Concert Tickets Are $25 At The Door   •   Students & Active Duty Military Can Attend For Free!

The Mystery Program

I know you were shuffling through your program notes at Sunday’s concert.  I saw you.  You had no idea what Pacifica String Quartet – let alone Sharon Isbin – would be performing next, and, like me, you feel insecure when you don’t know who the composer is, how many movements there will be, when it will be time to applaud (or get caught out as the only person in the room who is doing so).  I know.  But I will let you in on a little behind-the-scenes wizardry/witchery that went on about an hour before the doors opened at 3:00.

You know that Pacifica and Sharon Isbin are incredibly talented musicians, right?  They don’t give those Grammys away like marshmallows at a camp out.  So about an hour before the concert began, first violin Simin Ganatra told a few of the board members that Pacifica and Ms. Isbin would like to make some changes in the program.  They would rearrange the sequences and could throw in a few surprises, if that would be ok.  And I’m standing there thinking, “Good grief!  What kind of versatility does it take to change a whole program only an hour before a  performance?!  How can they have practiced and prepared a whole basket of music that they can just draw out at will and perform?!”

... about an hour before the concert began, first violin Simin Ganatra told a few of the board members that Pacifica and Ms. Isbin would like to make some changes in the program. They would rearrange the sequences and could throw in a few surprises...

So that’s how the program got shuffled.  Now you know.  And I’ll bet you know something else, as well.  Pacifica has earned its stellar reputation for precision, lyricism and, yes, pure enjoyment.  Theirs is an almost ethereal  joy in performance, and tell me you didn’t really feel the pathos of the third movement of the Haydn.  The composer himself would have cried.

And then there’s Sharon Isbin.  It’s difficult for me not to repeat what’s been written time and time again about her uncanny ability to elicit thoughts of a Spain that we all imagined:  white marble, the scent of oranges, the swirly of color in dancers’ skirts and the haunting loneliness of a midnight street in Barcelona.  All of these and more ran through my mind as I listened to the brilliant tones and the smoky echoes of her truly magical guitar.  Centuries of exquisite sounds and rhythms tumbled out.  It was pure magic, don’t you agree?

I’m so glad you were there to enjoy this extraordinary concert with me, and I hope you’ll come back for more.   The New York based ensemble, Rebel Baroque, will weave more magic with the help of flutist Matthias Maute November 12.  I promise enchantment.

– E Doyle

Female Guitarists

Try Googling “female classical guitarists.” You will find a few dozen citations of people you’ve probably never heard of. I wondered why. There are female pianists and violinists by the score, but classical guitarists? The citations sooner or later descend to pop icons. It’s not that Janice Joplin wasn’t capable of playing, say, an andante, but the washboard style of playing is not really conducive to cantatas. I looked through the names and photos and found that many of the women were also composers, lauded for their talents during their eras, but not particularly well known now. For example: Have you ever heard of Ida Presti? Neither had I, I am ashamed to admit. She was that vanishingly rare person, a female classical guitarist. She was 10 in 1935 when she played her first professional concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris; she continued to perform and compose music for the acoustic guitar until her death in 1967. When she was 16 years old, she had the singular honor of playing Paganini’s guitar in a commemoration of his death in 1940. She appeared in films and was widely known for her prodigious talent. Do you recognize the name yet? No?

When you check out lists of classical guitarists, you will find not one woman’s name until you come to Catherina Josepha Pratten, identified only as a German guitar virtuoso, born in Mulheim in 1821 and laying her guitar to rest in 1895. Certainly you’ve heard of Mme. Pratten?

In the early 20th Century, we come to Maria Luisa Anido, better known for her compositions than for her performances. She was born in Morón, Argentina in 1907, and died in the “mid 80’s” in Tarragona, Spain. The only concert mentioned was her debut in Wigmore Hall in 1952.

At last, in this century, we begin to see a few female names among the listings of classical guitarists, but the vast majority of names are male.

The guitar is the quintessential musical instrument for a woman to play. It can shade emotion, it can soothe or scream. It can express a range of feelings that go far beyond six strings.

