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About Us

Beethoven Septet group
At the Schomburg Center
After the world premiere of A Hug for Harlem
At Merkin Concert Hall

The Harlem Chamber Players is an ethnically diverse collective of professional musicians dedicated to bringing high-caliber, affordable and accessible live classical music to people in the Harlem community and beyond. In addition, The Harlem Chamber Players seek to build an audience for classical music in general through community and educational outreach, as well as through collaborations with Harlem's other arts organizations, schools and cultural institutions, while creating opportunities for classically trained musicians of color.

The Harlem Chamber Players at Zankel Hall - Carnegie
At Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall
Students of Opus 118 Harlem School of Music
Joint Concert with Opus 118 Harlem School of Music

Liz PlayerHistory
Music at St. Mary's
Harlem’s acclaimed chamber music series Music at St. Mary’s began in 2008 as a partnership between clarinetist Liz Player and the late violist Charles Dalton, who met while performing at a Black History Month gala concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. Inspired and encouraged by the late Janet Wolfe, founder of the New York City Housing Authority Symphony Orchestra and long-time patron of minority classical musicians, Ms. Player and Mr. Dalton created a summer music festival in the neighborhood of Manhattanville/West Harlem that provided dynamic chamber music concerts. Following the enthusiastic reception of the festival, the former rector, Rev. Dr. Earl Kooperkamp, of the historic St. Mary’s Episcopal Church welcomed and supported the creation of an ongoing series. After the departure of Mr. Dalton in 2010, Liz joined forces with Carl Jackson, an East Harlem native, to form The Harlem Chamber Players.

The Harlem Chamber Players have performed at many different venues including Aaron Davis Hall, the Apollo Theater, the Cotton Club, Convent Avenue Baptist Church, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, Merkin Concert Hall, Symphony Space, the Dimenna Center, WNYC’s Greenspace Studio, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Katonah Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden at the Caramoor Festival, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, at Isaac Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, and Zankel and Weill Recital Halls at Carnegie Hall.

The Harlem Chamber Players have also partnered with many organizations including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Harlem School of the Arts, Harlem Opera Theater, Columbia University, Goddard Riverside Community Center, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Opus 118 Harlem School of Music, American Opera Projects, Morningside Opera, On-Site Opera, ChamberMusicNY, Newark School of the Arts, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s CHAMPS Program and visual artist Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum.

Our chamber music series has been called “a series of which we can be proud” by the late Raoul Abdul from the Amsterdam News. The Harlem Chamber Players have also been mentioned in articles in the New York Times, Harlem News, The Wall Street Journal, on NPR, in The Guardian and on “Here and Now” on ABC. A comprehensive list of our past activities can also be found on our Past Performances page.

West Harlem WindsThe Harlem Chamber Players
Our core group of musicians has actually been giving performances well before the creation of Harlem's regular concert series Music at St. Mary's. In 2004 clarinetist Liz Player founded West Harlem Winds.

This wind quintet performed at St. Mary's Episcopal Church as well as in colleges, public schools, private functions and various other venues. With the addition of strings and the creation of the Music at St. Mary's series in 2008, the group was intially referred to as St. Mary's Chamber Players until we officially named the group in 2010.

The name of the entire cast of musicians who perform regularly in the Music at St. Mary's series is The Harlem Chamber Players.

Our Beginnings - St. Mary's Episcopal Church

St. Mary's Church Church sanctuary stained glass window

Established in 1823 as St. Mary's Protestant Episcopal Church Manhattanville, this is the oldest church congregation serving continually on the same site in the entire Harlem area. For nearly two centuries, St. Mary's Church has been at the spiritual heart of the West Harlem community, responding tirelessly to the needs of its people. In 1831, St. Mary's abolished the practice of pew rentals, becoming the first "free pew" church in the Episcopal Diocese. At the turn of the twentieth century, Rev. Hiram R. Hulse, rector, proposed to replace the original wooden church with a larger building. Rev. Hulse's wish was realized in 1909 with the completion of the present English Gothic-style brick structure, designed by Theodore E. Blake for the nationally prominent firm of Carrère & Hastings.

St. Mary's Church is widely known as the "Be not afraid" church, standing up as a community of faith to pursue justice and peace for the poor and oppressed, to pray for those at risk and to put into practice the message of the Gospel. Among the services the church provides are the St. Mary's Food Pantry, the Homeless Hunger Outreach, the Prison Ministry Outreach Program and an internship for young theological students. The burial vault of the church's founders, Lieut. Jacob Schieffelin and Hanna Lawrence Schieffelin--who also co-founded the surrounding Manhattanville neighborhood in 1806--is still visible from the porch of St. Mary's, which continues to be a vital hub in the West Harlem community. In 1998, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the combined church, parish house (1851) and Sunday School building (1890) complex a New York City landmark.