Arts & Culture

Red Cedar Chamber Music launches milestone season

Fall main-stage concert 'Dynamic Duos' starts Thursday

Red Cedar Chamber Music's core ensemble, cellist Carey Bostian (left) and violinist Miera Kim, of Iowa City, will livest
Red Cedar Chamber Music’s core ensemble, cellist Carey Bostian (left) and violinist Miera Kim, of Iowa City, will livestream their season opening concert, “Dynamic Duos,” from Thursday through Sunday. (Red Cedar Chamber Music)
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It’s the silver anniversary season for Red Cedar Chamber Music, and the wood anniversary for core musicians Carey Bostian and Miera Kim — appropriate since he plays cello and she plays violin, both made out of wood.

Now in their fifth season at Red Cedar’s helm, they are teaming up for their fall main-stage concert, “Dynamic Duos,” being livestreamed free of charge Thursday through Sunday. Viewers can find the online links at Redcedar.org/performance-schedule/

The first three performances will be livestreamed from the couple’s historic home, which offers enough room and ambience to accommodate the technical equipment needed to air the program. The fourth will be livestreamed from the Englert Theatre stage in downtown Iowa City, with even more technical bells and whistles. It also gives the Englert crew the chance to ply their skills at a time when most area stages have been silenced since mid-March.

PROGRAM

The concert begins with a three-movement “Sonatina” by the ensemble’s composer-in-residence, Michael Kimber of Iowa City, then moves to Reinhold Gliere’s “Eight Duets” and finishes with the centerpiece, Ravel’s “Sonata for Violin and Cello,” which Bostian said is considered the masterpiece for the violin/cello combination.

The married couple enjoy playing as a duo, and the program was planned long before COVID-19 caused global upheaval. But the pandemic has shifted the manner in which they’re performing, by moving this concert to the virtual realm, and cutting way back on in-person performances and their educational outreach.

They launched their milestone season with two in-person concerts in their backyard in late September, for fewer than 20 people.

“It was really, really fun. It was really meaningful,” Bostian said. “They were short performances, and several people said, ‘Oh, this is the first live music I’ve heard’” since the pandemic closures.

Then in mid-October, they played a masked, indoor performance of “Dynamic Duos” for about 25 people physically distanced in the spacious Parkview Church sanctuary in Iowa City. Again, hearing music drew a passionate response.

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“There were several people who said they just wanted to weep and lift up with joy,” he noted. “It was a tremendous, mixed emotion.”

Pandemic adjustments

The two also have three Music for Seniors in-person concerts coming up in November, for gatherings of 25 or 30 people in sites that typically hold about 100.

“It’s in places that feel like they have controlled their environment, that have a modern facility with good airflow,” Bostian said, “and we’re able to go because we’re non-aerosol producing instruments and can play this program in masks. ... I feel like it’s safe.”

He’s glad to have the chance to reach more people in person, and feels they perhaps could have played some of their larger rural outreach sites this fall, but added: “We all have to have a sense of responsibility as things do open up — that people open up really carefully, really thoughtfully — that we don’t take unnecessary risks.”

Still, performing while masked does place another challenge upon an already-challenging program.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we can play the Ravel ‘Sonata for Violin and Cello.’ Good for us. Now put a mask on and try it again,” he said. “Or do it in 54 degrees outside.”

The Ravel is “a beast,” Bostian said, and adding masks means they could fog up their glasses, bump their strings or throw off their breathing patterns.

“There have been a couple moments when I forgot what I was doing, where I got a little out of breath because I wasn’t breathing the way I normally would breathe,” Bostian said, “maybe because I was worried about fogging up. So there’s a further level of consciousness that’s required. ...

“But generally, we’ve now done it enough that it’s starting to be more natural, which is good, because I think that’s what we’re going to see going forward when the orchestras come back.”

Masks also make it harder to speak into microphones, like they usually do in their intimate concerts. Bostian said he now understands why speakers take off their masks when they step up to a mic during a news conference.

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“But when you’re indoors with seniors, you can’t — you’re not going to,” he said. “So that’s been interesting. It’s like, ‘OK, do I speak louder and hold the mic further away, or do I hold the mic closer?’ And that’s another adjustment. So I think everything’s more and more complicated.”

The pandemic shift also has forced the couple to learn and hone technical skills so they can present concerts and upcoming educational outreach programs in a virtual format. They typically go into schools for residencies, workshops and performances, but with some Cedar Rapids area schools still damaged from the Aug. 10 derecho and so many schools still using distance learning or hybrids of distance and in-person classes, Bostian and Kim have had to develop Plans B and C with virtual offerings in lieu of their typical Plan A live presentations.

Looking ahead

Red Cedar’s anniversary season remains a work in progress.

The next concert, “Holidays with Wolfgang,” will be livestreamed from their home Dec. 27 and 28, and will include sons Oliver and Adrian, who joined them for virtual home concerts last April, May and June.

“We have to be a little careful with their time, because their schooling now is much more taxing than their schooling was in the spring,” Bostian said. “And Oliver’s a senior, so we scheduled the one over the holidays, which is going to be so much fun, and then we scheduled one for June.”

In between, Bostian and Kim are hoping to present “Brinton Reprise,” building on Red Cedar pairing music with the Brinton silent film collection in recent years. The pandemic will dictate whether that event can be staged with a live audience.

“It may not be possible because it has so many more moving parts,” Bostian said, “and includes a flute, which is the biggest aerosol producer.”

But for now, the couple are happy to be able to perform in any realm, and keep Red Cedar Chamber Music alive at a time when so many other artists are without performing opportunities.

Steering the nonprofit ensemble since founding flutist Jan Boland and guitarist John Dowdall stepped out in 2016 has caused the new directors to step up and beyond their insular world as teachers and orchestral performers.

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“Except for a year here or there, I never really had a full-time job — I had 17 half-time jobs,” Bostian said, including 22 years of playing in an orchestra.

“Not that we still don’t do some other things — I do a little teaching and conducting here and there — but having just one thing to focus on has been, both personally and artistically, wonderful for both of us.

“Having an organization that is so well-defined you would think is restrictive, because our definition is quite specific in what we’re trying to do. However, we’re the ones in charge. If we want to play with X person, we just simply come up with an idea, a kernel for a program that will include that person, and then build a program around it. We can play with who we want, we can play what we want. ...

“This is a lot more rewarding. Our kids are getting older, and you could say we’re middle-aged. And people at that point in their life, it’s a great time to develop a new skill set.”

Building on her love for interior design, Kim has enjoyed designing Red Cedar’s graphics, Bostian noted, while he has found fulfillment expanding his writing skills through grant applications and news releases.

“It’s like anything,” he said. “It’s hard work, but I enjoy it.”

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

At a glance

• What: Red Cedar Chamber Music presents “Dynamic Duos”

• Artists: Carey Bostian, cello, Miera Kim, violin

• When: Live streaming 11 a.m. Thursday; 7 p.m. Friday; noon Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday

• To watch: Find links online at Redcedar.org/performance-schedule/

• Cost: Free

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• Program: “Sonatina,” by Michael Kimber, 2020; “Eight Duets,” by Reinhold Gliere, 1909; “Sonata for Violin and Cello,” by Maurice Ravel, 1922

• 2020-21 season: Continues with “Holidays with Wolfgang,” livestreamed Dec. 27 and 28; “Brinton Reprise,” details TBA; “A Family Affair,” livestreamed in June

• Information: Redcedar.org/

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