The Chamber Players was founded in 1971 by first chair members of the Greenwich Philharmonia, as the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra was then known, who wanted to play together in more intimate settings and share with the community the music that they loved. Since its beginning The Chamber Players has presented a cumulative repertoire of well over 300 works, an impressive accomplishment. They began their first season with vim and vigor, presenting a three-concert series on Sunday afternoons at the Greenwich Library. The inaugural concert took place on November 4, 1971, with a program of quartets by Fauré, Telemann, and Mozart. The musicians were Gretchen Belknap, cello; Dorothy Happel and Helen Law, violins; Victor Lionti, viola; and John Nelson, piano. Completing the roster of Players for that 1971-1972 season were Jean Whiton, flute; Donald Bender, oboe; George Mathes, clarinet; Joyce Kelley, bassoon; Joseph Anderer, horn; and Robert Genualdi, bass.
Vincent Lionti, Victor’s son, who is now a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, recalls the first rehearsal for The Chamber Player’s first concert: "I was about ten at the time. I was with my father together with Dorothy, Helen, and Gretchen, and we all went next door to a neighbor’s house, because she had a good piano. They were working on the Fauré Quartet in C minor. John Nelson was the pianist. He was Music Director of the Greenwich Philharmonia at the time. They were all very excited about it." Lowell Lacey, Barbara Allen, Wyatt Bennett, Richard Hagen, Mihai Tetel, and Kim Haley became members of the ensemble early on. The Chamber Players were soon invited to perform locally and were sponsored by, among others, the Darien Library and Arts Council, Concordia College, the Hudson Valley Museum, the Silvermine Guild, and Westchester Community College. They also appeared in the music series of several Greenwich churches.
In 1983 Mary Radcliffe became president of the Greenwich Symphony. She and her predecessor, Mahlon Perkins, gave special support and encouragement to The Chamber Players. Mary describes them as "superb musicians – unique in their personality and livliness." In 1985 The Chamber Players helped the town of Greenwich celebrate its 350th anniversary by presenting a program of works by Greenwich composers William Schuman, Myron Fink, Arthur Kelley, Quinto Maganini, Rob Mathes, Constance Walton, and Alec Templeton. The Chamber Players continued to grow in stature. Reviewing a 1987 concert, Greenwich Time music critic John Sweeney wrote, "The Chamber Players emerged as a brilliant band of virtuosi." He characterized the musicians’ performances as "flawless, graceful, poetic, intense, intriguing, agile – a knock-out." The late 1980s and 1990s brought Ronald Gorevic, Joel Pitchon, Peter Reit, Emil Botti, Denise Cridge, Constantin Popescu, Daniel MIller, Andrew Gordon, Diane Lesser, Philip Bashor, and Susan Rotholz. Mark Davies, David Creswell, Krystof Witek, and Susan Hytken Metcalf ushered in the 21st century. The personnel has changed throughout the years as different musicians have taken their first chair positions within the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra. Quite often guest musicians were invited to join them. A strong component of The Chamber Players’ musicianship has always been the obvious camaraderie of the group. “It suffuses these performances,” wrote reviewer Marion White, "and shows their professionalism, their dedication to the music, and their generosity in sharing their gifts with others."
Beginning in the 1991-1992 season – their twentieth – The Chamber Players added three Monday night concerts. They were held at the Second Congregational Church, while St. Barnabas Church continued to be the venue for the Sunday concerts. In 1992 a fourth pair of concerts was added. There were more changes when The Chamber Players moved the Monday concerts to the Bruce Museum in 1994 and again when they chose the Round Hill Community Church for their Sunday concerts. In 2001 The Chamber Players was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization separate from the Greenwich Symphony. Taking the name Chamber Players of the Greenwich Symphony, it has its own board of directors and is responsible for its own funding. Richard Rapasky was the first president, followed by James Daniel, who served for thirteen years. In 2013 Christine Boies was elected president. The Chamber Players hold an annual spring benefit and reception, an event that is eagerly anticipated by music lovers.
The Chamber Players
PO Box 11 | Greenwich, CT 06836 | 203-637-4725