I don't know how well-known this is in the area, but however many people do know about the 4 O'Clock Concert Series at First Congregational Church in Wauwatosa, it is not enough.
First Congregational Church has got something good going on - their idea to bring high-quality music in to Wauwatosa by providing their own concert series using their own church shows strong ambition as well as consideration for arts exposure in our community. I do not know when the series premiered, but I have attended at least one season performance each year for the last three years.
Performances are of no cost to the concert-goer, however donations are gratefully accepted to offset costs to the church. Professional musicians are brought in to play classical/chamber music, sometimes other genres (i.e. next week). Musicians are from our area, generally speaking, but sometimes from as far as Chicago.
First Congregational is a great space for a concert series. It is very live, allowing room for wide dynamic range and also the ability to hear each stroke of the bow, each touch of the pedal. Yesterday's ensemble, Cornelia Beilke and Friends, was a fine representation of what First Congregational provides: alto, viola and piano soloists - all from the Milwaukee area - performing on their own as well as two pieces altogether. Hearing viola and alto soloists is unusual; Cornelia (alto) as well as Jamie Hofman (violist) were both exceptional as they introduced many to such solo and chamber repertoire. Pianist Galina Gerakosov played an absolutely stunning solo performance of Debussy's Isle Joyeuse that almost got the audience on their feet mid-concert.
It sounds as though next week (April 6th) is the final performance in the Sunday series for this year; a cabaret-style program. Although I don't think there is a website for the series, on First Congregational's "What's Happening" page there is mention of the concerts under "Fellowship Opportunities for Folks of All Ages." I have to thank my mother-in-law, a member of the church, for introducing me to the series. She always lets me know about the performances - so in the future, I will try to put something on this blog regarding them.
As First Congregational's music director Lee Jacobi said yesterday, it is very refreshing to hear music that "expects the listener to have an intellect." Even more refreshing is to know there is a community group willing to make this accessible for us.