High Note: Rockaway Chamber Music

 High Note: Rockaway Chamber Music

By Dan Guarino

“It feels like summer came overnight, says cellist, surfer and resident Emily Brausa, “and Rockaway Chamber Music is now a part of this transition.” As the group’s founder, she notes it’s “fantastic!” to be starting their second performing year.

This often-changing collection of musicians, as individual as its music, will be bringing their laid-back beach infused touch to a whole new set of performances this season, including this Sunday, Father’s Day, June 16, at 7 p.m. at the Arverne Cinema. This will be followed by a film screening of the meditative light, sight, sound and evocative feeling of “Voluptuous Sleep.” Tickets are available through www.Rockawayfilmfestival.org.

“I’m practicing for this program right now, and honestly, I can’t decide which is my favorite piece!” The performance will feature oboe, violins, viola and Brausa on cello.  “Rockaway has such a vibrant outdoor culture and music scene in the summer,” she says, “and I’m happy to bring classical music into the mix. I love when someone stops me on the boardwalk to let me know her reaction to a concert, or when someone shouts ‘that was so cool’ while cruising by on a bicycle.”

Rockaway Chamber Music will be back at Arverne Cinema, located two blocks down from Beach Channel Drive on Beach 72nd Street, on Sunday, July 14, with “a program including soprano and strings,” and musical pieces like the “thrilling string sextet ‘Verklarte Nachte’ (Transfigured Night).”

“Rockaway Chamber Music is a flexible collective of musicians,” Brausa explained in a previous interview. Matching players to the pieces being performed, she noted, “I like to bring together individual performers rather than fixed ensembles.”

This year, “we have some new performers and a lot of faces you’ll remember from last year. People are excited. A colleague who will be playing violin in July just texted me the other day saying that she can’t wait for ‘chamber music season’!”

Beyond bringing ‘Bach to the beach,’ RCM’s concerts often bring out not only classical pieces, but also a variety of well-known music from jazz-inspired show tunes to sweeping soundtracks and original compositions. Their first pop-up concert this summer, at the Beach 94th Street Amphitheater, featured a brassy trombone quartet, belting out not only Hayden et al, but also George Gershwin’s “Summertime,” a full sweeping “Star Wars” suite and even an original called “Kitty Command Centers,” inspired by Rockaway’s cats which ‘patrol’ Rockaway’s streets night and day.

All were played to an audience spread out in beach chairs, on towels and the steps, in the sun, within walking distance of a cone from Mr. Softee.

RCM’s repertoire has also been known to include experimental pieces and live musical accompaniment to film screenings.

Brausa explains she started learning piano at age 5 and chose the cello as her instrument at age 8. As a small sample, in her work as a professional musician, she has played on Saturday Night Live, Late Nights, numerous early morning shows, at the New Year’s Eve ball drop, toured with a new music group, a puppet show in Europe and on a cruise through Southeast Asia. She’s played at the MET, with the American Symphony Orchestra, in Broadway show orchestras, for ballet troupes, on studio sessions and more.

“This year, I am wrapping up my 12 years on faculty at Third Street Music Settlement. I recently returned from performing chamber music at an incredible festival in Albuquerque, NM, called ‘Chatter.’ Last month, I was recording several tracks for Sean Mendes’ upcoming album. Next week, I’ll start rehearsing and performing with American Ballet Theater for our summer season at The Metropolitan Opera House. Then I have a week of touring with Ra Ra Riot before returning to my job playing cello at ‘The Notebook’ on Broadway.”

Describing herself as “a former lifeguard from the landlocked state of Kansas,” with a deep affinity for the ocean, she took up surfing about six years ago. This led her to Rockaway. “I knew that I would love the sea life, but unexpectedly, Rockaway is the first place I’ve ever lived where I actually feel like I’m a part of a community,” she said.

“During the pandemic, I organized several concerts outside at Edgemere Farm. My colleagues and I were all so hungry to play music together again, and the events proved to be cathartic for both audience members and performers.

This was the root of Rockaway Chamber Music: music as communication, music as healing. I love playing and listening to chamber music and want to share this with a community I’ve grown to love. I want to bring a high level of performance to venues around the peninsula to create a friendly, accessible and interesting musical experience. Since RCM is the first classical music collective in the area, I also aim to bring new instruments and collaborations to each concert,” Brausa said.

“With its subtlety and nuance, performing classical music outside is challenging,” she notes. “Performing classical music outside in Rockaway is extra challenging. But she states, “In a way, Rockaway itself is our unnamed chamber music partner.” Recalling a piece RCM performed last summer called “The Space In Which To See,” she says, “It’s filled with color driven ‘extra-musical techniques.’ For example, the violist is instructed to use the wrapping on her bow below the bridge to evoke the sound of cicadas; the French hornist has all sorts of natural breathing sounds. I was worried the details would be difficult to translate in an outdoor setting, but it turned out to be quite poignant and beautiful. Silence in Rockaway is never that, with the birds, wind, and trains creating a unique soundscape.”

“Classical music often has the air of formality, when to clap, tuxedos, expensive tickets, don’t cough, etc. Rockaway Chamber Music is an experience, a hang. Bring your own drinks, grab some food, sit where you feel comfortable and let us take you for a ride,” Brausa said. “Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it, but we all know nothing sounds quite like Rockaway!”

Follow RCM @rockawaychambermusic on Instagram, contact rockawaychambermusic2023@gmail.com to receive emails and check for flyers everywhere.

Photos by Nick Karp and Dan Guarino.

Related post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *