Classical music returns with Cedar Valley Chamber Music

By Kate Hayden,

When musicians with Cedar Valley Chamber Music first performed in Charles City last year, director Hunter Capoccioni felt immense support.

“The response from the Charles City community was so overwhelming. In other concerts we gave later in Elkader and Cedar Falls, some Charles City people showed up. So we wanted to come back,” Capoccioni said.

So Capoccioni, who founded the group 12 years ago, decided “fairly immediately” that the chamber ensembles would soon return.

“Charles City really wanted us to come back and give it another shot, because they wanted to communicate their experience to their friends,” he said.

Residents will have that chance at a July 15 concert, to be held at 7 p.m. in the Trinity United Methodist Church. The ensemble will be presenting “Dancing ‘Czech to Czech'”, music by Bohemian composers Josef Suk, Antonín Dvorák and Erwin Schulhoff.

Admission is free, thanks to a donation from the Virginia Zastrow Smith Performing Arts Fund.

“It’s unusual to have a community the size of Charles City, to have both a church you have that’s so beautiful and acoustically nice, (and) a performing arts committee that…underwrote the concert completely and not have to have the audience pay,” Capoccioni said.

“Their enthusiasm verbally and also financial support makes it very easy for us to make the journey.”

The Charles City performance will focus on Czech works all composed within 40 years or so of each other, by composers were known to each other. The works fall in line with the chamber’s ‘Shall We Dance?’ theme for 2017, bringing worldwide folk melodies to life.

“Czech music is full of life and fire,” Capoccioni said. “Dvorák in particular has a big joy for life.”

Every summer, Capoccioni invites a select group of Iowa-based — or formerly Iowa-based — musicians to join him for two weeks, bringing classical music to Cedar Falls, Waterloo and two other communities for the festival season. This year’s chamber group has eight musicians.

“It’s a really great way of connecting to Iowa,” Capoccioni said. “We do about 18-20 events in the span of nine to ten days. It’s very much like a music festival, any blues festival … It’s a lot of music happening in that amount of time.”

Invited musicians receive scores from Capoccioni at the beginning of May. Capoccioni chooses instrumentalists who have state connections to join the chamber — musicians may have attended school in the state, grew up in Iowa or worked here for a period of time. He also takes into account the repertoire he wants the group to perform, and the type of outreach the group will do during the festival.

Musicians are not just performing concerts, Capoccioni said — the group makes an effort to work on classical music outreach in communities with little access. This year, musicians will work with the Waterloo YWCA and immigration non-profits to support victims of domestic violence and immigrant communities.

“I brought in a violin-viola duo this year because I was interested in focusing outreach in immigrant and domestic violence … It was my personal reaction to the 2016 election and how I saw it,” Capoccioni said. “So I did a lot of searching around and found one of the violin teachers at Drake (University) is in a duet with a violist who specializes in that outreach.”

The musicians dedicate time away from full-time employers, new hometowns, and often families to commit to playing in the festival. Admission fees at the three performances help pay musicians for their time, Capoccioni said.

“We sometimes only have two days to put together some pretty hard stuff,” Capoccioni said.

“We try to take care of them … It’s a combination of them wanting to be here and being in the right side of life.”