In-Concert Sierra an icon for Foothills classical music

BACK IN 1946, A GROUP OF AFFLUENT residents in Grass Valley joined together to form a group to bring musical talent to the foothills from San Francisco. After meetings at the his-toric Bret Harte Hotel, the Twin Cities Concert Association (TCCA) was born.

A campaign netted 1,000 members, and the first act was an opera singer from San Francisco. Sixty-three years later, the TCCA is going strong, making it one of the oldest performing arts groups in the foothills.

“Our growth has been remarkable,” says Artistic Director Ken Hardin. Season ticket sales are up 100 percent from last year despite the recession. The group’s annual growth typically ranges from 30 to 50 percent. Its concerts in Grass Valley usually attract about 300 people.

The TCCA’s success hasn’t lulled it into complacency, however. The group is changing its name to “In-Concert Sierra” to freshen up its image, shorten its title and differentiate it from a big church in town that bears the same initials.

The group will begin marketing its new name next year, along with a website, inconcertsierra.com.

A hallmark of the group’s success is organizing a question-and-answer session with the musicians before their performance, called “meet the artist.” After the concert, performers mix with concert-goers in a reception, making the experience more intimate. In-Concert Sierra’s success also stems from managing its costs and being opportunistic in signing up performers at reasonable rates.

A classic example is the worldfamous Vienna Boys Choir, which the group booked to perform in March. The choir has been a symbol of Austria for more than 500 years.

Hardin has remained in contact with the choir’s agent, and he was told they were available en route to Chico for a performance the next night. The group made an offer it could afford, and it was accepted. The concert is already sold out.

In-Concert Sierra also searches for up-and-coming musicians that it can book at more reasonable rates, before they become world famous.

Violinist Roberto Cani is an example. Many classical music experts consider Cani, 42, the Yo-Yo Ma of the next generation. Cani performed for the group for the 2005-2006 season while teaching at UCLA. He was playing with a violin from the 1700s worth $1 million.

Many times the musicians like playing for In-Concert Sierra, and they return. Cani is returning to perform Feb. 21 in a duo with pianist Robert Thies.

The 2009-2010 schedule also features the group’s first harp performance—Bridget Kibbey. The young harpist has been featured as a soloist with the Julliard Symphony and has appeared with the New York Philharmonic and in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.

Hardin, an accomplished musician in his own right, also performs for In- Concert Sierra. The concerts are at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Grass Valley. With its new name, con- cert-goers can expect many more years of memorable experiences.

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