Roycroft at 20
by Jan Jezioro
The Roycroft Chamber Music Festival celebrates 20 years of music making
Back in 1994, East Aurora residents Nancy McFarland Gaub, a BPO violinist, and her husband, pianist Eugene Gaub, decided “to help promote chamber music and enhance the quality of life in Western New York, by presenting a series of world-class, but readily accessible and easily affordable concerts in an intimate and uplifting setting,” in their hometown. When this year’s edition of the Roycroft Chamber Music Festival begins this Saturday, June 8, it will mark its 20th anniversary, a significant milestone for any classical music series. What is even more remarkable is that the Gaub’s have remained the artistic directors of the festival for the past two decades, even though they moved to Iowa 18 years ago to take up teaching positions at Grinnell College.
“While we moved to Iowa after only two seasons,” says Eugene Gaub, “we already had an energetic and loyal group of volunteers on the ground in East Aurora to do absolutely indispensable things like raise money and print programs. The first year or two, we were prepared to pay the musicians ourselves if the support didn’t emerge, but it did. The festival seems to satisfy desires and needs both of the community and for musicians. We hoped it would last forever, because chamber music is something that we and most musicians think of as the best, most exalted form of music-making, which can provide incredibly enriching experiences for listeners as well. So, first and foremost, I would like to express our gratitude to the community for its support, as each year has been like a dream come true for us.”
“I marvel at how the connections between and among the musicians, committee members, volunteers, and audience have grown throughout the years,” says Nancy Gaub. “It is like a family reunion that is based on the shared passion for chamber music, and each year, new members of the family come to enjoy the experience. Our concerts are designed for every piece to be a highlight, and we like to include works such as Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 6 and the Mendelssohn Octet as pieces that one doesn’t have the opportunity to hear live very often. Dvorak’s Dumky Trio with Gene, Andy Jennings, and Roman Mekinulov, and Brahms’s Clarinet Trio with Gail Niwa, John Fullam, and Peter Szczepanek promise to be memorable.”
“Even though the most visible facet of the festival is the weekend concerts we present at St. Matthias Church,” says Eugene Gaub, “the rehearsal process is especially beneficial to the musicians. Artistic decisions in chamber music are made by discussion and argument within the particular quartet or trio or ensemble. This is very much the sort of approach encouraged at liberal arts colleges like Grinnell, where we both teach. In a very real sense, the festival provides an opportunity for continuing education for seasoned musicians to learn from one another. The give-and-take of ideas is one of the things that make this festival wonderful for musicians. It isn’t just another gig—a concert to be tossed off with as little rehearsing as possible. Beginning last year, we have made it a part of our mission to include young, emerging professional musicians in our roster. It goes without saying that Nancy and I have learned a vast amount from our colleagues and friends over the last 20 years.”
Besides the Dumky Trio, Saturday’s 8pm concert will include a performance of Mozart’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 589 by violinists Nancy Gaub and Andrew Jennings, with violist Caterina Longhi and cellist Sarah Markle, while violinist Antoine Lefebvre, violist Donna Lorenzo, and cellist Roman Mekinulov are featured in Dohnanyi’s irresistible Serenade for String Trio.
The Sunday June 9 event begins at 7pm with Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 6, written when the composer was on his honeymoon, performed by violinists Andrea Cone and Lefebvre, violist Longhi, and cellist Robert Hausmann, while the Gaubs will be joined by cellist Eva Herer in Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 99.
Besides the Brahms Clarinet Trio, the 8pm Friday, June 14 concert will include a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C Minor, Op. 1, No. 3 by Eugene Gaub, violinist Rebekah Johnson, and violist Ann Roggen. Roggen and Nancy Gaub will then team up for two less familiar works: Synchronicity in Purple Minor by Joel Love and Scherzo by Max Raimi.
The Saturday, June 15 performance includes violinist David Niwa and pianist Gail Niwa in Prokofiev’s Sonata in F Minor for Violin and Piano, while Eugene Gaub joins cellist Szczepanek and violinist Rebecca Ansel for Haydn’s Piano Trio in G Major, (“Gypsy Rondo”). Cellist Jeremy Crosmer will join Cone, Gaub, Johnson, Lorenzo, Niwa, Roggen, and Szczepanek to conclude the festival with a rare performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings.
Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. For more information, visit www.roycroftchambermusic.org.
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