Concordia Chamber Players to Launch New Season

“Concordia Chamber Players are so good, you simply have to hear them to believe it!” said Laura Hahn, president of Concordia’s Board of Directors, who, along with musician and artistic director Michelle Djokic, is the driving force behind the ensemble. Concordia also is supported by many other individuals, businesses, and organizations, most notably Partners in Progress (PIP), which sponsors activities that benefit the community.

“The season will be phenomenal,” said Ms. Hahn, looking forward to Concordia’s 2000-2001 concert series. “Michelle has invited musicians with outstanding credentials. Their biographies read like the who’s who of exceptional musicians, playing with and at the best venues around the world.”

Last season’s concert series was highlighted by violinist David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. .As members and supporters of the New Hope-Lambertville community’s own chamber group prepare for the opening of the 2000-2001 season, they anticipate another outstanding concert series featuring world-class musicians. Ms. Djokic has attracted eminent colleagues to be part of the ensemble because of their friendship with her and their desire to visit New Hope, which they view as a traditional haven for visual and performing artists and their aficionados.

The season begins 3 p.m., Sunday, October 29, at the Stephen Buck Theater on the grounds of New Hope-Solebury High School on West Bridge Street (Route 179) in New Hope. According to Ms. Hahn, “The theater is a gem. Our recent concerts proved there is not a dead spot in the house.” The theater also has ample on-site parking.

Single tickets are $20. A subscription for the three-concert season is $45. Tickets may be reserved by calling 215-297-5972. If you wish to reserve tickets online or learn more about Concordia, contact Concordia’s attractive Web site was created by ZZCad, a collaborative effort of board members Ned Irons, a computer expert, and Ray Kinlock, an artist-designer who teaches at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Tickets also can be purchased beginning two weeks before each concert at Dresswell’s in Lambertville and Farley’s Bookshop, Camel Walk, or Delray Plus Home Center in New Hope. If you prefer to have tickets mailed to you in advance, send your check to Concordia Chamber Players, P.O. Box 95, New Hope, PA 18938.

“Our first concert will be a memorable experience for us the performers and I hope it also will be one for the listeners,” said Ms. Djokic, a Julliard-educated native of New Hope. “I suppose you could say that I was part of the golden era at Juilliard. My friends and colleagues seem to be in the most respected positions in the world. I would rather not drop names but instead wait for the chance to invite each of them to New Hope so people can meet them first hand.”

The program for the opening concert will be Schumann’s Marchenbilder for Viola and Piano; Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Trio in Eb Major, Opus 3; and Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio in Bb Major. The concert will feature the playing of Ilya Grubert, winner of the Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Sibelius International Violin Competitions; Toby Hoffman, internationally acclaimed violist; William Wolfram, bronze medallist at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow; and cellist Djokic.

In commenting on Mr. Wolfram’s playing, a New York Times reviewer said, “Wolfram’s technique is flabbergasting; fiendishly difficult octave passages were as child’s play, and his strength is tempered by an easy poetry.”

“The repertoire for this first concert is demanding for the players,” Ms. Djokic observed. . “Both the Beethoven Eb Major String Trio and the Schubert Bb Major Piano Trio are devilishly difficult for all the musicians technically and, especially in the Beethoven, musically.

“There’s a passage by J. A. Westrup from his book, Schubert Chamber Music, that says, ‘What is charming in his music is much more the expression of his personality –a sunny enjoyment of life which is often ready to turn to tears and which by its very happiness can bring tears to a listener’s eyes.’ When I read this I thought of my mother (my mom and dad live in New Hope) who, without fail, upon hearing music of Schubert will start to cry, not from sadness but from joy. You need to hear it and hear it live to really understand what I mean.”

Ms. Djokic was excited to announce that Concordia has been invited to play its opening program at the Concerts on the Barge series in New York City, November 3 and 5.

“This makes the stakes in New Hope that much higher for us,” she said. “Our first performance of the program will clearly point out any weak points which we’ll need to fine tune in the short time between concerts. We’ll be doing two performances on the Barge. It would be interesting to hear the first and third concerts and see how it changes. Technically, everyone will have their parts under control. But, having spent such intense moments together rehearsing and performing, we will know each other far more by the end, which will certainly affect the music-making itself.”

