Chamber music has been a popular compositional genre for centuries, and has been known as the “music of friends” for more than 100 years.

The music performances are characterized by intimacy. Throughout its history, small groups of instrumentalists performed in the homes of patrons, where individual musical virtuosity was showcased with generally only one performer for each part. Today, listeners can enjoy what made this exclusive listening experience so appealing long ago at the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival. Celebrating its 15th season, the festival provides First Coast residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of performers and performances in multiple venues throughout Amelia Island.

The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival was founded in 2002 by Christopher Rex, who continues to serve as the festival’s general and artistic director. Rex is a renowned classical musician and teacher who joined the Atlanta Symphony orchestra in 1979 as principal cello, and later performed as a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra for seven seasons under conductor Eugene Ormandy. After buying a home on Amelia Island, Rex was struck by the number of available musical performance venues which were “acoustically friendly,” as well as the extent of the interest of the locals in classical music. An idea began to take shape, eventually becoming the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival.

FCM_Jan16_First Act_The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival (4 of 8) FCM_Jan16_First Act_The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival (7 of 8) FCM_Jan16_First Act_The Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival (8 of 8)

“As we planned the first festival, the 9/11 tragedy was still very fresh in everyone’s mind, and we thought that showcasing some of the brightest aspects of human achievement would be both timely and well-received,” Rex says.

The festival’s executive director, Dr. Joseph Marasco is a long-time devotee of classical music, having previously served on the board of the Pittsburgh Opera. He was excited to have an opportunity to contribute to the festival’s development.

“We are delighted that the festival has continued to grow in stature as evidenced by the caliber of artists we are able to attract,” Marasco says. “We are committed to emphasizing traditional classical music, although we do offer an eclectic program featuring non-traditional instrumentalists and instruments. We are hopeful of hosting at least 3,500 attendees at this year’s events.”

It shouldn’t be a tough sell considering the opening act.

The 2016 festival kicks off on Jan. 14 with a performance by multi-Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

“Performances continue through May, featuring string quartets and trios, piano soloists and even a mandolinist this year,” Marasco says. “We are very grateful to our numerous volunteers, as well as our sponsors (including the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council, CBC National Bank, and Florida Public Utilities, to name a few) for continuing to support our mission of entertaining and educating year after year.”