A friend from home I hadn't seen for a couple years bumped into me the other day right outside Elsie's. "My big brother's taken up the piano," he told me. "He wants to be a concert pianist." In the past five years, big brother has taken up the sax, the cello, the flute and the clarinet. A combination of mediocre talent and slim job pickins had prompted a quick and tragic end to one instrumental fascination after another. Given this unfortunate history, I couldn't figure out why big brother decided to take a stab at the piano. "Well, this time he says he's really committed to make it big," my friend explained. "What he lacks in talent, he figures, he'll make up for in ambition."
Things could be worse for big brother. At least he's got the raw materials to work with. What happens to the enthusiast who wants to play eclectic chamber music--who's got the talent, to boot-but lacks the needed assortment of players? The one lucky enough to have the financial and administrative wherewithal sets up an organization to perform the music on a semi-regular basis, like violinist Martha Potter has. Potter has planted the seeds of the Ariel Chamber Ensemble, that will bare its first petals in Friday night's debut in Sanders Theater.
Ariels's opening season concentrates on dramatic works (particularly those based on or set to texts) and the development of serious music theater up to and beyond the present. In a sense, no city in the country is better suited to presenting these a traditional works than Boston (or Cambridge, if you will). The Hub has a tremendously progressive musical history. One of the four concerts will be devoted exclusively to the presentation of Harvard composer Earl Kim's new music/theater work called Narratives, based on texts by Samuel Backett.
When the Boston Symphony Chamber Players decided a couple years ago to stop giving a concer series in Sanders, it looked like Harvard was going to be left in the lurch forever without a "campus" chamber series like that had at Yale. With support, Ariel should keep us flying high, even higher than they fly in New Haven.