Just as the scalding temperatures start to settle in, Summerfest comes to the rescue with its annual monthlong festival of superb chamber music.
During the month of July, Summerfest brings its creative and audience-friendly concerts to White Recital Hall on Saturday evenings and to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Sunday afternoons. This year’s theme is “The Art and Soul of Chamber Music.”
Taking inspiration from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, all the music was chosen to “swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched … by the better angels of our nature.”
The new season will incorporate changes that Summerfest hopes will make the series an even more enjoyable experience. To give the concerts better flow and to help keep audiences engaged, there will no longer be intermissions. Multimedia elements are being added to give the concerts visual as well as aural appeal. Of course, Summerfest will continue its popular post-concert Meet the Musician receptions.
Summerfest kicks off July 8 and 9 with Czech Us Out, a model program of Czech music. There’s the popular String Quartet No. 1 “From My Life” by Bedrich Smetana and two lesser known works that are accessible for general audiences but intriguing enough for cognoscenti: Pavel Haas’ Wind Quintet and the Detska Suita (Children’s Suite) by Jiří Jaroch.
July 15 and 16, Summerfest celebrates love with “Romance.” Maurice Ravel’s Basque-flavored Piano Trio in A minor begins the program, which is followed by “Three Tone Pictures” by Charles Tomlinson Griffes, a composer known as an American impressionist.
Following that is a serenade by Reynaldo Hahn, a Venezuelan-born French composer who deserves to be much better known. Much of his music, especially his salon music, are reveries d’amour. The concert will close with a serenade by Danish composer Carl Nielsen.
This is the second year Summerfest is bringing classical chamber music to the Fringe Festival, and this year there’s an avian theme.
On July 22, 23, 27 and 28, the group will perform “Birds” by Michael Horwood. The multimedia work uses 120 projected images of “Baby Birds,” “Endangered Birds” and “Strange Birds” to accompany the music. Keeping with the bird theme, the concert will conclude with Thomas Albert’s “Thirteen Ways,” a setting of Wallace Stevens’ poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”
The final weekend, July 29 and 30, takes a more serious turn with “Joy and Remembrance; Awakening of the Spirit.” The program reflects on the suffering and horror in the world with works like Margaret Brouwer’s song “Whom Do You Call Angel Now?” inspired by the 9/11 attack. But ultimately the program draws on music from Johann Sebastian Bach to contemporary Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov to show how art, especially music, can give hope and meaning to existence.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St., and 3 p.m. Sundays at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 1307 Holmes St. $10-$19. 816-235-6222 or summerfestkc.org.
Sean Chen at Schmitt Music
Schmitt Music presents Steinway artist Sean Chen for an in-store “meet and greet” Sunday, June 25.
Chen, 28, was the third-prize winner at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and has won many other awards and critical accolades.
Chen, who was born in Florida, currently lives in Kansas City with his wife, Betty Chen, who is a violinist with the Kansas City Symphony.