Our History

The recipe for Musical Masterworks included a Savoyard couple, a small museum known as the site of an early-20th-century art colony, and the unconventional acoustics of a country church.

When Jamie and Alden Murphy moved from NYC to Lyme, CT, in the spring of 1990, leaving behind their fellow Gilbert & Sullivan aficionados of The Blue Hill Troupe, they missed performing so much that within 3 months of taking up residence they produced, under the auspices of the Florence Griswold Museum, a full-scale production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado. 

Collaborating with their Blue Hill Troupe colleagues and with many local talents from the Lyme-Old Lyme communities,

the show enjoyed three sold-out performances at the Lyme-Old Lyme High School. This was the improbable beginning of what has become the jewel in the crown of classical music concerts in Southeastern Connecticut. The energy devoted to The Mikado, along with the resources and musical interest of two other local friends, John Hargraves and David Dangremond, led to the development of a series of concerts featuring ensembles and artists known to the Murphys that included Sine Nomine Singers, a renaissance ensemble from NYC; soprano Beverly Hoch; and a concert of “Mikado” Highlights.

It was with Ms. Hoch’s appearance that an accompanist joined her who would transform this modest concert series into what it is today—Charles Wadsworth, Director of Chamber Music at the Spoleto Festivals in both Italy and Charleston, SC, and recently retired Artistic Director of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. When Wadsworth appeared in Old Lyme the following year as accompanist for flutist Paula Robison, Wadsworth quipped to Murphy in a hand-written note in his program, “Let’s do a few more, ok? I’m really happy we can make music together.” The next year Murphy signed Wadsworth as the original Artistic Director of Musical Masterworks and this series began in earnest.

 

Read More about Charles Wadsworth

Beginning with three Saturday concerts per year, performing always at the beautiful First Congregational Church of Old Lyme with its perfect acoustics, the series featured such luminaries of the chamber music world as Carter Brey, Leslie Parnas and Andres Diaz, Fred Sherry, cellists; Norman Krieger, Richard Goode, and Ann-Marie McDermott, pianists; David Shifrin and Todd Palmer, clarinetists; Eric Ruske, French horn; Ani Kavifian, Robert McDuffie, Chee-Yun Kim, violinists;

Theodore Arm, violist; and such preeminent ensembles from the chamber music world as the Borromeo String Quartet, the Cantabile Trio and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. In short, the great musicians of the world were coming to play in Old Lyme, CT—the musicians were loving it and so were our audiences! The series expanded from three to five concerts in 1997 and, due to high demand, by 1999 expanded to 10 concerts, with back-to-back performances on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

As we were meeting what seemed an unquenchable thirst for excellent chamber music through the series,

we launched an Outreach Program to bring fine classical music in interactive, informal presentations to the schools of New London County, thus enlivening children’s—and teachers’—understanding of music and musicians.
To date, we have reached over 35,000 children in 20 schools since 1994.

When Charles Wadsworth retired in 2009 he crowned the brilliant young cellist Edward Arron as next Artistic Director of the series.

Since then Eddie, as he is fondly known to our audience, has brought vitality to our programming as he introduces us to a new generation of dazzling musicians, such as The Brooklyn Rider quartet; violinists Tessa Lark, Jennifer Frautschi and Jesse Mills; pianists Jeewon Park, Phillip Bush and Jeremy Denk; and such creative programming as a cello quartet, the full cycle of Beethoven sonatas and variations for cello and piano, and the always-beloved and rarely performed Mendelssohn octet. Eddie has also presented works by many living composers, broadening our understanding of chamber music as we explore nearly 340 years of compositions.

Musical Masterworks has been supported over the years by local sponsors and advertisers; by its small and talented staff; and by the many friends who have served with dedication on the Board of Directors.

But Musical Masterworks truly would not be what it is without you, our audience. We look forward to reaching an ever-expanding audience and working with our many community partners, with whom we can, as Edward Arron states, share “in the humanity, beauty, passion and inspiration of the arts.”