'Vive La France' Gala Marks Chatham Music Club's 20th Year

By: Debra Lawless

The Chatham Music Club Chorus. COURTESY PHOTO

In the 18thcentury, sophisticated Parisians met in private homes to hear music performed in intimate venues.

So it is appropriate that to mark the 20thanniversary of the Chatham Music Club (CMC), which also meets in private homes to perform classical music, the group is planning a gala concert called “Vive La France.” The May 19 concert will feature a dozen soloists—singers and instrumentalists—as well as a chorus and student musicians performing a variety of French music under the direction of Maury Castro.

“It’s quite fun,” club president Barbara Reed of Chatham says about the upcoming concert. She added that after the April 15 fire that gutted large portions of the 850-year-old Notre Dame de Paris, a landmark famous worldwide, the concert will be “particularly impactful.”

In 1999 Chatham musicians Marie Williams, Ruth McKendree Treen and Mitty Ticknor formed the CMC with a mission of promoting the appreciation of classical music through performance and education. Today Williams and Treen are still active with the group.

The group meets monthly on Sunday afternoons in salons in members’ homes. The venues must have a piano and be large enough to fit the 50 or so members who attend each meeting. After a performance of about an hour, wine and cheese or other refreshments are served and members have a chance to network and even to exchange sheet music, Reed says. The CMC now boasts 122 members with some of the performing members as old as their 90s.

“People just stay young through music,” Reed says. “It’s nice to have a group of people who appreciate you for your talent at that age.” Members drive in from as far as Plymouth. And while many of the members are musicians, others are listeners.

“It’s really nice for anybody who’s a music lover,” Reed adds. She calls the group “a little gem.” A decade ago the group became a registered nonprofit.

Since 2001 the group has given away $36,000 in scholarship money to students of classical music. This year, on Saturday, May 11, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Chatham, competitive auditions will be held. So far 15 students have entered the competition and there is still time for prepared students to enter. One scholarship of $2,500 will be awarded in addition to two scholarships of lesser amounts. The three young musicians who win the competition on May 11 will perform in the French concert on May 19. Checks will be presented to the students at the concert following the intermission.

Flutist LeeAnn McKenna joined the CMC after moving to Chatham from Oregon two years ago. She tries to attend the monthly house concerts and to perform at as many as she can.

“Our scholarship competition (for which I’m scholarship committee co-chair with Matt Scinto) for high school students is our way to celebrate and reward the efforts of these students,” she says. “Forty-five years ago, I began my study of music through private flute lessons, thanks to my parents who saw it as a priority and thankfully could afford the associated costs. I hope that in the future we, the Chatham Music Club, will be able to offer lesson scholarships for Cape Cod students in need. They are the future of classical music, and it’s our job to prepare them through private study and performance opportunities.”

In “Vive La France,” McKenna will play the first movement for the Sonata for Flute and Piano by Poulenc. The piece “offers the listener sudden mood changes and virtuosic moments, and an ongoing conversation between the flute and piano,” McKenna says.

Reed herself is a lyric coloratura singer with undergraduate and graduate degrees in music. She joined the CMC in about 2003 and assumed the presidency of the group after Carole Buttner Maloof of Chatham stepped down about four years ago. Like many or most of the people in the group, Reed, although trained in music, works in a different field—in her case as an investment advisor. “It worked out really well,” she says of her involvement with the group. “Kind of like your soul food.”

The program will open with Reed singing an aria from “Romeo and Juliette” by Gounod that she describes as a “flashy coloratura” piece. Music will follow by Charpentier, Bizet, Debussy, Messiaen, Offenbach and Massenet. Choral selections were composed by Rouget de Lisle and Faure.

The concert will conclude with an unusual rendition “Can You Can Can.”

The Can Can was a favorite of the 1840s French music hall. It later became popular in the U.S. as well after it was introduced in Boston following the Civil War. The rendition the CMC will perform features music by Jacques Offenbach and English lyrics by Richard Perlmutter.

“If you go to Paris, France/You can do the Can Can dance/Easy now as un deux trois/Everybody ooh la la/Do the Can Can.”

“It is a hoot,” Reed says.

“Vive La France” will be performed on Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m. at St. Christopher’s Church, 625 Main St. Tickets are $25 (students are free) and can be purchased through www.ChathamMusicClub.org, by calling 508-240-0968 or at the door. A reception will follow.