Welcome, everyone, old and new friends, to the 31st season of the Sierra Chamber Society! Permit me a few comments as we pass this milestone. Each year, Joseph Way, Greg Mazmanian, Richard Gylgayton, Barbara Andres, (of late, Charlie Prager), various guests, and I have sat together to throw our ideas for an upcoming season into the hopper. As well, we take into account comments from our musicians and audience. At these lengthy sessions, we review the catalogue raison of works we’ve played. In print, this substantial volume occupies almost as many pages as the California Voters’ Guide! There are the complete string quartets of Shostakovich, most by Beethoven, Mozart, Bartok, many by Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, the "most important" by Schumann and Dvorak, the complete chamber works of Poulenc, Debussy, and Ravel, with plenty of adventuresome surprises by the likes of (Joseph) Marx, Martinu, Walton, Ginastera, Arnold and Schulhoff, to name a few. Our ensembles have ranged from solos and duo sonatas, up to large groups assembled for knock-out performances of Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings (twice), Copland’s Appalacian Spring in his original, 13-instrument arrangement for Martha Graham, Nonets by Martinu and Villa Lobos, the Dvorak Wind and String Serenade (twelve musicians), The list is too long to even summarize in this confined space. We’ve commissioned new works by celebrated film composer Lawrence Rosenthal and jazz artist Bevan Manson, sponsored student competitions, in short, endeavored in all ways to provide for the starving child of live chamber music performance. But really, the point is the music itself, the actual concerts and the musicians.
I have, in past programs, paid homage to the devotion and inspiration shown by our select society. You will recognize faces that have aged (I won’t say grown old) with us over our entire two decades. The musicians who know us best, and remember many are esteemed members of one of the world’s great orchestras, often tell me that the Sierra Chamber Society is the high point of their musical life. If you’ve have had the good fortune to watch or, as I have, participate in musical rehearsals, it’s safe to assume you too have been struck by the discipline, the intelligence and articulate direction, the unsentimental craft with which they heat up and cool down, soften and harden, hammer and burnish the raw stuff of notes on the page into that most tender, exquisite, and, at times, ethereal thing, the finished performance. There are many times I feel as if a guest angel had dropped in on proceedings. In the end, it’s only the music that matters.
I will confess to you that music is my earliest and only enduring connection to a higher power, remains the most direct and, for me, only trustworthy route to a state of being I long to sustain throughout my life. I hope you share in this reverential regard, and, talk of angels and higher power aside, that we can enter together into the presence of this endless source of illumination, and take away a lasting glow. So, please celebrate with me the unique gifts we share today and in this new season.
Director, Sierra Chamber Society