Chamber music brings harmony to Grand Rapids


Caleb Worpel

GVL Archives

Mary Racette, Associate Editor

Grand Valley State University’s piano faculty member Dr. Sookkyung Cho noticed a need for a local concert devoted to piano chamber music. This observation led Cho and the Department of Music, Theater and Dance to initiate the first BrahmsFest. 

While Grand Rapids is filled with opportunities to see live music such as the Grand Rapids Symphony and various string series’, piano chamber music is not made easily accessible to see live in the city. GVSU is determined to change this as the concerts in this series are free and open to the public. 

“Chamber music felt like a perfect thing to do right now because it’s all about harmony between each other and being together,” Cho said.

Harmony is a focal point of the concert series. One of the takeaways Cho wants the audience to get out of these concerts is the understanding of the relationship between the instruments and how they all come together. The need for harmony is a theme that is relevant in the Grand Rapids music scene as well as other aspects of our daily lives. 

“One instrument can do a lot of beautiful things but I think when we all come together in chamber music, there is a lot more possibility in terms of creating beauty,” Cho said.

Cho will be the sole pianist, but she will be accompanied by a range of other musicians playing different instruments. In addition to Cho, the chamber will be made up of GVSU Faculty, musicians from the Grand Rapids Symphony, and Marie-Ève Poupart.

Poupart is a violinist who will be flying in from Montreal. GVSU Faculty members who will be playing in the series are Letitia Jap, Paul Swantek, Pablo Mahave-Veglia, Gary June and Richard Britsch.

As faculty members, Cho said they see it as very beneficial for students to see them perform. She compared it to a literature student reading a professor’s book. Performing is part of the faculty’s professional careers, so it is crucial that students experience their work. 

“It is really important that they hear us perform so they know what artistic level that we are trying to bring them up to,” Cho said. 

BrahmsFest is named after German composer Johannes Brahms. Brahms composed during the Romantic period and created many pieces of chamber music. This series will feature all of his chamber music written for both piano and other instruments.

The series will be at seven different venues throughout the area in Grand Rapids, Allendale, Holland and Muskegon. The first program will take place Monday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the GVSU Haas Center for Performing Arts. This series will wrap up in May, adding up to a total of fifteen concerts. 

Cho encourages anyone planning on attending one or more of the concerts to follow their Facebook and Instagram pages or join the mailing list for the event. Since this series is spread out throughout the year, the organizers can not be sure of whether or not COVID-19 will affect the ability to meet in person. They will post updates on their social media and mailing list if it becomes necessary.