It’s always encouraging to see the community joining together with artists in support of a good cause! As part of their “Beerthoven” chamber series, Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle (COT) partnered with ZincHouse Winery and Brewery to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of Durham.

In their debut performance, the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle’s Durham Fellows String Quartet opened the concert with selections previewing their upcoming solo program. With styles ranging from classical Haydn to contemporary Caroline Shaw and Argentine tango, the quartet’s diverse programming mirrored the fellowship’s mission to nourish the numerous talents of young musicians of color and mentor them towards professional careers. It takes a lot of vulnerability as an artist to get in front of a crowd and showcase the preparation of a piece for performance, and I applaud the Fellows for including the audience in that process. In the interest of (hopefully) useful feedback, I think the quartet could benefit from some group soul-searching. As I was watching each member, I got a sense of varied motivations with some members focusing on accuracy, some focusing on individual expression, and some focusing on storytelling. If the Fellows could find a common goal to prioritize and channel it into their playing, I think they’d find that their synergy would increase. I wish them great success with their next performance on December 9th!

Keeping things light, the second half featured COT’s wind section and Principal Conductor, Niccoló Muti, as narrator for a wind quintet arrangement of Peter and the Wolf. Regarding the performance, I found the quintet’s energy to be similar to the string quartet’s. There were blips in coordination here and there that could be remedied by a better sense of group cohesion, but otherwise there was good playing.

While Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle brought together an audience for a good show (and a good selection of wine at ZincHouse), the real reason was to support their community partner, Habitat for Humanity of Durham. A representative from the nonprofit shared that not only is Habitat for Humanity building affordable homes in Durham, most of their homes are sold to first-generation buyers who are able to finance their properties at a 0% interest mortgage. As the organization continues to grow their reach and impact, they’re also working to secure funds to help homeowners on fixed incomes maintain and repair the properties they live in. As Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle continues to find community partners and social causes they support, they have an opportunity to not only raise funds, but also to influence the values of their audiences with effective programming. Habitat for Humanity relies almost exclusively on volunteer support, and while I’m sure the money raised this evening is invaluable, they also need manpower!

So, even if Peter and the Wolf is a recognizable classic that brings a crowd, it’s not exactly the kind of piece that inspires me to strap on a nail bag and grab a hammer to help build homes. That kind of music isn’t always easy to find – but consider how the stories and music of composers like Julius Eastman, Gabriel Kahane, or Lucas Richman could trigger a deeper change in the way audiences feel about housing insecurity. Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle has a reputable relationship with their audiences and an earnest connection with the community, and I think they’re in a prime position to make big swings and take their social support to new heights.