Chamber Classics commenced in 1982 when the first string quartet was organized by players from the Symphony. A small group of determined chamber-music buffs organized the Friends of the String Quartet to support the chamber group and keep it alive. The quartet took their music on the road by playing “rug concerts” in schools and libraries and performing in retirement and convalescent homes. Now, more than 25 years later, not only has the chamber series survived, but audiences have increased each year.
This first resident group, The Fry Street Quartet, eagerly launched themselves into the heart of the quartet literature by playing quartets by Bartok, Beethoven, and Schubert in their first concert. Funding from Chamber Music America ended in 2002 and the Fry Street Quartet moved to Utah State University.
The Degas Quartet was brought in for the next three-year residency in 2003. And in 2007 following an auditioning process, the La Catrina Quartet became the next resident string quartet. They brought a new element to the chamber series – a strong Latin heritage that has manifested itself in their presentation of chamber works by composers from Central and South America. After two years in Hickory, they moved on to become the resident faculty quartet of New Mexico State University.
During the 45th season four young quartets auditioned to become the next quartet-in-residence: Hausmann, Hyperion, Jasper and Kontras quartets. Each of the quartets spent two weeks with the symphony performing in a Chamber Classics concert, a Masterworks concert, and conducted a number of outreach programs in the local communities and schools. The Kontras Quartet was selected to become the next residency quartet. Kontras extended their residency with WPS into a four year period.
During the 50th season four quartets will audition in the “Battle of the Bows.” Four vibrant, young quartets from across the country will perform and conduct outreach programs during their brief stays with the WPS.
As the years have passed, professional chamber music has continued to enrich the cultural lives of a broad and diverse audience from pre-schoolers through senior adults. Our resident quartets have also been wonderful ambassadors for Hickory as they have toured in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. We thank the wonderful musicians and the dedicated and generous people who have kept the Chamber Classics Series alive. If you have not already done so, join the Friends of the String Quartet and help us preserve a musical treasure in our community.