Gold Chamber

As the Honolulu Chamber Music Series (HCMS) launches its 50th anniversary season, bringing international chamber music ensembles to the 400-seat Orvis Auditorium, it’s hard to imagine that the series’ first concerts took place in Honolulu living rooms.


“The first concert was at the home of Mrs. Louise Judd in 1954,” says HCMS board member James Digiambattista, Ph.D. Also in attendance were Mrs. C. Montague Cooke, folks from the Baldwin family and other prominent Honoluluans. The first performance was such a hit, the attendees vowed to host more, taking classical music ensembles from living room to living room, then to venues such as McKinley High School and Punahou School. The series landed in its permanent home at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa’s Orvis Auditorium when that hall was built in 1962.

The Tokyo String Quartet, from left to right, Kazuhide Isomura, Martin Beaver, Clive Greensmith and Kikuei Ikeda. Photo: J. Henry Fair

Success has come by keeping things small. Chamber music, as the name implies, is written for small ensembles-typically a quartet-performing in a small space, without a conductor. Musicians play off each other as they interpret the piece they perform. Says Digiambattista, “You can listen to this music in recordings, but when you see it live, you can really see that interplay.”

The HCMS organization is as intimate as the art form it celebrates. It has no staff, not even an office. Volunteer board members find the musicians, make the arrangements, raise the funds. “All the money goes to pay the musicians,” says Digiambattista.

The golden anniversary season is designed to transcend generational and national boundaries. For example, this season HCMS will bring in the Cypress Quartet, named “Generation X Ensemble to Watch” by Chamber Music Magazine, and opens its season this month with Japan’s acclaimed Tokyo String Quartet. Each of these visiting ensembles will be joined by top musicians with Hawai’i’s own Honolulu Symphony.

Honolulu Chamber Music Series 50th Anniversary Season opens with:

Tokyo String Quartet
Performing quartets by Haydn, Zemlinsky and DvorŠák.
•Sat., Oct. 16, 7:30 p.m.
•Orvis Auditorium, UH Manoa
•Tickets available at the Campus Center ticket office, or charge by phone at 944-2697, or visit



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