Some 23 years ago in Old Lyme, the birthplace of the American Impressionist art movement, a group of friends who were musicians and loyal arts patrons staged a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado at the Florence Griswold Museum. The sold-out summer performances inspired the friends to develop a series of chamber music at the Meeting House of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. Together, the friends founded Musical Masterworks. The founders’ original mission was to present classical and chamber music concerts of the highest quality in the shoreline area of Southeastern Connecticut.

In 1998, Musical Masterworks expanded its mission to foster the appreciation of chamber music through performances and educational outreach, with an emphasis on building audiences that reflect our diverse society. Acting on the belief that music education is vital to childhood development, Musical Masterworks obtained private foundation support to bring music to schools in under-served areas of New London and Middlesex County at no cost to them.  In the past twelve years, Musical Masterworks has presented over seventy-five concerts to more than 12,000 students in more than twenty schools

Musical Masterworks recently celebrated its 22th anniversary. Four of the original founding members of the Mikado production are still active on our Board. They are pictured below at the 20th year celebration, in the original Mikado costumes, from left to right: David Dangremond, Jamie Murphy, John Hargraves and Alden Murphy.

Chamber Music – Music Among Friends

Unlike symphonic music prevalent during the 18th and 19th centuries that was composed for large concert halls, chamber music was originally  written with amateurs in mind. The sheet music was distributed so that friends could get together and make music together.  Today’s rock band or jam session is the modern version of the string quartet and other combinations of instruments.  None of those groups require a conductor, and each part requires active involvement by all of the musicians.

Many of the greatest composers wrote music for such entertainment.  Haydn, who is generally created with creating the modern string quartet of two violins, viola, and cello, composed numerous works for himself and friends to use for entertainment.  Mozart did the same, and, for example, Dvorak’s Five Bagatelles from late in the 19th century, to be performed this season, was written with the same purpose in mind. Beginning with Beethoven, chamber music became more complex and demanding.  Amateurs could still play the music, but professional musicians were now required to perform the works as envisioned by the composer.

Although still performed by friends, most chamber music has migrated to the smaller concert hall and similar settings, such as Old Lyme’s Congregational Church. The music now features different combinations of instruments.  Chamber music is now written and of course performed all over the world.  It remains a vibrant art form that reminds us of how music was performed and appreciated before the electronic age.