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Getting intimate with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

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Chamber music is all about intimacy. As soprano Heidi Grant Murphy describes it, "Chamber music is about soloists really listening to each other and working together to present a pleasing performance." When the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with soprano Heidi Grant Murphy takes the stage at Virginia Commonwealth University's Vlahcevic Concert Hall on Saturday, April 21, Richmonders will get a rare opportunity to experience that intimacy with an extraordinary ensemble.

To music lovers, Lincoln Center is Mecca. It is synonymous with the finest performances of all types of music — from the largest scale operas of the Metropolitan Opera to the smallest recitals and chamber concerts, Lincoln Center leads the way in music. Founded in 1965 by composer and then-president of Lincoln Center, William Schuman, the Chamber Music Society has been presenting "a diverse and constantly evolving chamber music repertoire with the highest standards of ensemble playing" since they were built a home in Alice Tully Hall in 1969.

"Chamber Music has taught me as much about music as anything else I have performed," Murphy says. An accomplished opera singer, recitalist and alumna of the Metropolitan Opera's Young Artist Development Program, Murphy says that chamber music is "so much different than performing with an orchestra. Rather than having a job to do, while the orchestra does their job and the conductor his job, you really have to cooperate. Chamber music is about a small group of high-level soloists really working and listening closely. It makes you so much more aware of the other musicians."

Saturday's concert continues to stretch the boundaries of expectation as the Chamber Music Society and Murphy perform Villa Lobos' "Suite for Soprano and Violin" and John Tavener's "To a Child Dancing in the Wind for Soprano, Flute, Viola and Harp."

"The Villa Lobos is a really interesting piece," says Murphy. "It's spicy and sensual music that doesn't have a whole lot of text. It's really about colors."

"In fact," she adds, "two of the suites have no real text at all. The soprano sings syllables while the violin plays around her. It's really a fun piece."

John Tavener is a contemporary composer who has been influenced throughout his career by mystical religious traditions. In contrast to the Villa Lobos piece, "To a Child Dancing in the Wind" is all about the text," says Murphy. "It's a very spiritual piece, written beautifully and ethereally centered on poems about the different stages in a persons life… Throughout the piece the ensemble adds color to what I am singing — all the while performing with great intensity and intent. It is a piece that works extremely well in performance because Tavener writes motions and actions into the piece."

But for Murphy the real joy of this upcoming concert is the musicians with whom she is performing. "They are very fun people, a really interesting group of high level players, and I just enjoy working with them," she says.

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