Kassia Music Promises Modern Works you can ‘Grasp and Enjoy’

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Easy listening and classical aren’t words always found together. But music that’s easy on the ears is the goal of Kassia Music, an ensemble that will perform in the National Music Festival’s RESONANCE series in Chestertown Sunday afternoon, Jan. 13, at St. Paul’s Church, Kent, 7579 Sandy Bottom Rd.

“The idea is to play music that everyone can grasp and enjoy from the start. But we’ll put in a few bits of subtlety or complexity for the connoisseur,” said Sam Post, pianist and a founder.

Kassia Music can be sure to add those bits because much of their program will be their original and recent compositions. And here Post clears up another misconception.

“For many people, modern classical means really difficult stuff — experimental, dissonant and atonal,” he said.  Not so with Kassia Music, six instrumentalists based in the Washington, D.C. area.

Some of Post’s works, and those of co-leader Bernard Vallandingham, include piano ragtime and simple, folk-like melodies. “Listeners have said our slower sections remind them of traditional English tunes like Scarborough Fair.” There is also a clear preference for happy rhythms in the group’s faster choices.

(l-r) Sam Post, Susanna Mendlow, Bernard Vallandingham, Adina Vallandingham, and Elizabeth Adams. Not pictured, Lauren Geist.

The concert will take place near a warming fireplace, and complimentary light refreshments will be served at intermission.

January’s performance will lead off with a work by Prokofiev that’s recognizable to many, “Overture on Hebrew Themes,”and the composer’s “String Quartet No. 2.” British critic Alan Coady has called the overture “the pinnacle of Klezmer music highlighted by a charming bittersweet theme.”

Next comes Post’s “Clarinet Quintet on Hebrew-ish Themes.” That doesn’t mean five clarinets but indicates that clarinetist Lauren Geist plays a major role in this number along with the strings of Elizabeth Adams, a National Music Festival violin mentor; Suzanna Mendlow, cello; Adina Vallandingham, violin; Bernard Vallandingham, viola, and Post on piano.

The final works are by Bernard Vallandingham: “Suite for Violin, Viola, Clarinet & Piano” with a tarantella as its third movement, followed by his “Sextet for Clarinet, Strings and Piano.”

Members of the group have played nationally, including at the Kennedy Center and Capitol Hill in Washington, in Chicago, The Cape Cod Ragtime Festival, and at a Bach-themed event in New York City.  A Post composition performed last summer at the NMF was recently adapted for and performed by the San Francisco Symphony.  Though organized less than three years ago, Kassia Music will soon release its first CD.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for students with ID and children under 14. NMF 2019 Combination Pass holders are guaranteed admission to all of this season’s RESONANCE performances — and all ticketed events of the 2019 National Music Festival, June 2-15, which will include more than 35 concerts ranging from small ensembles to symphony orchestra with chorus, plus 200 free open rehearsals.

Following the Jan. 13 performance, the RESONANCE series, formerly known as Kent Chamber Music, will continue with the following three Sunday concerts, all at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s:

  • 17 – Miles Hoffman, viola, American Chamber Players, music commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition
  • March 24 – Karen Slack, soprano, international opera singer
  • April 28 – Gwen Krosnick, cello, NMF mentor

For more information about the National Music Festival and RESONANCE, visit nationalmusic.us.

RES·O·NANCE /ˈrezənəns/ Noun: the quality in a sound of being deep, full, and reverberating … a quality of richness or variety.

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