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Amelia Islander

Raising the Bar

Jan 08, 2016 11:51AM
From its humble beginning as a small concert on Centre Street 15 years ago, the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival has grown into a world-class phenomenon. Last season, over two thousand music lovers across northern Florida thrilled to an unparalleled cavalcade of great musicians at 14 memorable concerts. Selected as one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Events, this year’s slate of highly acclaimed artists includes international sensation Yo-Yo Ma, the Dover Quartet, Chris Thile, Anne Akiko Meyers, the American String Quartet, the Christiania Trio, Andres Diaz, Wendy Chen, Chee-Yun, and Natasha Paremski in an all-star season that runs from January through May. In previous years, the festival was held in May, in a whirlwind month of concerts. “We realized that many of our ‘snowbirds’ leave the island in late April or early May, and were missing out on several or all of the concerts,” says Dr. Joseph Marasco, the festival’s executive director. “That’s why we decided to hold a winter and spring season, spreading the concerts out from January to May.” In addition to the new format, the festival has managed to acquire significant partners in their quest to bring the most sought-after headliners in classical music to the island. “This year, our main sponsors include CBC Bank, WestRock, Rayonier Advanced Materials Foundation, Florida Public Utilities, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, WJCT Public Broadcasting, Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, Keyboard Connection, Townies Pizzeria, and Purcell, Flanagan, Hay & Greene,” notes Marasco. “We’ve also partnered with the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council this year to help make our festival a first-rate chamber music event, which includes training young musicians and helping drive economic development.”

[heading style="subheader"]Yo-Yo Ma Headlines the Festival in January[/heading] Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will make his first appearance in northeast Florida in 20 years to open the festival’s fifteenth anniversary season. Universally considered one of the world’s greatest cellists, he has made over 90 recordings and received 18 Grammy Awards. Yo-Yo Ma is acclaimed for his extraordinary technique, rich tone, and collaborations with musicians from other genres and cultures, which have reinvigorated classical music and expanded its audience. Ma’s multi-faceted career is a testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. Whether performing new or familiar works from the cello repertoire, coming together with colleagues for chamber music, or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination. His January 14 concert will include Partita, Op. 31 by Saygun, Suites No. 1 in G Major BWV 1007, No. 2 in D minor BWV 1008, and No. 6 in D major BWV 1021 by Johann Sebastian Bach, Appalachian Waltz by Mark O’Connor, and Summer in the High Grassland by Zhao Jiping. Ma’s performance is made possible in part by CBC National Bank’s festival sponsorship. “We deeply appreciate CBC’s sponsorship, which helped make it possible to bring an artist of Yo-Yo Ma’s international stature to Amelia Island,” says Artistic Director Christopher Rex. “CBC’s relationship with our festival extends back fifteen years to our inaugural season, when the bank became one of our first corporate sponsors. We are truly grateful for CBC’s ongoing support.” The January 14 concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 1600 South 8th Street. The concert is currently sold out, but some seating is available through the AICMF’s hotel and lodging partners. Call the AICMF office for more information at (904) 261-1779.

[heading style="subheader"]Anne Akiko Meyers at Amelia Plantation Chapel[/heading] The festival welcomes back Anne Akiko Meyers on January 31 at 5 p.m. at Amelia Plantation Chapel. Akiko Meyers is one of the most celebrated violinists embraced around the world today. Her passionate performances, purity of sound and deeply poetic interpretations, innovative programming and commitment to commissioning new works, her rare ability to connect with audiences from the concert stage, online, in television, and radio broadcasts, Meyers has actively maintained an extensive touring schedule for close to 30 years. In 2014, Meyers was the top-selling traditional classical instrumental soloist on Billboard charts. “Anne is a good friend,” says Rex. “She’s a rare combination of virtuosity and elegance. I can’t imagine celebrating our fifteenth anniversary without her.” Tickets are $45. Amelia Plantation Chapel is located at 36 Bowman Road.

[heading style="subheader"]A Valentine’s Day Concert with the American String Quartet[/heading] If you’re looking for a distinctive and romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart, consider an evening with the internationally renowned American String Quartet. Recognized as one of the world’s finest quartets, the American String Quartet has spent decades honing the luxurious sound for which it is famous. The Quartet celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014 and, in its years of touring, has performed in all fifty states and has appeared in the most important concert halls worldwide. The Quartet features Peter Winograd, violin, Laurie Carney, violin, Wolfram Koessel, cello, and Daniel Avshalomov, viola. Their presentations of the complete quartets of Beethoven, Schubert, Schoenberg, Bartók, and Mozart have won widespread critical acclaim, and their MusicMasters Complete Mozart String Quartets, performed on a matched quartet set of instruments by Stradivarius, are widely considered to have set the standard for this repertoire. Formed when its original members were students at The Juilliard School, the American String Quartet’s career began with the group winning both the Coleman Competition and the Naumburg Award in the same year.  Individually, the members devote additional time outside the Quartet’s active performance and teaching schedule to solo appearances, recitals, and master classes. “The American String Quartet appeared our first year,’ says Rex. “We are thrilled to welcome them back for our 15th anniversary.” The program includes quartets by Mozart and Ravel, along with Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata Quintet, arranged for String Quintet with Rex as the second cello. The special Valentine’s Day concert will be performed on February 14 at 5 p.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 2600 Atlantic Avenue. Tickets are $45.

