Don’t Stop the Music When Renovation Strikes

Chamber music, by its traditional definition, has almost always referred to music that is new or recent, according to Copland House (CH) Artistic Director and Executive Director Michael Boriskin. Of course, this is not what one often imagines from a chamber music performance.

Speaking of Copland House, whose season is filled with chamber music – what does an ensemble do when its performance venue is being renovated?  The music certainly doesn’t stop; it’s in a musician’s blood. Instead, the ensemble finds a new temporary but all-too-fitting home in which to play.  In this case, the word “home” can be taken literally – almost.  John Jay Homestead (JJH) and Lyndhurst Mansion are both previously private residences, now glorious Westchester treasures that are open to the public.  Says Boriskin: “Concert venues are a little like canvases, in that they hold and provide a kind of base for the artworks. These concert spaces provide a wonderful platform where this music can live, breathe and sound.”

Music From Copland House Ensemble (photo credit: Alison Bert)

In contrast to the historic locations on its roster this season, CH is dedicated to showcasing exclusively American works from the past 150 years – current, in the grand scheme of music’s timeline. In fact, many of the pieces have even been composed during very recent years. The five-concert season includes no fewer than eleven Copland House commissions – seven world premieres and six works that were developed by fellows from CH’s CULTIVATE Emerging Composers Institute, an all-scholarship mentoring program for American composers who are in the initial stages of their professional careers.

Despite a hiccup in Copland House’s upcoming 2019/2020 season – the renovation of its performance venue, Merestead – the organization continues to break the expectation that this vivacious music should be played in large concert halls. In fact, chamber music is designed to be performed for small audiences by small ensembles, and set in intimate spaces such as palaces, castles and other grand mansions, rather than in larger theaters.  The settings at Lyndhurst and JJH – which Boriskin describes as “somehow both gracious and rustic” – recall the origins of chamber music recitals in private homes and salons, but they now open up the experience even more to include the local community.

“[JJH and Lyndhurst’s] sizes and acoustics are really excellent for this music, which is multi-layered and nuanced,” says Boriskin. He adds: “Their drama, intensity and richness are somehow magnified by their intimacy – the music is both grand and personal at the same time.”  The series begins on November 3 at John Jay Homestead. It continues on December 8 at Lyndhurst Mansion, and then again on March 8, April 26 and June 14 at John Jay Homestead. For performance information, visit


Mary Alice Franklin is ArtsWestchester’s Communications Manager and ArtsNews Editor. She has also written about art for The Huffington Post, Paste Magazine, Art Zealous, Skinnygirl Daily, Art Times Journal and more.

A version of this article first appeared in the November issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at

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