The first in the winter series of concerts by Pan Harmonia was heard at The Classic Wine Seller in Waynesville. "Winds in the Winery" was a wonderful set of chamber music in a unique venue.
Pan Harmonia is a group of independent artists based in the Asheville area who all believe strongly in making music available to all ages and backgrounds. The program for the evening concert consisted of a varied list of 20th-century music, ranging from composers as prolific as Robert Muczynski and Charles Koechlin to little-known composers like Mabel Daniels. Pieces on the program included the clarinet and bassoon standard from Poulenc, the Sonata for clarinet and bassoon, John Rutter’s Three American Miniatures, and Hector Villa-Lobos’ Choros No. 2. The Classic Wine Seller has a small stage area setup at the front of a restaurant-style room, complete with tables and chairs, which set the tone for the concert as something close to that of an informal, lounge-type scenario.
None of the pieces on the program were by any means easy (in fact some were downright difficult), but one would not have been able to tell from hearing them. Each musician played with perfect expression and style, matching both the written music and each other in ways only accomplished chamber musicians can. As the group (consisting of flutist Kate Steinbeck, clarinettist Fred Lemmons, and bassoonist Rosalind Buda) played, the audience attention level ran the gamut from rapt attention to full blown conversation. This atmosphere did not in the least shake the players, each of whom played with a love and care for music that obviously runs deep.
Kate Steinbeck, the Artistic Director for Pan Harmonia, sat with me during the intermission and discussed the purpose of this concert and the use of the unique venue. Mrs. Steinbeck (who had already won me over with her talented and emotionally charged flute playing) expressed to me the value of performing music outside what would be considered the “traditional” venue; she and the rest of the musicians associated with Pan Harmonia strive to make classical music accessible to a much wider audience than that of the “traditional” concertgoer. In fact, early last week, a group of musicians from Pan Harmonia (which, by the way, means “Music for All”) played for a homeless shelter and earlier on this day, at a mental health facility.
My only concern about the entire concert I felt was that the venue did not easily lend itself to the music being performed. With conversations a constant as well as the bustling of waiters and bus boys, I cannot help but feel that some of the magic of the performance might have been lost to the audience.
The group plans to present this program again on Sunday, February 3rd at 3:00 p.m. in Asheville at St. Matthias Episcopal Church, which promises to be a much calmer (and much more suitable) environment. Please see the sidebar for details.