• Image about Memphis
A rehearsal session

In Memphis, Tenn., the Gilbert family name is synonymous with music. Which is a good thing, because Michael Gilbert is on a mission to spread top-notch classical music to the masses.


Eroica Ensemble 2011 Schedule

Saturday, March 19, 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church
1000 S. Cooper St., Memphis, Tenn. &
Sunday, March 20, 3 p.m.
Womack Memorial Chapel, Lambuth University
705 Lambuth Blvd., Jackson, Tenn.
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61 Paul Roby, violin
•Haydn’s Symphony no. 103 in E-flat Major

Saturday, April 9, 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church
1000 S. Cooper St., Memphis, Tenn. & Sunday, April 10, 3 p.m.
Womack Memorial Chapel, Lambuth University
705 Lambuth Blvd., Jackson, Tenn.
•Friedman’s Classical Concerto in C Stanley Friedman, trumpet
•Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto no. 2 in G Minor Will Haapaniemi, violin •Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony
 
SATURDAY, MAY 21, 8 P.M. Germantown Performing Arts Center 1801 Exeter Road, Germantown, Tenn. &
Sunday, May 22, 3 p.m.
First Congregational Church 1000 S. Cooper St., Memphis, Tenn.
•Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute
•Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 3 in C Minor 
Cyprien Katsaris, piano
•Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 2 in A Major Cyprien Katsaris, piano
•Liszt’s Les Preludes

Saturday, June 4, 7:30 p.m.
First Congregational Church
1000 S. Cooper St., Memphis, Tenn. & Sunday, June 5, 3 p.m.
Womack Memorial Chapel, Lambuth University
705 Lambuth Blvd., Jackson, Tenn.
•Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5 in A Major Sanford Allen, violin
•Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending Sanford Allen, violin
•Mozart’s Symphony no. 40 in G Minor
A warm blast of late-summer air ripples through the First Congregational Church as the final rays of afternoon sunlight filter through its stained-glass windows, a colorful pattern dancing across the old, pockmarked pews. The peaceful setting is the perfect backdrop for the audience members, who sit absorbing the harmonious din of violins and cellos being tuned to perfection.

  • Image about Memphis
Michael Gilbert, creator and conductor of the Eroica Ensemble
As people continue to file into the 140-year-old church, located in the heart of Memphis, Tenn., two dozen casually dressed musicians prepare to perform a free public concert of Mozart and Haydn. Conducting the proceedings is the soft-featured, white-haired figure of Michael Gilbert. Quickly summoning the players’ attention, he raises his hands as a signal to begin, and suddenly, the gentle build of the overture to The Marriage of Figaro begins wafting throughout the building.

A Juilliard-trained violinist, Gilbert is a former member of the New York Philharmonic (where he played under Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Zubin Mehta and Kurt Masur), as well as a past concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony, the Santa Fe Opera and the American Symphony Orchestra. But his greatest career achievement might just be the Eroica Ensemble, a remarkable musical organization that he’s developed in his hometown of Memphis.

It’s said that few cities in America can claim as strong a musical identity as this one. As Memphis’ citizens proudly note, it’s the historical home of the blues, the place where rock ’n’ roll took flight and where soul was perfected. For the 71-year-old Gilbert, though, the ensemble — which takes its name from Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3 in E-flat major, known as the Eroica — ?represents a musical mission of another kind. One that’s very intimate.

Launched just four years ago with only a couple of modest performances, Eroica’s season has now grown to encompass 14 free concerts held in local churches, synagogues and community centers in the Memphis area, allowing local audiences to experience world-class performers and music in a unique environment.