Music society marking 10th anniversary

Sundays at Three on track after scramble

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September 15, 2006|By Laura Shovan | Laura Shovan,special to the sun

Less than a week before opening its 10th season, chamber music society Sundays at Three faced a crisis. Pianist Amy Klosterman would not be able to perform. Within hours, this tight-knit group of Howard County musicians and music lovers found musicians to replace her, adjusted the concert program and rescheduled rehearsals. Sunday's show would go on.

Sundays at Three is a local concert series featuring area musicians playing chamber music. There are eight concerts scheduled for the 2006-2007 season.

Performers this Sunday include pianists Michael Adcock and Lura Johnson-Lee, violinist Ivan Stefanovic of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra cellist Mark Evans. Concerts are held at Christ Episcopal Church in Columbia.

Many of the group's board are not active musicians. President Jim Vincent, a retired University of Maryland, Baltimore County chemistry educator, gave up playing piano and clarinet long ago. For three years, he has organized the volunteer board of about seven people, including a treasurer, grant writer, artistic committee and publicist.

That publicist is Columbia resident Harry Glass, who is also Sundays at Three's vice president.

"People have in their minds a view of a board of people who come to a meeting and make decisions. ... We are a working board," said Glass, referring to setting up the church hall for concerts, moving the piano and selling tickets.

Klosterman and violinist Ronald Mutchnik are the group's artistic committee. Mutchnik is assistant concertmaster of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. He and Klosterman begin planning the musical program a year in advance.

Sundays at Three was formed 10 years ago when Music in Common, a chamber music series, ended with the death of its founder, musician Daniel Malkin. "A number of people in the community felt that chamber music performed by local musicians should be a continuing opportunity. ... So a new series was started," Mutchnik said.

When Glass went to his first Sundays at Three concert, "I was absolutely blown away," he said. "The fact that the room is so intimate and no one is further than about 30, 35 feet from the musicians -- there are few places where you can get that close to such wonderful performers."

Clarksville resident Letitia Miller is a regular subscriber to Sundays at Three. "They always have top notch musicians," she said. "You can go to [other] concerts and ... it can be a little bit staid or a little bit boring at times. This is never that way."

She and her husband enjoy the informal format, which includes a punch and cookies reception with the musicians. "You learn a lot about how the music came to be," she said.

Mutchnik said that chamber music is as attractive to musicians as it is to listeners. "You have to learn to cooperate in a way that you wouldn't be able to in a large orchestra," he said. "You don't need to have 100 players on stage to move an audience."

Grant support helps Sundays at Three keep ticket prices at $15. The series is funded by several organizations, including the Howard County Arts Council, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Columbia Foundation. Musicians' fees, publicity and renting the church space are the main expenses.

Vincent said performers have been attracted to the series since its inception because, "They could play the music that they really fell in love with when they became musicians," trios and quartets by composers like Brahms and Mozart.

Another thing that keeps musicians coming back is the space. When Christ Episcopal Church was designed in the early 1990s, the Rev. James Shields, the rector, brought in an acoustical engineer. "From the beginning, [the church was] superb, especially for chamber music and choral music," he said.

Now retired, Shields said, "The high ceilings and the shape of the church ... is the kind of environment in which the sounds can project." In fact, Shields pointed out, the acoustics are so good that Sundays at Three has a waiting list for performers.

Mutchnik said that some things have changed over the past 10 years. "We've learned to better balance our repertoire" and instruments. The schedule always includes well-regarded masterpieces. But Mutchnik said he also likes to "stretch listeners' ears and make them aware of new things."

Sundays At Three performances are held at Christ Episcopal Church, 6800 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia. A reception with the artists will be held after the concert. Tickets, available at the door, are $15; $10 for full-time students. Children and youth to age 18 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. www.Sundays AtThree.org.

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