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Ensemble brings classical to the masses

April 18, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Why go to a chamber music concert? Because there is no comparison between listening to recorded classical music and hearing and seeing a live concert performance, say members of a Morgan County-based ensemble.

The Warm Springs Chamber Ensemble, comprised of Berkeley Springs residents Heather Worley, Linda Whitesitt and Patricia Stringer, recently performed some of the most beautiful chamber music ever written for string instruments and piano.

Chamber music is a form of classical music performed in an intimate atmosphere, which gained popularity in the 1800s. It was often performed in homes on Sunday afternoons, Worley said.

The Warm Springs Chamber Ensemble formed in the fall of 2004. Worley came to the area in 2003 and was looking for a violin and piano teacher for her children. Worley plays the violin and is a former member of the Lansing (Mich.) Symphony Orchestra.

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Whitesitt moved to the area about four years ago and plays the violin and viola. She is a former member of symphony orchestras in Charlotte, Miami and Roanoke, Va.

Springer has lived in Berkeley Springs for more than 10 years. She is a former faculty member of Peabody Conservatory Preparatory School and Morgan State University in Baltimore.

Whitesitt and Springer began teaching Worley's children, and Whitesitt and Worley started performing as a duo. They continue to perform together, Whitesitt said.

Springer said she attended the recitals and then the ensemble was formed.

"Classical musicians look for other classical musicians in a community," Worley said.

"What a joy it is to play music together music is our life," Whitesitt said.

The ensemble recently performed for the second year at the Berkeley Springs Presbyterian Church. About 100 people attended the performance, giving the group a standing ovation.

"There is a great hunger in the community for classical music," Whitesitt said.

"It carries you away from yourself," Worley said.

"Since moving here, I have seen this community grow from having almost no live music or theater to productions at the Ice House, Berkeley Springs High School, band concerts and small groups of live performances," Springer said.

Springer was instrumental in getting the grant money for the piano lab at Berkeley Springs High School that began this year for in-school, after-school and adult piano classes through Morgan County Schools' community education program. Springer is the piano lab facilitator.

Springer said before last year, she had performed as an accompanist for singers.

"This new experience with chamber music has been a real stretch and a challenge," she said.

One of the ensemble's favorite pieces was written by composer Robert Schumann. His Piano Quartet in E-flat major was performed by the group, along with selections by Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

"We are so fortunate to have such talented people in this small community," said Betty Harmison, who attended the March 31 performance.

Worley said, "We dream about (the concert) a week before."

"The audience is with us during a performance, and it is fun," Whitesitt said.

"There is always anxiety prior to the performance, but once you get started, it's sheer joy," Springer said.

Springer said the ensemble is looking for a cellist. Taylor Cruz Almao performed with them in their last performance, but is moving from Winchester, Va., to the Baltimore area.

For more information, call 304-258-3139.

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