Spoiler alert: This story has a happy ending.
That wasn’t apparent early on Saturday, June 4, when Lois B. Morris, president of the Shelter Island Friends of Music (SIFM), learned that one of the musicians in the Balourdet Quartet, scheduled to perform at the Presbyterian Church that evening, had tested positive for COVID. The concert had been planned as part of a series SIFM hosts for anyone to enjoy classical music for free.
The news was deeply disappointing, and it looked at first as if the only option would be to cancel; some cancellation signs even went up at the church. But Ms. Morris had an idea. She reached out to Anna Kaplan, executive director of the Perlman Music Program.
“I know it’s a long shot,” she texted, asking if there was a chance that any of the participants in their Chamber Music Workshop could step in and play. The faculty and students had just recently arrived to begin PMP’s summer program.
It took a few hours to iron out the details, through back and forth text after text. “The first glimmer of hope” came around 1 p.m., Ms. Morris said, but they would need a piano. SIFM has a piano at the church, but it wasn’t tuned for this performance because the Balourdet is a string quartet. Perlman could actually send three groups — one of which was a piano trio.
Now firmly committed to making this happen, Ms. Morris phoned their tuner and pleaded for an emergency response. Located up-Island, the tuner pledged to get there — at 5 p.m. at the earliest. The show was slated for 7 p.m.
The tuner arrived, and was still at work when the musicians arrived to rehearse. Members of the Friends of Music got to work stuffing the previously printed program with a new single sheet listing completely different players and different music, as early concertgoers started filing in.
“Chaos,” Ms. Morris said. “Happy chaos.”
Right on time, at 7 p.m., concertgoers enjoyed the opening strains of the performance no one had foreseen just hours before. The piano trio — Grant Houston on violin, Yi-Mei Templeman on cello and Andrew Barnwell at the piano — performed works by Beethoven. A quartet, Ria Honda and Daniel Dastoor, violins, Jasper de Boor, playing viola and Elena Ariza on cello, played Leos Janacek’s “Intimate Letters.” Another quartet played Op. 92 by Sergei Prokofiev.
The Perlman Program had played its inaugural free concert for the public in its tent the night before, featuring many single movements of different works by different players.
Some of the same audience members attended the SIFM concert, where they were thrilled to hear three works in their entirety.
Whether or not they knew quite what had gone into the making of music that night, they rose to their feet in appreciation for a concert that could possibly only have happened on Shelter Island.