Chamber music remains an underrepresented outlet for enjoying classical music in Fort Worth. That reality persists despite the easy accessibility (including the convenience of showing up at a house with a bottle of wine) and unmatched intimacy afforded by a living room-based concert.
One year after the chamber music group Hall Ensemble disbanded, newcomer Opus Nova is building a reputation for intimate concerts in homes and low-key performances at Avoca Coffee Roasters on the Near Southside and in the West 7th corridor. Clarinettists Stas Chernyshev and Ann Hung cofounded the performing arts series shortly after moving to Fort Worth last year when Chernyshev was hired as principal clarinettist of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The married couple said chamber music was a regular feature of their last home, New York City.
“You could almost go to a chamber concert every night if you wanted to,” Hung recalled.
Aside from concerts organized through the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth, the shortage of small ensemble performances in Fort Worth was noticeable to the young couple. Chamber music, Chernyshev said, is particularly fun for the performing musicians.
“You connect with the audience, of course, but it’s also a great way for musicians to connect,” he said. “When we’re rehearsing, we can make certain decisions without the guidance of a conductor. It’s much more relaxed [than symphony rehearsals]. There’s time to chat and to think about the music.”
During his first season with FWSO, Chernyshev chatted up FWSO bassoonist Kevin Hall, who had cofounded the Hall Ensemble with his wife Karen Hall several years ago. The Hall Ensemble had gone kaput, but the veteran musicians were eager to help Chernyshev and his wife start their concert series by giving advice and spreading the word among former Hall Ensemble fans. While Hall Ensemble was a quartet, Opus Nova relies on guest artists for its series. The upcoming performance this Sunday at the Avoca on Foch Street is billed “Flute Extravaganza” and features FWSO principal flutist Jake Fridkis along with fellow FWSO musicians Molly Baer (violin), Heesun Yang (viola), and Allan Steele (cello). The casual concert is BYOB and programmed to last one hour. The performance will be followed by a house concert on Monday.
The different venues tend to attract different crowds, Chernyshev and Hung said. For classical music to remain relevant, the next crop of performers must engage younger audiences, they added.
The Opus Nova cofounders have the right look to do that, Karen Hall said.
“They’re young,” she said. “It’s harder for me to tell young people, ‘Oh, there’s this great new concert series.’ Young people who go to these concerts will see someone [they can generationally] relate to. That’s the best promotion.”
Chernyshev and Hung bring a unique outreach element to their series. Fort Worth Performances for Autism is an interactive concert designed to engage and entertain children with autism. One key feature of the show is its “low-sensory” approach, meaning soothing and quieter excerpts are used to introduce students to classical music.
Karen said classical music house concerts now have a bright future in Fort Worth.
Chernyshev and Hung “bring the people skills to their organization that I really tried to nurture” through Hall Ensemble, Karen said. “They don’t keep their followers at arm’s length because they’re too busy with your music. They engage with their audience.”
Shortly before moving to Fort Worth, Chernyshev took part in a two-year fellowship through Carnegie Hall called Ensemble Connect. The program trains the next generation of chamber music musicians in community engagement, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
“Musicians [are increasingly] understanding the need to go out to their audience instead of the old-school idea of expecting them to come to a concert hall,” Chernyshev said. “Younger people sometimes feel left out. At these Avoca concerts, you can arrange your chairs how you like. The concerts aren’t that long. There is a need for this.”
7:30pm Sun at Avoca Coffee Roasters, 835 Foch St, FW. $25. 267-265-4565.