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The best in chamber music on display in Nola

It’s not completely out of bounds to call chamber music ensembles the first Walkmans. (And for about a third of you, a Walkman is, well, Google it, but for now, just think: ‘portable music’.)

Smaller groups of musicians started to leave the big orchestras and their grand symphony halls to go out and play, typically in a smaller space with friends.

“Portable is a great word for it.” said Jacob Fowler, a cellist with the Manhattan Chamber Players. “More string quartets, string trios, typically in a smaller space with friends.”

And it’s much more intimate, said Fowler, “and that’s not just for the musicians, but for the people listening as well. When people go to see a symphony, you’ve got a stage with all of these musicians and they’re very far away, and it kind of builds this wall that is so hard to break down now that it’s there.”

While Fowler said it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time when chamber music took off, it probably formed as a regular event for composers and musicians around the, late 1700’s, early 1800’s, said Fowler, “and all the big ones from that time, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, they all wrote chamber music more or less for their friends, to just get together and play.

“It’s really what we as classical musicians love to do,” added Fowler. “We all play in the obligatory orchestras over our career, but chamber music is really at the core of why we became musicians. It allows the ultimate freedom — interacting with each other, expressing ourselves, being a soloist on your individual part; whereas in an orchestra sometimes you kind of get lost with the big sounds trying to blend with eight other people that are playing the exact same thing that you are.”

Beginning Tuesday, local audiences will get a chance to experience the genre for themselves with the first annual Crescent City Chamber Music Festival.

Artists from the Manhattan Chamber Players, directed by Dr. Luke Fleming, will converge in New Orleans for six days of concerts in both traditional settings – 14 different nursing homes, churches, helping agencies, hospitals, and schools throughout the area – and non-traditional, including the Urban South Brewery. “I believe the plan is that we’re all going to show up at nine in the morning, taste beers, and then pick a program based on what we think would go well with those beers,” said Fowler.

Three recital programs, including one at Tulane’s Dixon Hall, Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church, and the one at the Urban South Brewery, are free and open to the public. “As far as I know you just show up and you’re in,” said Fowler.

And don’t worry about dressing up. “Chamber music is just kind of a free, fun event. You can more or less wear whatever you want. Just be yourself, and that goes for the audience as well.”

For a full schedule of concerts, visit




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