St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble makes a Bronx stop

The kids in attendance at Subway Series participate in arts and craft projects at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on September 30.
The kids in attendance at Subway Series participate in arts and craft projects at the Bronx Museum of the Arts on September 30.

Grammy winners perform at ‘Subway Series’

The steady whine of the violin, hum of the French horn and vibrations of plucked cello strings merged into the perfect pitch in the lobby of the Bronx Museum of the Arts Wednesday night, as the Grammy-award winning St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble put on a free one-hour concert as part of its sixth annual Subway Series.

Sounds of chromatic eighth notes circled the room, while the wind instrument players switched fingers on the key valves and the bows of the string section poked through the air in unison. The octets and quintets formed by the bassoon, the clarinet and the viola, among others, told musical narratives and serenaded the small audience.

The ensemble of eight, selected from 22 musicians in the ensemble, toured the five boroughs of New York City, stopping at museums and public art spaces until October 4.

The first piece on the program, Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspeigel with a Twist,” consisted of instrumental conversations that kept the listeners engaged.

“The musicians were professional and the music was tight and so powerful,” said Kevin Jones, a computer consultant who lives nearby. “This is the first time in a year and a half that I’ve seen something like this hosted here. Chamber music is words telling a story in a new way, not better but different.”

The ensemble’s final piece, Beethoven’s Octet after Symphony No.2, built an energy that kept audience members on the edge of their seats for 32 minutes.

“It was a big honor to work with an amazing group of people,” said Andy Stein, the arranger, composer and violinist who arranged the Beethoven symphony and attended the performance.

Before each piece was played, a musician shared insights on its narratives, themes and composer arrangements.

“During the Subway Series, we bring the music to where the people live,” said cellist Myron Lutzke, 66. He has been playing since age 10, and has been a member of the St. Luke’s ensemble for 39 years.  “As opposed to them sitting in hallowed halls and formal settings, having people sit close, experiencing the music on a very personal level, is so much different, and it removes that wall.”

This year, the Subway Series partnered with Cool Culture, a non-profit organization that serves New York City families, ensuring that they have access to “rich cultural life and educational experiences for their children.”

Concertgoers brought packs of markers and crayons to donate to an art-supply drive. The proceeds and supplies will be donated to underserved families with children in pre-kindergarten.

A Cool Culture representative handed out coloring projects during the concert for kids and adults in attendance.

“Participating in events like these creates awareness and allows us to reach more families,” said Meki Adefris, the events and sponsorship consultant for Cool Culture.

St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, born in the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village, celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, is noted for elaborate compositions and versions of well-known classics.

“We are a sonic museum,” said clarinetist Jon Manasse, who has been a member for eight years. “It’s our responsibility to not only preserve this great music, but we have to keep presenting it to listeners with the freshness and love and emotion that it has.”

St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble went on to perform the same show at the Brooklyn Historical Society, The Rubin Museum of Art and Queens Museum.