Chamber Music Celebrates Sixty-Six Years on Route 66
By Nancy Hermann
Chamber music has evolved from the days of gilded rooms and powdered wigs into a vibrant experience that features some of the finest musicians on the planet. Concerts are visceral and compelling musical conversations between players and audience members. The music draws from a variety of timeframes and inspirations and is played on instruments as diverse as saxophone and violin.
Formerly known as Concertime and celebrating its longevity under the banner of “Sixty-Six Years on Route 66,” Chamber Music Tulsa has been the art form’s passionate advocate for decades.
Program Committee member Kathleen Gerety, CMT Board President Claire Farr and CMT Executive Director Bruce Sorrell shared their perspectives on the organization and its upcoming season.
GTR: Kathy, you’ve been heavily involved in programming choices for several years. What was the spark that created the Route 66 theme for this year?
Gerety: I think it was the happy coincidence of the 66th season and the prominence of “66” in local lore (Route 66, Phillips 66, etc). Broad themes can be an effective way to guide us in selecting programs for a season, and there is an increasing interest in developing connections between our programs and distinctively “Tulsa” history and culture.
GTR: Is there a performance or group that you are particularly looking forward to this season?
Gerety: I’m especially excited that we’ve programmed contemporary music with every ensemble, and that both Miró Quartet and McGill-McHale Trio are performing brand-new works.
GTR: When you travel to conferences or concerts to hear ensembles that are prospective candidates for the CMT concert season, what are you looking for specifically?
Gerety: Most (but not all) ensembles that we hear in showcases are very good players. We seek excellence, of course, but also personality, expressiveness, and stage presence. “Stage presence” for me means that the musicians are conscious of their audiences, draw them in, and have the poise and maturity to talk to their listeners about the music, and about their choices of repertoire. Musicians who choose to concentrate on chamber music are generally very thoughtful artists and like the intimacy and interactions that are the defining characteristics of chamber concerts. So we tend to choose groups that display those qualities in ways that engage and entertain our audiences.
GTR: Claire, as board president, what, in your view, does CMT do well?
Farr: We remain focused on truly excellent ensembles and programs, and we continually look for ways to offer those programs in appealing formats. For example, we recently added the Friday Gallery Series to expand the opportunities for a concert with wine and food beyond our traditional Saturday Salon series, which has been sold out for years. Our board has explicitly concentrated on inclusion and accessibility in our defining core values and beliefs. In the last several years, our program committee has increasingly worked to take demographic diversity into considerations in selecting musicians and composers. The board also prioritized keeping student tickets at only $5 for our Sunday concerts so families can afford to attend.
GTR: Which performances are you excited about in this “Sixty-six Years on Route 66” lineup?
Farr: I’m very excited about the Harlem Quartet, which makes their debut on our series in November. The quartet offers a unique blend of repertoire across classical, Latin and jazz. Their passionate commitment to diversity and excellence has made them a leading ensemble in educational residencies. Beyond their concerts on the CMT series, the quartet will be in Tulsa for a week to perform for all 3,500 fourth graders in the Tulsa Public Schools through the Any Given Child-Tulsa program.
GTR: Why does CMT value the education component of what it offers the community?
Farr: CMT is committed to musical education and outreach to the community because we believe in the transformative power of excellent live chamber music. It was striking to me that a commitment clearly stated back in our original incorporation in the 1950s remains today: “To cultivate… and encourage a popular education, understanding, taste and love of music…”
GTR: Bruce, our community loved the Miró Quartet’s performances during CMT’s highly successful Beethoven Winter Festival in 2017. What is it about the Miró that draws such a response every time they perform?
Sorrell: They have a visceral approach to music-making that electrifies the room. Though they give quiet passages keenly felt intensity, in bravura passages they unleash a controlled ferocity that keeps you at the edge of your seat.
GTR: For someone who is new to chamber music, how can they best acclimate themselves to the experience in order to gain a deeper appreciation?
Sorrell: In my opinion, you don’t have to know anything about chamber music to enjoy its beauty. The excitement of hearing chamber music played in an intimate setting is truly thrilling. The biggest thing that I think is true of our series is that everyone is passionate about sharing the experience. Even if you don’t know much about it, we will welcome you and hope you will become as hooked as we are.
Chamber Music Tulsa season opens with American Brass Quintet, Sept. 21-22, followed by the Lysander Piano Trio, Oct. 11-13; Harlem Quartet, Nov. 8-10; Daedalus Quartet, Jan. 31-Feb. 2; McGill-McHale Trio, Mar. 6-8 and the Miró Quartet, Apr. 4-5. A Friday Gallery series will be held at ahha and Duet Jazz. Sunday concerts are performed at the Tulsa PAC. Check the Chamber Music Tulsa website, chambermusictulsa.org, for ticket prices and special event information.