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SAYONARA, CMSC

After three successful years of performing chamber music in downtown homes, churches, and historic buildings, the Chamber Music Society of Charleston has evidently — and enigmatically — called it quits. Early last week, a press notice went out stating that the seven-member advisory board "has voted unanimously to dissolve the Society." It cited multiple factors, namely "conflicting schedules and diverging visions within the organization."

"From the outside it looked great. We were in the black and audiences were great and everything looked fine," advisory board member Fernando Rivas later observed by telephone. But, he said, individual differences about the CMSC's direction "started to rob the group of its central reason for existence."

A number of off-the-record conversations last week suggested varying perspectives on the reasons for the group's disbandment, but they generally hewed to the essential gist of the press release: conflicting personal visions for the organization. According to CMSC co-founder and artistic director Liz Tomorsky, the group won't be officially dissolved until after it finishes its current season, which includes a May 6 house concert at Drayton Hall and several ambitious Piccolo gigs, including Mozart's Gran Partita for wind ensemble. In the meantime, both she and departing co-founder/executive director Sandra Nikolajevs appear to be involved in separate new chamber music initiatives, so the net result may be, ironically but fortuitously, more music for Charleston audiences. —Patrick Sharbaugh

PARK LIFE

Not for nothing has a walk in the park become synonymous with ease, relaxation, and untroubled indulgence. During the month of April, park amblers can soak up some local history with the Charleston Horticulture Society's month-long "Layers of the Landscape" tour at Hampton Park. A 30-minute audio narration from local actress Hope Gazes Grayson will walk visitors through the richly historical park with cool little stories they might never have suspected. Who knew that Wagener Terrace's favorite rollerblading spot originated as a track for thoroughbred racing? Who'd have guessed that America's first Memorial Day-style ceremony was held in the city's Hampton Race Course on May 1, 1865, just weeks after the Civil War ended? The park was even a Native American settlement at one time.

A free reception kicks things off on Wed. April 5 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Hampton Park Bandstand. Tours begin April 9 and continue Tuesday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m. and Sundays from 3-6 p.m. For more information call 579-9922 — but do so before the end of the month; history lessons end April 30. —Kelly Smith

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