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Amelia Islander

2014 Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival

May 06, 2014 12:31AM
The thirteenth season of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival began in late January with five extraordinary WinterFest performances. The SpringFest season will feature fourteen more exceptional performances in May and June. The theme of the star-studded 2014 season is “Expect the Unexpected,” suggesting that this year’s line-up will more than traditional chamber music at the upcoming festival. AICMF Marketing Director Mark Kaufman believes the slogan truly defines what chamber music is all about today.

“We came up with the ‘Expect the Unexpected’ slogan for this year’s festival to remind people that the ‘chamber’ in Chamber Music Festival refers to the setting, not some stuffy old classical piece,” says Kaufman. “This year’s festival will embrace everything from Canary in the Coal Mine, an Americana folk group, to Brooklyn Rider, a group of young musicians who perform like rock-stars. And when you see Sarah Charness and her hot-pink electric violin, you’ll know that this isn’t your grandmother’s chamber music festival!”

Artistic Director Christopher Rex is also Principal Cellist with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. Working hand-in-hand with Amelia Island residents and volunteers over the last 13 years, he has raised the Amelia Island Chamber Festival to international status. “Our artists are of the highest caliber,” says Rex. “This year’s concerts are interesting and eclectic, showcasing a fantastic line-up of talent, from traditional classical music to contemporary favorites.”

SpringFest kicked off with a fabulous concert by the Grammy Award-winning Assad Family. Brazilian-born brothers Sérgio and Odair Assad, along with Badi Assad, guitar, and Caroline and Clarice Assad, vocals, have set the benchmark for all other guitarists by creating a new standard of innovation, ingenuity, and expression. Their “Brazilian Songbook” performance brought the house down at Walker’s Landing on March 31.

The festival continues its May program on May 2 with the McDuffie Center Showcase, a free concert featuring young artists and faculty from the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University. This concert will be held at Macedonia AME Church on South Ninth Street.

The Linden String Quartet will perform a special “Cellobration” concert on May 6 with Zuill Bailey at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Atlantic Avenue. The Linden String Quartet is one the country’s premier young string ensembles. Founded in 2008 at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the quartet has enjoyed remarkable success in six short years, winning numerous international competitions. Zuill Bailey is one of the premiere cellists in the world. His artistry, technical wizardry, and engaging personality have secured his place as one of the most sought-after cellists today. Members of the Linden String Quartet include Sarah McElravy and Catherine Cosby, violin, Eric Wong, viola, Felix Umansky, cello. They will be joined by Elizabeth Pridgen, piano, and Christopher Rex, cello. The group will be performing works of Mendelssohn, Webern, Popper, and the great Schubert Cello Quintet.

Zuill Bailey will be performing a second “Cellobration” luncheon concert at Café Karibo on May 7 at 1 p.m., with Elizabeth Pridgen and Christopher Rex. Praised for her “big piano presence” by American Record Guide, Pridgen has distinguished herself as a soloist and chamber musician. She is also Distinguished Artist and Piano Chair at the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University. Pridgen, Rex, and Bailey will be performing the two Brahms Cello Sonatas. Concert-goers are encouraged to make their own reservations for lunch at noon.

Every year, the AICMF has endeavored to bring its music to the entire community, including families with children, through their free family-friendly concerts. On May 8 at 4:30 p.m., the string quartet Brooklyn Rider offers an eclectic repertoire that has attracted legions of fans and drawn rave reviews from classical and rock critics alike. This concert will be held at the Boys & Girls Club on South Eleventh Street. National Public Radio credits Brooklyn Rider with “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative twenty-first century ensemble,” while the Los Angeles Times called the group “one of the wonders of contemporary music.” Equally at home in clubs and concert halls, the quartet has played venues as varied as Carnegie’s Zankel Hall, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Le Poisson Rouge, and Lincoln Center. Brooklyn Rider will also perform a concert of newly commissioned work at Walker’s Landing on May 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Chamber music lovers will be sure to “Expect the Unexpected” on May 10 with a free classical and folk concert called “String Fling and Canary Sings” at Amelia Park, featuring the Beth Newdome Fellowship Artists and Canary in the Coalmine, a Jacksonville folk band. The first part of the concert will feature light classics, then Canary will perform American folk music. The Beth Newdome Fellowship artists will also perform concerts on May 13 and May 17. For more information on these performances, visit the AICMF web site at

On May 11 at 5 p.m., the Christiana Trio will perform Schubert’s Trio in E Flat Major and Mendelssohn’s Trio in C Minor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. The Trio’s “Blockbuster Audio” concert presents Julie Coucheron, piano, David Coucheron, violin, and Christopher Rex, cello. A native of Oslo, Norway, Julie Coucheron is an internationally established musician, winning first prize in all of the national competitions she has attended. She has toured Europe, America, South America and Asia, playing in such great venues as Verizon Hall, Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Her brother, David, joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster in 2010. At the time, he was the youngest concertmaster at any major U.S. orchestra.

