Accordo and Hill House Chamber Players – professional musicians thriving in independent ensembles

By Barry Kempton

Last week, we announced the new programs and dates for Accordo’s 6th season. Accordo is a string ensemble of 8 members who love to play chamber music together. A couple of weeks earlier, we announced the Hill House Chamber Players new season at the Hill House on Summit Avenue. Their first season was back in 1987, nearly 30 years ago.

Though the instrumental make-up of the two ensembles is different and indeed the nature of The Schubert Club’s co-presenting relationship with each ensemble is not exactly the same, there are interesting similarities to these two popular ensembles and their concert series.

First and foremost, these are ensembles which make all their own program and artistic decisions. My title may well be Artistic & Executive Director of The Schubert Club, but programming for these two series is not something I feel the need to dabble in. The strength of their programming is – to a great extent – anchored in their love of the music they play and their convictions that the selections they make work well together programmatically.

Many of the members of both ensembles are (or have been) members of our two great Twin Cities professional orchestras. There are naturally limitations to the amount of control and self-direction for any one individual musician in an orchestra. The opportunity for autonomy is very appealing for many orchestra musicians, particularly ones who have organized themselves and their music-making since their student days.

A key characteristic of both ensembles is the way the personalities of individual musicians shine through during a performance – both in their music-making and in the way they present their programs. We, the audience, love the intimacy of chamber music and the sense that there is a strong connection between us and the individual performers on stage. Both ensembles do this well – the performance of individual pieces is relatively formal (we sit quietly and listen with focus), but there are moments during (and after) the performance when the audience and performers communicate quite directly.

New next season, we introduce assigned seating for Accordo’s Monday evening performances at Christ Church Lutheran. The initial response has been very positive. There’s no longer a need to show up an hour early to be assured of a seat near the front of the church.

Also new next season for Accordo, we are presenting three less formal Tuesday evening performances at Amsterdam Bar and Hall in downtown St Paul. Though these evenings will feature some of the music played at the previous evening’s concert, they will not be repeat performances. The programs will be presented by various musician friends of the ensemble. We can expect conversation and insight in addition to great music-making.

As for the Hill House Chamber Players, the success of their recent Schubertiade evening has led them to decide to schedule another one next June. Plans apparently include not only the wonderful music of Schubert but also poetry, period costume and refreshments.

Helping to enable these two wonderful chamber music ensembles to thrive in the Twin Cities is another worthwhile responsibility for The Schubert Club.


photo above: Accordo at Amsterdam during the 13-14 season.