Celebrating the clarinet

Celebrating the clarinet

Sarasa to perform ‘two stellar chamber works’ at Brattleboro Music Center

PUTNEY — When cellist Tim Merton isn't managing his maple sugar operation on his property in Putney, where he produces 1,500 gallons of maple syrup per year, he's rehearsing Brahms or Beethoven for an upcoming Sarasa concert.

Merton serves as co-director of the internationally acclaimed Sarasa Ensemble, which he founded 24 years ago because “I wanted to decide who I was going to play chamber music with and what the repertoire would be. This was the easiest and best way to do it.”

Sarasa is a collective group of more than 150 instrumentalists and vocalists from the United States, Europe, and Canada who perform classical music spanning the 17th through 21st centuries on both period and modern instruments. The ensemble varies in size according to the particular program of each concert.

Celebrating its 24th year with five concerts planned for the 2022-23 season, Sarasa is “really excited to bring our November program to the Brattleboro Music Center's audience,” says Jennifer Morsches, cellist and co-director of Sarasa Ensemble. Each concert is presented three times in three locations: in eastern Massachusetts in Cambridge and Lexington, and in Brattleboro.

The performance on Friday, Nov. 18 - “His Dear Nightingale...” - celebrates the clarinet in what Sarasa describes as “two stellar chamber works.”

Concertgoers will hear Ludwig van Beethoven's Trio, Op. 38, his own arrangement of the Septet in E flat major, Op. 20 (1803), and Johannes Brahms' Trio in A minor, Op. 114 for clarinet, cello, and piano (1891), which was inspired by the exquisite playing of the German clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, who Brahms called his “dear nightingale.”

The program features internationally acclaimed clarinetist Eric Thomas alongside pianist Jean Schneider with Merton and Morsches on cello.

Thomas, of Putney, serves as music director at The Putney School, and Schneider, of New York City, is on the faculty of the Sarasota Music Festival.

Merton and Morsches split their time between their Sarasa base in Cambridge, Mass. and their home in Putney. Morsches performs regularly in the U.K. with Florilegium and in France with Richter Ensemble; she teaches at the Royal College of Music in London and also teaches locally at The Putney School.

For over 24 years, Sarasa has run a unique and award-winning outreach program, encompassing more than 165 free presentation concerts and 58 residencies at teen detention centers in the Boston metropolitan area.

The ensemble's goal - “sharing classical music with diverse communities” - has earned it the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services Commissioner's Community Partner Award for service to the community (2018) and an Early Music Month grant from Early Music America (2022).

'A great match'

When reached by email and asked about the relationship between Sarasa and BMC, Mary Greene, executive director of the Brattleboro Music Center, says, “We love being the Brattleboro stop for this world-class traveling ensemble.”

“Sarasa brings not only their impressive musical credentials, and with their work with youth, they are a great match for an organization such as the BMC, which exists to make great music accessible to all of our community,” she adds.

“The creative brilliance of Sarasa's programming gracefully incorporates an educational component in each of their concerts, bringing the historical and musical contexts of pieces' origins to the modern audience,” Greene says. “Their programs explore well-known works with a new eye as well as elevating lesser-known works and composers.”

In 1952, Blanche Moyse established the BMC “to promote the love and understanding of music through performance and education and to make music a vital part of our community.” Noting that the organization is celebrating its 70th season, Greene says that the BMC is “reflecting on our role and responsibilities in Brattleboro and the surrounding area.”

“Over the decades, we have lived our mission through our many performances and educational programs and most importantly through the people whose lives we have touched,” she says.

“The connections and shared experiences that music and all the arts provide, are essential to developing and sustaining a healthy society,” Greene says. “We firmly believe that music makes our lives more joyful and our community more human.”

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