Much like the performances it supports, the Portland Chamber Music Festival’s Annual Spring Benefit was an intimate gathering of friends, family and chamber music devotees eager to share and support a common passion.

“This is a gem of an event,” said Alice Kornhauser, executive director of Portland Chamber Music Festival, welcoming guests to the late afternoon soireé held on June 11 at Merle and Leonard Nelson’s home in Cumberland Foreside. The expansive room was filled with folks anticipating a brief musical interlude featuring Jennifer Elowitch, artistic director of the festival, and one of her dearest, longtime friends and fellow violinist, Lydia Forbes.

“The strength of the Portland Chamber Music Festival organization is a credit to Jenny,” said David Goldman, a board member from Cumberland.

“People are excited to be here,” said Mark Abbott, fellow board member and chamber enthusiast. “Chamber music is an ideal way to hear music. It’s intimate, and it’s the height of the cultural year in Portland.”

As guests assembled after cocktails and a buffet dinner, they were treated to a glorious water view and balmy ocean breeze. Andrew Crust, assistant conductor of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, chatted with Tony Sitaras of Portland and Bruce Johnson, founding board member. Dan Crewe attended, as well as Elizabeth and Jamie Kilbreth of Portland. Larry Rubenstein, vice chairman of the Maine Arts Commission, was joined by his wife, Robin, of Scarborough. Eve Nelson and Neil Kurzmann of Portland and Fred and Jenny Aronson of Cape Elizabeth were also in attendance.

“We want to welcome you all,” said host Merle Nelson, who graciously opened her home for the benefit. “For Lenny and me, to do this is a great joy. Jenny does wonderful, imaginative things, and we thank you for all that you do to make Portland a wonderful place, because it is a wonderful place.”

“I think it’s particularly apt that we’re here with the Nelsons,” Elowitch said to the crowd, as people settled into their seats for the performance. “They hosted our very first event back in 1993, and they have been an anchor to the festival.”

“This is really my house and my family,” she went on to say. “As I look around the room, I see my family. I see people who have been with us since the beginning. It’s very moving to me, and I couldn’t appreciate it more.”

The Portland Chamber Music Festival will celebrate its 24th season from Aug. 10-19, with a series of concerts held at Hannaford Hall at the Abromson Community Education Center on the Portland campus of University of Southern Maine.

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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