Makes you wonder. Are women not able to play an acoustic guitar? Perhaps their fingers are not strong enough – but have you ever watched a female harpist at work? Perhaps they constitutionally have trouble focusing on two hands doing different things at the same time. Ever seen a female pianist – or, for that matter, a mother with two-year-old twins? Perhaps the violin is more suited to female musicians. After all, the movements are graceful, the music is sweet. But the guitar is an instrument of passion, an accompanier of flamenco and wild Gypsy dances. The guitar is the quintessential musical instrument for a woman to play. It can shade emotion, it can soothe or scream. It can express a range of feelings that go far beyond six strings.

So I hope you remember, as you listen to Sharon Isbin, a modern guitar virtuoso, that this particular woman understands the guitar. You will hear an instrument singing unlike any you have heard before, an instrument capable of expressing connections between the artist and the audience. And that’s the whole point, don’t you agree?

Don’t miss Sharon Isbin, multiple GRAMMY Award winning guitarist, in concert with the Pacifica String Quartet on Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 3:15 p.m. at Temple Beth-El. You will wish the concert never ends.

– E Doyle

Opening The Curtain

Ta-dah!  No, not big enough.  Ta-DAH!!  Better, but not there yet.
TA-DAH!!!

That’s more like it. Ladies and gentlemen and all the ships from Canyon to Woodlawn Lake, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society of San Antonio, Texas will soon open the curtain on a season unlike any in our 75 (yes, 75) years! You have enjoyed the music we have presented for many, many seasons, I hope, but this season’s programme (yes, it deserves the double-m and the e) is the best yet. Hang onto your hats, get out your credit cards and calendars and order your tickets for this diamond jubilee season.

October 15, 2017

Pacifica String Quartet with Sharon Isbin, guitarist

During their two decades of stellar performances, the Pacifica has earned its international stature with its virtuosity and style.  We have had the pleasure of their company in past seasons and are delighted to welcome them back.   Performing with them is the incomparable Sharon Isbin,  often called “the Monet of classical guitar”,  multiple Grammy Award winner and founding director of the Classical Guitar Department at Juilliard.  This will be an opening concert to remember!

November 12, 2017

Rebel Baroque with Matthias Maute, flute

Bearing the name of French Baroque composer, Jean-Féry Rebel, this quartet began in the Netherlands and has performed in every corner of the world since then.  They are known and admired for their interpretations of 17th and 18th Century music performed on period instruments.  Matthias Maute is a virtuoso performer, conductor and composer who won a JUNO Award in the category of year’s best classical music. This concert promises Baroque music at its finest.

January 21, 2018

Chanticleer

Twelve incredible male voices comprise the “world’s reigning men’s chorus” (according to The New Yorker).  They’ve won Grammys, they’ve traveled the world and they consistently delight audiences with their seamless blends and original interpretations of the classical genre.  We thoroughly enjoyed their dazzling performance a few years ago, as they quite literally filled the house with song.  Chanticleer founder Louis A. Botto was born in Texas and was a graduate of Incarnate Word College here in San Antonio. In the early 1970’s he was the director of the First Repertory Company of San Antonio. We look forward to having  Chanticleer in our midst to celebrate San Antonio’s Tricentennial.

March 4, 2018

American Brass Quintet

Five remarkable musicians, two trumpets, a horn, a trombone and a bass trombone combine to form a glorious sound.  They have premiered – premiered – more than 150 contemporary brass works and won Chamber Music America’s highest award in the process.  They have been in residence at the Juilliard since 1987, and at Aspen Music Festival since 1970.  They definitely know how to polish brass to a gleaming, lustrous brilliance. To make this concert extra special – San Antonio Chamber Music Society, as a partner in SA300, the Tricentennial celebration of our city, have commissioned beloved San Antonio composer James Balentine to write a special work for this auspicious occasion. Be there to hear this gift from SACMS to you,  San Antonio!

April 15, 2018

Orion String Quartet

Closing out a season you’ll wish could last forever, our dear friends, the Orion.  The Quartet in Residence at Lincoln Center, the Orion is known for standing ovation evoking performances.  They are famous  for the diversity of their programs, their blending of classical and contemporary – and the devotion of their fans (count us in!).  You can plan on an afternoon of textures, surprises and just beautiful sounds.  (Note:  this concert will be at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church, 227 W. Woodlawn at Belknap Place.)

