Harpist Abigail Kent is a local musician with an international reputation. | Photo by Jack Alterman

International award-winning harpist Abigail Kent has spent her entire life in Charleston, and has been a part of its music scene for most of that time. She is excited about being one of the performers in an exceptional 2022 Piccolo Spoleto Chamber Music series, which will feature unique performances from world-class musicians who call Charleston home. 

“I’ve performed in both Piccolo Spoleto as well as the Spoleto Festival Orchestra in the past, and it’s always a wonderful time to make music,” said Kent. “Especially in the midst of so many things going on in the world, it’s healing to perform music for others.”

Kent, who will perform 6 p.m. June 6 at Cannon Street Arts Center, has been a featured harp soloist for the World Harp Congress in Hong Kong, silver medalist for the 2019 Medallion International Concerto Competition and 2020 finalist for the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.

She also works locally as the harp faculty for the College of Charleston, as well as the principal harpist for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. Her June 6 show will feature a collection of solos alongside numbers that pair the harp with flute or piano. One such piece is Sonata by Nino Rota, who is best known for composing the Academy Award-winning soundtrack to The Godfather.

“I hope audiences can see how diverse the harp can be,” said Kent. “And also that they take away a moment of joy or curiosity from the variety of music.”

The series continues to grow

Charleston audiences are no strangers to chamber music. Chamber Music Charleston sees growing audiences every single year. The 2021 Bank of America Chamber Music Series, a staple of Spoleto Festival USA, sold out weeks ahead of the start of the festival. The Piccolo Spoleto edition will no doubt see excited crowds hungry for the intimate sounds of strings and woodwinds.

In addition to Kent in the series are notable local Charleston musicians Natalia Khoma, Yuriy Bekker and Regina Helcher Yost. Khoma will be joined by longtime collaborator Volodymyr Vynnystksy, and Bekker will play with Gary Levinson and the CSO String Quartet.

Khoma is a cellist with credits and accolades all over the world. Locally, Khoma works as an associate professor of cello at the College of Charleston and serves as director of the Charleston Music Fest. Vynnystksy joins Khoma on piano and the two Ukrainian musicians make a pairing that “epitomizes elegance of execution, virtuosic technique, a sense of internal drama and the merging of two artists playing as one,” according to Ukrainian journalist Dzerkalo Tyzhnya. The duo will perform at 6 p.m.on June 4 at Second Presbyterian Church, 342 Meeting St.

A chance to hear rare violins

Bekker is the concertmaster and Principal Pops conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and he’s also an accomplished violinist. After conducting Sunset Serenade to kick off Piccolo Spoleto Festival 2022, Bekker will join violinist Levinson for a string concert in collaboration with the CSO String Quartet at 6 p.m. June 1 at Second Presbyterian Church, 342 Meeting St.

“He’s a phenomenal violinist,” Bekker said of his collaborator. The two will play together during an evening of Baroque concertos that includes Bach and Vivaldi dual violin pieces. Levinson, the senior principal associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, will play on a rare 18th century Stradivarius violin on loan from the Dallas Symphony Association Bekker will play a borrowed Guarnerius violin, dating to the 17th century. These masterpiece instruments from rival violin makers played by consummate professionals will provide a unique opportunity for Charleston’s music and history lovers.

Yost, a CSO performer, will bring her talented flute work to the chamber music series as well. Yost is nationally renowned as an orchestral and chamber music musician, and serves locally as the adjunct professor of flute at Charleston Southern University. She also works with Chamber Music Charleston.

Yost has not only performed the world over, with major showcases in the United States, Switzerland, France and Italy, but she has also been the cover feature artist for an issue of Flute Talk magazine in 2015. Yost performs 7 p.m. June 2 at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church. 2022 is the first year the church will host a Piccolo Spoleto event.

“Audiences…shouldn’t be afraid to hear works by living composers,” said Yost. “Not all living composers write music that is challenging to listen to or understand.” Yost will be premiering an arrangement by Herman Beeftink. “Beeftink’s work is amazingly beautiful and tuneful and I’m sure they will love it!”

Opportunities abound during Piccolo Spoleto Festival 2022 for music lovers to enjoy beautiful classical music from some of the best artists in Charleston and the world. To learn more, check out the festival’s website at: PiccoloSpoleto.com.

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