Roycroft Chamber Music Festival by JAN JEZIORO

The popular East Aurora festival opens its 24th season this weekend

The Roycroft Chamber Music Festival (RCMF) will return to its home base, St. Matthias Episcopal Church, 374 Main Street at the corner of Maple in East Aurora, for the next two weekends, beginning this Saturday, June 10 at 7:30pm. Subsequent concerts, all beginning at 7:30pm are on Sunday June 11, and the following weekend on Friday June 16 and Saturday June 17.

The RCMF was founded 24 years ago by then East Aurora residents, Gene and Nancy Gaub. The Gaubs soon moved to Iowa to accept academic positions at Grinnell College, but returned every June afterwards as festival artistic directors. There has been an organizational change this season, as RCMF board Martha Buyer explains: “We are grateful to Nancy and Gene for getting the festival started and for providing artistic direction since the festival’s beginning under the auspices of Roycrofters-At-Large Association, Inc. They provided creative programming and  created a great ensemble of professional musicians from around the U.S., including some of their classmates from Juilliard, who’ve been coming to East Aurora for years. Because our out of town musicians stay with host families, we build a real sense of community with them, and they love to return here to collaborate with each other and perform in acoustically wonderful St. Matthias’ Episcopal Church. This concept began, at least for us, with the Gaubs, and we’re grateful for their foresight in setting the festival up in this way”.

Buyer says that “After the decision to change direction was made we received input from many of our musicians who had some very interesting and creative repertoire recommendations. This year’s program provides our audiences with some chamber music favorites along with two pieces by local composers, Persis Vehar and Caroline Mallonée, that are different and interesting.  We think this year’s program is a particularly creative combination of new and old, and we’ve received very positive feedback from our musicians and donors, and our ticket sales reflect this optimism as well”.

“One of the most satisfying things that the RCMF has been able to do”, says Buyer, “is to provide not only a free concert/performance for young children at the Aurora Town Library (6/15 at 6:30 PM), but we also provide mentoring by our musicians to local high school chamber musicians. That is, our musicians spend at least a couple of hours with high school chamber groups at no cost to those students or their families helping them to prepare chamber music which is performed before our concerts begin and at intermission.  What’s particularly cool is that at least two of our now professional musicians are performing, or have performed with us as professionals”.

Saturday June 10

The RCMF gets off to a strong start, with a performance of a very early work by Mozart, the String Quartet K 168, a work in which many listeners can detect the foreshadowing of the works of his full maturity, by violinists David Niwa, assistant concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony and Sarah Abend Fritz, violist Donna Lorenzo and cellist Michelle Djokic. Niwa and his wife, pianist Mariko Kaneda-Niwa, will team up for a performance of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s virtuoso, late-Romantic Sonata for Violin and Piano Op.19, while Niwa, Abend Fritz, Lorenzo and Djokic will close the program with Schubert’s emotionally intense String Quartet No. 14, D. 810 “Death and the Maiden”. Of special interest is the world premiere of Persis Vehar’s Sound-Piece for Cello and Piano, by BPO cellist Robert Hausmann and pianist Kaneda-Niwa. Vehar, a nationally much awarded composer and a Buffalo resident for many decades, composed the score for the full-length opera Shot!, a work premiered by Nickel City Opera at Shea’s Theatre last June which was centered around the assassination pf President William McKinley at the Pan American Exposition.

Sunday June 11

BPO oboist Anna Mattix will join BPO violinist Amy Licata, violist Lorenzo and cellist Hausmann in English composer E.J. Moeran’s 1946 Fantasy Quartet, for oboe and strings. Pianist Mariko Kaneda-Niwa and BPO principal cellist Roman Mekinulov will perform two popular works for cello and piano, Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke and French composer Gabriel Faure’s Après un rêve. Keeping with the French theme, violinist Amy Glidden, who is the BPO associate concertmaster, will be joined by violist Lorenzo and cellist Djokic in Ernest Chausson’s Piano Trio.

Friday June 16

BPO principal flutist Christine Bailey-Davis, violinist Rebecca Ansel, violist Lorenzo and cellist Sarah Markle will perform Mozart’s delightful Flute Quartet in D, K. 285. Violinists Andrea Cone and Rebekah Johnson, cellist Markle, and pianist Kaneda-Niwa will be joined by BPO violinist Megan Prokes, who will put her violin down for this performance and pick up her viola, in Schumann’s beloved Piano Quintet, Op. 44. Composer Caroline Mallonée’s reputation has expanded both locally and nationally since she made Buffalo her home seven years ago. Her uniquely original, but always accessible works have been performed locally on programs by such organizations as the Vocalis Chamber Choir, of which she is a member, the Friends of Vienna, and the Buffalo Chamber Players, where she is a resident composer. Caroline Mallonée’s highly evocative piece The Butterfly Effect, has been enthusiastically received in venues as diverse as the Pausa Art House, and at a classical musical afternoon at a house party in the Elmwood Village, just last Saturday. Violinists Ansel and Cone, violist Prokes, and BPO cellist Eva Herer will bring The Butterfly Effect to life in East Aurora.

Saturday June 17

BPO principal clarinetist John Fullam, violinists Johnson and Andrew Jennings, violist Prokes and cellist Djokic are featured in an early Romantic era gem, Carl Maria von Weber’s Quintet for Clarinet & Strings Op. 34, while violinist Licata, cellist Herer and pianist Kaneda-Niwa offer the 1933 Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 76 by Spanish composer Joaquín Turina. The evening and the festival will close with Dvorak’s String Quintet No.2 in G major, Op. 77, featuring violinists Jennings and Licata, violist Lorenzo, cellist Djokic and BPO double bass player Edmond Gnekow.

Tickets can be purchased for $15 in advance at several locations in East Aurora, including Tops, The Copper Shop Gallery, The Roycroft Inn and the Elm Street Bakery. At the door: $20/$10 students with ID. Visit: www.roycroftchambermusic.org