116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
In a year full of more stops than starts, Red Cedar Chamber Music is ready to spring into summer — a move the musicians normally don’t take, since that’s prime time for the painstaking process of applying for grants.
Of course, nothing has been normal during the pandemic.
Married core musicians and directors Carey Bostian, cello, and Miera Kim, violin, have spent the past 14 months at home with teen sons Oliver and Adrian, making music in the virtual realm and ringing through the rafters in their historic Iowa City home.
They did tiptoe into live performances with a couple of backyard concerts to launch Red Cedar’s 25th season last September, followed by a few masked, indoor concerts for small audiences in large spaces.
They’ve also had to shift their performance plans as the pandemic stretched from 2020 into 2021. But now they’re ready to create two free, hybrid in-person and livestreaming concert series in May and June.
“The Last Quintet,” showcasing one of Bostian’s favorite works, Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, will be performed at 1 p.m. Saturday in the family’s backyard, and at 3 p.m. Sunday online and in-person for a masked audience inside the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.
Schubert finished the piece just two months before his death in 1828, and after hearing the Bostian family rehearse it, Kim’s father deemed it “heavenly music from beginning to end.”
Adding a second cello to create a quintet opens up a much wider world of voicings, duets and trios than the usual string quartet, Bostian noted.
“I think one of the reasons why Miera’s dad (called it) heavenly music is that it’s light. It's serene and very lyrical. … That’s the character. Not that it doesn't have great intensity,” Bostian said, “because it's got some really bombastic moments.
“But I think it gives people peace. … I think it will leave people feeling fulfilled and peaceful. That’s what it has done for me over the years, as a piece of music. … We all need to feel a little peacefulness (during this pandemic). It’s been so mixed up. We're all so dazed and confused and unsettled. This is an iconic piece, but it's coming around again.”
“Rather than challenge the listener, it transports them,” Kim said.
“Music by the Gross” will expand Red Cedar’s footprint, with an evening performance June 18 at Marion’s Lowe Park, followed by two live front-porch matinees at the Bostian family’s home June 19. A third matinee will mix live and livestream presentations at the Englert on June 20.
Nine other string players will join Bostian and Kim on a program of concerti grossi — works for a small group of soloists and orchestra — by Vivaldi, Handel and Corelli, as well as a new work commissioned from Red Cedar’s composer-in-residence, Michael Kimber of Iowa City.
What: “The Last Quintet,” featuring Schubert’s String Quintet in C major
When: In-person 1 p.m. Saturday, Bostian family’s backyard, 715 E. College St., Iowa City or livestreamed in case of rain; in-person and livestreamed 3 p.m. Sunday, Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
What: “Music by the Gross”
When: 7 p.m. June 18, Klopfenstein Amphitheater, Lowe Park, 4901 Alburnett Rd., Marion, event canceled in case of rain; 1 and 3:30 p.m. June 19, Bostians’ front porch; 3 p.m. June 20, Englert Theatre
Cost: Free; email email@example.com or call (319) 338-0307 to reserve seats; masks required
“The motivation was to try and play outdoors,” Bostian said, a move which falls outside of the norm for small chamber ensembles that typically play in intimate settings, without amplification. But heading outdoors gives them the chance to return to a semblance of “normal,” by performing for live audiences instead of whomever might be watching the livestreams.
Both series will spotlight emerging artists, which has become a focus of Red Cedar’s pandemic year, by a happy necessity.
“We feel like our boys kind of saved us, because otherwise we would have been playing as a duo,” Bostian said. “And not only would everybody else get tired of that, we might have, as well.”
Educational programming is part of the ensemble’s mission, primarily through presenting music in area schools and through the Chamber Music Now! program that offers mentorship and performance opportunities to high school and college instrumentalists.
Both Bostian sons — Oliver, 18, and Adrian, 16 — are accomplished multi-instrumentalists who have been performing with their parents most of their lives. They have been featured in the pandemic concerts, and will join in the upcoming ones, as well.
Other emerging artists will be featured, too, beginning with award-winning violinist Katya Moeller, 17, of Coralville, performing on both programs.
Adding her artistry not only has been a boost for all three teens, but for Bostian and Kim as well, from the moment Moeller stepped into their first rehearsal at the family’s home.
“She sat down and she just immediately made us all better,” Bostian said, by helping them focus on the music.
“We have a pretty good family dynamic,” he added, “but everyone’s tired.”
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of planning, with Oliver’s upcoming graduation from City High and various orchestra performances; Adrian finishing a tough year of online school; and Bostian and Kim working on grants while trying to plan two concert series occurring closer than usual on the calendar.
All of those worries melted away when the fully vaccinated quintet gathered without masks and began rehearsals.
“For me personally, it's like, ’Oh, this is possible. Things can be sort of normal,’ ” Bostian said.
He and Kim have worked with Moeller over the years, and after the teen won a prestigious 2021 National YoungArts Foundation award, Kim called her “a team player … who can control her tone color to play chamber music and blend beautifully with others,” adding that “her playing is always lyrical and beautiful.”
For the June concerts, Red Cedar also will welcome home young professionals with whom they’ve worked in the past, as well as other emerging artists and a couple of seasoned professionals, including composer Kimber.
Red Cedar has been determined to fill a gap for emerging artists, professionals, and stage crews who have seen so many performance opportunities vanish during the pandemic.
"It's the young people who are who are really hurting,“ said Bostian, a longtime teacher and education advocate. He’s especially worried about high school students who haven’t had the chance to study and perform in person, which are crucial components as they prepare to graduate and step into the next phase of their musical trajectory.
He said the Schubert is “an iconic work,” which his sons have been playing for a while.
“It's a rite of passage to be able to introduce this to my children and to Katya, and give her the opportunity to play it,” he said. “It’s a really valuable, meaningful experience. And because we want the younger generation to have the same appreciation for this great body of literature that we have, we want to pass that on. That's the tradition.”
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