For some, just the words "classical music" can conjure an image of fans characterized by aloofness and stuffiness wearing tuxedos and drinking Chablis with their pinkies pointing just so. Add "chamber music" into the mix and you can narrow down the fan base even further.
Neither need be the case, of course, and clarinetist, composer and instructor Gordon Inman wants to change that thinking via a new series to be held at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre. It begins April 6 when the Moon Change Quartet, a jazz group Inman formed during the pandemic, will perform.
"This is essentially pop music done in chamber music style," Inman said via telephone.
He noted many people have preconceived notions of what chamber music is and don't realize it can be vibrant, fresh and "fun."
"I feel like that is the default opinion of many people, and hopefully this will reverse that," he said.
Moon Change Quartet includes Inman on clarinet, Tyler Lackey on piano, Given Arnold on bass, and Nathan Shew on drums.
The 31-year-old Inman hopes to use the series to inject some youthfulness into chamber music.
Called the Northshore Karass Performing Arts Series, it will take place inside the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, which will take on a cocktail lounge vibe. All the shows in the series will feature a string of local musicians who, Inman said in a news release, "represent a who's who of young classical musicians in Chattanooga."
It's part of a cultural movement by a handful of musicians who Inman says "don't just want to sit down and follow a recipe, who want to have a higher level of agency in their playing."
"The supposed stuffiness of classical music is an incredibly difficult stereotype to overcome, and one of the only ways we can do that is to program new, fresh, original music," he said. "That could be commissioning a piece from a Chattanooga composer with interesting instrumentation, or it could be something as simple as introducing a piece that is a whole lot of fun that nobody knows."
The Northshore Karass Series arose from a partnership between Inman and the Theatre Centre with funding by ArtsBuild's new Artists Work grant program. It provides project funding to individual artists, artist studios, and nonprofit arts organizations to produce art for public spaces.
The Chattanooga Theatre Centre is one of eight first-round recipients of Artists Work grants.
Inman, who was approached by CTC Executive Director Rodney Van Valkenburg to conceive the theatre's Artists Work project, has arranged several dates on the calendar that are primarily music focused but also include dance and film.
"We are looking for new ways to use our facility to highlight local arts," Van Valkenburg said.
"We are embracing the word community as a community theater, and it is a way to utilize our unique facility," he said, pointing out that the CTC has six spaces — including lobby, theater, rehearsal and outdoor spaces — capable of holding performances.
In addition to the April 6 concert, the schedule includes:
On April 20, the 3X2 Concert will feature three members of the acclaimed Figment Chamber Ensemble in the CTC's lobby with Inman on clarinet, Charlie Edholm on guitar and Ben Van Winkle on cello. It will feature a newly commissioned piece by Chattanooga composer Matthew Weaver for the clarinet and guzheng, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument played to emulate Appalachian sounds.
On May 25, the Big Fig will perform on the theater's Mainstage, featuring a more full Figment Chamber Ensemble and premiering an as-yet-untitled composition by Inman.
On June 15, the Counterpoint Trio will perform in the CTC's Circle Theatre, featuring Inman on clarinet, J.P. Brien-Slack on violin, and Tim Hinck on piano. The performance will incorporate choreography by Dillon Davis of the Chattanooga Ballet, who will dance during Hinck's composition of "Old Man with Turnip."
On June 29, a Clarinet Choir concert will be presented on the CTC's riverfront lawn, and it will include members of the Chattanooga Clarinet Choir (an organization founded by Jay Craven in 1998 that Inman now runs), other community players, and a select few high school- and college-age clarinetists.
The project will also branch out with a four-day film series on May 3-4 and May 10-11, showcasing a dozen local filmmakers.
Community, in fact, is what inspired Inman to use the name "karass" in the series title, because of the sense of community he has felt at the CTC over the years. The Urban Dictionary defines the word as "a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident."
"The word is taken from my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel, 'Cat's Cradle,'" Inman said. "It's a very important concept to embrace now as the world is opening back up and as most of us have our priorities straight. And it should be celebrated that everybody involved in this project is just that, a cosmically linked group on the North Shore."
Inman was active with the CTC's youth program, and both his parents are actors who have appeared on the CTC stage. Since 2015, he has been performing with house bands for CTC musical productions. He had several projects in the works for the spring, summer and fall of 2020 that were derailed.
"It's incredibly satisfying to see something tangible corresponding with the apparent end of this situation," said Inman, who is also an adjunct clarinet professor at Southern Adventist University and has a studio of private students. "It's hard not to feel incredibly lucky that something like [the Artists Work Grant program] was able to manifest. It feels like the beginning of a reanimation of the Chattanooga arts community."
Admission to each event is $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets are available at 423-267-8534 and TheatreCentre.com.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com.