From Bach To Bluegrass With Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival - 27 East

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Arts & Living / 2010543

From Bach To Bluegrass With Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival

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Flutist Marya Martin. COURTESY BCMF

Flutist Marya Martin. COURTESY BCMF

Violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti. BRUCE FORSTER

Violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti. BRUCE FORSTER

Violinist Benjamin Beilman. COURTESY BCMF

Violinist Benjamin Beilman. COURTESY BCMF

Bassist Don Palma. COURTESY BCMF

Bassist Don Palma. COURTESY BCMF

Harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss. JENNY GORMAN

Harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss. JENNY GORMAN

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival presents

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival presents "Back to Bluegrass" as its annual Wm. Brian Little concert at Channing Daughters Winery on Friday. COURTESY BCMF

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival presents

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival presents "Back to Bluegrass" as its annual Wm. Brian Little concert at Channing Daughters Winery on Friday. COURTESY BCMF

Violinist Kristin Lee. LAUREN DESBERG

Violinist Kristin Lee. LAUREN DESBERG

Violist Matthew Lipman. JIYANG CHEN SMILE

Violist Matthew Lipman. JIYANG CHEN SMILE

Cellist Mihai Marica. COURTESY BCMF

Cellist Mihai Marica. COURTESY BCMF

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival presents

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival presents "Back to Bluegrass" as its annual Wm. Brian Little concert at Channing Daughters Winery on Friday. BRIAN HATTON

A previous Bridgehampton Chamber Music Fesvial Wm. Brian Little Concert  at Channing Daughter's Winery. COURTESY BCMF

A previous Bridgehampton Chamber Music Fesvial Wm. Brian Little Concert at Channing Daughter's Winery. COURTESY BCMF

Sophie Griffin on Aug 16, 2022

As part of its 39th season, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival will present its annual Wm. Brian Little Concert on Friday, August 19, at 6 p.m. in the Sculpture Garden of Channing Daughter’s Winery. Titled “Bach to Bluegrass,” the concert will be a melding of two very distinct genres. Recently, festival founder and flutist Marya Martin sat down to talk a bit about the unusual combination of Baroque and bluegrass.

Q: I’m curious how this idea of doing Bach and bluegrass together in one concert came to be. These are two very different styles of music.

Martin: Every year when we put the festival together, we think of a theme for the whole festival. And this year, the theme is “One World, Many Worlds.” Part of that is the world is getting very small these days. Without going into politics, things are happening around the world that are really very close to home, even though they are far off.

As I was thinking about this feeling of one world, many worlds, I started thinking about how so many people think of classical music as old white guys, like Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven — and some people feel a little intimidated by these guys that lived 300 years ago there. Maybe chamber music is something they don’t always understand.

But when I listen to Bach, I can hear bluegrass in it. When I listen to Beethoven, I can hear odd phrases of things that people are composing today. I think life, and therefore music, is on a continuum and they’re not completely separated out. Bluegrass is played on classical instruments. On the violin, you have the same bow strokes, so you have that same sound, and Bach was known for his bow strokes.

I started thinking of these wonderful violinists that play bluegrass and they’re classical violinists. Of course, some of them are fiddlers. We don’t think of bluegrass being in a classical concert, but there’s much more to bind them together than there is to be separate.

Q: How did you choose the specific works that are in the program?

Martin: I listened and listened and listened. Because I am a flutist, not a violinist, I don’t play bluegrass. But whenever I do these programs I spend hundreds of hours listening. I get recommendations, I go on YouTube, I find out who’s playing bluegrass. It’s a real sort of process.

Q: And from the program it looks like you’ve chosen a mix of bluegrass from different areas.

Martin: Yes, I didn’t want it to be from any one region. When Bach wrote the Brandenburg concertos there were three movements. What I tried to do is make my own three movement work. One movement of bluegrass and two of Bach or the other way around. We start with bluegrass, morph into Bach in the middle of the piece, and then we come out and do some more bluegrass. So it’s really going to be quite a different concert.

