Founded in 1982, Chamber Music Hawaii is Hawaii’s oldest presenter of local, professional chamber musicians. CMH musicians are also full-time members of the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra (formerly the Honolulu Symphony). With our four different ensembles, we offer a wide variety of programming throughout our season. Whether it’s the Galliard String Quartet, Honolulu Brass, Spring Wind Quintet, or Tresemble, we hope to see you at a concert soon!
The mission of Chamber Music Hawaii is to enrich Hawai`i cultural life and promote appreciation and understanding of chamber music by presenting resident professional chamber music ensembles in concerts for the public and educational outreach programs for schools and under-served communities.
History of Chamber Music Hawaii
The seeds of Chamber Music Hawaii were planted in 1974 when five Honolulu Symphony musicians began playing wind quintet concerts separate from their symphony work. They called themselves the Spring Wind Quintet. At first the group played only one or two concerts per year, plus a few school concerts, and their budget was about $3,000 per year.
Then in 1979, three major changes occurred that not only brought the Spring Wind Quintet (SWQ) into prominence, but also revolutionized the presentation of chamber music in Hawaii. First, the Spring Wind Quintet was awarded a $6,500 C. Michael Paul residency grant through Chamber Music America, which had the effect of increasing the Spring Wind budget from $3,000 to $18,000 in a single year. Public concerts grew in number and attendance along with the school residency activities at the Kamehameha Schools, Hawaii Loa College, Chaminade University, (Leeward Community College was later added), and the Hawaii Association of Music Societies (HAMS). Also in that year the SWQ incorporated as a non-profit corporation and received a tax-exempt determination from the IRS soon thereafter.
In the meantime, other musicians from the Honolulu Symphony, encouraged by the success of the SWQ, had begun formation of the Honolulu Brass Quintet (HBQ), and the Galliard String Quartet (GSQ). With the SWQ paving the way, these new ensembles became more and more active and sought to work together and collaborate with the SWQ. In 1980, the three ensembles joined forces to produce the “Monday Night Candlelight Concerts.” That first season consisted of twelve concerts, three by each ensemble, and three by the “Tresemble” a new word coined to describe our combined ensemble of mixed instrumentation drawing from all three of the standard ensembles. Due to good music, good marketing, a good location, and the allure of “music by candlelight,” the Candlelight Concerts were an instant success.
As more concerts, including a new pops series, were added, and the school residency activities continued, it became clear that the musicians could not run this growing business by themselves. They needed a manager and volunteer support to set up the performances, do the bookkeeping, ticket selling, fundraising, and help at the concerts as box office personnel, stage crew, and ushers. The Board of Advisors that the SWQ had established to help with its Chamber Music America Residency formed the nucleus of this volunteer support group and gradually evolved into Chamber Music Hawaii’s first Board of Directors. In 1982 Chamber Music Hawaii incorporated as a non-profit presenter and support organization for Hawaii’s resident chamber ensembles, and absorbed most of the projects previously carried out through the SWQ.
Soon thereafter, CMH was awarded Hawaii’s second Chamber Music America Residency grant, this time hosted by the Honolulu Academy of Arts, and as part of the residency, inaugurated its second major concert series, “Sound in Light,” at the Academy. “Sound in Light” was a multimedia performance format: Visual images such as artworks or landscapes were projected behind the musicians on stage to complement the music, and the visuals, the music, and the history that connected them were brought together by a knowledgeable host-commentator. The combination of visual, musical, and sometimes also dramatic or literary art was an instant hit with audience and artists alike.
Over CMH’s 36-year history, myriad other concert series, educational and outreach programs, tours, and special events were developed. CMH became the largest presenter of professional chamber music in Hawaii, developing at its peak a schedule of over 100 concerts and other events per year in thirteen separate projects, tours throughout Hawaii and to New York, Norway, Japan and the Pacific, an annual budget of over $250,000 and an endowment fund of more than $600,000. CMH was the first chamber music organization in the United States to establish its own endowment fund.
CMH has enriched thousands of people in Hawaii and beyond, presenting performances in concert and recital halls, libraries, hotels, schools, churches, auditoriums, parks, private homes, prisons, the Hawaii State Capitol, hospitals, consulates, museums, theaters, retirement homes, on a three-masted sailing ship, and on tape, CD, radio, and television.
CMH has collaborated with virtually every arts organization in Hawaii and many artists from outside Hawaii, including the Annapolis Brass, the Kronos and Sequoia String Quartets, the Bergen Wind Quintet, pianists Joyce Yang, Wu Han, Anton Kuerti, Jon Nakamatsu, and Jon Kimura Parker, and Dutch Mozart scholar Dr. Bastiaan Blomhert. CMH has been the recipient of grants from major foundations in Hawaii such as the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Cades Foundation, Fred Baldwin Memorial Fund, Cooke, Atherton, and McInerny Foundations, the G.N. Wilcox Trust, Elsie H. Wilcox Foundation and the Jhamandas Watumull Fund. National funders include the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, Arthur & Mae Orvis Foundation, Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation, from the National Endowment for the Arts, the C. Michael Paul Foundation and the Atlantic-Richfield Foundation. CMH is an Aloha United Way partner agency.