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Sounds of the season: Chamber Music Series features six concerts
The autumnal strains of Johannes Brahms’ “E Minor Sonata for Cello and Piano” will be the centerpiece of the first concert in the Vashon Chamber Music Series, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Blue Heron. The piece, written between the years of 1862 and 1865, is Brahms’ homage to Bach.
Vashon Chamber Music Series, now in its fourth year, is curated by accomplished local cellists Rowena Hammill and Douglas Davis. The pair, a married couple who moved to Vashon in 2007, spent years based in Los Angeles, playing in prestigious orchestras and chamber ensembles and recording scores for major Hollywood films. Hammill still regularly commutes to Los Angeles — she’s there now, in fact, being conducted by Placido Domingo and James Conlon in Los Angeles Opera’s production of “Don Giovanni.”
Reached by phone, Hammill said that after years of playing for sophisticated audiences in big cities, there is a special thrill to playing in her newly adopted hometown.
“It’s very rewarding to us,” she said. “The music means so much to us, and to be able to play it for people who really want to hear it is wonderful.”
This year’s series will boast six concerts, played by a constellation of chamber music stars from Vashon, the region and beyond.
At the Oct. 19 opener, pianist Jessica Choe will join Hammill, Davis, violinists Ron Patterson and Karin Choo and violist Roxana Patterson.
The Brahms piece, to be played by Hammill and Choe, is a sentimental favorite for Hammill.
“I’ve always loved this sonata, and I have very fond memories of it because it was the first professional sonata I played in my teens,” she said. “I don’t have to learn it — it’s been in my fingers and my brain for 30 years.”
She said she is excited to play the piece with Choe, who will make her Vashon debut at the concert.
Choe began her piano studies at age 3 in her native Korea, and after immigrating to the United States at age 9, she solidified her reputation as a prodigy with concerts in such halls as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Lincoln Center and the Barns at Wolf Trap. After receiving a music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of Johns Hopkins University and a master’s degree from The Juilliard School, she went on to perform throughout Europe and the United States.
She currently serves as the director of music at Richmond Beach Congregational Church in Shoreline, north of Seattle.
Friday’s concert repertoire will also give Davis time in the spotlight, playing a solo in Antonín Dvořák’s “Piano Quintet.” The quintet, said Hammill, is a delight, with strains of Czech folk music woven throughout.
Hammill said tickets to the concert and the entire upcoming series are selling well, and she urged Islanders not to wait to buy them.
“People need to get on the ball,” she said. “Once the series sells out we won’t be able to sell individual tickets.”
The chamber series includes four additional concerts on Vashon.
On Friday, Nov. 9, virtuoso Canadian pianist and clarinetist Bruce Vogt and Patricia Kostek will come to Vashon for a performance. On Jan. 6, Choe will return to the Island and be joined by other acclaimed musicians to play music by Shostakovich and Schubert. On Sunday, Feb. 3, Trio Pardalote (voilinist Victoria Parker, violist Heather Bentley and Hammill) will take the stage to play Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” and the 1925 “String Trio” by Jean Cras.
Concerts are also scheduled for Friday, March 8, when The Finisterra Piano Trio will perform works by Maurice Ravel, and Sunday, April 28, when special guest flutist Demarre McGill, new principal flutist for the Seattle Symphony, will bring his star power to Vashon.
Chamber Music Series subscriptions can be purchased by calling 463-5131, and cost $90 for VAA members and seniors, and $108 for the general audience. Individual tickets, $18 and $21, are on sale at the Heron’s Nest, Vashon Bookshop and www.VashonAlliedArts.org. Student tickets are $10 per concert.