Martin Nadel: Bring on the Music
Autumn means school starting, leaves changing color, and Christmas advertisements appearing well before Thanksgiving. But local music lovers know the Robbie Collomore Concerts at the Chester Meeting House are another reliable sign of fall.
And Martin Nadel is an ever-reliable presence at the Collomore Concerts. For the past two decades, he has been the chair of the Collomore committee.
This year, the first in the Collomore series of four concerts comes on Sunday, Sept. 17, with Lun Li, violin, and Albert Cano Smit, piano. Lun Li, born in Shanghai, is a first-prize winner at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions. Cano Smit, with a Spanish and Dutch background, is also a first-prize winner in the same series. The duo will play works by Strauss, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky.
Other performers in the series include the jazz duo of violinist Tessa Lark and guitarist Frank Vignola on Sunday, Oct. 8. Lark, a classical as well as a jazz performer, is also the artistic director of Musical Masterworks in Old Lyme.
One of the best-known classical guitarists, Jason Vieaux, makes a return to the series on Sunday, Oct. 29.
“He was here first at the beginning of his career when he wasn’t so famous. He enjoys the hall; it is fantastic acoustically,” Martin says.
The world music performance on Sunday, Nov. 19, features Alsarah and the Nubatones, whose music highlights the sounds and rhythms of East Africa.
When Martin took over the leadership of the Collomore committee, all four of the concerts were classical music.
“Committee members began hearing that people would love other kinds of music at concerts,” Martin recalls. “We wanted to fulfill those desires, so we broadened the series.”
Now Collomore includes two classical concerts and two concerts that feature selections from non-classical genres, among them world music, folk, jazz, and blues.
The mix, according to Martin, has added to Collomore’s appeal.
“People who go to the classical concerts have told me they never would have gone to the other two if they had not had a subscription, and when they did, they found wonderful music,” he says.
In fact, Martin adds that now the two nontraditional concerts sell out more quickly than the two classical performances.
“Every season, more and more people come to them; often, we are sold out before the concert,” he says. But he adds, “I always hold a few back to sell. We don’t want to turn people away even if I have to give up my own seat.”
The concerts, under the auspices of the Chester Historical Society, get their name from Robbie Collomore, the proprietor of a general store that was once the hub of Chester Main Street, located where the River Tavern is now. The series began with a single concert in 1974 and, the following year, presented two concerts.
The challenge for the current committee is to get the quality of performers it requires at the fees it can afford to pay.
“When we tell agents that it is a 151-seat auditorium, they understand the situation,” he says.
The Collomore committee itself has two subcommittees, one identifying potential classical performers and the other doing the same for the two nonclassical concerts.
“The success of the Collomore series is in large part due to the dedicated work of the music committees,” Martin notes.
When he became chair of the committee, Martin established an ongoing relationship with the graduate programs at the Julliard School.
“I ask the dean who is the best, and he says who we should take,” Martin says.
Sometimes, he adds, performers call to say their friends have played at Collomore concerts and they would like to.
“I tell them they all have to go through the dean,” Martin explains.
According to Martin, the concert time, 5 p.m. on Sunday, is an attraction for many established performers, particularly those who live in New York City and play larger concerts on Friday and Saturday nights.
“They can drive up here after lunch on Sunday and be back to go to bed,” he says.
Martin retired as a physician over 20 years ago after a career at Middlesex Hospital and as a member of the University of Connecticut Medical School faculty. He and his wife Lois have lived in Chester, where they raised their now adult son and daughter, for 53 years.
These days, his passion is gardening. He and Lois grow all their own vegetables; their kitchen is now a festival of tomatoes.
“You can’t sit around when you retire. You have to have an interest,” he says. “That is what makes living worthwhile.”
The Collomore series, according to Martin, has held its audience despite the COVID-19 precautions when the series was canceled for one year. Still, there is one change the pandemic brought about that Martin does not regret at all.
There used to be a small reception at the end of each concert. There no longer is.
“The artists come out on their own and talk to the audience,” Martin says. “Nobody misses the reception. It was three times more work than the concert, and then you had to clean up.”
For information on the Robbie Collomore Concerts, visit collomoreconcerts.org.
Tickets for the Sept. 17 concert can be purchased online or at the door, or by calling Managing Director Ann Drinan at 203-488-8403.