Brahms Packs ’Em In

Musicians perform during the last night of the sold-out, weeklong Brahms Chamber Music Festival in the Library Community Room. Photo by Henk Friezer

Classical-music fans filled the Library Community Room for a program of eight evenings of Brahms concerts from July 7 to July 14.

The series featured musicians from The New Hollywood String Quartet and others playing all 25 instrumental chamber works of 19th-century German composer Johannes Brahms. It was billed as the “Summer of Brahms Chamber Music Festival.”

The concerts were sold out for every performance, organizers said, with numerous people waitlisted every evening prior to the 7:30 start time.

The venue almost reached its allowable seating capacity of 184 each evening. All told, some 2,000 tickets were sold, organizers said, and some audience members attended every performance.

Concertgoers came from the local area and from such places as Long Beach, Beverly Hills, Lake Arrowhead, West Hills, Orange County and Santa Monica.

The unique series was co-sponsored by the Restoration Concert Series, part of the Friends of the South Pasadena Public Library.

Organizers of the Restoration Concert Series Brahms Chamber Music Festival include (standing left to right) Ron Folsom, Fely Dela Cruz, Neil Rosser, Kay Rosser, Kathy Folsom, Ann Erler and John Flanders. Seated left to right are Laurie Astle and Janet Ervin. Members of the Series not pictured are Connie Flanders, Shireen Chang, Maureen Kwasizur and David Battin. Photo by Sally Kilby

For 22 years, the organization has hosted a series of primarily classical concerts in the Community Room. The upcoming season begins Sept. 15 and ends May 17, 2020.

Series members Kay Rosser and Kathy Folsom led the event organizing committee. The New Hollywood String Quartet, the Quartet in Residence at the series for a dozen years, co-sponsored the Brahms program.

The idea for the series came from Rafael Rishik, a violinist in the quartet.

“It was always his dream to put on a Brahms chamber music festival,” said Rishik’s daughter Hannah, who attended the concerts. “It’s really a great experience to play everything in a week, although it’s hard.”

When Rishik first proposed the idea, the rest of the quartet thought he was crazy, organizers said. “Who is going to come every night?” they asked.

Many people, it turned out.

Performers included musicians from the quartet as well as invitees. All of those who played are considered among the world’s top classical musicians, according to the festival committee — in other words, the rock stars of classical music.

Some musicians were local. Others came from New York, Texas and other out-of-state locations.

“Here are musicians from all over the world,” said resident Betty Emirhanian. “We go to the Ojai Music Festival, and for us to be able to attend this in our own backyard is wonderful.”

She and her husband Bob attended all eight concerts.

Almost a dozen musicians were staying in the homes of committee members and others during the festival. Emirhanian was thrilled to host pianist Orion Weiss.

“We got to hear him practice at midnight after the performance and in the morning,” she said.

The Bissell House Bed and Breakfast in South Pasadena offered its top-floor suite to three musicians at no charge, said Rosser.

Patricia Van Houten of South Pasadena, a choir director, said she had been to all of the concerts as of Saturday.

“I haven’t done anything like this before,” she said, “but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”