Music for Montauk Rises Again

Lilah Gosman recalled that when Bill Akin, the organization’s founder, contacted her, “he thought he would have to close, because no one wanted to grab the reins.”
In addition to Music for Montauk, Milos Repicky and Lilah Gosman had some other major projects this year, including the birth of their son, Leo Gosman Repicky, now 3 months old. Lauren R. Penza

What was once a fixture of the Montauk cultural scene faltered recently after the death of its director in 2013. Ruth Widder ran Music for Montauk for two decades and produced more than 90 free concerts for the greater community.

There was never a question of not going on, until there was. Lilah Gosman recalled that when Bill Akin, the organization’s founder, contacted her, “he thought he would have to close, because no one wanted to grab the reins.”

Ms. Gosman, a Montauk native and vocalist who has performed at the Kennedy Center and Avery Fisher Hall, among many other venues, and her husband, Milos Repicky, a conductor and pianist at the Metropolitan Opera, had their own plans for classical musical events centered in Montauk at the time they got the call. Well aware of the financial crisis currently affecting many classical music companies, they were planning something different, something they hoped would attract not only those familiar with what had come before but also new and more demographically diverse audiences.

Mr. Akin founded the Montauk Chamber Music Society in the early 1980s, which became the nucleus for Music for Montauk. In 1991, the society shifted its focus from by-invitation concerts in private homes to free public events held at the Montauk School under the direction of Ms. Widder.

Ms. Gosman and Mr. Repicky, who were friendly with her, had participated in some of the more recent concerts. Ms. Gosman’s mother had been on the board, she said; her aunt is on it now: “We have a history with Music for Montauk.” The couple were just sorting out their own plans when Mr. Akin called. “It was the perfect pairing,” said Mr. Repicky.

They became involved about 18 months ago. Joining them on the new board are Mr. Akin, Sally Richardson, who is also the creative consultant, Rita Bonicelli, legal aide, Brendan Moffitt, treasurer, and Roberta Gosman Donovan. On May 9, a hint of what lies ahead will be revealed in the spring concert at the school.

Although the venue will be familiar to long-time devotees, the couple, who are planning six concerts in season and four in the winter, do not expect to be bound to it. “We know there’s a lot going on in Montauk in the summer, but we want to change the dynamic between the musicians and audience,” Mr. Repicky explained. “There’s a crowd that attends classical music concerts; then there is a whole bunch of people that might be interested in attending if we remove the mental blocks around it.”

By performing in other, more casual environments, they hope the concerts will feel more like happenings. Various settings are under discussion, with possibilities including the Montauk Lighthouse, Third House, and Fort Pond House. Plans for the complete season will be announced at the spring concert.

Offering a hint as to what is to come, the May 9 program is spring-focused, with Vivaldi’s “Spring‚” from “The Four Seasons‚” opening the performance and Piazzolla’s “Primavera Portena‚” from his own “Four Seasons‚” as the finale. In between will be seasonally appropriate selections from Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Rossini.

“The iconic piece by Vivaldi, played by a great string player in the school setting, will speak to the history of the Chamber Music Society and what Bill Akin started in the 1980s,” Mr. Repicky said. Its pairing with a 20th-century Argentinian tango for the finale is a sure signal of creative twists to come. “We want to make it fun and engaging,” said Ms. Gosman.

Thomas Bohlert, a music writer for The Star, called the pairing at beginning and end “sure to be a crowd-pleaser,” and applauded the rest of the program as well. “Beethoven’s much-loved Sonata for Piano and Violin in F (Op. 24), known as the Spring Sonata, is a joyful and substantial work,” he said. “Tchaikovsky’s ‘May‚’ from ‘The Seasons,’ a series of 12 short character pieces, one for each month of the year, will be less familiar, but rounded out by two works by the ever-popular Rossini, the aria ‘Una Voce Poco Fa’ from ‘Il Barbiere di Siviglia,’ and the Sonata for Strings No. 1 in G, which in its charm shows how Rossini earned the nickname ‘the Italian Mozart.’ ”

Expect Ms. Gosman and Mr. Repicky to draw deep from their long list of friends and colleagues in the performance world, including members of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. Performing for them in two weeks will be Rachel Calloway, a mezzo-soprano; Annaliesa Place, a violinist, Diego Garcia, a cellist, Joanna Maurer, a violinist, and Brad Aikman, a bassist.

They plan to bring in headliner musicians with a high profile, as Ms. Widder did, when it fits the concert and setting, but “we’re also trying to create a collaborative group of musicians who will work together throughout the summer and take the audience on different journeys with them,” Ms. Gosman said.

The goal, said her husband, is to “make it more personal, more involving.” If people see the same artists each time pushing their creative boundaries, they may become invested in that growth and come to the next concert to see where it will take them, he said. Speaking of the many music events already popular here, he suggested that “this is a little more egalitarian. . . . We want to get the pretension out of it. You won’t need to know about Beethoven to enjoy it.”

Education will continue to be part of the mission. Ms. Gosman, who is an educator in New York City, said that, following Ms. Widder’s lead, a shortened version of each concert will be presented at the Montauk School the day before the spring performance, with a focus on how images are created in music. While not a fan of the pre-concert lecture, she expects there to be some interchange with the musicians.

Some regular concerts at the school will put the audiences on the stage with the performers or the performers on the floor with the audience. “We want them to see the sweat on the musicians’ brow or how they are moving the bow,” Mr. Repicky said. “In a jazz concert, the bassist, drummer, and guitarist are all riffing off each other,” he said, and he wants patrons to see that classical music can provide a similar level of interaction.

Their Saturday concert takes place at 4 p.m. at the Montauk School auditorium. A reception following at 5:30 at Gosman's Restaurant is $25 in advance through the Music for Montauk website and $30 at the door.