New chamber music festival debuts tonight in Wilmington

Wilmington’s Serafin Summer Music aims to fill the void left by former Delaware Chamber Music Festival, which disbanded two years ago.



The Music School of Delaware is hosting Serafin Summer Music, a new chamber music festival that starts tonight and runs through June 30.

The festival features eight performances — on Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons — at the music school in Wilmington.

For chamber music aficionados, the festival fills a void left when the Delaware Chamber Music Festival disbanded two years ago after a 33-year run. Kate Ransom, music school president and festival artistic director, said the response has been enthusiastic

“There is definitely an audience out there that craves the experience of listening to small, ensemble works, performed un-conducted for two to six players,” Ransom said.

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The 18 musicians include violinist Ransom and other performers from the music school, as well as from the University of Delaware and elsewhere in the country.

“I love bringing people together in partnerships that are inclusive,” Ransom said. “I love the spirit of working together as a team and doing things collaboratively. Hopefully, this reflects all of that.”

The concerts will include rarely heard works alongside the evergreens everyone expects. It will also feature compositions for solo voice and combinations of various instruments, a rarity for any chamber music festival. These will be performed exclusively by countertenor Augustine Mercante, the festival manager and a voice instructor at the music school.

“Hopefully this opens the door to go down that road a bit more,” Mercante said. “There are plenty of works out there for voice and small ensemble but for whatever reason, different festivals don’t always include that.”

Mercante has chosen vocal works that have an instrumental connection such as Franz Schubert’s “Die Forelle” and “Der Tod und das Mädchen” and Camille Saint- Saens’ “Danse macabre,” which is also an instrumental tone poem.

He will also sing two different settings of the Verlaine poem “Clair de Lune,” one by Saint-Saens and the other by Gabriel Faure.

The festival marks a homecoming of sorts for an Oklahoma-based violinist Benjamin Shute, a Wilmington native who attended the Delaware music school.

“I think a program like this is vital to the Delaware arts scene,” Shute said.

Shute will perform J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 1 for Solo Violin in G minor.

“This is a remarkable piece in many respects,” he said. “It synthesizes many of the musical strains of Bach’s day. It’s a whole world in and of itself. It gives a little glimpse into the mind of Bach.”

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