The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival is evidence of the strength of collaboration in metro Detroit. The Festival began in 1992 as a joint effort between Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings and local religious institutions. Since then, the organization has brought some of the world’s most acclaimed chamber musicians to the city for a two-week Festival that occurs in venues across the metropolitan area.
The 30th season of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival comes at a time of Turning Points. As life begins to resume after the privations of the pandemic, we feel a sense of renewed energy and optimism. Featuring revolutionary creators, pieces and performers, the Festival will celebrate the rich story of chamber music through performances by over 30 classical musicians.
This summer’s Festival welcomes celebrated artists who have pioneered today’s chamber music scene, including the Emerson String Quartet, who will perform three concerts of the group’s most essential repertoire as part of their farewell tour, and Alessio Bax, who makes his return to the Festival with a series of piano performances. The Festival also looks ahead to the future history-makers with a new commissioning collaboration with Chamber Music Northwest and the Seattle Chamber Music Society, as well as a collaborative chamber music performance of the first act of Cosi fan Tutte with the Detroit Opera Resident Artist Program. This performance includes a Festival debut of Shai Wosner.
Strong leadership has steered the course of the Festival’s success. Festival founder and pianist James Tocco retired as Artistic Director in June 2014 after 21 years. Welsh musician Paul Watkins, considered one of the best cellists in the world, moved into the role of Artistic Director in 2015. In addition to his role as cellist for the renowned Emerson String Quartet, he has remained a champion for the Festival’s growth. His in-depth knowledge has led each Festival season to have an enlightening blend of both classical and modern pieces.
In 1997, the organization began its Shouse Institute, connecting emerging ensembles to established musicians through masterclass sessions, creating a vibrant educational opportunity. In 2014, the Festival expanded this opportunity through a partnership with Detroit’s Sphinx Organization, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of young Black and Latino classical musicians. Each year, a Sphinx alumni ensemble is hosted as part of the Shouse Institute.
From its establishment to its change in leadership to its growing educational opportunities, the Festival broke social and geographic boundaries to bring people together to celebrate the evolution of chamber music This June, the Festival will look back at the turning points that have shaped it, along with the iconic moments in music history that have defined the evolution of chamber music.