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About Us

A Brief History of the Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, Inc.

The RCMS Story

In 1978, Kurt Grishman, a longtime violinist for the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, began looking for a place in Rhinebeck to showcase performances of The Woodstock Chamber Players, a baroque trio with Melissa Sweet, Barbara Pickhardt and Kathy Karlsen. Stephen and Dede Lieber offered their theater, Upstate Films, as a venue for a concert that fall. Following the concert, which was a great success, local music lovers asked if Kurt would be interested in forming a group to sponsor additional local concerts. The Liebers were agreeable, and so began Concerts at the Upstate.

Three concerts were scheduled for the next season, 1979-80. Guest artists Cecilia Keehn, Carole Cowan, Sylvia Suzowsky and Luis Garcia- Renart, talented performers from the Mid-Hudson Valley, were added to the series to provide a wider variety of classical music experiences. The response from the audience was such that a decision was made in 1980 to formalize the group's activities. In 1981, The Rhinebeck Chamber Music Society, Inc. was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation, which allowed application for funding grants through the Dutchess County Arts Council, the New York State Council on the Arts and private foundations.

In 1982, the Mendelssohn String Quartet, the Bronx Arts Ensemble and the Manhattan String Quartet were added to the schedule, beginning the tradition of bringing outstanding ensembles to Rhinebeck. The Ying, Colorado, Lark, Borromeo and Brentano Quartets, the American Brass Quintet, Dorian Wind Quintet, the Arden Piano Trio and Western Wind are examples of the nationally and internationally acclaimed ensembles to perform in Rhinebeck. Musical works have ranged from Baroque to Contemporary, the latter by such composers as Richard Wilson, Meyer Kupferman, Joan Tower and George Crumb. RCMS has also sponsored competitions for composers of piano and string works, which have been premiered here by renowned artists.

In 1984, the concerts moved from the Upstate Theater to The Church of the Messiah, with its excellent acoustics. The rest is history. Three-concert series became five, five became six and in 2000-2001 six concerts became eight. In 2004, our 25th Anniversary Season, RCMS inaugurated the Emerging Artist Series to present young groups early in their professional careers.

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