Musica Reginae celebrates 15 years
by Michael Perlman
Apr 05, 2016 | 5003 views | 0 0 comments | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Musica Reginae's Chamber Players
Musica Reginae's Chamber Players
slideshow
Dr Barbara Podgurski center with Kronos Quartet & John Sherba's violin made in Astoria circa 1840s
Dr Barbara Podgurski center with Kronos Quartet & John Sherba's violin made in Astoria circa 1840s
slideshow
Musica Reginae Productions will launch its 15th anniversary celebration with a string octet at Church-in-the-Gardens in Forest Hills on April 16, featuring two critically acclaimed New York City-based string quartets, Momenta Quartet and The Daedalus String Quartet.

Attendees will hear George Enescu’s Octet, Op. 7, first performed in 1909, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20, which was written in 1825 when the composer was 16. A reception where guests can mingle with the musicians will follow,

“This concert will celebrate chamber music with a glorious work of epic proportions, played beautifully by eight artists who have collectively played on every continent in every major concert hall,” said Dr. Barbara Podgurski, Musica Reginae’s executive and artistic director.

For the past 15 years, Musica Reginae, which in Latin means “Music of Queens,” has brought a creative mix of traditional and contemporary classical concerts to Queens, showcasing exceptional musicians and impacting culture, arts, and education in the borough.

“It is amazing that a classical chamber music series has been enhancing the Forest Hills community for 15 years,” said Susan Jolles, an internationally renowned harpist and pedagogue of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, as well as a lifelong Forest Hills resident. “This is a testament to their skill and devotion.”

Podgurski has played a significant role since the program’s founding in 2000, when an inaugural concert dedicated the bandshell at Forest Park. The group continued to host up to six concerts a season, adding up to over 75 concerts and events.

The program was founded by Maestro David Close and his wife Lee Ann, as well as founding board members Donald Smith, Edward Sawchuk, Martin Narva and the late Dr. Harry Stucke. Daniel Olson has served as president and treasurer.

Cellist Arash Amini shared what makes Musica Reginae special.

“Performing wonderful music with close friends and family, who are all truly marvelous artists, in such a superb venue and for an appreciative and friendly audience is always a highlight,” he said.

Podgurski said Musica Reginae's reputation for skilled performers and high-quality concerts allows them to put on more adventurous contemporary classical music concerts.

“An audience member that loves our piano chamber music concerts will attend a concert of experimental 20th and 21st century classical music simply because they trust that it will also be of highest quality,” she said.

Podgurski has used her network of artists and composers cultivated since her undergraduate days to invite artists that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive.

The list of world-famous musicians who have taken to the Forest Hills stage includes pianist Diane Walsh, violinist Philippe Graffin, clarinetist Charles Neidich, and violinist Miranda Cuckson. In May 2015, the famed Kronos Quartet performed with young artists from The Kaufman Center.

“It was a magical evening that emphasized how music was meant to be heard right in our backyard,” said Podgurski.

Each season is carefully curated. The November 2015 Percussia concert “Made in Queens” featured works composed and performed by Queens musicians, with many pertaining to particular neighborhoods.

Sometimes it’s a season of old and new, with an event featuring 20th century music on ancient instruments, such as Parthenia’s February 2016 performance, or a season featuring music and composers that influenced American composers and Americana.

“This season will feature the largest variety of music we have ever presented, including classical, klezmer, jazz, and ragtime, to celebrate our most amazing and ethnically diverse borough,” said Podgurski.

She and her colleagues are already optimistic about the next 15 years.

“We will add a free concert series, which would be suitable for families with young children, focusing on Broadway, opera, jazz, chamber music, and orchestral instruments in an intimate, hands-on, interactive setting,” she said. “This would make classical music more accessible and less daunting to inexperienced concertgoers, but will also be fun for avid concertgoers who usually have to find a sitter to watch the kids.”

Another goal is to bring more of Queens arts and cultural groups together for collaborative projects.

“We have started to fulfill that vision by collaborating with Random Access Music for the past three years by hosting a concert for the annual Queens New Music Festival,” Podgurski said. “It has presented many wonderful opportunities for composers to premier works, and for performers specializing in contemporary classical music to gain exposure.”

During the 2016-2017 season, Musica Reginae will host an anniversary party and event to raise funds for children’s programming.

“It is my vision to create a free series of events for families with young children, to introduce kids to classical and other fine music in a friendly and informative atmosphere that is educational and fun,” she said. “This would bridge the huge gap created a number of years ago when funding was cut to public schools, and kids were not exposed to the arts and culture on a regular basis.”

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