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Brightmusic Chamber Ensemble brings central Oklahoma up close and personal with classical music.
By Rachel Curtis
Published March/April 2013
Onstage, three figures sit poised at their instruments—a piano, a cello, and a violin. As if at the clap of a pistol, they leap into the piece, tenderly passing a melody between them. Bows slicing, hands dancing over keys, they rise and fall through the music. The piano leads a last, buoyant refrain, and the performers gallop together to an exuberant finale.
This is the scene offered by Oklahoma City’s Brightmusic Chamber Ensemble. So named in the Baroque period because they originally played for nobles in small rooms, chamber ensembles bring audiences close to the music. Although Brightmusic boasts a roster of nineteen top classical instrumentalists, concerts usually feature only a handful at a time. Pianist Amy I-Lin Cheng, co-artistic director and one of the ensemble’s founding members, says physical proximity is one of the most enticing aspects for listeners.
“The audience can observe more,” she says. “They can zoom in and see how musicians interact with one another.”
Brightmusic’s appeal also can be attributed to the quality of its musicians. They are incredibly dedicated, contributing to program planning and rehearsing for hours on end in the days preceding a concert. Cheng and her husband, clarinetist Chad Burrow, direct the group from their home in Michigan. Although their careers took them away from Oklahoma, at least one of them performs at each of the five or six annual Brightmusic concerts.
Violinist Gregory Lee plays for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, where he is concertmaster, and teaches at the University of Oklahoma. Despite a demanding schedule, Lee makes time for Brightmusic because it provides him a unique creative opportunity.
“In orchestra, interpretation is left to the conductor, but chamber music grants interpretive license to the performers,” he says.
Moreover, chamber musicians stay together by listening to each other, forging a tighter collaboration than in most classical performance settings.
Relationships are at the core of this ensemble, be they between musicians and audience or the group and the public. Performances attract as many as 250 attendees, and they have earned the ensemble a prominent place in the city’s arts scene. As that place grows, Brightmusic’s musicians hope that more listeners will be drawn in to chamber music’s intimate appeal.
Get There: Brightmusic Chamber Ensemble will present Bright Virtuosi April 22 at 7:30 p.m. at All Souls’ Episcopal Church, 6400 North Pennsylvania Avenue, and April 23 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 127 Northwest Seventh Street in Oklahoma City. brightmusic.org.