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Uptown Musician Revives Classical Society After 100 Years

By Nigel Chiwaya | November 11, 2013 8:40am
 A new initiative is going to bring early music performances to Washington Heights.
Washington Heights Musical Society
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A local musician reached into the history books to plan a new classical music concert series.

Harpsichord player Alexandra Snyder Dunbar, who lives in upper Manhattan, is reviving the Washington Heights Musical Society at Holyrood Episcopal Church on West 179th Street, after discovering that the church used to host a similar society in the 1900s.

"It was such a thrill to see that there were performances in Washington Heights back then," said Dunbar, who chose the group's name after discovering a 1904 program for a Musical Society concert at Holyrood. "We're looking to bring that back. I'd like to get more concerts up here."

The performances by professional, classically trained musicians — which kicks off Saturday at 7 p.m. — will highlight baroque era music from about 1600 to 1750. 

Chamber music from Germany will be the focus on Saturday, with selections from Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann, Johann Joachim Quantz and Christoph Schaffrath.

Dunbar said she wanted to give fans of classical music the opportunity to attend shows without having to trek all the way down to Lincoln Center or beyond. She said she's confident that there's local interest in baroque music, saying a stranger recently stopped her husband in the street as he wheeled her harpsichord — a large baroque era instrument that resembles a pian —  to the church.

"Is that a harpsichord? This neighborhood's looking up," the man said.

The Washington Heights Musical Society will perform Saturday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. at Holyrood Episcopal Church at 715 W. 179th St. Admission will be a suggested donation of $15 per person, and $10 for seniors and students. Additional concerts will be held Feb. 9 and March 23.