Cecilia String QuartetPhoto courtesy of The Banff Centre

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The weather outside may be frightful, but starting Jan. 6, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall will feature programs to warm a chamber music lover’s heart.

The 16th annual Winter Chamber Music Festival is scheduled Friday and Sunday evenings through Jan. 22, directed by festival founder and director Blair Milton, also a long-time Chicago Symphony violinist and faculty member at Northwestern music school.

For star power, there is the renowned cellist Lynn Harrell, who will lead the popular Villa-Lobos composition, Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1, a South American take on Bach, featuring eight cellos. Mr. Harrell will also conduct free cello and chamber music master classes.

Other highlights include a new string quartet by the Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov and rarely heard works by Martinu, Penderecki and Janacek. The award-winning Cecelia, St. Lawrence and Lincoln string quartets will each lead a program. Altogether the three-weekend festival will feature some 40 musicians from the Chicago Symphony, Northwestern faculty and elsewhere.

“It’s a stellar opportunity to hear fine works that don’t get played very often, because we can call on the resources of Northwestern, DePaul and the Chicago Symphony to bring lots of great musicians together,” Mr. Milton said.

The festival began in 1997 when Mr. Milton was looking for a venue to perform music of Brahms, to mark the centennial of his death. Pick-Staiger was available, and thus began the tradition of brightening a cold, dour season with interesting programming played by fine musicians.

Ticket information is available at 847-467-4000 or www.pickstaiger.org