Jul 23, 2013
02:51 PM
Arts & Entertainment

Butterfly Effect of Yale's Norfolk Chamber Music Festival; Auction of Artists' Chairs

Butterfly Effect of Yale's Norfolk Chamber Music Festival; Auction of Artists' Chairs

A chair decorated by artist Sally Briggs that is part of a silent-auction fundraiser for the restoration of the historic Music Shed at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

Edward Lorenz, described as the father of chaos theory and the butterfly effect, launched a 20th-century scientific revolution with his pioneering discovery of “what is now called chaotic behavior in the mathematical modeling of weather systems,” MIT explained in a story posted upon his death in 2008. His scientific work, showing how “differences in a dynamic system such as the atmosphere—or a model of the atmosphere—could trigger vast and often unsuspected results,” led to the colloquial interpretation that, in all aspects of life, a small, sometimes insignificant-seeming change can have a massive impact.

  In a chat on the phone, Paul Hawkshaw verbally nodded at the notion that every summer he is at the helm in a place whose every activity is potentially a flapping of the butterfly’s wings, the genesis not only of exponentially more and globally apportioned further flappings but also of untold positive transformations—some of which are easy to document and quantify and others whose origins will never be traced or known.

Hawkshaw is the director of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, which is administered and presented at a historic estate by the Yale Summer School of Music, and in that role each year he gathers, mentors and eventually releases classical and chamber music world “butterflies”—students, faculty and professionals whose performances, compositions and other activities doubtless create “chaos” of the most welcome varieties.

It’s not just the impact on the audience on a given night of the mastery of the Tokyo String Quartet—retiring this year after a summer residency in Norfolk dating back to the mid-1970s—or of the Emerson quartet, performing for the first time in Norfolk this summer. It’s that those groups and many others, and the faculty and students, journey on from Litchfield County to perform—and spread salutary chaos—all over the world.

“Young instrumentalists, singers, conductors and composers are selected through a highly competitive international admissions process to spend their summer participating in the intensive program of coaching, classes and performances. They are exposed to every aspect of their future profession: their colleagues, their mentors, and most importantly, their audience. Almuni of the Norfolk program include Richard Stoltzman, Frederica von Stade, Pamela Frank, the Eroica Trio, So Percussion, eighth blackbird, and the Ying, Miró, Shanghai, Saint Lawrence, Cavani, Calder and Biava quartets,” the festival’s website explains.

That exposure happens in what Hawkshaw calls, without exaggeration, “a very, very special place.” He was describing the festival in its entirety but the judgment also applies to  the estate that Ellen Battell Stoeckel left upon her death in 1939 to a private trust with instructions that the facilities be used for Yale University’s summer music school. It includes Whitehouse, the 35-room mansion of Battell Stoeckel and her husband, Carl Stoeckel, the son of the Yale School of Music’s first professor, and the landmark Music Shed.

Designed by a darling architect of Litchfield County, Ehrick Rossiter, the acoustically superior structure is at the heart of the butterfly effect, as its stage has been home to so many renowned musicians—legends such as Fritz Kreisler, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Jean Sibelius.

In his meeting in the Music Shed on the opening night of each festival season, Hawkshaw asks the collected faculty, students and musicians to pause, look at all of the historic photographs on the walls and steep reverently in the importance of where they are and what they are part of.

This summer, this “favorite room” in the world of chamber music is more at the heart of things than ever. A multi-year restoration project begins this year, being overseen by the architecture firm John G. Waite Associates, whose historic architectural preservation projects include work on the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial and Mount Vernon. Exterior cosmetic restoration is planned, along with the construction of a new addition that will include more studio space—in a way that doesn’t interfere with the summer season or any programming.

In his message on the festival’s website, Hawkshaw wrote in June, “As of this writing, we are approximately 1/5 of the way toward our objective of $5,000,000. If we can reach $2,000,000 during 2013, an anonymous donor will contribute an additional million dollars.”

Part of the fundraising effort is a chair project, in which patrons can “purchase” a Music Shed chair for a contribution of $250 to the Music Shed Restoration Campaign. “The chairs will remain in place and will have attached to them a metal plaque identifying the donor of each chair,” a release explained.

