One of the better-kept musical secrets in Bucks County is the Concordia Chamber Players, which performs in a number of venues near Doylestown and New Hope that are scenically beautiful but can also require a good GPS to find. The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns arrived at a recent concert in Solebury, and this is what he found.
David Patrick Stearns: Any professional musician should be able to perform Vaughan Williams' great song cycle On Wenlock Edge just as easily in a coal mine as in the lovely Trinity Episcopal Church of Solebury. But for tenor Nicholas Phan, exploring the music's melancholy undertones was unquestionably enabled by being in the kind of countryside that inspired the British poems that he sings.
Nicholas Phan: Today was easier than normal. One of the first times I did this was at the Marlboro Music Festival, but, you know, it's the middle of the summer, everybody's partying and Fall is always the season for me where I think, you know, things slow down, it goes darker earlier. You kind of naturally go to those darker places.
DPS: However rural the setting, this is hardly the boondocks. The programs are spiced with modern works by Anton Webern, Daron Hagen and Michael Daugherty alongside Brahms and Mozart. The audience must truly trust longtime Artistic Director Michelle Djokic.
Michelle Djokic: I really enjoy pushing the boundaries with my audience. And I also think that it attracts a larger audience by giving them something unexpected to listen to. And I promise them always that I've tasted it, tried it many times, and they won't spit it out, I promise.
DPS: The November program was mostly British - music that, however mellifluous, doesn't always export well. But with the right performers you might wonder where pieces such as Elgar's Piano Quintet have been all your life. The musicians who know this music also want to advocate for it. One is tenor Nicholas Phan.
NP: It's central to my artistic mission. I think it's something that an audience needs to be continued to be nurtured for it. And the only way to do it is by doing it.
DPS: As for listeners, Concordia board president Candace Jones says that once they get in the door, they keep coming back, even on those slippery winter roads.
Candice Jones: Our audience is a local audience and the weather does not stop them.
DPS: And what is it about traveling for a concert that makes you listen that much more closely?