Sevenars concert series in Worthington is back with Beethoven

  • Joel Pitchon and Volcy Pelletier of the Elm Chamber Ensemble will perform Sunday at the Sevenars Concert Series in Worthington. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/15/2021 9:26:15 PM

WORTHINGTON — Like many marquee events, the Sevenars Music Festival was unable to offer any in-person programming in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the classical and jazz concert series has returned for its 53rd season, and Executive Director Rorianne Schrade couldn’t be more pleased.

“We’re happy to be live this year,” Schrade said.

She is a member of the Schrade family, who founded the concert series. All seven members of her family have names that start with R, which is how Sevenars got its name. The family performed together, and Schrade first performed at Sevenars in 1969, when she was 5 years old.

During the pandemic, Sevenars uploaded old family concerts to the web.

“It was wonderful to revisit,” Schrade said.

However, she also said that virtual programming is a “pretty poor substitute” for a live performance.

“As a live performer, something is missing from that,” she said.

The Sevenars performances are held at the Academy building, a former school dating back to the 19th century that Schrade’s parents, Robert Schrade and Rolande Young Schrade, transformed into a concert hall with seating for 100-200 people.

“Our string players who have come to play say that it’s like being inside a Stradivarius instrument,” she said.

The nonprofit does not charge for concert admission, instead asking for suggested donations of $20.

This year’s concert series kicked off on July 11 with a family performance that featured Schrade, her niece Lynelle James and nephew Christopher James, and she described the reaction to the concert as “just wonderfully warm.”

She also said the concert drew a full hall.

The remaining concerts will take place every Sunday through Aug. 15 at 4 p.m., with the next concert being The Elm Chamber Ensemble on July 18, which will be performing the works of Beethoven, Brahms and Joaquin Turina.

“These are wonderful musicians,” Schrade said of the ensemble.

The trio is composed of husband-and-wife violinist Joel Pitchon and cellist Volcy Pelletier, both of whom teach at Smith College and have performed at Sevenars before, along with pianist Yelena Beriyeva, who teaches at Clark University.

Although Pitchon is a little nervous about performing, as it will be his first indoor, in-person concert since the pandemic, “What we particularly love about Sevenars is the audience,” he said. “It’s a lot of the same faces year after year.”

Pitchon added that he thinks people will enjoy the Turina piece. “It’s got all of this great tango feel,” he said.

Last year Sevenars was supposed to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, but this was thwarted by the pandemic. However, that wasn’t the end of it for Schrade.

“I don’t accept no for an answer when it comes to Beethoven,” she said.

As such, a number of the concerts this year will feature some of the master composer’s work.

“Any good musician pays tribute to Beethoven,” she said.

The July 25 concert will have an exclusive focus on Beethoven, and will feature Jiayan Sun playing the composer’s final three piano sonatas, Op. 109, 110 and 111, which Schrade said carry a lot of wisdom.

“It’s quite a hefty program,” she said.

Sun has done a complete cycle of Beethoven’s sonatas over a season, a rare feat for a pianist, as well as all of Chopin’s études in another season.

“I would feel very proud bringing him to Lincoln Center,” Schrade said, praising his ability.

Sun will also be giving a Zoom talk ahead of his performance through Sevenars on July 21 at 5 p.m.

Aug. 1 will feature The Taconic Chamber Players playing the work of Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Jessie Montgomery and Stephen Dankner; while Aug. 8 will feature the performance of violinist Alexis Walls and pianist Lynelle James. The Taconic Chamber Players will also do a July 28 Zoom talk at 5 p.m. on their program.

The final performance of this year’s series will be The Bob Sparkman Trio. The jazz trio consists of Sparkman, who is in his 90s, and Jerry Noble and Kara Noble, who are husband and wife.

“They’re so loved by the entire area,” Schrade said.

Schrade said that last year she received many letters from people who were devastated due to the cancellation of the concerts, and she said that she wants to keep the series going for as long as possible.

“It’s a beautiful legacy,” she said.

She also praised Worthington.

“I feel as if the whole town is a family,” Schrade said, sharing the same sentiment about the area as well.

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