What a pleasure to experience one of Washington’s newest and most charming concert venues, the ballroom of Evermay in Georgetown, home of the S&R Foundation and its Overtures Summer Concert Series. Friday evening, the third performance of the season presented members of the New Orchestra of Washington.
Following a gracious welcome by S&R co-director Sachiko Kuno, pianist Grace Cho collaborated with the sweet-toned cellist Benjamin Wensel in an arrangement of “Summertime,” from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” and with violinist Chaerim Smith in “Nightclub 1960,” by Astor Piazzolla. The main event of the evening, however, was Franz Schubert’s beloved “Trout” quintet — so called for a tune from Schubert’s own song “The Trout,” which features prominently in the piece. Violist Robin Fay Massie and double bassist Alec Hiller joined Cho, Smith and Wensel in a performance that exuded youthful enthusiasm and joy in music-making. Schubert’s quintet, composed less than two decades after Evermay was built, seemed especially appropriate fare for this newly refurbished mansion.
The overly live acoustics of the room present a significant drawback. Bare floors, brick walls, tall Palladian windows lining one side of the room with a bay of windows at the back, and a plaster ceiling, about 17 feet above, leave nothing but the audience members to absorb sound. The sheer volume of sound bouncing off so many hard surfaces threatened at times to overwhelm the room, set up for about 140 people.
This is easily remedied. A carpet of average thickness could be rolled out where the audience is seated, and the lid of the concert grand Steinway should be lowered, especially when playing with other instrumentalists or singers. Small adjustments such as these would go a long way toward giving audiences a listening experience on a par with the beauty and intimacy of these very special surroundings.
Rucker is a freelance writer.