By Rama K. Ramaswamy
Chamber music, since its introduction to society in the 18th century, by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven during the so-called Viennese Classic Era, continues to be as much an enriching social experience as it is a deep and meaningful musical extravaganza for fans.
At the heart of it is instrumental music played by a small ensemble, with one player to a part, the most important form being the string quartet; it’s also increasingly more complex and challenging, making greater demands on the individual players while still requiring them to work as a cohesive, constantly inter-responsive unit.
The Sheffield Chamber Players embody this art; over 50 people gathered in Jennifer and Ansley Martin’s home recently to garner a listen, followed by rave reviews. Many attendees stood as if in a queue long after the concert, to personally congratulate the Sheffield Chamber Players’ inspired rendering of Glass, Mozart and Beethoven.
Dr. Marsha Tracy, for example said, “your concert was the most moving one I have ever attended in six decades. It was enhanced (for me, at least) by your lovely presentation. It was especially meaningful to have the imagery of death coming for the maiden almost as a comforting/embracing force- what a novel idea for me and at times also to hear the struggle and resistance against it. Your playing was, though it seems faint praise, truly awesome.”
The group took their name from the address of their first host in Winchester. According to Alexander Vaviov (viola), “It is important to us that the idea of making an impact in a local community is reflected in our name since we are a group that is dedicated to exploring the setting of a house concert.”
The Sheffield Chamber Players are Alexander Vaviov, Sasha Callahan (violin), Ethan Wood (violin), Leo Eguchi (cello) and Ying-Jun Wei (cello).
Vaviov said the following about chamber music and as it relates to his Sheffield Chamber Players, “From the very beginning it became apparent to me that what we are doing is incredibly important for our audience. All of us have played plenty of chamber music concerts before but never have I seen people being touched so profoundly by music as they were during our house concerts.
“It seems that this setting gives music a very unique power to resonate with people emotionally on an entirely different level, which makes a lot of sense since this is how chamber music began. Up until the end of the 19th century it was almost exclusively heard in a setting of a house concert or a salon, not so much on stage. What we are doing is simply returning it to its origins and our audiences love it.”
Eguchi spoke of how he met his fellow Sheffield Chamber Players and how he feels about the significance and history of each piece of music as well as the resulting collective harmony of the group.
There are different levels that each piece reaches me on,” Callahan said. “There's a visceral reaction to hearing and exploring a piece that operates on a purely emotional level. Some of my earliest memories from childhood are of the feelings I would have while hearing a piece of music- indescribable really.”
Eguchi said that he doesn’t have a specific piece he loves above all others but, “I truly believe that it is impossible not be compelled by a close-up performance of a Beethoven string quartet. I don't care who you are or what you think that you know about music, those pieces speak to our fundamental humanity in a way that cannot be denied.
“Me personally, I am typically performing around 100-150 concerts per year. I have been lucky enough to have my performance schedule pretty full all year round- though Oct-Dec and March-May are usually the most hectic.”
The Sheffield Chamber Players bring this sentiment to bear with every composition they study and bring to life. For more information and program schedule, visit www.sheffieldchamberplayers.org/#!musicians/cee5.
Rama K. Ramaswamy writes for Hometown Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.