National Music Festival Absorbs Kent Chamber Music, Renames the 6-Concert Series “Resonance”


The National Music Festival at Washington College has absorbed the Kent Chamber Music concert series, transforming NMF and Chestertown into a year-round classical music venue.  The new chamber series will be called “Resonance.”

“Resonance was the name of a chamber group that my brother, Philip, and I founded in New York City in the mid-1970s and I always loved the name of the group,” said NMF Artistic Director Richard Rosenberg.  “Resonance implies energy that continues to resonate, to reverberate long after its source has ceased, and Philip suggested that we called this new project ‘Resonance.’”

Maestro Rosenberg says he has booked ensembles for the six-concert 2016-2017 series, from October to April, and noted that several of the chamber musicians have performed in Chestertown as National Music Festival mentors and apprentices.  As soon as he announced that NMF was launching a chamber series, he said, he had more groups to choose from than he had dates to offer.

“Groups from Maryland, Europe and all over sent us proposals for 2017, 2018 and beyond,” Rosenberg said.  “There seems to be a decent buzz in the music biz about what is going on here musically.”

Rosenberg says he was delighted—but not surprised—when the response to the Resonance announcement was so strong.  Musicians, he said, love playing in small groups.

“There is a wealth of great music to be found in chamber music,” he said.  “If you ask any instrumentalist what kind of concert music they prefer to perform—aside from brass players and percussionists—their answer is almost always ‘chamber music.’”

Even composers who write for symphony orchestras write far more works for small groups, Rosenberg explained.  After all, he said, it is easier for composers to get small groups to play their music than an orchestra of 50 to 120 players.

Rosenberg poked fun at himself and his fellow conductors as he explained the allure of small group playing.“It is one thing to play orchestral music under the direction of some egomaniacal stick waver and another to play music that is intimate and where each player gets to shine.  It is the difference between being married to your spouse and surviving his or her extended family gatherings.”

The debut series, Rosenberg said, includes “a first rate string quartet from Maryland, an award-winning piano trio from Italy, a Renaissance music group from the Carolinas, a dynamic wind quintet, a sensational saxophone ensemble, and a sixteen-piece string orchestra from George Mason University.”

The Renaissance music group includes NMF trombone mentor Michael Kris; the saxophone ensemble includes NMF Youth Programming Director Michael Sawzin (who has just moved to Chestertown); and the wind quintet includes Festival alumnus Ceylon Mitchell.

Kris will play an early trombone called a “sackbut” when he performs with Ensemble Collina at Sacred Heart Church on January 15.  He said he likes to introduce audiences to Renaissance programs, offering music most have never heard.

“Audience members should listen for the blend of trombone and violin,” Kris said.  “One would never think of a modern violin and trombone performing as equals in terms of technique and volume,but with these older style instruments, the blend is perfect.”

Ceylon Mitchell, a two-time National Music Festival flute apprentice, will return to Chestertown in February with Potomac Winds.  He likens a chamber group’s dynamics to a democracy, explaining that each musician has opportunities for self-expression and the responsibility of contribution and compromise.

“Great chamber music,” he said, “is the ultimate balance between the individual and the collective, the soloist and the ensemble.  Audience members should observe our continuous conversation in sound from piece to piece.”

Though each chamber group submitted its own draft programs, the final decision on what the ensembles will play belongs to Rosenberg.


Azimuth String Quartet

The series will open October 9 with the Azimuth String Quartet at St. Paul’s Parish. Two of the members, violinist Nicholas Currie and cellist Adam Gonzalez, have performed in Kent County before (and even at St. Paul’s) as former members of the Mariner String Quartet.

For November’s Resonance offering, the National Music Festival is co-sponsoring an appearance by Italy’s David Trio with the Department of Music at Washington College.

With the addition of the Resonance series, the National Music Festival will now offer three series pass options:  a Resonance Pass (for the six-concert series from October to April) is $100; a Festival Pass (for all ticketed Festival concerts during the first two weeks of June) is $225 now and $250 after January 1, 2017; and an Annual Pass is $300 (for both Festival and Resonance concerts).

Information about concert programs, dates and venues is on the NMF website:  Single concert tickets ($20 each) and Passes may be purchased on-line or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 284, Chestertown, MD 21620.  Any remaining single tickets will be available at the door.

Letters to Editor

  1. This is excellent news, Richard & Caitlin! You are bringing so many good people & beautiful music to the Eastern Shore — it’s marvelous! Thank you ?

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