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The American Chamber Players

May 12, 2016

Peace Center debuts new chamber music series

Greenville News

Paul Hyde, [email protected] 5:11 p.m. EDT May 5, 2016

When violist Miles Hoffman last performed a solo recital at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre, the event was sold out.

That’s when Hoffman realized there was a big appetite for chamber music in Greenville.

“I thought, gee, if people really are that enthusiastic about a viola-and-piano recital, there must really be a devoted chamber music audience in Greenville,” Hoffman said.

On Thursday, May 12, Hoffman inaugurates the Peace Center’s new chamber music series with a concert by the American Chamber Players, a prominent group that Hoffman founded 31 years ago.

The concert in the intimate Gunter Theatre includes one of chamber music’s most beloved works, Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Major. Also featured are pieces by Darius Milhaud, Max Bruch and Louise Farrenc.

For its new chamber music series, Greenville’s cornerstone arts presenter is pulling out all the stops. The Peace Chamber initiative not only includes five concerts but free lectures, masterclasses and summer workshops for young and adult musicians.

Thursday’s concert is something of a sneak preview of the Peace Chamber season, which gets underway in September, although workshops for student musicians take place in June and July. Hoffman serves as artistic director for Peace Chamber.

The American Chamber Players, in addition to performing Thursday, will serve as the resident ensemble with additional players in three of the four concerts next season.

A Feb. 23 concert will feature pianist Robert Blocker, a South Carolina native and Furman University graduate who went on to become a celebrated musician and educator and now serves as dean of the Yale School of Music.

Blocker also is the former chair of the Board of Visitors of the S.C. Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.

“Robert had a lot to do with designing the music curriculum for the Governor’s School,” Hoffman said. “He has deep South Carolina and Greenville connections and I thought it would be wonderful to bring him back.”

Hoffman himself will present four 90-minute talks about music in the Peace Center’s Huguenot Mill. The admission-free talks are intended for the general music fan, rather than the specialist.

“My talks are never technical,” Hoffman said. “They’re aimed at music lovers who are interested in learning more.”

In addition to being a violist, Hoffman enjoys a lively second career as a music commentator on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and as host of the national radio broadcasts of “Chamber Music from Spoleto.” His brief musical observations, “A Minute With Miles,” are a daily feature of South Carolina Public Radio.

Peace Chamber also includes educational outreach efforts, with professional musicians taking chamber music to Greenville students, Hoffman said.

“We’ll bring students to the Peace Center and I’ll be going out to schools in the area to be an ambassador for classical music,” Hoffman said. “We hope to establish ongoing relationships with the schools and with the students in the music programs.”

Hoffman came up with the idea for Peace Chamber, approaching Peace Center president and CEO Megan Riegel last summer.

“I thought this would be a great idea for the Peace Center, which is really the cultural hub of Greenville,” Hoffman said. “I felt we could create a very good chamber music series.”

Riegel readily embraced the idea and asked Hoffman to come on board as artistic director.

Next season’s Peace Chamber concerts include:

•Schubertiad (Sept. 29). An evening of Schubert’s music for his friends, including the “Trout Quintet.”

•Masterpieces: Major, Minor and Modern (Nov. 3). Guest violinist Janet Sung joins the American Chamber Players for Brahms’ Piano Quintet.

•An Evening with Robert Blocker (Feb. 23). A solo recital by the pianist.

•Jewels from the City of Light (March 11). The concert features music by composers — such as Poulenc and Franck — who made Paris one of the musical centers of the world.

Hoffman’s free lectures include:

•“Catching a Fly Ball: What Goes on in the Performer’s Mind During a Performance” (Sept. 15).

•“Beethoven’s Ear: Understanding his Deafness and his Greatness” (Oct. 27).

•“J.S. Bach was Handsome Once” (March 30).

•“It May Lead to Dancing: Music and Dance, Partners in Passion” (April 20).

Peace Chamber Master Classes take place on Oct. 1, Nov. 5 and May 6. Admission is free for the audience.

Peace Chamber Summer Workshops will be held on June 16-19 (adults, 21+) and July 25-30 (ages 16-20).

Season tickets for the Peace Chamber concert series, including Thursday’s concert, are $140. Tickets for Thursday’s concert alone are $35. For more information, contact the Peace Center at 864-467-3000 or visit www.peacecenter.org.

For the latest in local arts news and reviews, follow Paul Hyde on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.