Despite the hiccup of 2020, The Friends of Chamber Music recently announced their upcoming 2021/2022 season and it’s a star-studded lineup of performances. “2020 would have been our 45th anniversary season,” says Leia Barrett, the acting executive director. “But we did commit to rescheduling every concert we had on the books.” (More on that in a minute.)
When the pandemic hit last year, the venerable organization pivoted and unveiled a more robust digital presence. While it took a bit longer than expected, Barrett says their free, on-demand programming was a success. “Because a lot of the artists we present had major record labels, we spent time sorting out permissions and rights,” she says. “We focused our website on education. And we also celebrated many of the performers we would have presented—or will be presenting—in the next couple of years. We’ve had excellent response and some lovely comments like, ‘I miss seeing these artists and it’s great to see them on this platform.’”
What started as a series of private concerts in homes more than 45 years ago has blossomed into a revered institution. Founded by Cynthia Siebert, one of the Chamber’s first concerts featured the Tokyo String Quartet, who went on to find international fame. “We presented them shortly before their first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” says Barrett.
Early on, “Friends had this tradition of bringing artists who would never come to KC except though this series. Now the landscape is much better,” says Barrett. “Now we have a tradition of presenting critically acclaimed music in three separate categories.”
Their upcoming lineup is a veritable who’s who of early music, classical music, and chamber music. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:
October 29th – Benjamin Bagby’s Beowulf
Benjamin Bagby’s popular one-man show has captivated early music audiences for decades, says Barrett. “He performs in Old English and he accompanies himself. It’s storytelling at its very finest,” she says. Armed with merely a six-string harp (recreated from an instrument excavated from the 7th century), Bagby’s Beowulf will transport audiences to faraway European shores where kings and queens reigned supreme.
December 9th — Stile Antico
Just before the holidays arrive, the renowned group will perform pieces inspired by the traditional service of Nine Lessons and Carols. Think poetic Christmas music that’s both timeless and endearing. “It’s obviously very popular around the holidays,” says Barrett. “And it’s performed by one of the top vocal ensembles in the world.”
Garrick Ohlsson — January 28, 2022
In 1970, pianist Garrick Ohlsson took center stage and made history as the first American to win the International Chopin Music Competition. “He has since become one of the world’s top pianists and remained there for several decades,” says Barrett. “He’s an incredible musician and pianist. We just missed his 50th season because of Covid in 2020, but we hope to make up for it.” Ohlsson will be performing beloved works by Chopin, Beethoven, and Prokofiev.
Vladimir Feltsman – February 11, 2022
Powerhouse Russian-American pianist Vladimir Feltsman, celebrated for his masterful skill set, will perform themed works by Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert. “His interpretation of these classics is amazing,” says Barrett.
Goldmun String Quartet – February 20, 2022
A belated Valentine’s gift to your sweetheart, this new-to-KC group promises to be the talk of the town. “These talented performers were just about to catapult their career right before Covid hit,” says Barrett. “They’re hungry and very eager to start their touring the circuit. And we’re excited to welcome them.”
Beethoven Festival — March 5 & 6, 2022
And we’ve saved the best for last. This two-day Beethoven festival presents the entire Beethoven Piano Trio Cycle performed by the Morgenstern Trio. “This one is very exciting and includes two panel discussions on theater and visual arts,” says Barrett. “It explores Beethoven during his reign and also in today’s society.”
Barrett adds that buzz is already building about the upcoming concerts. “This year will be a triumphant return,” she says. “A new start, a fresh start with many of the artists returning.” And, as Barrett quips, she has several exciting performances in the works that should be announced in the next few months. When we asked who’s on the Friends upcoming wish list, Barrett says, “We are really hoping to bring in Anthony McGill, the principal clarinetist for the New York Philharmonic.”