Treetops finds home at Carriage Barn
NEW CANAAN — Although the Waveny Chamber Music Society shut down two years ago after 30 years of operation, Frank Haines, the society’s former director has been trying to find a way keep chamber music alive in town.
Meanwhile, in Stamford, Treetops Chamber Music Society was looking for a new venue last year, they tried out a number of different homes. However, what stuck most was New Canaan’s very own Carriage Barn in Waveny Park.
“We were trying to find what would be a good home,” said Nick Lai, president of Treetops Board of Directors. “We found New Canaan was very enthusiastic.
In its twelfth season, the Treetops Chamber Music Society was founded at the Treetops Estate in Stamford when the owner of the estate wanted to bring a music society to the property. The society holds five to seven concerts a year. However, the Treetops Estate didn’t have the amenities to keep up with the organization’s growth. Namely, it lacked an appropriate amount of parking and restroom facilities for the society’s patrons.
“There’s an aging population for classical music,” Lai said. “We wanted to do two things: serve our existing patrons and older audience and help create a new audience.”
The goal fit in nicely with the goals of the Carriage Barn. Haines said the Waveny Chamber Music Society shut down in 2015 because of a declining audience.
“The audience kept declining,” Haines said. “We were nonprofit and a volunteer group and the audience kept falling. We tried the best we could to try to broaden the market.”
Haines said many patrons of the Waveny Chamber Music Society were older and as that population declined, the society couldn’t attract a younger audience. The society was also having trouble attracting people who would pay subscriptions to shows which is how the society made its money.
“Part of it is we’re an older board,” Haines said. “We don’t have many skills on social media. We’re lacking in the marketing area. The subscription method hasn’t been popular. People want to be flexible.”
During last year’s season, the society let Caramoor Center for Music and Arts out of Katonah, N.Y. put on shows at the Carriage Barn, using funds left over from the Waveny Chamber Music Society to rent the space. At the same time, Treetops Chamber Music Society also held a show at the Carriage Barn while in search of a new permanent home. Treetops tried out places like the Fish Church in Stamford before permanently settling on the Carriage Barn. They used the former Waveny Chamber Music Society mailing list to contact former patrons and found there was a strong interest in the new shows being held there.
Lai, who has been involved with Treetops for about 10 years, said the society was not only drawn to the nature and art-filled surroundings of the barn and its intimate setting, but also because of the supportive town population. Treetop’s former home at the Treetop Estate was surrounded by nature and local artwork, something mimicked by the art exhibits held in the Carriage Barn which is nestled among the 300 acres of ponds and fields which is Waveny Park.
“It’s a natural progression,” Lai said. “In a lot of ways, it was a logical procession.”
The first show this season was held on Oct. 29 at the Carriage Barn. The facility holds a maximum of 120 people. Tickets go for around $35, the majority of which goes toward paying the artists and renting the facility. The rental fee is less than $800 a performance. The small space actually improves the quality of the shows, Lai said.
“When you her classical music being played, there’s an intimate experience,” Lai said. “That’s the whole point, to hear every breath, every lifting of the string. That’s chamber music.”
Haines hopes Treetops can help drum up more support for chamber music, especially among a younger audience.
“There’s a lot of competing interests,” he said. “It’s hard to offer quality music in our area. It’s tough on a smaller volunteer scale to offer this and its tough in smaller communities cause there’s not a large audience. It was a long effort. I know this core group of people still enjoys this. It’s a great opportunity. I hope other people will come and give it a try. It’s wonderful to see professionals play in this environment.”