Alexander String Quartet performs this evening at the Asheville Unitarian Church as a part of the Asheville Chamber Music Series.

“The 2011-12 season marks the fifty-ninth year of the Asheville Chamber Music Series (ACMS), which has sponsored over 240 concerts by some of the world’s finest classical musicians over the past five decades. One of the oldest chamber music organizations in the United States, ACMS continues to thrive and to bring world-class chamber music to its growing and appreciative subscriber base. Concerts are held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, at the corner of Charlotte and Edwin streets.

Founded in 1952 by Joe Vandewart, a refugee from Nazi Germany and ten other music lovers, the Asheville Chamber Music Series began modestly. After setting up a table in the lobby of the Battery Park Hotel, the group quickly found 800 people willing to pay the $4 price for a season subscription for “an unspecified number of concerts.” The Alberni Trio gave the first concert on October 16, 1952. Since then, chamber ensembles from around the world have performed for the Series. These include the Budapest, Emerson, Fine Arts, Julliard, and Kodaly Quartets, along with trios, piano quartets, quintets and larger chamber ensembles as well as duos, such as the one featuring cellist Janos Starker and flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal. The legendary Amadeus Quartet performed in the first season and returned seven times, partly due to the friendship and hospitality of Mr. Vandewart, who was a leading force in the organization until his death in 1985. Each year, one concert is designated as the Joe Vandewart/Annie Westall Memorial Concert. (Ms. Westall, an Asheville native and tireless supporter, served on the board from its second season until her death in 1984.)

For more than 40 years, a special fund has allowed students to attend concerts free of charge. Additionally, the ACMS sponsors a three-day music residency and programs at local schools featuring the visiting artists. See our Education Outreach page.

From 1952-1966, ACMS concerts were presented in the auditorium of the David Millard Junior High School. After successive moves to Lipinsky Auditorium at UNCA, the Asheville Community Theater and the Asheville School, concerts were moved to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, which provides a comfortable, intimate setting conducive to the enjoyment of chamber music.”

And here’s a look at the ASQ on the road to Asheville:

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