Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival: Bach to Bluegrass and Beyond

Alan Alda, Marya Martin and Gilles Vonsattel performing at a past Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival
Alan Alda, Marya Martin and Gilles Vonsattel performing at a past BCMF
Michael Lawrence

The annual Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival (BCMF) kicks off this weekend, filling the Hamptons with the sounds of Mozart, Beethoven and bluegrass. With 11 concerts running July 24 through August 21 at Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church and other locations, this year’s festival will blur the lines and redefine the rigid definition of chamber music.

BCMF Artistic Director and acclaimed flutist Marya Martin explains that this year’s theme of “One World. Many Worlds.” will demonstrate that despite different labels and cultural backgrounds, music genres, like people, exist on a continuum without clear boundaries.

“When I curate these programs, life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. … We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t think about what’s been going on from George Floyd to the Ukrainian War,” Martin says of the inspiration for the 2022 theme promoting unity. “It’s not a political statement, it’s just reacting to our life and where we’ve been.”

Martin adds, “If you think that every single piece of music is accessible — which it is, in some way, shape or form — it will be. So the programs, for me, are trying to pinpoint that labels don’t really make it anymore.”

One of the concerts that will highlight this point particularly well is the Wm. Brian Little Concert: Bach to Bluegrass. These seemingly unrelated genres have more in common than people realize, and Martin looks forward to seeing the audience make the connection.

“We’re going to play one movement of Bach, and it finishes on a certain note,” she explains. “Then we’re going to go basically right into a bluegrass piece that starts on that same note, so it’s almost like another movement of the Bach.”

The festival kicks off this Sunday, July 24, with A Mozart Portrait with Alan Alda. These Portraits have become an annual BCMF staple, taking the audience through the fascinating lives of the featured composers, and Alda has become synonymous with the
program.

“Alan writes the script himself. He pulls the letters together with the little narration in between, so we go through time and it’s a real little journey,” Martin says, adding that through Alda’s talent as an “incredible writer and word meister” paired with four timeless Mozart’s compositions and “risqué” letters in his own words, the audience is able to shut their eyes and “be taken back to the 18th century.”

“I love putting together these stories about composers, especially when I can work from the letters they wrote, just as they were composing each piece,” Alda says. “And that’s especially true of the Mozart evening. His unique personality shines through in both his music and his words.”

Sandbox Percussion are performing at the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival
Sandbox Percussion are performing at the Bridgehampton Chamber Music FestivalKjell van Sice

Later this week, on Wednesday, July 27, Sandbox Percussion will lead this year’s free outdoor concert on the Bridgehampton church grounds. The four-man New York percussion group will take their audience around the world via a wide range of percussion rhythms, tempos and, of course, instruments.

“The stage will be filled with different percussion instruments: the big drums, bongo drums, marimbas, xylophones, instruments they’ve made themselves,” Martin says. “They’re very intense, and the rhythm they work with is amazing.”

Guests are invited to bring blankets and a picnic. While the event is free, online registration is a must.

In tune with the festival’s theme, the annual benefit’s name is a reminder that Life’s a Journey. On Saturday, July 30, 6:30 p.m. at the Atlantic Golf Club, the moving program will look back to our shared experience and forward to our hopeful future.

Following the benefit are several events that challenge the traditional perception of chamber music, including:

Travels with Dvořák on Sunday, July 31 at 6 p.m.; At the Core, Beethoven on Thursday, August 4 at 6 p.m.; and Liebermann/Coleman/Brahms on Sunday, August 7 at 6 p.m.; BCMF @ the Parrish Art Museum on Monday, August 8 at 6 p.m.; Shostakovich/Shaw/Mozart: Clarity and Beauty on Thursday, August 11 at 6 p.m.; Brahms and More on Sunday, August 14 at 6 p.m.; and Wm. Brian Little Concert: Bach to Bluegrass at the Channing Sculpture Garden on Friday, August 19 at 6 p.m. The festival culminates in A Joyful Finale on Sunday, August 21 at 6 p.m. featuring the Bohuslav Martinů Trio, Jessie Montgomery Duo and Robert Schumann Piano Quintet.

“It’s an unusual festival. It’s not your normal, run-of-the-mill Bach, Beethoven and Mozart,” Martin says. “It’s something different.”

Visit bcmf.org for tickets, concert details and up-to-the-minute COVID-19 protocols. At the time of writing, all adults and children must show proof of vaccination upon entry, and masks are mandatory for the duration of each performance.

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