By Judy Wakefield
---- — It’s a year of change — sort of — for a popular local chamber music group.
Andover Chamber Music, which has been bringing “unstuffy, unpredictable and unmatched” concerts with internationally renowned musicians to the Merrimack Valley and Greater Boston since 1997 — has removed Andover from its name, literally and figuratively, and has taken on the moniker Mistral.
The local couple who founded Andover Chamber Music — flutist Julie Scolnik and her husband, Michael Brower — sold their house on South Main Street this summer and have relocated to Brookline.
But their departure from Andover is only part of the reason for the name change.
Scolnik, who serves as the group’s artistic director, said the main impetus for the new identity is that the group wants to reach a broader audience.
“Our Andover-based audience loves us, but as we are building a following in Boston and other towns, we and the board of directors feel a different name helps support this goal,” Brower, the group’s executive director, added in an email.
Scolnik said Mistral was chosen as the new name because it is the notorious penetrating wind that blows in the south of France where she summers. She connects the word to chamber music.
“I like to think of our ensemble as a fresh wind blowing through chamber music,” she wrote.
While a new name may seem like a big change to many, Scolnik said, her group already had been using the Mistral title for its ensemble-in-residence when it performed with the core group of musicians, especially when they were appearing outside of Andover. Making the distinction between the two groups became confusing, she said.
But more importantly, she said, the transition to Mistral is aimed at better reflecting the stature of the choral group. In addition to performing locally, the chamber group has begun repeating most of its concerts in the Boston area at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookline.
“I cannot tell you how many people wrote me letters telling me that, because of the `Andover’ in our name, they had no idea the caliber of music was world class, that our musicians hailed from Marlboro and Lincoln Center and Jordan Hall,” Scolnik wrote.
“... They just assumed that it was a local organization for a small-town series. After years of hearing that the name made us sound provincial, we knew we had to make a change.”
The Scolniks and Mistral aren’t leaving greater Andover behind for good though.
The group kicks off its new season on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Rogers Center for the Arts at Merrimack College in North Andover. See related story.
While Scolnik and Brower say they will miss Andover, they feel being in Brookline will allow them to be closer to their children, who both graduated from Phillips Academy.
Son Sasha is a freshman in the dual-degree program of Harvard University and New England Conservatory and daughter Sophie has begun her master’s program in piano at NEC
“While I was unpacking what seemed like 1,000 boxes, they kept me company by rehearsing a program together that they were performing that night,” Scolnik said in her email. “They will continue to play a lot together in their various musical endeavors.”