Remarkable Chamber Performances

When was the last time you heard a chamber concert which featured three string quartet ensembles, two string duos and two violin solos with piano accompaniment, while sampling the works of Borodin, Saint-Saëns, Mozart, Vivaldi, Massenet and Shostakovich? And were performed by musicians ranging in age from the teens to the forties?

If you were sufficiently tuned in, you would have heard this concert by the present and former chamber music students of Prelude Chamber Music, Inc, along with three members of the faculty, two of which are members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, at their Annual Patron Appreciation Party at a beautiful home in San Marco, graciously offered by a local music lover as the venue. The home was a perfect setting for what chamber music was originally designed for: an intimate space for 50-75 people with sympathetic acoustic.  

For the past 13 years, senior musicians from the community, along with their colleagues from the Symphony, have been conducting an annual summer day camp
which has drawn musicians of all ages from as far away as Maryland, Brunswick, St. Augustine, and other communities surrounding Jacksonville. In addition to classes where they are coached in chamber performance, students study music theory, history, composition, improvisation, singing, and orchestra. They hear daily special events which feature the performances of "visiting firemen," outstanding musicians passing through the area, the resident chamber group, The Ritz Players, and imported national and international ensembles, such as the Enso Quartet, St. Lawrence Quartet, and, this summer, The Dover Quartet, who give Master Classes and free performances to the public.

This great opportunity for special young people to excel and to grow in their chosen field has provided the foundation for further study at major music conservatories. In the case of minority students, it provides a link to activities which are inclusive and colour-blind. Having watched these students, and, in fact, all of them over several years, I can attest to the steady development of raw talent into serious musicians. It is also an opportunity for older musicians to refresh their skills, while having the pleasure of playing chamber music with their peers.

Now to the specifics. Leading off, the Honors Quartet from the University of North Florida, led by Joseph Henderson, first violin, Julia Sedloff, second violin, Saori Kozawa, viola and Paul Lee, cello, performed the Nocturne from Borodin's String Quartet No. 2. Elegant tone, balanced dynamics, with subtle passion and sentimentality, the group blended with Henderson's tender reading in a gentle launch to the concert. This was followed by The Swan from Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals, with Leah Chappell, cello and her sister, Marie, harp. Leah, a former Prelude camper and graduate of F.S.U. played this favorite piece with sensitive understanding, while her sister, Marie, performed on the harp, creating a sparkled accompaniment like so many trails of water following the path of the swan.

Two faculty, Chris Chappell, violin, and Ellen Olson, viola, both members of the Symphony, performed the Rondeau from Mozart's Duo in G Major, K 423, one of his delightful smaller works which carry so much deep meaning. These two musicians performed together in such a manner that the simplicity of Mozart's music took a natural path to the listener.

This was followed by movements 2 and 3 of the familiar Vivaldi Harp Concerto, performed by three members of the Chappell family, with Ellen Olson, viola. Marie, harpist, is the 15 year old daughter of Chris Chappell, and has, in just a few short years, acquired an excellent technique with the ability to express musicality in a manner beyond her years.

Joseph Henderson, violinist, returned as soloist with the pianist, Yukino Miyake, to play the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso of Saint-Seans, a standard piece in the violin repertoire, and one that continues to be a favorite of audiences because of the range of feeling with major demands on technique for the violinist. Henderson, who is graced with an elegant, reserved presence, displayed a spirit which plumbed the sweetness of Saint-Sean's composition while meeting the test of the flamboyant, spirited Rondo. Blessed with long fingers and musical taste, Henderson, a graduate of Prelude Chamber Music Camp and currently student at UNF, has steadily developed his talent, leading one to anticipate his successful future in music as he matures and develops his range of expression.

Meditation, by Jules Massenet was given a poignant rendering by Chris Chappell and his wife, Sara, pianist, as a familiar musical offering contrasting with what was to follow with the last movements of the Shostakovich String Quartet No.8 by the Honors Quartet of Jacksonville University. Eagerly and authoritatively led by Edward Latimer, first violin, with Joseph Schmidt, second violin, Jake Campbell, viola, and Joseph Engel, cello, the group exploded with Russian passion, the extreme rhythms and demanding range of sound of Shostakovich's masterpiece driving the music forward toward the final movement, somber, mystical, ending in a whisper of sound. This was an exceptional performance by a well-coached and rehearsed ensemble who have learned how to work together to create a whole musical experience. One hopes there is a future for this quartet of young men who play so well together. As individual musicians, there is no doubt that they will be successful, but one hopes that there will an opportunity for them to continue as a group, as they seem to have the necessary chemistry to continue as such.

To contribute to tax deductible scholarships for Prelude Chamber Music, Inc., please visit their beautiful web site, at or write the director, Jeanne Majors at for further information.