Though this season of Musical Masterworks is my first as Artistic Director, Season 32 marks the 11th anniversary of that fateful weekend Edward Arron (our newly minted Musical Masterworks AD Emeritus) trusted me to step in on short notice for a tour that ended here in the gorgeous First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. It so happened that Jeewon Park, Ed’s wife, was also called upon last-minute to play piano for those concerts. I didn’t know Jeewon or Ed very well at that time, but after a snap decision to start the tour with a 12-hour road trip in lieu of winter flight cancellations— all of us in one car—you might guess we got to know one another VERY quickly. Ever since then, Ed and Jeewon have been my best friends, role models, and inspirations, both artistically and personally; and I distinctly recall being most enamored by the entire experience I had with them here at Musical Masterworks.
I was hit by how welcoming the audience was to a newcomer like me. Upon further investigation I found there was always a beautiful mixture of new faces amongst the Masterworks veterans who graced the stage each season; and you’ll notice the same this year. For our first three concert weekends we’ll come straight out of the gate with artists that are brand new to the series, though they are already legends in their own right: pianist Inon Barnatan, violist Ayane Kozasa, and cellist Gabriel Cabezas join me for our opening concerts; and in December cellist Joshua Roman will make his MM debut.
I was struck by how the crowds here in Old Lyme felt primed and ready to explore new sides of classical music, and how Ed would also allow the artists space to explore their unique musical sides through his programming. We’ll certainly bear witness to several magically unique souls this season: polymath and personal hero Edgar Meyer’s astounding bass playing and composing are the inspiration behind our December shows; in February Charles Overton, Alex Sopp and Michael Thurber will share not only their instrumental talents but also their genre-bending compositional feats and infectious collaborative genius, creating new music together on the spot.
Ed and Jeewon regaled me with adoring tales of Charles Wadsworth (MM’s founding Artistic Director) throughout that 12-hour drive 11 years ago, and it was evident through those stories and the warm loyalty of the Old Lyme community that there is a deep reverence for tradition in the DNA of Musical Masterworks. Traditional gems from music’s golden era are ever-present amidst newer excursions; Bach, Brahms, Dvorak, and Debussy make hefty appearances this season, for example. And, our 32nd season will finish off with two weekends filled with glorious music made by folks we may as well call family: Jeewon joins me in recital in March, and our dear Ed Arron will make his triumphant return with the extraordinary Ehnes Quartet for our closing concerts.
Along with all these decade-old recollections of my first time here in Old Lyme, I also distinctly remember thinking after that weekend: “Man, it’d be such a dream to run a series like Musical Masterworks.” So, it is not hyperbole when I say that becoming the Artistic Director here is a dream come true. I am humbled to honor and uphold the love and support that has come from Ed Arron, Charles Wadsworth, all the founders, and every nook and cranny of this organization since day one, 32 years ago.
Welcome to the 32nd season of Musical Masterworks and thank you SO much for being here.