This is the first time I’ve really mixed the genres quite so much. Generally, I like to have all sorts of different music throughout the festival. But this is, I think, really interesting to have one style of playing segue right into something else. I hope it works, because we haven’t tried it out.

Q: Is Bach a favorite of yours?

Martin: Bach is a stunning composer. He’s one of these composers who, of course has endured the test of time. I really think you can look through composers of all generations and it will lead you back in some way to Bach.

Q: You mentioned some of the connections between bluegrass and late Baroque music. Can you talk specifically about how things carry from one to the other?

Martin: In a way Bach is based on a chord structure. And when he does his fugues he has this mathematical chord structure in his brain and he weaves in and out of that chord structure. Bluegrass in a way, does exactly the same thing — as does jazz. There’s a four bar phrase, and the baseline is repeated.

So bluegrass certainly has improvisational parts, but there’s also a very well laid harmonic scheme under the bluegrass.

Q: Do you think that including a different genre in the festival will attract people who maybe aren’t as familiar with classical music?

Martin: Well, this is called the Brian Little Concert and I’m always pushing myself in ideas with this concert because it’s held outside in a tent. We have drinks and hors d’oeuvres first so it’s more low key. The music can be a little more relaxed and I feel as if I can push the boundaries of what I give to the audience.

We get a real mix of people to this concert, and I can do Brahms, I can do Bach, I can do bluegrass and they really understand what I’m doing. The nice thing now is people trust me after 39 years and they know that if I decide to do a folk program, it might be some folk music of Brahms and then it might be Stephane Wrembel playing some folk stuff on guitar. So I have a very nice rapport with the audience that they trust my programming.

Q: How long has been the Brian Little Concert, specifically, been part of the festival program?

Martin: I think Brian Little has been going 20 years. Brian was a wonderful board member who sadly died prematurely. This is not a memorial concert, but it was his idea when he was alive to do an outdoor concert. And we did it for just one year before he passed away. And he was very good friends with [the late] Walter Channing. It’s a beautiful outdoor space — it’s gorgeous.

Q: Since it’s an outdoor concert does that make it more complicated, acoustically speaking?

Martin: It does. We have a sound system because there’s no natural acoustics in a tent. It’s not that we need to amplify the sound, but we need to give a little bloom to the sound, as you would in a church or concert hall.

Q: And what’s it like when you’re actually performing outdoors as a musician?

Martin: Well, the sound is not as pleasant outdoors. Now, the audiences love being outdoors, but for me when I’m making music and crafting a piece, the sound is really important because it determines the phrasing and how passionate I can be or how pianissimo I can be. And if you’re playing in a tent that doesn’t respond that much to what you are doing, it’s not as musically rewarding.

We have a sound system that makes up for the difference, I love playing in this place. I stand on the stage and I look out, and I see Walter’s sculptures and I see the vines in the background. It’s pretty stunning.

Q: What more would you like guests to know about the event?

Martin: I’d like to make sure people know what a stunning evening it is, because you go there at 6 o’clock and we have Channing Daughters wine, we have hors d’oeuvres. We have been so lucky. It’s always been a gorgeous evening, but we have a tent up in case it’s not.

People wander around the property and they look at Walter’s sculptures. I like to think that it’s a time where we all sort of take stock and think how lucky we are. With so much awful stuff going on in the world, here we are in this beautiful sculpture garden with a glass of wine in our hand and about to listen to some nice music.

It’s a lovely evening. It’s one of my favorites of the festival because it’s sort of perfection — this beautiful field, the sculptures, the music and the light. It’s just a very nice atmosphere and we get a great crowd. It seems to be a real highlight of the season now.

Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival’s Wm. Brian Little Concert, “Bach to Bluegrass,” takes place Friday, August 19, in the Sculpture Garden at Channing Daughters Winery. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with wine and hors d’oeuvres followed by the concert at 7 p.m. Featured musicians are: Marya Martin, flute; Ben Beilman, violin; Kristin Lee, violin; Matthew Lipman, viola; Mihai Marica, cello; Don Palma, bass; Kenneth Weiss, harpsichord. Tickets are $175 at bcmf.org. Channing Daughters Winery is at 1927 Scuttle Hole Road, Bridgehampton.

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