The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society summer program this year has strayed from some of the more traditional offerings.

“The whole business of going to a chamber music concert — well, we’ve really given that a shake-up,” declared Nora Nevin, the society’s director of publicity.

This summer, the chamber music society has hosted a marimbist who played a Bach arrangement for the marimba. “She had people standing up and cheering,” said Delores Stevens, artistic director and concert pianist, who plays in every concert with one of the visiting performers.

They also premiered a new piece by Phillip Glass, composed for violin and piano. Another guest was Timothy Fain, who was the violinist in the movie Black Swan.

Such pieces as these were instrumental in bringing the music to a larger audience. “Chamber music is now becoming open to a larger forum than it used to be, and we brought in a lot of jazz, and a lot of contemporary work. It’s not just that it’s electronic, we have all different kinds of music now,” said Mrs. Stevens.

The chamber music society has worked to incorporate nontraditional forms of music into their program for the last six years or so, said Mrs. Stevens. But she said this is a reflection of the music culture worldwide: “In my view, music is getting closer together. It’s definitely more adventurous, but it’s not more separate. Well, we aren’t talking rock and roll here, but it’s more adventurous to fit our world.”

Part of that effort, both for the society and for the general culture of classical music, incorporates both geographic and musical diversity. This year, they are hosting the Harlem String Quartet for the second time — the group will close this summer’s concert festival on Monday and Tuesday.

Sponsored by the Sphinx Corporation, the quartet is dedicated to presenting the music of composers who haven’t had much opportunity to be heard by a wide audience. They are currently in residence at the New England Conservatory and none of the members are from Harlem, although the group did originate there and performed its first concert at the Apollo Theatre where they premiered a piece by Wynton Marsalis, The Octaroon Ball. Two of the musicians are from Cuba.

The quartet also will perform a piece by Chick Corea called The Adventures of Hippocrates, which is composed of two movements, a “quasi-tango” and a “quasi-fugue,” explained Mrs. Nevin.

The Harlem String Quartet will provide the final note in this summer’s concert series.

”The audience response this summer was absolutely incredible, which was exciting, because the music offered was not from a traditional repertoire,” Mrs. Nevin said.


The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society hosts the Harlem String Quartet in its summer concert series on Monday, August 15, and Tuesday, August 16, featuring pieces by Beethoven, Chick Corea and Dvorak. The Monday concert begins at 8 p.m. at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. The Tuesday concert is at the same time at the Chilmark Community Center. The cost is $35, $30 with an Island Card. Students are free. For information, call 508-696-8055.