The Willy Street Chamber Players offer something new this month

Ensemble invites public to rehearsals, happy hours
The Willy Street Chamber Players offer something new this month
Photo by Lloyd Schultz
The Willy Street Chamber Players are, left to right, violinist Eleanor Bartsch, cellist Lindsey Crabb, violinist/violist Paran Amirinazari, cellist Mark Bridges and violinist/violist Rachel Hauser.

Five years ago, Madison violinist Paran Amirinazari asked a few friends in town if they wanted to play a little more in July. It didn’t take long for a few to agree to gather around her desire to take on a traditional repertoire as well as some unusual compositions.

Now the Willy Street Chamber Players have shown — as have a number of other classical ensembles — that while the growing season may be short, cultural roots grow quickly and deep in this city.

The core members — violinists Amirinazari, Eleanor Bartsch and Rachel Hauser, and cellists Mark Bridges and Lindsay Crabb — have all had long and strong careers in Madison and beyond. The silver award winner in the 2019 Best of Madison category “Best Classical Music Group” attracts major guest artists, too.

WSCP’s concert schedule this month includes three Friday evening concerts — July 5 at the Goodman Community Center and July 12, 19 and 26 at Immanuel Lutheran Church. The first is a free, family-friendly event. Previous concerts by the group at the church have proven to be intimate and majestic.

The church has the additional benefit of a vestibule perfect for post-concert receptions. In past seasons treats from Underground Butcher, Let It Ride Cold Brew Coffee, Madison Sourdough and Roman Candle pizza have been offered there. And the informal atmosphere has allowed audience members to converse with the artists.

All the programs start at 6 p.m. and are 90 minutes or less without intermission.

“I’m so excited for [our] all-star guest artist line-up. Five years ago, it was hard to imagine being able to host and collaborate with such awe-inspiring musicians,” Amirinazari says. “This year we have some new and old friends joining us as well; friends we have all had the pleasure of collaborating with in other musical settings.”

The performance on July 12 at Immanuel Lutheran Church will feature guest violist Danny Kim in string quintets by Mendelssohn and Mozart. The following week, bassoon player Marc Vallon will round out a quartet playing music by composer Franzi Danzi as well as special works by Alberto Ginastera, Jennifer Higdon and Beethoven.

In addition to ticketed concerts, the group has added two open rehearsals on July 11 and 18. These events, also billed as “happy hours,” will be held at the Arts + Literature Laboratory at 2021 Winnebago Street. They are opportunities to glimpse how the artists prepare for more formal performances. A $5 donation is suggested.

“We’re hoping to introduce new folks to the Willy Street family through our free happy hour open rehearsal. We had the idea last year and really enjoyed the atmosphere and being able to share our rehearsal process with curious ears,” Amirinazari says.

The final event is the July 26 concert at Immanuel Lutheran with Madison’s own international star pianist Christopher Taylor to play Dvorak’s “Piano Quintet No. 2” and works by Ernest Bloch and Jessie Montgomery.

“We will be playing some of our favorites,” Amirinazari says, “as well as some mind-bending and fun new works.”

Greg Hettmansberger covers opera, jazz and classical music for