Artistic Director Natalie Zhu on the 35th Kingston Chamber Music Festival

Over two weeks, URI’s Edwards Hall transforms into a concert venue


For world-class music in our own backyard this summer, look no further than the University of Rhode Island when the Kingston Chamber Music Festival returns for its 35th season. A total of seven concerts make up the series, which runs Wednesday, July 26 through Sunday, August 6 at Edwards Hall. The lineup includes something for everyone, with programs ranging from emerging players to works by
established composers.   

The celebrated event has come a long way since it was established in 1989. “The festival was founded by David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra,” says pianist Natalie Zhu, who has served as artistic director for 14 years. “He started the festival with in-home concerts; he would gather musicians and play in people’s homes. URI supported the idea and it has expanded year after year. We’ve presented high-quality music, especially chamber music, over the years.”

There are numerous highlights, presented by an impressive group of talented artists. “World-renowned guitarist Jason Vieaux is returning for the third time,” says Zhu. “He will be playing an Aaron Jay Kernis composition ‘100 Greatest Dance Hits for Guitar and Strings,’ a contemporary piece where you can hear a popular, urban sound from New York City in the early ‘80s. He wrote it for a guitar quintet with an incredible sense of rhythm and groove.”

Vieaux’s concert on August 2 has selections from Bach and Beethoven, along with more contemporary selections from Leonard Bernstein and Duke Ellington. “I’m a big fan of Kernis – his music is so related to the culture right now. Everyone can understand and feel the music, especially with guitar and strings,” adds Zhu.

Other highlights include two concerts from the Grammy Award-nominated Dover Quartet, performing works of Schubert and Dvorak. Although some selections hint at more popular music making its way into the programs, the roster remains closely tied to the classical repertoire. “Our focus is chamber music,” explains Zhu. “We would love to do some crossovers in the future, but we want to keep the tradition alive as much as possible. For me, being a classical musician, no matter how creative you are, the foundation has to be solid.”

The festival will also showcase two living composers who will be presenting their work, including Tina Davidson, from Lancaster, PA, who just published her memoir. “She was a biologist but chose music; her piece ‘I Hear the Mermaids Singing’ is part of her memoir. She will also give a tea talk,” says Zhu. The other composer in residence is Dominique de Williencourt, a cellist from France. “His work is influenced by his global travels to places like China, Tibet, and all over Europe. His music is about diversity; you can hear different cultures in his piece ‘Mont Ararat.’ He’s a wonderful cellist.” Zhu is also looking forward to a uniquely themed concert on August 4 titled “One of a Kind.” “We have three cellists, four violists, and a piano; all the pieces in the concert are presented on one instrument,” she explains. Find the complete concert schedule at



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