To launch that campaign in an aesthetically fun and innovative way, artists in the region have created works from some of the actual Music Shed chairs, which are on display and being sold in a silent auction that has been going on this summer and is about to wrap up. The close of the silent auction is the Aug. 3 concert featuring the Emerson String Quartet. “[Y]ou may bid by phone (203-860-3000), by email (norfolk@yale.edu) or in person at one of our concerts any time up to the end of intermission on August 3,” Hawkshaw explains in his website message.

The participating artists are: Sally Briggs, Natalie Burke, Adela Hubers, Wayne Jenkins, Karen Linden, West Lowe, Samuel Messer, Ken Musselman, Ruthann Olsson, Robert Andrew Parker, Karen Rossi, Ronald Sloan, Joseph Stannard and John Thew. “The works are all magnificent and range from a bench made from two chairs to several painted chairs, a chair wrapped in copper & leather, and a white-tailed deer made from two chairs. They’re all just amazing,” a release said.

This project is a collaboration between the chamber festival and the Norfolk Artists and Friends group. The festival hosts the group’s annual show during the last weekend of chamber music concerts, taking place this year Aug. 9 through 12. “Artist Ruthann Olsson has been pivotal in organizing this project, as well as the annual art show, and the Festival is very grateful for her enthusiastic support and work to make it happen,” the festival said in the release. (More information on the annual artists’ show is available on the group’s website at http://norfolkart.org.)

The music festival warms up to the finale of the silent auction for the artist-decorated chairs July 30 through Aug. 3 with several events, including a lecture by professor Thomas C. Duffy, concerts by the festival’s faculty and more.

On Friday, Aug. 2, at 8 p.m., flutist Carol Wincenc and French horn player William Purvis will perform the music of Cherubini, Gounod, Mozart, Foote, and Bernard with Fellows of the Festival. The operatic melodies and immediate charm of Gounod’s Petite Symphonie have made it an audience favorite, the release said. The piece is scored for a classical wind octet with an added flute part that was written for Gounod’s friend, virtuoso Paul Taffanel. The works by Arthur Foote and Émile Bernard are very accessible and demonstrate some lovely turn of the (20th) century writing. The performers, William Purvis and Carol Wincenc, are both virtuosos and master musicians.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, also at 8 p.m., the Emerson Quartet will perform a concert of music featuring pieces by Haydn, Britten, and Beethoven. “The quartet stands alone with an unparalleled list of achievements over three decades: more than thirty acclaimed recordings since 1987, nine Grammy Awards (including two for Best Classical Album, an unprecedented honor for a chamber music group), three Gramophone Awards, the coveted Avery Fisher Prize and performances of the complete Beethoven, Bartók, Mendelssohn, and Shostakovich string quartets in the world’s musical capitals,” the festival release said.

The Emerson Quartet’s Norfolk debut will feature their new cellist, Paul Watkins. Mr. Watkins replaces David Finckel in the ensemble’s first member change in 34 years. Newsday wrote of the Quartet: “The Emerson has staked its claim to being the one indispensable quartet in a world that is constantly creating more, excellent ensembles.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, July 30, at 7:30 p.m., Norfolk’s Music in Context series continues with professor Thomas C. Duffy of the Yale School of Music giving a lecture entitled, “Music and the Brain – Aural Illusions and Bi-lateral Conductors.” Mr. Duffy is the Director of Bands at Yale University.  The lecture will take place in Battell Recital Hall on the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival grounds and is free and open to the public. No background in music is necessary, the release said; all you need is an active curiosity about music.

On Thursday, Aug. 1, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 3, at 10:30 a.m., Fellows at the Yale Summer School of Music will perform in the Music Shed. Performers and program repertoire will be announced the day of the concert. The Norfolk Festival’s Young Artists’ Performance Series is the heart and soul of the Norfolk program, the release sasid, and features outstanding performances by young, up-and-coming concert artists each Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. and are free and open to the public. Families with children are most welcome. Repertoire and ensembles are chosen weekly. Details are posted on the Norfolk website (www.norfolkmusic.org) as they become available.

