (Norfolk ’08 and  YSM ’07MM, ’08MMA, ’14DMA) has been appointed Lecturer in Piano for the 2016-2017 academic year at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

Kaplan has appeared in programs presented by the Ravinia Festival, National Gallery of Art, Tanglewood Music Center, Mostly Mozart Festival, and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, among others. He is a core member of Decoda, an Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall, and is the artistic director of Lyrica Chamber Music, a concert series in Chatham Township, New Jersey. MORE

Published August 26, 2016
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A Chat with Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman

By Janet Reynolds

RichardStoltzman.byLisaMarieMazzucoClarinetist Richard Stoltzman is well known to Norfolk Chamber Music Festival-goers. He started as a student there in the 1960s and has returned to perform many summers since.

This time around Stoltzman is mixing the old with the new, performing in a Beethoven trio and a piece by contemporary composer Martin Bresnick. (Bresnick directs Norfolk’s New Music Workshop. You can read an interview with him here.)

While Stoltzman is excited to revisit the Beethoven trio, he’s particularly intrigued by the Bresnick trio, which is enigmatically titled  * * * .  “I have minimal knowledge of this,” he says on the phone from a restaurant. “I don’t even know what the three asterisks are for. This is a mystery piece for me.” MORE

Published July 21, 2016
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A Chat with An Unlikely Muse Creator Harry Clark

By Janet Reynolds


Johannes Brahms

Cellist Harry Clark calls himself a “doubler.” But unlike other musicians who play two instruments professionally — itself fairly rare— Clark is a professional cellist and playwright.

As he notes in his website biography, “I know of one banjoist-playwright doubler — Steve Martin.” (Who, some might suggest, is actually a tripler since he’s also a comedian.)

Specifically, Clark has expanded his interest in music to create a series of musical portraits, or staged readings with live music, that portray moments in musical history. He has written nearly 50 of these staged performances since he started, featuring everyone from Tchaikovksy, Dvořák and Satie to Liszt and Astor Piazzolla. His latest portrait, An Unlikely Muse, will be performed at Norfolk on Aug. 13. MORE

Published July 20, 2016
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A Chat with Min Jung Kim, Director, New Britain Museum of American Art

By Janet Reynolds

Music Room at Whitehouse

Whitehouse Music Room, Norfolk

The turn of the 20th century was a time when many of America’s prominent families collected art, creating mini-museums in their homes. Ellen Battell Stoeckel and her family were part of that movement, and you have a rare opportunity to see their impressive collection of American art on Saturday, July 23.

That’s when Min Jung Kim, director of the New Britain Museum of American Art, will give a talk in the room in Whitehouse where the art has been displayed for decades. Standing amongst the Hudson River School artists and others represented in this impressive collection, Kim will talk about the symbiosis between this private collection and the impressive collections of American art at the NBMAA. The talk begins at 4 and is followed by a picnic dinner and live performance by the Bretano String Quartet. MORE

Published July 20, 2016
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A Chat with Brentano String Quartet
Cellist Nina Lee

By Janet Reynolds

Nina Lee

Cellist Nina Lee has a busy week coming up at the festival. This weekend, she’s performing Friday and Saturday nights, and next Saturday, July 23, the Bretano Quartet, where she is the regular cellist, will perform alone before being joined by Norfolk Festival Fellows, the Argus Quartet, in the iconic Mendelssohn Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20.

It’s a fairly typical week for Lee, who says the quartet, which is in residence at Yale School of Music when it’s not on the road, performs about 60 times annually. MORE

Published July 12, 2016
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A Chat With Pianist Boris Berman

By Janet Reynolds

Boris Berman, piano facultyJoining a quartet, even one that a musician has played with a number of times, can be a delicate dance. After all, the quartet is a finely-tuned machine, each player aware of every nuance of colleagues who have played together for years, even decades. Add another instrument and you’ve got the proverbial fifth wheel.

It’s a dance that pianist Boris Berman loves. “You realize they have performed it on many occasions and I have performed on various occasion,” Berman says of the coming together. “They have their vision and I have my vision. To find the way to creating one and not individual interpretations at the same time is a challenge. It’s a fascinating task. But it’s the challenge that makes it so enjoyable.” MORE

Published June 30, 2016
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Letters from Argentina:
A Chat With Héctor del Curto

By Janet Reynolds

People often think of rhythm when they call up tango music. But the real heart of all things tango is the bandoneón.

delCurto_playingWe caught up with Héctor del Curto, who will be performing on the opening special event on July 8 (An Evening of Tangos), to learn more about this instrument.

