Two Sextets for Woodwinds and Piano (The Music Studio, 2015)

The Music Studio - Concert with Jewel WindsGreg Unangst’s The Music Studio is small – the stage area is maybe 12’ square, and the 50-75 seats are close to the action. I mounted a show there last year. Last night was the first time I’d been back, to see Greg perform with Jewel Winds. The neighborhood has evolved, continuing to realize the City of Rome’s vision to create an “arts corridor” on West Dominic St. The vacant office space we’d used as a backstage area is now a cinema, showing classic and independent movies. It’s good to see these signs of optimism (now somebody needs to put a taproom on the street.)

I used to attend “serious” musical events, when I dated a music major. I would go dutifully but without enthusiasm – she liked to remind me that I wasn’t a real musician, and so couldn’t appreciate the events like she could. It must have been true – I tried to like what I heard, but I was rarely successful. Last night, Unangst introduced the pieces conversationally, explaining some of the background and how we might listen to best enjoy the music. And so I enjoyed. Greg explained that chamber music used to be performed in living rooms, and the stage decoration gave that feeling, with floor lamps and extra lighting casting a warm, homey glow.

I wasn’t familiar with the two pieces. The concert began with Poulenc’s Sextet (1932-39), which featured surprising rhythms and unexpected harmonies. The nearness of the performers added a pleasantly messy intimacy – by that I mean it wasn’t sterile. We could hear the players breathing, and removing spit from their instruments. There was a vibrancy that I’ve sometimes missed when attending classical concerts. The second piece was Thuille’s Sextet, Op. 6. This one sounded a bit more traditional, with a sweeping romantic feel, the chords and rhythms more comfortable. I preferred the first piece. Greg explained that they’d switched the order from the previous evening, deciding they’d rather finish with Thuille’s Finale – Vivace movement. This was on my mind as they played, and it gave me insight into how the musicians had crafted the evening.

A reception followed the performance, with a generous assortment of food and beverage. Many from the audience stayed to chat. I would recommend this type of concert to anyone, but music teachers and students might take note – The Music Studio and Jewel Winds’ approach to classical music is anything but stuffy. They made it fun.

The Music Studio and Jewel Winds are both on Facebook, and will announce future events there – like them and stay up to date.