LANCASTER — Spearheaded by local classical musician and music educator Ilana Cady, a free concert series is coming to town, with the mission of sharing music with as many people as possible.
“My goal is to bring a high level of music to the Lancaster community,” Cady said.
Cady is the music director at the College Church. She said it “has been a dream of mine for a long time to do something like this” because there isn’t anything like it in Lancaster or surrounding towns.
“I wanted to create a space where there was access to professional-level classical music concerts for no charge. It provides a space for artists to share their music with new audiences. I see it as a way to give back to the community that I grew up in and care so much about,” she said.
The performances showcase a variety of professional musicians and students pursuing music degrees, including chamber orchestras, vocalists, pianists, violinists, harpists, organists, flutists, guitarists, saxophone players, and more. Past guests have included the Youth Orchestra of New England and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Chamber Players.
The concert series has included musicians from Lancaster, Leominster, Worcester, Boston, and beyond.
“Performing is one of the greatest feelings. Taking the audience on a musical journey and sharing my passion with them is something hard to describe, but is one of the best parts of being a professional musician. Some of my favorite moments are when you can hear the silence of the audience and you know they’re really engaging with the music. Music is for everyone, and I hope that each concert we present can be transportive, and connect all who are present,” Cady said.
The College Church is located at 337 Main St. in South Lancaster, across from the former Atlantic Union College campus.
She said the church has great acoustics and two performance spaces inside. Most of the concerts take place in the chapel, an intimate setting she said is perfect for chamber music. A few are in the sanctuary, a bigger space that holds their large organ.
Cady understands secular members of the public might be nervous about going to a Seventh-Day Adventist church venue. But she said, “Everyone is welcome. We are a welcoming and warm congregation, and are always happy to see new faces. The concert series is all about the music and is meant to be for everyone Adventist or not, and we hope everyone who attends feels comfortable and safe.”
In that same vein, all of the concerts are free.
“Classical music should be available to everyone, and I didn’t want to have the obstacle of an admission price there for people who wanted to attend. My goal is to give back to the community in such a way that anyone can feel comfortable coming to the concert and not worry about the pressure of buying a ticket.”
Donations are encouraged to pay the performers, who are playing at a lower fee than some concert series can offer because they believe in the mission of the concert series, Cady said. Cady and a few other musicians are donating their time. The rest is funded by the College Church Music Department.
“We respect our professional musicians and their artistry and financially support them. We aren’t in a place yet where we can give big honorariums to our artists, but I hope one day we will have the funding to do that while maintaining a zero-dollar admission fee,” Cady said.
Cady credits the “amazing players” performing at the concerts for their success.
The end of the pandemic seemed like the right time for Cady to put her concert plans into action, although the first year still had some COVID-19 pandemic cancellations and Cady even had to cancel her own appearances because she broke her wrist. So far this year, everything has gone according to plan.
“It has been a great experience running this concert series,” she said.
Cady is directing and producing it, which she said is “a lot of planning and organization” with booking musicians, programs, promotion, graphic design, greeting people, the reception, ensuring the attendees and artists have a positive experience, and more.
“When I’m in the musician role I’m able to focus on programming pieces and performing for the audience. When I’m in the director/producer role there are so many details to worry about!” she said.
Cady said her family has been “very supportive and helpful making sure the concerts run smoothly”, especially when she’s in both roles.
Members of her family are also musicians, with her mother and sister both playing in some of the concerts. She said “it is always a pleasure making music with them” and that she couldn’t do what she does without their “incredible” help.
Upcoming are Cady and Dr. Wen-Ting Ong as a piano duo, Lira Cady and Arielle Cady Flores on harp and violin, the Jamaica Plain Saxophone Quartet, and a flute duo with Dr. Gaby Alvarado and Ethan Lin.
The remaining performances are at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25, March 18, April 15, and May 20. Each concert lasts 45-60 minutes.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated the concert series would begin on Saturday, Feb. 18. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the concert series will now start at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25. This story has been updated.