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Volume 26, Number 5 — May 2019

Paramount Chamber Players celebrate 10th anniversary

The Paramount Chamber Players (Craig Combs is at the piano.)
The Paramount Chamber Players (Craig Combs is at the piano.)

Craig Combs originally began the Paramount Chamber Players

By Leslie Grace | A! Magazine for the Arts | September 30, 2014

Paramount Chamber Players celebrate 10th anniversary Craig Combs originally began the Paramount Chamber Players so his family could hear him play.

"In 2004, I had just moved to London and knew how difficult it would be for my family to hear me play while I lived in Europe," Combs says. "I decided to start an ensemble in Bristol to resolve that issue. However, I quickly discovered a gold mine of talented musicians and interest in the community for the idea. After only two to three years, the effort quickly became a bona fide nonprofit with a mission to share chamber music in the communities of and surrounding the Tri-Cities.

Since then, the group has expanded to include some artists who come regularly from outside the area to assist us in delivering the highest quality of music making. We are very proud of our community involvement, which is exemplified in our collaborative relationship with The Bristol Music Club, when we jointly present The Paramount Chamber Players Award. And, the group continues to morph as we encounter new opportunities and exciting adventures. For the future, I can envision a concert series with more concerts, house concerts and a summertime festival of great chamber music."

When Combs and the Paramount Chamber Players celebrate their 10th anniversary in October, one of the pieces they will play is "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin which was one of the pieces Combs performed when he won the Bristol Music Club's scholarship competition in 1977. While it's the same piece, it is a new arrangement created especially for the chamber group.

They also are performing the world premiere of "Second Sight," a commissioned piece based on the poetry of Dr. Sam Miller.

"Dr. Sam Miller was a great supporter of the arts of all kinds in the region," Combs says. "He was a contributor to The Paramount Chamber Players from its first year and attended many of our concerts. Shortly after his death, we were playing at his church, Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church, and found it a good opportunity to honor his commitment to the arts by dedicating the concert to his memory. At that concert, his son, Don Ault, gave me a copy of Dr. Miller's published book of poetry. As I became familiar with the poems, I discovered his work captured an overt straightforward quality that I think exemplifies the culture of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia quite nicely.

When the idea of a commission came up to celebrate our tenth anniversary, it was an obvious choice. Dr. Miller's poetry coupled with the music of Ann Holler, Evelyn Pursley-Kopitzke and Kenton Coe, makes a world premiere that is
and was truly born and nourished for our region, a performance art of our community."

The chamber group has been working closely with several area composers since their first call for compositions in 2006. Holler and Pursley-Kopitzke were among the composers who answered that first call. Since then, they have worked with both the chamber players and Combs personally collaborating on performances in the Tri-Cities and in London where Combs lives. "Kenton Coe is likely the area's most
well-known composer of music," Combs says. "I had wanted to work with him for a while, and in 2010, he arranged a couple of his songs for us to perform. The experience was so gratifying that I wanted to repeat it

The Paramount Chamber Players
celebrate their anniversary with three concerts. The first is Oct. 24 at First
Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, Tenn., at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 they perform at Sinking Spring Presbyterian Church, Abingdon, Va., at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 is a very busy day in their anniversary celebration. They perform around noon in various downtown Bristol restaurants and other local venues.

Prior to the Oct. 25 concert at the Paramount Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m., there will be a pre-concert birthday celebration for VIPs and dynamic contributors, the folk most responsible for making their community service possible. TriSummit Bank and The Trust Company have underwritten the concert and host the pre-concert birthday celebration. And after the concert, The Bristol Music Club hosts a public reception in the lobby of The Paramount Center. "It will be a lovely day of chamber music in Bristol," Combs says.

"I encourage everyone to take a chance and come hear us play," he continues. "The tenth anniversary concert will be a great microcosm of the type of experience we have provided over the last 10 years. We will perform the world premiere of a commissioned work with new sounds painting the beautiful words of a local poet. Juxtaposing the erudite with entertainment, we will also perform some of the most enjoyable jazzy, theatrical American music available. It is a unique opportunity to hear the breadth of artistry coupled with sheer entertainment that The Paramount Chamber Players offer. We hope that it may very well bring you back for more."