As the summer home of the Yale School of Music, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival is host each year to three graduate level programs, the festival site explains. At the heart of the festival is its six-week Chamber Music Session, which places a focus on chamber music study for emerging professional instrumentalists who come to Norfolk from top conservatories at home and around the world including Curtis,  Eastman, Juilliard, the Moscow Conservatory, the Paris Conservatoire, and the Royal Conservatory in London. Students have the opportunity to study with leading international faculty members, who perform each week in the Friday and Saturday Series concerts, occasionally with the student Fellows. Out of 200 applicants, 40 musicians are selected to participate in the festival forming a variety of string, brass, and woodwind groups that each perform weekly during the festival. Repertoire ranges from the 18th to 20th centuries and often includes new works. Fellows are coached by each of the visiting quartets featured throughout the festival, and are sometimes featured alongside their mentors during the Friday and Saturday faculty concerts.

The season closes this summer with an intensive one-week Choral Conducting session led by internationally renowned choral conductor Simon Carrington, one of the founders of The King’s Singers a cappella group. The program began in 2006 as part of the 100th anniversary of the Music Shed, which was originally built for choral performances. For seven days, a group of 24 chorus members—many of whom are professional singers or conductors—work with Mr. Carrington on repertoire that includes works from the Renaissance to a new work commissioned every year by one of the festival’s student composers, the release explained. In addition, eight to 10 conductors are selected to participate in choral conducting workshops. 

Ticket prices range from $20 to $55, $10 for students and children may attend for free. See the website at www.norfolkmusic.org. The phone number is 860.542.3000 and the email address is norfolk@yale.edu.

Carl Stoeckel and Ellen Battell, both from families steeped in the Yale University tradition, married in 1895 and decided to honor Ellen’s father by founding a local musical society that would bring an abundance of musical excellence to their town of Norfolk, the website says in delineating the history. It goes on to explain:

Choral and musical societies already blossomed around the region; every town had a club and a quorum of musicians. Mrs. Stoeckel had long hosted informal evenings in her home, first in the Whitehouse, and later in the church next door. A great musical festival in Norfolk would provide a natural center to a region steeped in music. When the Litchfield County Choral Union came into being in 1899, it soon became the first internationally known music festival of its kind in America, and inspired the array of music centers that have since settled across the Berkshires.

After five years of concerts on their estate, the Stoeckels decided to build a hall worthy of truly great music. A New York architect, E.K. Rossiter, designed the building, and the  Music Shed opened for use on June 6, 1906. The Shed is built of cedar and lined with California redwood, which likely accounts for its brilliant acoustics and certainly for its rustic beauty. The original hall seated 700 audience members, but after several expansions it was enlarged to hold 2,100. (Fire regulations have since reduced its capacity back to under 1,000.)

Audiences began to clamor for invitations from all over New England and as far away as Texas, Chicago and California, and within five years they could easily have filled a building many times as large. The Music Shed had begun its reign among the premiere concert halls in New England.

Mr. and Mrs. Stoeckel spared no expense in making the festival concerts extravagant musical events. They recruited a 70-piece orchestra of players from the Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera orchestras in New York, and paid for a special train to transport the instrumentalists through the Litchfield hills. The appointments were eagerly sought; apart from the honor, the musicians had the pleasure of spending a week in the mountains, and the lawn parties that spread across the estate after rehearsals were soon famous. 

Carl Stoeckel died in 1925 and the concerts continued for several years but activities came to a close during the 1930’s. When Ellen Battell Stoeckel passed away in 1939 she left her estate in trust for the use of the Yale School of Music, to continue “studies in music, art and literature,” and the Yale Summer School of Music/ Norfolk Chamber Music Festival began in 1941. Since that time countless gifted musicians have made for themselves a summer home in Norfolk, whether as students, faculty or performers at the Festival.

Since the beginning of the School and Festival, artists such as the Cleveland, Guarneri, Emerson, Juilliard, and Tokyo quartets have taught and performed in Norfolk. Fellows at Norfolk have included the oboist Allen Vogel, violinists Syoko Aki and Pamela Frank, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, and soprano Frederica Von Stade. Recent ensembles have established themselves as students at Norfolk, including new music ensemble eighth blackbird, the Avalon quartet, the Calder quartet, the Claremont Trio, the Jasper Quartet, and the Miro quartet. In addition, Norfolk alumni are found in virtually every music conservatory and many major orchestras around the world, including the Boston, Chicago, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. ... .   

 

Butterfly Effect of Yale's Norfolk Chamber Music Festival; Auction of Artists' Chairs

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