Are you ready to celebrate with us our Diamond Jubilee?  This San Antonio Chamber Music Society season will be extraordinary, over the top, fabulous, gorgeous – where’s my Roget’s when I need it?  But you get the picture, so get your tickets, better yet, get a season subscription because you won’t want to miss even one of these concerts.  Tickets are always available here at sacms.org,  or drop us a check at San Antonio Chamber Music Society, PO Box 12702, San Antonio, TX 78212.  And don’t forget – students and active duty military are admitted free to all concerts.

– E Doyle

Blanca Stella

How do you feel about summer?  Not the sweltering, where’s-the-next-air-conditioned-space summer, but perhaps the summers you remember from your past .  What about the summers that the song, “Summertime” bring to mind?  You know:  “Summertime,  and the living is easy…”  That kind of summer.  Think, for a minute, about the summers that included, perhaps, a beach, lazy surf, sandy towels, sand castles that were presented to the tide and, of course, seashells.  Is there a better occupation than strolling along an early morning beach, eyes downward, checking out the treasures the night tides have brought ashore?

You might have surmised by now that I am deep in beach reveries – and why not?  It’s summer, after all!  With Debussy’s beautiful melody in the recesses of my mind, I would like to share with you my very favorite beach reminiscence.

I was living in Brazil, a country whose coast is decorated with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  Specifically, I’m remembering the beaches closer to Sao Paulo than Rio, not the giddy revelry of Copacabana nor the bikini exhibitionists of Ipanema.  No, the beaches I’m thinking about have wonderful, silly names like Ubatuba.  There are no – or few – tourists and sometimes, no one at all.  The water is an unbelievable aquamarine (hence, the name of that gorgeous stone from Brazil) and it is just the right temperature for an utterly lazy summer float.  The sand is golden and, if you’re lucky, studded with sand dollars and little bright pink slipper shells.

So the stage is now set for the arrival of Blanca Stella.  Her family set up shop near my personal stretch of beach and soon, I heard Spanish being spoken – specifically Spanish with a distinctive Chilean accent.  As you know, Portuguese is the language of Brazil, so to hear Spanish on this rather remote Brazilian beach caught my notice.  Among the family members was a little girl, maybe four or five years old, who was called (often and sharply) Blanca Stella.  Now this is one of my very favorite names:  it means “white star” and the few people I’ve known who have carried it have been unfailingly interesting.  This little Blanca Stella was clearly a miscreant:   she didn’t want suntan lotion, she didn’t want a hat, she wanted only to get into that aquamarine water.  She flipped her long, black hair in an emphatic “NO!” when her mother suggested waiting a bit, and she was off like a shot, her father trudging through the sand in her wake.
Among the family members was a little girl, maybe four or five years old, who was called (often and sharply) Blanca Stella. Now this is one of my very favorite names: it means “white star” and the few people I’ve known who have carried it have been unfailingly interesting.

I went over to say hello to her mother.  I asked where they were from and, indeed, the answer was, “Chile.”  But she added that they were living in Brazil, owing to her husband’s military assignment.  Friends had told them about this wonderful beach on the kind edge of the Atlantic, and they decided to come see it.  Of course, Blanca Stella was very excited about a day at the beach.   It had been a long time since they’d been to a beach, and in Chile, the beaches tend to be very rocky and the water very cold.  So here they were – at “my” beach, but I was glad to share it with the family of beautiful, ecstatic Blanca Stella.

As the day settled into one of those bright, golden days that only happen on a Brazilian beach, picnics were eaten and everyone settles into a post-prandial languor of listening to the tide and watching the sea birds stitch the water.  Everyone, of course, except for Blanca Stella – and she wanted to run back to the water.  By now, her black hair was spangled with sand but she still resisted any attempt at a hat.  I offered to walk along the beach with her.  I was hoping we would see a little rivulet down the beach a way where I knew there was a colony of sand crabs.  I was thinking everyone likes to watch sand crabs as they scurry into their holes, then cautiously peek out, then ever so carefully emerge to grab a pebble or a bit of sand.  I think sand crabs are wonderful, but Blanca Stella lost interest at crab three or four.  So we headed back towards her family, but were stopped in our tracks by a conch shell that the tide had just brought in.  Still shining from the water, it was a rare jewel to find on this beach.

