by Joseph E. Morgan
With the thermometer reaching three degrees beyond insane, and the start of the Nashville Symphony’s new season still months away, classic music lovers in music city might be seeking some higher culture to free them from the summertime blues. In response, organizers at the Nashville Symphony have come up with a new concert format they are calling “Parties of Note,” that bring Symphony musicians into beautiful homes and unique locations for intimate chamber music concerts, cocktails and conversation with fellow music lovers. A portion of each ticket for these memorable experiences will be a tax-deductible donation to support the Nashville Symphony’s artistic and educational mission. I got a chance to ask Maribeth Stahl, the Symphony’s Senior Director of Development and Composer/Violist Chris Farrell a few questions about the series and their upcoming Party of Note on July 24 when Farrell will join Alison Gooding Hoffman (violin) Jessica Blackwell (violin) and Sari Reist (cello) in performance. Here is what they said:
Joseph E. Morgan (JM): How did the new series, “Parties of Note” get its start?
Maribeth Stahl (MS): It’s no secret that our Nashville Symphony musicians are extremely talented, and many of them have a passion for performing chamber music in small ensembles in addition to their work as part of the full orchestra. We are always seeking ways to bring together our musicians and members of the community to share live music experiences, and this is the perfect formula. A comfortable, intimate setting and a very personal music program designed by and performed by our musicians. There have been some really magical moments during the series’ first year!
JM: Which Beethoven works will be performed on the 24th, and why were those pieces chosen? Which is your favorite?
Chris Farrell (CF): We will perform the first and last movements of Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 18, No. 2. I chose this quartet because it is an unusually lighthearted and witty piece for Beethoven. Of course it is Beethoven, so there are really dramatic moments as well. It was also one that we had never performed before so we were excited to try something new to us. We will also play a piece written by me, my String Quartet No. 2. It was premiered about 2 years ago on an OnStage at the Schermerhorn performance.
JM: Have the four of you performed together as a quartet before?
CF: This particular combination of players, (Alison Hoffman, Jessica Blackwell, Sari Reist and myself) have never played together as a quartet before. However all of us have played together in various chamber ensembles over the past 17 years. The great thing about chamber music and our ensemble is that it is an absolute democracy. Each one of us has a vote and there is absolute equality in terms of deciding all aspects of performance. If someone wants to try something a little bit differently than the rest of us had in mind, we try it out to see if it works. As orchestra players we don’t have such freedom to make our own decisions artistically. Of course there isn’t anything bad about playing in the orchestra. If we all had complete freedom in an 80 piece orchestra it would be absolute chaos!
JM: Given the relative dearth of chamber music in Nashville, is this quartet an ad hoc ensemble, or will it perform beyond this one concert?
CF: We are planning to perform again as an ensemble in Spring 2017 at an OnStage at the Schermerhorn. My hope is that we will perform more regularly, I believe our quartet works together really well. I am also planning to record some of my compositions for CD and our quartet will be playing on that CD.
JM: Can you speak a little about the Nashville Symphony’s artistic and education mission, specifically the part of the mission that is funded by these concerts?
MS: As with other fundraising efforts that we undertake throughout the year, proceeds from these performances go directly to the Nashville Symphony’s Annual Campaign fund. As a whole, this fund plays a direct role in supporting our entire artistic and educational mission, because the revenue we generate from the sale of regular concert tickets funds only about half of our operating budget each year. So each audience member who pays to attend a Party of Note is helping us make great music and education programs accessible to everyone in Middle Tennessee. Without this support and the investment of our community, we’d have to charge considerably more for our ticketed concerts, and we would not be able to serve up to 80,000 people annually through free programs such as our Young People’s Concerts and our Free Day of Music.
JM: There are only two “Parties of Note” listed on the Nashville Symphony calendar, are there more projected for next season?
MS: Yes! In partnership with California Closets, our lead sponsor for 2016 and 2017, we produce about one Party of Note each month in lovely homes through Nashville. Some are ticketed fundraisers, and several are offered at no charge simply as a cultivation event, it depends on the specific event. We add them to the website as they are scheduled, so encourage people to check back often!
JM: Next season will be your 18th season with the Nashville Symphony, how has the organization changed in this time?
CF: I would say that the orchestra has grown along with the city. The construction of the Schermerhorn helped a great deal in terms of us really developing our sound. Maestro Guerrero has really challenged us to use the great acoustics of the hall to the fullest. I have been very fortunate to be a part of this orchestra and to share the stage with some really outstanding musicians for all of the past 17 seasons. My colleagues in the quartet, Alison, Jessica, and Sari, are perfect examples of the tremendous talent in our orchestra.
JM: What, in your opinion, are the highlights of next season’s calendar?
CF: I’m really looking forward to Mahler Symphony No. 2, Prokofiev Symphony No. 5, and Copland Symphony No. 3. Those all just happen to be some of my all-time favorite pieces to play, and they’re all in one season. Also, I have to say the two Harry Potter movies we’re performing will be really exciting too!
The Beethoven Quartet on the program for July 24 (Op. 18, No. 2) is often called the “Komplimentierquartett” for ceremonial salutes of the cheerful opening theme, it is Beethoven the Viennese at his best. Further, if Farrell’s String Quartet No. 2 is anything like his Needle and Thread that we heard last year performed by Alias, this promises to be an excellent evening.
Tickets for the July 24th concert are still available. If you have questions, call 615.687.6621 or email email@example.com.