[heading style="subheader"]Dover Quartet at Amelia Baptist Church [/heading] The Dover Quartet has been named the AICMF’s first Quartet-in-Residence. The acclaimed ensemble will perform on February 19 at Amelia Baptist Church at 7:30 p.m., and will participate in the Festival’s education outreach programs. Featuring Joel Link, violin, Bryan Lee, violin, Milena Pajaro-van d Stadt, viola, and Camden Shaw, cello, the Dover Quartet is holding a Master Class on February 20 at 11 a.m., also at Amelia Baptist Church, which is free and open to the public. The Dover Quartet catapulted to international stardom following a stunning sweep of the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, becoming one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world. The Quartet—which draws from the musical lineage of the Cleveland, Vermeer, and Guarneri quartets—studied at the Curtis Institute, where they were Quartet-in-Residence from 2011-2013. They currently are Quartet-In-Residence at Northwestern University. Amelia Baptist Church is located at 961167 Buccaneer Trail, and tickets for the February 19 concert are $45.

[heading style="subheader"]Chrise Thile at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island [/heading] On February 28 at 5 p.m., Chris Thile will perform at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, at 5 p.m. Superstar mandolinist, singer and songwriter, Chris Thile will replace Garrison Keillor as host of A Prairie Home Companion this year. He is known for his work in the acoustic folk/progressive bluegrass quintet Punch Brothers, and the progressive acoustic trio Nickel Creek. A 2012 MacArthur Fellow, Thile has been awarded numerous Grammys over the years, most recently in 2011 for Goat Rodeo Sessions with cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, and fiddler Stuart Duncan. Tickets are $60.

[heading style="subheader"]Sam Haywood at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church [/heading] On March 13, Sam Haywood, piano, will perform at 5 p.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Chruch. Born in Australia, Haywood was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition at the age of 13. Awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Julius Isserlis prize, he moved to Vienna to study with Paul Badura-Skoda. He has since performed in major venues around the world and has made several recordings, including one using Chopin’s own Pleyel piano. As a chamber musician, his partners have included Joshua Bell and Steven Isserlis, with whom he is featured on the Musical Gifts album. Mr. Haywood is also a composer and artistic director of London’s Solent Music Festival. Tickets for the March 13 concert are $40.

[heading style="subheader"]Christiana Trio at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church [/heading] On April 10 at 5 p.m., join the Christiana Trio at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church featuring David Coucheron, violin, Julie Coucheron, piano, and Christopher Rex, cello. David Coucheron, who plays a 1725 Stradivarius, joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Concertmaster in September 2010. He has performed as a soloist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Sendai Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, and Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. His recordings with his sister, pianist Julie Coucheron, include “David and Julie.” Julie has established an international career, regularly touring Europe and America as a freelance soloist and chamber musician. She has won first prize in all the national competitions she has attended, in addition to winning prizes in Italy, Germany and in the United States. Christopher Rex, in addition to being the general and artistic director of the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Principal Cellist in 1979, the same year in which he became the first cellist ever to win the string prize in the biennial Young Artists Competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs. Since then he has appeared as recitalist and chamber musician across the nation. Tickets for the April 10 concert are $40.

[heading style="subheader"]Andres Diaz at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church [/heading] On April 16, Andres Diaz, cello, Wendy Chen, piano, and Chee-Yun, violin, will be performing together at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 7:30 p.m. at Amelia Plantation Chapel. Since winning the First Prize in the 1986 Naumburg International Cello Competition, Diaz has exhilarated both critics and audiences with his intense and charismatic performances. He has earned exceptional reviews and was awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as a generous grant from the Susan W. Rose Fund for Music in 1998. Chen became the youngest winner ever of the National Chopin Competition in 1990, was one of the inaugural recipients of the Irving S. Gilmore Young Artists Award, and was named a Presidential Scholar by the National Foundation for the Arts. Since then, her career has flourished, adding Young Concert Artists International Auditions and Washington International Competition to her numerous awards. Chee-Yun’s flawless technique, dazzling tone and compelling artistry have enraptured audiences on five continents. Charming, charismatic and deeply passionate about her art, Yun continues to carve a unique place for herself in the ever-evolving world of classical music. She plays the Stradivarius “Ex-Strauss” (Cremona, 1708), which is on loan through the generous efforts of the Samsung Foundation of Culture of Korea and the Stradivari Society of Chicago, Illinois. Tickets for the April 16 concert are $45.

[heading style="subheader"]Natasha Paremski at Amelia Plantation Chapel [/heading] On May 2, Natasha Paremski will dazzle concert-goers at Amelia Plantation Chapel at 3 p.m. With her consistently dynamic performances and flawless technique, Russian-born pianist Paremski thrills audiences with her astounding virtuosity and interpretive abilities. She was awarded several prestigious prizes at a young age, including the Gilmore Young Artists prize in 2006 at the age of 18, the Prix Montblanc in 2007, and the Orpheum Stiftung Prize in Switzerland. In September 2010, she was awarded the Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year. Tickets for the May 2 concert are $40.

[heading style="subheader"]A Mother’s Day Concert with the Dover Quartet[/heading] The Dover Quartet returns on Mother’s Day, May 8th with a concert held at the historic Nassau County Courthouse at 3 p.m. Tickets are $45. The Beth Newdome Fellowship Artists wrap up the festival with concerts held at the Boys and Girls Club on May 17, Savannah Grand on May 19, and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on May 22. Featured artists are Riana Anthony, cello,Emily Bradenburg, viola, Julia Bradenburg, violin, Leah Latorraca, violin, and Anastasia Rizikov, piano.

“We’re very proud of our line-up this year,” says Rex. “Our artists and programs exemplify what we’ve set out to do with our Festival, providing high caliber chamber music in celebration of our 15th anniversary.” For more information about the concerts and artists and to purchase tickets, visit or call (904) 261-1779.