The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society began with an ensemble’s plan to stop briefly on the Island on its way to a European tour. Forty seven years later the society’s concert series has become a fixture in the Island’s summer cultural scene.

The summer season opens on July 17 at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown and July 18 at the Chilmark Community Center.

In 1971, the Montagnana Trio visited the Chilmark family home of their cellist, Caroline Worthington, to practice for a few weeks. While there they were informed that there were not many opportunities on the Island to hear classical music.

“Sylvia White had her Sunday afternoon concerts [in Tisbury],” recalled pianist Delores Stevens, the artistic director of the MVCMS, “but that was about it.”

The trio, which throughout its career was devoted to presenting new compositions, rechristened itself the Chilmark Chamber Players for the occasion and performed in the town’s community center with a borrowed Steinway. For a few years after that first single show, Mrs. Stevens said, they held two concerts each summer in the community center. Then for several years they staged one of the shows at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. They also tried the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven. But for more years than Mrs. Stevens can remember they have been playing one concert at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown and the other up-Island at the Chilmark Community Center.

Mrs. Stevens is at pains to dispel the preconception of chamber music as “fuddy duddy.” Most MVCMS concerts include recent pieces, often by living composers. Much of what is called classical music was once dance music or, like opera, stage music, and enjoyed by a popular audience, much as film scores are now. Now and in the past, some composers made art music because that was simply where their talents lay.

“Schubert lived in an era when opera was the thing,” Mrs. Stevens noted, “but his pieces are delicate and intimate. Throwing it out there was just not his thing.”

Over the years — at no fixed interval — the MVCMS has commissioned many new pieces. Mrs. Stevens and her ensemble have exclusive rights to play the commissioned works for a year, and then the music joins the repertoire of the contemporary classical community. An early example was the composition Chilmark, written by Maria Newman, daughter of the famous film soundtrack composer Alfred Newman, who has followed in her father’s footsteps.

For those more accustomed to attending concerts by philharmonics in large halls, a chamber music performance might be an unexpectedly intimate experience. “Chamber music infers partnership,” Mrs. Stevens said. “Everyone in the ensemble is capable of soloing.”

Chamber groups rarely have more than nine members and, unlike the audience experience of an orchestra, the listener can follow every instrument as an individual voice.

The first concert this summer will include a trademark mixture of new and old. The first part of the concert, French Hornucopia, will consist of compositions spanning the entire length of the 20th century. Lied (Song) was composed by Leone Sinigaglia in 1902, part of a series of songs based on the vernacular music of the Dolomites region of Italy. It will feature Mrs. Stevens on the piano and her son Paul on the French horn.

Seven Tunes Heard in China was composed by Bright Sheng in 1995 for cellist Yo Yo Ma. Timothy Loo will play it for the chamber music society. The melodies were inspired by traditional music from six different regions of China.

Duo for Violin and Cello was written in 1958 by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. The duo will be presented by Mr. Loo and violinist Alyssa Park.

The second portion of the first concert will be from another era entirely. Horn Trio Op. 40 by Johannes Brahms was written in 1865. It is an homage to both nature and the composer’s mother, who had died earlier that year. It will be played by Mrs. Stevens, Mr. Stevens and Ms. Park.

The musicians who perform for the chamber music society are often Mrs. Stevens’s personal friends and colleagues, people she has met during her decades as a professional musician and teacher in southern California. For example, violinist Tim Fain will visit for the July 31 and August 1 concerts.

“I watched him in high school in Los Angeles,” Mrs. Stevens said. “Now he has contributed music to several films and is an established concert artist.”

The series continues on July 24 and 25 with guests Aaron Berofsky, violin; Scott Woolweaver, viola; and Joshua Ranz, clarinet. July 31 and August 1 will feature Timothy Fain, violin; Jan Müller-Szeraws, cello; Jan Müller-Szeraws, cello. August 7 and 8 will feature the Harlem String Quartet and Aldo Lopez-Gavilan. The series concludes on August 14 and 15 with the Amernet Quartet.

Tickets are available at