The Evolution of The Belvedere Series – Year One

The Belvedere Series Logo courtesy of The Belvedere Series

Richmond, VA – In my four years at Digital Beat Magazine, I have had the opportunity to review some awesome performances. I have seen bands I loved growing up, bands I would have never listened to, and fine arts that I could never have imagined photographing. I have seen some up and coming acts, witnessing their journey to the big stage. I have also seen some great bands of the past sharing their music with a new generation to make a lasting impression on their way out. It has been an awesome ride so far. While all hold a special place in my heart, probably the most rewarding experience has been seeing the birth and coming of age of what has quickly become a staple in the Richmond, VA classical music scene, The Belvedere Series.

Belvedere is the brainchild of Ingrid Keller. Ingrid, an acclaimed pianist, and well-known in the Richmond music scene, came up with the concept as something to think about when the children were grown and out of the house. Thanks to a little virus that created total chaos, like many, especially those in the arts scene, Ingrid had a little extra time and decided the time was right to push forward… and push she did. Not to be cliché, but what she has put together has to be the lemonade connoisseur’s dream.

Because the heart of Belvedere was intended for house concerts, the venue was important. There were various venue choices in the Richmond area to choose from. Looking back at history, chambers or salons, were often hosted in homes, so Ingrid and her husband Nate, purchased the perfect home for the venture, the historic Marburg House in Richmond, VA. Complete with high ceilings and a salon living room to perform (and room for the audience, capacity is 50), it was the ultimate setting to bring history to life. Having sort of grown up with their performances, I can speak to the acoustic quality of this historical architecture and the treasure of a piano Ingrid also purchased for the venture. One thing I love about the atmosphere also is the various antique opera posters adorning the walls. From Mozart to Verdi, past performances from the historic Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) are all covered.

Rückblick Gallery

The birth of Belvedere took place on May 7th, 2022 with their aptly named “Rückblick” performance (a sense of longing and looking back). Looking back as I am doing now, it would have been hard to top an inaugural event. It was a combination of choral pieces and a few instrumental. Chorus, solo, and spoken word along with chamber orchestration gave the sold out audience a diverse treat. A tradition had been born. Musicians included Ingrid Keller (piano), Karen Johnson (violin), Danielle Wiebe Burke (viola), and Schuyler Slack (cello). Vocals were provided by Lauren Clay (soprano), Abby Outlaw (soprano), Helena Von Rueden (alto), Nathan Bick (tenor), Ryan Tibbets (tenor), Daniel Stipe (bass), Elisabeth Marshall (soprano) and Lindsay Lerman (spoken word). The performance blew me away, and not to distract from the whole performance, but I loved the mix of spoken word and soprano with Sieben Frühe Lieder (7 Early Songs) by Alban Berg. The acoustics and the layout of the room (shoebox shape) made for a true chamber feel.

Now to those of us who appreciate the VIP treatment with an artist meet and greet, Belvedere is the perfect place. After (or before, depending) the performance, Ingrid and the artists will mingle with the audience, share a couple cookies (really good cookies) and a glass of wine! 

Distant Lands Gallery

The second performance I was able to capture was on October 30, 2022. Named “Distant Lands”, the music did indeed take us all to places not Richmond. It was here I learned that diversity was the name of the Belvedere game, and this performance was not going to mimic the first. In my mind, this performance was the epitome of the chamber music experience. While the pieces were very complex, the intimate atmosphere gave it a fun but intense classical jam session feel. I was in heaven!! Musicians for the evening included Ingrid Keller (piano), Danielle Wiebe Burke (viola), Mary Boodell (flute), Drew Banzhaf (bass), Andres Sanchez (cello), and Grammy winner Domenic Salerni (violin). The big treat for the night was a piece composed by none other than the Grammy winner himself, Domenic Salerni. Night number 2 was a big hit!!

The final performance I was able to capture was again quite a change from the first 2. The final performance of the season was all international artist Jessica Xylina Osborne on piano with “So She Wants to Write a Fugue”. To say the performance was fuguing awesome would be an understatement. It was also the most intimate. Jessica let us inside the mind of the artist and we never looked back. Jessica came from a very diverse background with her mother being a pianist, her grandfather being a self-taught blue grass guitarist, and having hung out with a few metal heads in her past, she was well rounded. She has performed all over the world including places such as Carnegie Hall and the Seoul Arts Center in Korea.

Jessica Xylina Osborne Gallery

As you can tell by the title, the night was devoted to the Fugue, which is a classical style of music with 2 or more voices that repeat throughout the piece… with different pitches and tones. This is a style that had always fascinated Jessica so she put together a fugue program. The night focused on fugues written by female composers. A few highlights included Beethoven’s Sonata 31 Op 110 (which includes a hedonistic drinking song!). On the darker side was a cold war era piece by Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz, “Sonata No. 2”. The one thing that caught my ear was the daunting silence between the movements. Jessica admitted this piece did not have a lot of fugal writing, but she had to play it because it was one of her favorites. Her performance was as diverse as she was. It was more than listening to wonderful music, it was all about becoming the music with the musician who loved it. The end of the night was a fitting one, with a standing ovation, Jessica returned for an encore with Fanny Mendelssohn’s Opus 5 No. 3, “Songs Without Words”.

In one short year, Ingrid took Belvedere from birth to adulthood in a spectacular manner. Her achievements at the helm of Belvedere have resulted in the program receiving several grants from the government and the arts world as a whole. Every one of the grants was well deserved. It has not been just about the grants as they have also received private and corporate donations from over 80 sources. Belvedere has obviously gained a lot of attention in Richmond!

The 2023 / 24 looks to be even better. Two larger venues have been added to the mix allowing Belvedere to reach a larger community audience. It is great to see how the dream has grown so fast!! Performances for the upcoming season include the return of Grammy winner Domenic Salerni where he will be premiering one of his own compositions at the season finale. To get the details on the 2023 season, please click the link below.

Belvedere 2023 / 24 Season 

Sept 9, 2023    Transfiguration                 
Louis F. Ryan Recital Hall St. Christopher’s School
Nov 11, 12       The Roaring Twenties       
Marburg House (Nov 11 sold out)
Jan 12, 2024    Diderot String Quartet     
St. Stephen’s Church
Feb 10, 11        Eros Walked Softly         
Marburg House (Feb 11 sold out)
April 13, 14      Illumination 
Marburg House (Apr 13 almost sold out)