Chamber music demands much from its participants: specialized training and technical virtuosity, wielded in service to interpreting nuanced emotions; a strong solo voice, but also a sharp ear attuned to the voices of the rest of the ensemble; the desire and ability to connect intimately, both between the players and between the group and the audience.
Jackson Hole Chamber Music, a new classical music organization set to present its first public concerts, has just the right ingredients — and a fabulous view, too.
Jackson Hole Chamber Music will host three programs Sept. 13-16 at Antelope Trails Ranch, on the east bank of the Snake River. More than a dozen musicians from ensembles from across the country will play works, from Vivaldi and Mozart to Bolcom and Marsalis.
Violinist Rebecca Racusin dreamed up the idea practically the moment she set foot in Jackson Hole. A member of music organizations in Baltimore, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., among others, Racusin first came to the valley with her then-fiance, Daniel Almog, whose parents, Yuval and Edith Almog, own Antelope Trails.
“There’s no way that I shouldn’t be starting a chamber music festival here,” she said.
She let the idea percolate until last summer, when D.C. friend and colleague Richard Scerbo happened to come to Jackson the same time she was here.
Scerbo is the founding artistic director of Inscape Chamber Orchestra, one of the ensembles Racusin performs in. He also directs the National Orchestral Institute and Festival, for which Grand Teton Music Festival violinist and Jackson resident Jennifer Ross has served as a faculty member for more than a decade.
While here visiting Ross, Scerbo received an invitation from Racusin to see Antelope Trails, where she pitched her idea to him. They brought Ross in, and before long the three of them — along with violinist Alexandra Osborne, another mutual friend and a member of the National Symphony Orchestra — were creating a new music festival.
The four had little trouble finding musicians. Aggregating their lists of colleagues, they soon had an “unbelievable posse of friends you want to play with,” Ross said.
After picking musicians, it was time to pick music. Ross called Copland’s 13-musician version of “Appalachian Spring” the “flagship piece of the entire series.” Filling those parts gave a variety of instruments to mix and match “to utilize and showcase everyone.”
The vast repertoire of the string quartet is well represented, though with some twists. Along with standard repertoire like Dvorak’s String Quartet in F major and Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14, musicians will perform rags for string quartet by William Bolcom and selections from trumpet great Wynton Marsalis’ String Quartet No. 1.
Nightly themes also helped in the selection process. The first connects music with the visual arts. One work, Phillip Rhodes’ “Museum Pieces” for clarinet and string quartet (1973), will be paired with Jackson painter Todd Kosharek, who will talk about how classical music has influenced him and his work.
Kosharek painted “Peace Through Rumination — Appalachian Spring,” which will appear on the cover of the series program and will be sold by silent auction.
Sept. 15 will match food and drink with music from around the world. And the final program celebrates nature, with Mozart’s “Spring” string quartet, Bates’ avian tribute and Copland’s paean to the American frontier. A naturalist will relate the music to the valley’s wild animals and lands, Racusin said.
“I think every year we’ll attempt to do something like that,” she said. “I’d also like to have a composer write a piece to premiere here … and would love to keep up collaborations with local artists.
“We want to make sure everything is set for the first year, but I’m already starting to think about next season and the next five seasons.” ￼