The bandoneón originated in Germany and was invented to replace the organ for use in processions. The bandoneon is a small portable organ that comes from the concertina.

It is also a tricky instrument to play. “The keyboard has no logic. There is no order in the buttons so all the notes are mixed. With a chromatic scale you go all over the place,” del Curto says before ending with a joke. “It was created in Germany — they drink a lot so that’s why the instrument is like that.” MORE

Published June 30, 2016
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The First Concert at the “Norfolk Music School” 75 Years Ago On June 27


The 1941 admissions brochure for the Norfolk Music School

On June 23, 1941, the newly formed “Norfolk Music School” opened its doors.  Five days later on June 27, at 3:00 in the afternoon, the first concert was held at Battell House.
“The Music Shed… is now used by students for organ practice and will be the scene of concerts and community singing later on.” (Musical America, July 1941)

The opening concert featured  violinist, Hugo Kortschak, cellist Emmeran Stoeber and pianist Bruce Simonds performing piano trios of Mozart, Brahms and Ravel. MORE

Published June 27, 2016
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Paul Hawkshaw to retire as Director
of Norfolk Chamber Music Festival

Yale School of Music  (January 15, 2016)

Music Shed at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival

Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music, announced today that the School of Music and the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival will have a major leadership transition in 2016. Paul Hawkshaw, who has served as the festival’s director since 2004, will retire after the 2016 season. Melvin Chen, Deputy Dean of the Yale School of Music, has been appointed as Hawkshaw’s successor. MORE

Published January 19, 2016
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[ announcement ]

Robert Blocker reappointed as
Dean of Yale School of Music

Robert Blocker, Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of MusicUniversity President Peter Salovey announced recently that Robert Blocker will be reappointed to a fifth term as the Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music. The new five-year term will be effective July 1, 2016.

In a message to the University community, Salovey wrote: “This renewal is a reflection of Dean Blocker’s record as a transformative leader who has advanced the school—and the university more broadly—in significant ways. As dean, he has galvanized philanthropic support for music at Yale including the landmark gift that made the school tuition free; set new standards of educational excellence by recruiting world-class members of the faculty; and led our efforts to renovate and develop the school’s facilities—projects that will have impact on generations of musicians to come.”  MORE

Published September 29, 2015
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[ announcement ]

Work On The Music Shed Is Beginning

Music_Shed_Vladislav_YeliseyevWe are thrilled to announce that work is beginning on Phase 1 of the restoration of our beloved Music Shed. This phase is expected to be finished in the spring of 2016. The concert seasons will not be affected by the construction in any way.

We are going to begin by securing the perimeter of the building. Phase 1 will include rebuilding the original cupola for cooling and ventilation purposes, a new roof and refurbishment of the outside walls, windows and doors. Replacing the cupola that was destroyed by lightening decades ago will restore the natural ventilation system of the original building. We will monitor its impact on the prevailing temperatures before identifying what measures will be required to further cool the building during hot spells. MORE

Published August 7, 2014
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[ news ]

Scholarship in Honor of Harris Goldsmith

HarrisGoldsmithRenowned cellist and artist, Aldo Parisot and his wife, pianist Elizabeth Parisot, have established a Norfolk scholarship in memory of Harris Goldsmith.

Mr. Goldsmith, was at once a pianist, music critic, writer and teacher. He was also a staunch supporter of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and its mission of providing a world-cass musical training ground for young professionals.

Known for his wit and encyclopedic memory of recordings and performances, Mr. Goldsmith was a frequent contributor to Musical America and High Fidelity as well as a prolific writer of liner and program notes. As a concert pianist Mr. Goldsmith was best known for his recordings of the Beethoven sonatas, and as critic he excelled both stinging barbs and lavish praise. MORE

Published August 1, 2014
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[ Learn ]

Name A Music Shed Chair

index_marquee_chairPatrons may name one of the historic Music Shed chairs in perpetuity for a contribution of $250. Your chair(s) will remain in place in the hall with an attractive plaque identifying the donor(s) or dedicatee(s) and a text of up to 40 characters of the donor’s choice. MORE

Published June 5, 2014
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