After two pandemic-ridden years of virtual and scaled-back performances, the annual Annapolis Chamber Music Festival will return to the city in full this month with a five-concert series.
The festival, now in its seventh year of operation, kicks of Saturday and Sunday with two performances at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis followed by three performances on Aug. 18, 19 and 20 at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church. Purchase tickets at chambermusicannapolis.org/tickets.
The chamber music festival was founded in 2016 by Zach Hobin and Rémy Taghavi, two friends who met in graduate school at Stony Brook University and decided Annapolis would be a perfect place to put on performances of the classical music composed for a small group of instruments. Hobin, a bassist, and Taghavi, a bassoon player, are among five wind players, five string players, two pianists and a singer that comprise the small ensemble.
“Zach is from around Chicago, I’m from Minneapolis, and both of those areas were sort of [artistically] saturated so we were looking for places that were not huge cities but were culturally rich and had people who were interested in what we were doing,” Taghavi said.
“From that humble origin it’s become a really integral part of our artistic lives,” Hobin said.
The first concert, “Fine Wine and Finer Music,” begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $60. Baltimore-based coloratura soprano Melissa Wimbish will sing Ravel and Argento pieces accompanied by the orchestra while wine experts at Bin 201 Wine + Spirits in Annapolis lead a wine tasting. The performance will be followed by a meet and greet with the artists.
Hobin, who selects each piece with a small group of colleagues, said he is most excited for the first concert. The music tends to be less complex and heavy than some of the later ones and is “just a lot of fun, grabs you immediately and pulls you in,” he said.
“It’s always such an incredible and convivial atmosphere and it always sparks conversations after the concert,” Hobin said. “It’s a great chance to reintroduce ourselves to the community.”
The second concert, “Visitors: Echoes from Another Realm,” features pieces from Beethoven and Mendelssohn. The concert begins at 3 p.m. Sunday and costs $30. The performance starts with the “Ghost” trio by Beethoven, a piece Hobin has been wanting the ensemble to perform for a long time. After selecting the trio, he said the theme for the concert emerged on its own — other worldly visitors.
“The Mendelssohn piece is something he wrote after the death of his sister and it’s a very uncharacteristically dark piece for Mendelssohn,” he said.
While the ensemble is encouraging people to wear masks, it is not a requirement. In 2020, the festival was held virtually and a virtual-live hybrid was used last year. The musicians will be tested for COVID-19 before the performances, Hobin said.
The final three concerts will be performed at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church, featuring an array of composers from Dvorak, Kodaly, and Bacewicz in Eastern Europe to Johannes Brahms in Germany.
The Aug. 19 concert, “Easterly Winds: Sounds from the Balkans and Beyond,” exemplifies the ensemble’s mission: discovering less popular pieces alongside the audience, Taghavi said.
“So much of the music we play is newer or lesser known,” Taghavi said. “What we’re trying to do is create a space where the musicians and the audience are all discovering new things and leaving with new favorite pieces.”
The Annapolis Chamber Music Ensemble will also host a free concert for children from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 19 at the Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library.
While the pandemic has driven some of Hobin and Taghavi’s peers away from music, ensemble members found reward in sticking it out. This year has been the ensemble’s busiest so far, Hobin said, which he credits to pent up demand for live entertainment as the nation learns how to manage the virus.
“What I really love about [the concert series] is the synergy that happens when you find pieces from different time periods and from composers who are very different,” Hobin said. “When the pieces all have something to say to each other and the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole — that’s what makes a great concert and one that you remember for a long time.”
- “Fine Wine and Finer Music: Season-opening Celebration!” — Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis
- “Visitors: Echoes from Another Realm” — Sunday, 3 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis
- “Diaspora: Modern Musical Journeys” — Aug. 18, 7:30 p.m., St. Martin’s Lutheran Church
- “Easterly Winds: Sounds from the Balkans and Beyond” — Aug. 19, 7:30 p.m., St. Martin’s Lutheran Church
- Free concert for children — Aug. 19, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Michael E. Busch Annapolis Library
- “Summer Serenade: Festive Finale” — Aug. 20, 7:30 p.m., St. Martin’s Lutheran Church