The upcoming performance of Chamber Music Hilton Head is the beginning of the end. After 13 years, the ensemble that's played classical music in homes and churches of Hilton Head Island is folding.
But organizers say there's hope that chamber music will be returning soon to the island.
Chamber Music Hilton Head will present two programs -- one in February and one in April -- and then disband.
The players have begun to have more difficulty gathering to rehearse and perform. Some have mounting family or job obligations. Others moved out of the area and traveled back specifically to play.
Founders Bob and Jean Shamo said moving on will be difficult but are pleased that the decision to quit was not forced on them by economic reasons.
"We thought it was great we could go out on our own terms," Bob Shamo said.
The end of the ensemble doesn't mean chamber music will necessarily stop on Hilton Head. Bob Shamo said he's been in discussions with another chamber group in the region that might begin playing concerts on the island by the fall. Details are still being worked out on the arrangement, however, and he can't go into more detail.
Ticket prices for the upcoming season have been reduced to $15, a means to end the group by breaking even (the musicians are professional and get paid). As always, families with school-age children get in free. The Shamos always believe it's worthwhile to introduce kids to classical music.
Chamber Music Hilton Head will begin and end with heavy involvement from the Shamos. The couple organized similar concerts when they lived in Chicago and started a group shortly after moving to Hilton Head. Chamber music is designed to be played by small groups in intimate surroundings. Sometimes, the best venue is a home. The first concerts were in homes across the island, including the Shamos' house, which was built with that idea in mind.
Some of the homes could seat as many as 60 people, but as the ensemble's popularity grew, it starting playing at the Hilton Head library and local churches. It settled in at All Saints Episcopal Church. It would play as many as 12 performances a year, some in the church and others in homes. Jean Shamo continues to play piano in the group. Bob Shamo had played viola, but because of hearing difficulties, decided to stick to organizing the group.
The roster of players, which now stands at seven, hasn't changed much. In recent years, as other obligations began to eat at rehearsal and performance time, the possibility of having to replace some players became a difficult notion to get around. In addition, the Shamos wanted to have more flexibility with their schedule, too. But a full season wouldn't allow that.
The Shamos themselves plan to spend more time on the road, back with family in Chicago or traveling overseas. They've already got a trip to Holland and Italy lined up for the summer.
"It's been a great run," Jean Shamo said. "It's just the right time to move on."