The AICMF is honored to host the members of the former Guarneri String Quartet, which performed its final concert at the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival in 2009. Founded in 1964, the Guarneri was one of the world’s most revered string quartets. The ensemble circled the globe countless times, playing in the world’s most prestigious halls, and it is the only quartet to receive the Award of Merit from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. The concert will be held on May 16 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Atlantic Avenue. They will perform Brahm’s Sextet in G Major and Dvorak’s Sextet in A Major. Featured artists include Arnold Steinhardt and John Dalley, violin, Michael Tree, viola, Peter Wiley, cello, David Coucheron, violin, and Christopher Rex, cello.

“The Artistry of Anne and Anton” is a concert presenting the works of Beethoven, Ravel, Corigliano, and Faure at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on May 18 at 5 p.m., featuring Anne Akiko Meyers, violin, Anton Nel, piano, and Christopher Rex, cello. Anne Akiko Meyers is one of today’s most sought-after violinists. Regularly performing as guest soloist with the world’s most prestigious orchestras, she is a top-selling recording artist with 28 highly acclaimed albums to her credit. Her most recent recording, Air-The Bach Album, debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Classical chart and was one of the top-selling classical albums of 2012. Anton Nel, winner of the 1987 Naumburg International Piano Competition at Carnegie Hall, has enjoyed a four-decade career that has taken him to North and South America, Europe, Asia, and South Africa, his native country. An acclaimed Beethoven interpreter, he has performed the concerto cycle several times.

One of the favorite annual concerts in the AICMF lineup is “Beer & G-Strings II”. This year’s concert is called “Gypsy Sparks” and features the music of Susie Park, violin, Elizabeth Pridgen, piano, and Christopher Rex, cello. Former violinist with the Grammy-nominated Eroica Trio, Australian-born Susie Park is gaining worldwide attention for her emotive range and dynamic stage presence. This concert will be held at Walker’s Landing on May 27 at 7 p.m.

The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival wraps up on June 1 at 6 p.m. with a special concert, “Chamber Pops II – Violin Divas from Bach to Beatles.” Performing works of Bach, Bizet, Batt, Mozart, Monti, Piazzolla, and Huljic, three violin divas bring classics, pops and artistic virtuosity together in a glamorous experience. Christiana Liberis is a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral player on violin and viola. A native of Naples, Italy, she has performed in virtually every major concert hall in New York, played in national touring productions of Broadway shows, and performed with artists on tour, including Josh Groban and Tommy Lee. Mary Jo Stilp is comfortable in many musical genres, frequently joining a wide range of groups, spanning the New York Pops Orchestra to Jay-Z. She performs regularly with Dicapo Opera and the Lincoln Center Family Musik Orchestra and is concertmaster of the Brooklyn Conservatory Community Orchestra. Sarah Charness captivates audiences with the vibrant sound of her hot pink, six-string electric violin. Her unique musical style—the fusion of classical, pop and electronic dance music—has thrilled fans around the world.

Prior to the closing concert and during intermission, a fundraising art show will be held, featuring drawings of the Festival’s guest artists by Nadine Terk, their “Visual” Artist-in-Residence. This concert and art exhibit will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island.

Dr. Joseph Marasco, Executive Director of the AICMF, is excited about this year’s concerts. “This year, our festival will satisfy a wide variety of tastes,” says Marasco. “From traditional to contemporary, there is something for everyone!” He also notes that the success of the festival is due to the generosity of its donors and the commitment of the volunteers, who keep the event vibrant and eclectic from year-to-year.

“We have developed an exciting schedule of diverse established artists and new talent,” says Rex. “We strive to keep the festival fresh and innovative, always presenting artists of the highest caliber.” To order tickets or to view more information on the concerts, visit the festival web site at or call the festival office at (904) 261-1779.