The Sound of June
Chamber Music Albuquerque broadens its audience by diversifying its talent
It began with a small group of volunteers bringing world-class musicians to their hometown 67 years ago. Since then, Chamber Music Albuquerque has watched classical music shrink from the consciousness of mainstream America. As the organization gradually expanded its season, the folks at Chamber Music Albuquerque felt the need to stem the tide of the nationwide trend. To this end, they brought in Executive Director Joseph Franklin and gave him a mission: Put new faces in the seats.
“We can’t appeal to a limited audience of white people with a lot of money if we want to survive,” Franklin says. “Our mandate is to diversify the audience by bringing newer works and younger ensembles with performers from different backgrounds.”
With this objective in its sights, Chamber Music Albuquerque handpicked three quartets for this year’s June Music Festival. Each has gained critical and popular acclaim, but perhaps most importantly for Franklin, each is willing to perform more current musical compositions. “Every group will be playing at least one new work,” Franklin explains. “It’s a way of introducing this material to the community, and these pieces will be interspersed with more traditional works.”
The most distinguished act to perform at the festival is the St. Lawrence String Quartet. The group exemplifies Chamber Music Albuquerque’s commitment to mesh the long-standing with the contemporary. “They’re definitely in the upper echelon of string quartets worldwide,” Franklin says. “They mix up their material very nicely.”
Antares, named after one of the most luminous stars in the sky, will perform Olivier Messiaen’s poignant piece Quartet for the End of Time, written during his time as a prisoner of war in World War II. “It’s one of the most powerful pieces in chamber music’s catalog,” Franklin asserts.
The Borealis String Quartet is the first group slated to perform during the festival. Founded in Canada in 2000, Borealis is a young outfit that’s impressed audiences with its energetic, fiery play. “They’ve got a real nice spirit about them,” says Franklin.
A successful June Music Festival revolves around Chamber Music Albuquerque’s ability to educate, rather than belittle, its audience. “When a lot of people think about chamber music, they feel intimidated,” Franklin says. “You have to present it in a user-friendly way, and give them information that’s simple, but not dumbed down.”
At every concert, program notes will be handed out, and each show will be preceded by a brief talk about the music the audience is about to hear.
To further entice concertgoers, Chamber Music Albuquerque is putting on two free performances at the ABQ Uptown shopping center. The shows are designed to give folks a taste of what to expect at the full-length concerts.
“I’ve seen people walk away from our events looking shocked and amazed at what they’ve heard,” Franklin says. “We want to provide some insight into a world people might not have known about.”