Borealis String Quartet opens season Eureka Chamber Music Series celebrates 20 years

Pearl and Robert Micheli are simply resistant to taking any credit for making chamber music a regular offering on the North Coast.

But, the evidence speaks otherwise -- no matter how much help the couple receive in bringing astoundingly talented artists to Calvary Lutheran Church in Eureka.

Shortly after moving to Eureka in 1990, the music lovers -- chamber music was the impetus for their meeting years ago -- noticed a lack of live performances of the chamber music genre. Pearl Micheli contacted the organizer of a similar series in Santa Rosa. After convincing the organizer that a North Coast series wouldn't provide competition, Pearl Micheli was able to get some contacts for musicians' managers back east -- a number of which remain active with the series 20 years later.

In more recent years, the Eureka Chamber Music Series has been working with the Concert Artists Guild which identifies, supports and promotes young artists of classical music. It's a mission dear to Pearl Micheli's heart. She not only encourages young musicians, she encourages students -- young and older -- to attend a concert of one or more of the many artists who make the series a success. For a $5 ticket, it's doable for most every student.

In a time when music education is getting less and less attention in the public school classrooms, Pearl Micheli encourages teachers and parents to make the extra effort to expose their children and students to a wide variety of music -- including classical.

"We want the kids to see chamber music is not for old fuddy duddies," she said.

Music has been a central factor for both of the Michelis.

She's a native of Connecticut and the couple spent a number of years in New Jersey before heading west. She taught music in a huge Nutley, N.J. high school and continues to teach piano students in her home overlooking Humboldt Bay. He retired after a successful career as a research chemist with Roche, a pharmaceutical company.

Robert Micheli plays violin and viola -- a fact that he links to his mother presenting him with a library card and a violin when he was a mere 5 years old. Pearl Micheli is an accomplished pianist and vocalist.

Music is not only a love of the Michelis, it brought them love. They both had apartments on the 12th floor on a high rise in New Jersey. She would hear him practicing his violin or viola. One day she needed to borrow a music stand and knocked on his door. She also invited him to play music. Both requests got a nod. They married in 1977.

Robert Micheli is quick to confirm his role as a supporting member to his wife's organizational talents. When they got tired of Berkeley and found a perfect home on Eureka's waterfront, they headed north. It wasn't long before Pearl Micheli was making plans.

"(She) had nothing better to do, so she started a chamber music series and dragged me along," he laughed.

The first few years saw musicians play at the Eureka Woman's Club on J Street before they moved the series to the Calvary Lutheran Church on South Avenue, a structure known for its fine acoustics.

Given the slightest opportunity, Pearl Micheli will avoid taking any credit for the Eureka Chamber Music Series ongoing success citing, instead, most anyone else from volunteers to benefactors. But, there's no denying that she was the impetus and continued backbone of the series that has awed chamber-music loving audiences since its beginning.

It's about to do so again with the launch of the 20th season and the appearance of the Borealis String Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Calvary Lutheran Church, 716 South Ave., Eureka. A meet-the-artists reception will follow the concert.

"String quartets are the real center of chamber music," Pearl Micheli said.

Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven all wrote pieces for string quartets, she added.

The Eureka Chamber Music Series is rich in new and returning artists: The Borealis String Quartet on Friday; The Raphael Trio on Oct. 19; pianist Anton Nel on Nov. 9; The San Francisco Opera Center singers on Feb. 1; pianist Tian Ying on March 1; the Amphion String Quartet on April 12; the Arianna String Quartet with guest pianist Anton Nel on April 26 and pianist Daria Rabotkina on May 3. Both the Raphael Trio and pianist Tian Ying played for the Eureka Chamber Music Series first season and Anton Nel has visited a number of times.

Pearl Micheli credits the Eureka Chamber Music Series benefactors for making the concerts possible.

"These people are really generous," she said.

If you go

What: Borealis String Quartet

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Calvary Lutheran Church, 716 South Ave., Eureka

Admission: $30 general; $5 students