Extinction? Austerity measures? These are prospects that Chamber Music Charleston hasn’t had to face, even as arts organizations all around it are floundering. According to director Sandra Nikolajevs, her outfit has in fact nurtured several new “species” of concerts over the course of its three-year history, with a couple more coming along this coming season.
Of course, one of the reasons the Chamber has managed to avoid drastic measures is because it is made up of 10 musicians from the Charleston Symphony (though CMC has no formal affiliation with the orchestra), plus five other crack players from the community at large. Their mission is to present professional-quality chamber music of all kinds throughout the Lowcountry, taking particular advantage of our profusion of historic homes and churches. And demand is heavy, thanks to Chucktown’s resident horde of Spoleto-bred chamber nuts.
It helps that they’re a relatively low-overhead operation, with musicians whose main salaries and benefits are mostly already paid … and they rarely have to fork out rent money for their various venues.
CMC’s centerpiece House Concert series offers chamber music as it was meant to be heard: in the cozy and intimate confines of a private home. These include historic peninsular residences and the elegant edifices of Kiawah Island. This year, they’re expanding from 17 to 24 house concerts, while spreading out to Daniel Island for the first time. But, given a home’s limited audience space, these events are often sold out months in advance. So CMC makes the same programs available to the general public via their church-based Holy City series and Old Exchange Building series. Also new this season is their Gallery series, offering concerts in various visual-arts venues around town. Their Classical Kids educational series, combining music and drama, is growing from one program to four. You can also catch them during Piccolo Spoleto festivals.
But what excites Nikolajevs the most about the coming season is their first-ever Mozart in the South festival, running Sept. 10-13 at various venues around town, mostly churches. The Mozart fest offers two chamber programs plus two orchestral programs (with the help of other friends from the CSO). The idea is to fill part of Chucktown’s musical vacuum between Spoleto and the new season’s late-September kickoff. It’ll also feature brilliant visiting artists, like perennial piano hero Andrew Armstrong.