In 1978, Kurt Grishman, a longtime violinist for the Hudson
Valley Philharmonic, began looking for a place in Rhinebeck to
showcase performances of The Woodstock Chamber Players, a baroque
trio with Melissa Sweet, Barbara Pickhardt and Kathy Karlsen.
Stephen and Dede Lieber offered their theater, Upstate Films, as a
venue for a concert that fall. Following the concert, which was a
great success, local music lovers asked if Kurt would be interested
in forming a group to sponsor additional local concerts. The Liebers
were agreeable, and so began Concerts at the Upstate.
Three concerts were scheduled for the next season, 1979-80. Guest artists Cecilia Keehn, Carole Cowan, Sylvia Suzowsky and Luis Garcia- Renart, talented performers from the Mid-Hudson Valley, were added to the series to provide a wider variety of classical music experiences. The response from the audience was such that a decision was made in 1980 to formalize the group's activities. In 1981, The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, Inc. was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, which allowed application for funding grants through the Dutchess County Arts Council, the New York State Council on the Arts and private foundations.
In 1982, the Mendelssohn String Quartet, the Bronx Arts Ensemble and the Manhattan String Quartet were added to the schedule, beginning the tradition of bringing outstanding ensembles to Rhinebeck. The Ying, Colorado, Lark, Borromeo and Brentano Quartets, the American Brass Quintet, Dorian Wind Quintet, the Arden Piano Trio and Western Wind are examples of the nationally and internationally acclaimed ensembles to perform in Rhinebeck. Musical works have ranged from Baroque to Contemporary, the latter by such composers as Richard Wilson, Meyer Kupferman, Joan Tower and George Crumb. RCMS has also sponsored competitions for composers of piano and string works, which have been premiered here by renowned artists.
In 1984, the concerts moved from the Upstate Theater to The Church of the Messiah, with its excellent acoustics. The rest is history. Three-concert series became five, five became six and in 2000-2001 six concerts became eight. In 2004, our 25th Anniversary Season, RCMS inaugurated the Emerging Artist Series to present young groups early in their professional careers.
Award-winning chamber players such as the Eroica Trio and the Manhattan and the Mendelssohn String Quartets appeared early in their careers and again later.
The Pacifica Quartet, which first appeared in 1998, in 2004, and again in 2005, are the latest recipients of the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award from Chamber Music America.
Previous winners of the award that have also appeared during several RCMS seasons include the Borromeo and Brentano Quartets.
International groups such as the Czech Nonet, which performed here on their first American tour in 2002, the Amsterdam Loeki Stardust (recorder) Quartet, and the Parisi String Quartet have also appeared in recent years.
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This 1897 Gothic structure was designed by architect Francis L. V. Hoppin, who also designed the Blithewood home and gardens and Ward Manor, both now part of Bard College. The stained glass windows were designed and built by five studios: Tiffany, La Farge, Lamb Studios, White Fire Studios and Heinki and Bowen.
Ernest Skinner custom-built and donated the organ. The only other
organ like it is at Yale University.
Click here for church website.