Blanca Stella lost interest at crab three or four.  So we headed back towards her family, but were stopped in our tracks by a conch shell that the tide had just brought in.

Of course, Blanca Stella ran over to it, picked it up fearlessly and asked, “Que es esto?” (What’s this?) I took it from her, checked it carefully for occupants, then held it to my ear. I said to Blanca Stella, “This is how you hear the sea.” Her dark eyes widened, partially in disbelief and partially in wonder, and she held out her hands to hold the treasure. She put it to her ear, and I asked her, “What do you hear?” After a moment of intense concentration, she sang to me what she heard.

“La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar…” and then she danced to her own music, the shell still clasped to her ear.

So here is a beach treasure for you. I hope you enjoyed Blanca Stella and her personal shell music as much as I did. And while on the subject of treasures, of course: have you sent in your subscription for the treasure of a stellar music season that’s on the horizon from the San Antonio Chamber Music Society? This is our 75th Anniversary season, you know, and it will sparkle like the shells and the beautiful water of Ubatuba.

– E Doyle

En train – literally

Your fearless blogger has indeed dared a train ride, but a very special one.  This was the Rocky Mountaineer which slithers sensuously through Canada’s snow fields, glaciers and, oh yeah, mountains.  Ten days of ooh-ing and ah-ing at gorgeous scenery, bears, elk and big horn sheep, but nearly spoiled by music, of all things.

Now I want you to understand that I am not a snob and can usually get along with just about anyone.  With that proviso in mind, also note that a cluster of really drunk Aussies can spoil even the most magnificent scenery (my fault for not have noise abatement equipment – but it never occurred to me I might need it on a train, of all things).  So here’s the story:

Cruising along in quiet – no train noise at all (remember this is Canadian Pacific, not Amtrak) – seated in a very comfortable, heated seat (no, really) with a glass of Canada’s Okanagan wine on the tray table, we are watching eagles and osprey enjoying themselves dipping and swooping above us and various ungulates grazing calmly on mountainsides, seemingly unaware that one misstep would spell disaster and totally nonplused by the train.  Occasionally, we descend to the dining car and you know what they say about train food:  fattening and utterly delicious.  Blueberry pancakes made with fresh berries, salmon that the day before was leaping in the frigid river.  Does it get any better?

Ten days of ooh-ing and ah-ing at gorgeous scenery, bears, elk and big horn sheep, but nearly spoiled by music, of all things.

Enter the Aussies.  They seem to have collectively decided to drink themselves blind drunk.  They counted up 29 empty bottles of Bailey’s Irish Cream, and there were only about ten of them.  Do the math.  So what does a group of drunken Aussies do when they’re feeling their spirits?  They sing, of course.  And what do they sing?  Waltzing Matilda, of course.  Over and over and over.  I was reminded of a long-ago account of Panamanian ex-dictator, Manuel Noriega, who was held in a prison in Panama City.  He was in solitary confinement and his captors ardently wished to have information about some drug smuggling he’d been engaged in.  No luck: he wasn’t talking.  So he received piped-in music.   He was bombarded with screeching sounds of some long-forgotten grunge rockers, played over and over again.  He cracked.  Such is the power of music!

Well, it was still a memorable trip and I really hope that none of our traveling companions went overboard on their subsequent Alaska cruise (or were put out on a glacier to reprieve Waltzing Matilda).  As we went along, I thought of the wonderful music of Sibelius and Grieg.  They who were accustomed to snow and glaciers and could transcribe this scenery into immortal music.  And now that we’re back in good ol’ H&H (that’s hot and humid) Texas, I think I’ll put the mostly magical train trip in my memory bank and turn my attention to anticipation of a truly sterling set of performances I will thoroughly enjoy come SACMS’ silver anniversary season.  Please do look at the web site, SACMS.org, to see the wonders in store.  If you should hear any faint strains of Waltzing Matilda, just have a nice glass of wine and ignore the Philistines.

– E Doyle

Pin It on Pinterest