Playing a Piacere

The mysterious Parlor Players don’t advertise their private gatherings. The local group has met in one form or another since the 1970s, though their style of house concert has been favored by classical-music lovers for a lot longer than that — since at least the 1770s. (Gloria Chord on violin, Lynn Kitts on piano, Dan Hupe on cello). Photo by Tim Robison

For nearly 40 years, Hendersonville’s Parlor Players have been bringing live music to intimate settings — and tuning out the rest of the world. The group’s informal monthly meetings happen in private homes and are for the performers’ benefit only — i.e., concerts are not open to the public.

Some use the meetings as a run-through for upcoming public performances; others simply enjoy playing to “keep skills finely honed,” explains pianist Lynn Kitts. Having joined the group not long after its start in the late 1970s, she is its longest-term member. The Parlor Players were formed by the late Carol Solenberger, another classical pianist. Membership is limited to 21 to allow for home meetings, although the Players have occasionally met at Blue Ridge Community College at the invitation of the school’s lead music instructor, Kevin Ayesh, an honorary member. Another popular venue is the piano studio of Keith and Joann Freeburg on Asheville Highway; their two grand pianos provide an opportunity to express works with that arrangement.

“Ninety-five percent of the music is classical, and each member selects his own repertoire,” Kitts explains. Solo performers and trio and quartet ensembles are both welcome. Piano and string pieces are most commonly performed, although guitar, organ, and voice may also be on the monthly schedule. Many members are retired from active performing, but the group also numbers some musicians in their twenties who are just starting on their classical careers.

New members join by invitation only, and must audition and be approved. Their judges are formidable: some active Parlor Players hold PhDs in performance and composition,. One played with the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and was president of the orchestra’s Board of Directors.

So they’re not all under the radar — the Parlor Players are also active in the community as choir directors, accompanists, or as teachers in public and private schools. “While our particular professional degrees may vary,” Kitts says, “we’re committed to a high level of quality in our playing.”

The Parlor Players will meet in May at an undisclosed location.

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