Ms. Djokic is an accomplished musician herself. She debuted at age 13 with the Philadelphia Orchestra and made her Carnegie Hall debut in1985 as soloist with the New Jersey Symphony. Her artistry has earned her worldwide critical praise and many prestigious awards, including the coveted People’s Prize at the 1980 Pablo Casals International Cello Competition in Budapest. In reviewing her playing, a critic with the Denver Post observed, “Djokic is indisputable when playing melody. Her sense of delivery and her mastery of technique have an instinctual rightness about them.”

Ms. Djokic also is excited about Concordia’s second concert, scheduled for February 25, 2001, which will present Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht (Transfigured Night) and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. Joining cellist Djokic will be Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic; Carmit Zori and Ani Kavafian, violinists with the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society; Cynthia Phelps, principal violist of the New York Philharmonic; and Robert Rinehart, acclaimed violist.

The season will conclude April 22, 2001, with performances of Gaspar Cassado’s Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat, and Gabriel Faure’s Piano Quartet in C Minor. The musicians will be clarinetist David Krakauer, founder of David Krakauer and the Klezmer Maniacs, violinist Zori, violist Rinehart, and cellist Djokic.

“The Board of Directors for Concordia is committed to one objective: that is to enable Michelle Djokic to bring to our community these outstanding musicians and
musical experiences,” said Ms. Hahn. “No one else in the area has the connections, access and commitment to bring this caliber of talent to our doorstep. We are so fortunate and grateful for her gift to our community.”

Concordia is a non-profit, volunteer organization. Ms. Hahn noted that board members find it a labor of love performed for the music, the community, and the children of the area. Supporting three concerts of inspired music, performed by outstanding musicians, is just part of Concordia’s mission. Concordia also upholds a deep commitment to the education and engagement of young people in the appreciation and enjoyment of classical music, most notably through Informances for schoolchildren.

“We strongly believe that unless young people have an opportunity to understand and experience the magic and beauty of classical music, there will be no audience
for it in the future,” said Ms. Hahn. “And that would be a tragic loss.”

The informances follow the tradition of the great conductor and composer
Leonard Bernstein by making the music accessible to the young people of the area. As he conducted young people’s concerts at Lincoln Center, Mr. Bernstein stopped and explained and demonstrated the story and technique behind the great symphonies. Informances provide the same experiences in area classrooms.

Informances are classroom demonstrations and performances by a Concordia musician during the week prior to the concert. During these hour-long sessions, the
musician and children dialogue about the music, the instruments, the sounds, and the feelings they can evoke. According to Ms. Hahn, teachers in the classroom are often surprised by which of their students take a strong interest in the Informance. Often it is not the children who have had the most opportunity and exposure to classical music, but those who have never seen an instrument up close or had a chance to talk about how the music made them feel.

“I’m really looking forward to my few days spent in the school systems playing for children from all backgrounds, many of whom have never seen a cello before,” said Ms. Djokic. “It’s especially rewarding when I win over the reluctant kid who chooses to sit in the back thinking ‘this is not cool.’ It’s a very intimate experience for me as a performer to have the personal interaction with my audience.”

Last season, more than 500 area schoolchildren participated in the Informances. Participating schools have come from a variety of towns, including Buckingham, Doylestown, Lambertville, New Hope, Newtown, Princeton, and Sergeantsville,

“I would love one day to look in the Buck Theater and see more families with children there,” said Ms. Djokic. “I still remember going with my family to concerts as a child and, without completely understanding the music, coming away knowing that I had just been part of something very moving and real.”

To encourage attendance by young people, students who participate in Informances receive two free vouchers to a Concordia concert so they can invite an adult to accompany them. All other children under 18 are admitted free with a paying adult.

“In my youth, I was very fortunate to attend the New York Lincoln Center Young People’s concerts conducted by Leonard Bernstein,” said Ms. Hahn. “While I did not become a classical music afficionado, I did learn how classical music, at its best, sounds and feels. That’s what we have at Concordia–music so alive it gives goosebumps!

“Whether you know nothing or everything about classical music–it just doesn’t get better than Concordia. After every concert, people who said they never liked chamber music before gush with joy at the delight they just experienced. And people who are well educated in this musical genre are dumbfounded by the brilliance found in their own backyard.”


By Les Sdorow

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