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Concert series tagged a success

Trio Mississippi members, from right, Dieter Wolfhorst, Mary Ann Stringer, and Stephen Redfield prepare at the B’nai B’rith Literary Club before Wednesday night’s performance. (The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[04/26/01] Midway through the eight-day Vicksburg International Chamber Music Festival, organizers are calling it a success and planning a second series of concerts for 2002.

“I think it’s been well-received and the audiences have been very responsive,” said Frances Koury, a member of the festival planning committee headed by Dr. Jay Dean, an associate professor of music at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Credit goes to Dean, Koury said, as well as to Dr. Theresa Sanchez, a piano instructor at Jones County Junior College serving as the festival’s artistic administrator.

Average attendance at the four concerts so far has been about 100 people, Koury said. “I think that’s good. This is the first time we’ve attempted to have something of this caliber in the community in a consecutive series. I think it’s something we will build on.”

The inaugural Vicksburg International Chamber Music Festival began Sunday afternoon with a performance by pianist Michael Gurt at the B’nai B’rith Literary Club. Evening programs Monday and Tuesday featured tenor David Ramirez at Crawford Street United Methodist Church and harpsichordists John Paul and Shawn Leopard at Church of the Holy Trinity, Episcopal.

Wednesday night’s concert, also at the BB Club, featured Trio Mississippi, a group of faculty members from the University of Southern Mississippi.

“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Gilda Miller, who joined the audience of about 75 in a standing ovation following the performance on piano, cello and violin. “Let’s hope it will continue.”

Thursday night, Croatian guitarists Natasa Klasine and Miroslav Loncar will perform at 7:30 at the Old Court House Museum. Friday night, also at the Old Court House, The North Shore Chamber Players will perform, followed by soprano Mary Ann Kyle and pianist Theresa Sanchez Saturday night at the BB Club. The final performance, featuring guitarist Roberto Aussel, will be Sunday afternoon at Church of the Holy Trinity.

All of the performers are presenting programs of Spanish music in tribute to “The Majesty of Spain” exhibition at the Mississippi Arts Pavilion through Sept. 1.

“Having had nothing but Spanish themes has been of interest,” said Ann Gerache, who has attended all of the concerts in the series so far with her husband, Joe. They plan to visit “The Majesty of Spain” in May.

“I think this has been a grand thing,” Ann Gerache said. “I’m so impressed with the music. I think they’ve all been excellent.

“It’s been superb, and I think it’s been a nice thing for the community,” she said Wednesday. “I think something like this is good for Vicksburg.”

Festival committee member Bill Shappley agreed. “I think it’s wonderful,” he said.

Shappley and his wife, Patsy, returned to Vicksburg last week from a trip to Prague, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna, where they attended a number of chamber concerts. “The performances we witnessed in Vicksburg are equally world class,” he said. “This is a world-class festival. It really is.”

What has made the performances both interesting and intriguing, Shappley added, is that the musicians are spending a few moments during each concert giving the audience background on the composers.

With a year to plan the next Vicksburg International Chamber Music Festival, Shappley believes it will be bigger and better than the first. “Of course, no question.”