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Update: Chamber fests set for Year Two

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 29, 2011 - Two unique and exciting chamber music festivals made their debut in the St. Louis area this past summer - the Missouri Chamber Music festival and the Gesher Music Festival.

The debuts of both events were covered by the Beacon and plans for both the 2012 MoCM and Gesher Festivals are well under way. Here's a preview of what you can expect to hear at each Festival this coming summer.

Missouri Chamber Music Festival

The Missouri Chamber Music Festival is based in Webster Groves, and the driving forces behind the music are the husband and wife team of clarinetist Scott Andrews and pianist Nina Ferrigno.

Festival performances are scheduled Thursday through Saturday, June 21 through the 23 at the First Congregational Church of Webster Groves, 10 W. Lockwood Ave. Works scheduled to be performed include: Weber's "Clarinet Quintet," Britten's "Phantasy Quartet for Oboe and Strings," Beethoven's "String Trio in C minor" and Dvorak's "Piano Quintet." In addition, Composer-in-Residence Lansing McLoskey will debut two original works.

This year's returning artists include violinists Catherine French and Maria Schleuning, violist Amadi Azikiwe, cellists Jennifer Lucht and Melissa Brooks as well as Ferrigno and Andrews. New additions to the festival will be St. Louis Symphony first violinist Angie Smart and Robert Sheena, who plays English horn with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Once again, MOCM will present its unique Pro-Am workshop, which pair adult amateur instrumentalists with Festival artists in chamber ensembles of various sizes and instrumentation. This year, the Pro-Am will take place separately from the MOCM festival, on June 8, 9 and 10 at the Community Music School of Webster University. Individuals as well as pre-formed groups are encouraged to apply, and applications will be available in January, according to Andrews. For more information, go to www.mochambermusic.org or call 314-882-0053.

Gesher Music Festival

The Gesher Music Festival began this year as part of the New Jewish Theatre's commitment to include chamber music concerts as well as plays in its programming. Cellist Sara Sitzer, daughter of New Jewish Theatre director Kathleen Sitzer, has taken on the job of artistic director for the Gesher.

Sara Sitzer's impressive resume with the New World Symphony as well as performances with the Boston and Cleveland Symphony Orchestras has brought her in contact with many talented, up-and-coming classical musicians. That meshes perfectly with the goals of the Gesher Festival - bringing together both classical and new chamber music, presenting it in a Jewish perspective - and featuring performances by emerging musicians.

This year, the Gesher Festival will once again be based primarily at the intimate Marvin and Harlene Wool Studio Theatre of the Jewish Community Center. The festival is scheduled to run from June 24 through July 1. However, plans are in place to open the Festival with a special house concert before the other performances take place at the Wool Theatre.

The special guest artist for the 2012 Festival will be Sharon Nathanson, cantor at Congregation B'nai Amoona in St. Louis. Additional musicians for the Gesher festival are still being finalized. To stay updated on information about the Gesher Music Festival, go to www.newjewishtheatre.org.

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer who has long covered the St. Louis music scene. 

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