Marya Martin

Photo by Da Ping Luo
Photo by Da Ping Luo

Marya Martin is a flutist, and the founder of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. She spoke about the evolution of the festival over the past three decades, and some of this year’s coming attractions.

How has the festival grown since its beginnings back in the 1980s?

It’s incredible because someone asked me recently if it had flown by. In some ways it has, but in other ways if you think of the 32 years, we’ve put on something like 350 concerts in that time, and that’s a lot of concerts over the years. It’s an old story, how the concerts began, and it’s been told many times, but briefly: I used to travel a lot in the summers to do the chamber music circuit. Ten days after I married by husband, Ken Davidson, I took off to Santa Fe. He said, “This is crazy, we should start our own music festival.” At that time, Guild Hall had two concerts a year, but there was no live chamber music anywhere.

And of course people said to us, are you crazy? People are not going to want to go to a concert, they’ll want to go to cocktail parties. But I said that I thought there would be an audience. It started with two concerts in the summer, and now we do 11 in one month and we also do a fall cruise around the Mediterranean.

Are you feeling ready for this year’s festival?

It’s funny, every stage of the year has a different schedule and feeling. The two weeks before the concerts start, there’s a huge amount of stuff to do as far as administration is concerned. And then of course in just about a week all of the musicians start arriving. Then I get to do my real job: playing the flute.

How old were you when you started playing the flute?

I started piano when I was 6 and played that until I was 18. I took up the flute when I was around 10 and can’t remember a time when I didn’t have one around. It’s certainly very much a big part of my life. I believe I’m playing in nine out of the 11 shows in the festival.

Did I read correctly that one of the pieces features the music of Stravinsky and a performance by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters?  

Yes. There’s a piece by Stravinsky from 1917 called “The Soldier’s Tale,” and it’s for seven instrumentalists, and it’s woven around a story, which is spoken word. The story is divided into three parts: the narrator, the solider and the devil. Roger is going to be playing all three parts. What attracted him to the part is that the piece is set on an old Russian folk tale that Stravinsky and C.F. Ramuz changed a bit in order to make a musical event around the story. The crux of the story is: if you sell your soul to the devil, you will lose out and your life will have dire consequences. It’s a very topical story when you think about life and wanting to get to the top very quickly and make a lot of money. It’s sort of appropriate for Roger; a lot of his songs are anti-war, and don’t lose sight of real relationships in life and what is good. It’s a 75-minute work and just the instruments on stage with Roger. Sometimes the group plays and Roger talks over them, sometimes they just play. I think it’s one of the great pieces of the 20th century. That’s on Friday, August 14. The other thing that’s very cool is that while most of the concerts are at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, this one’s at the Channing Daughters Sculpture Garden. It’s a beautiful space with the wonderful sculptures of Walter Channing, to whom we’re dedicating that concert.

Is there one concert in particular that you’re looking forward to? 

When you work on a program you become entwined and so it’s hard for me to chose because I love every concert. But the first concert, which is free, is on the grounds of the Bridgehampton Museum. It’s just an hour long, but people bring picnics, and they bring younger children. I really love that because it’s part of our mission to get younger people in our audiences. It’s a very expressive way to open the concert, and that’s on Wednesday, July 29.

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