Notre Dame Retreat House is known by many as a peaceful haven on a hill overlooking Canandaigua Lake. This summer, it also will be known as a place to hear world-class chamber music.
The Canandaigua retreat house was to host the first of four festival concerts Aug. 18 for the Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival. Two days later, on Aug. 20, a second festival concert will be held there.
The Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival was co-founded in 2004 by four people with a passion for chamber music, according to Rhonda Jones, one of the co-founders. When Jones retired from her clinical-psychology practice in Brighton several years ago, her son, violist Edward Klorman, knew she’d probably be looking for another project to occupy her time, so he suggested she start a chamber music festival, she recalled.
At first, Jones didn’t take his suggestion very seriously. Soon, however, she and her husband Larry moved to the Canandaigua area and she began to seriously consider the idea.
“We decided to move to Canandaigua, and we ended up buying a house that was near Notre Dame Retreat House,” Jones said. “Things started falling into place.”
Jones recruited her husband, her son and her son’s friend, cellist Amy Sue Barston, and together they founded the Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival.
Several different factors combine to make Canandaigua an ideal place for a chamber-music festival, she said. One of the most obvious is the natural beauty of the area.
“Out here, Canandaigua is beautiful, and there’s a lot of very beautiful music that we’ve wanted to bring to the area. Music and beauty, to us, just ring of God’s creation,” said Jones, who, along with her husband, attends Mass at St. Mary Parish in Canandaigua and Immaculate Conception Parish in Rochester.
The Canandaigua community itself includes a lot of music lovers, and the festival’s co-founders wanted to introduce Canandaigua residents to high-quality chamber music, she added.
“There’s some classical music in the summer here, but there isn’t something all summer long. There are so many people here that love music and they can’t all travel a distance (to hear it),” Jones said.
The organization presented its first summer season in August 2005, and that season’s four festival concerts were held at St. John’s Episcopal Church and First United Methodist Church, which are both located on Main Street in Canandaigua.
This month, Notre Dame Retreat House and Canandaigua Baptist Church will each host two festival concerts. Jones had always thought the retreat house’s chapel would make a great place for a chamber-music concert, so she was especially pleased when Notre Dame agreed to host the concerts, she said.
“Ever since we thought about having a chamber-music festival and having it out here, we knew in our hearts that we’d want to do it at Notre Dame Retreat House if it were possible,” Jones said.
The four festival concerts held each season are just one facet of the Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival, however. The organization also regularly holds a number of community-oriented events. This summer, the festival planned to sponsor an Aug. 19 master class for local student ensembles.
During this class, junior-high, high-school and college students in student ensembles would perform in front of world-class, professional musicians, who then would coach the students and critique their performances. After participating in the master class, the student ensembles then perform in prelude concerts before the last three festival concerts, Jones said.
The organization will hold its annual Classical Blue Jeans event — featuring a barbecue and lively violin performance — Aug. 23 at the South Bristol Cultural Center. There also will be a free community concert Aug. 24 at the M. M. Ewing Continuing Care Center and a children’s concert Aug. 26 at the Ontario County Arts Council.
“We’ve been bringing in extraordinary artists, and we’ve been programming exceptional musicians,” Jones said. “It’s a labor of love.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For ticket prices and more information about artists and venues, visit the Canandaigua Lake Chamber Music Festival’s Web site at www.lakechambermusic.org, or contact Rhonda Jones, executive director, at 585/394-5678 or firstname.lastname@example.org.