Sunday, December 19, 2004
Call it an early Christmas gift.
The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, under the leadership of new artistic director Steven Elisha, had plans for a grand holiday concert that would fill the entertainment dry spell the week before Christmas with some seasonal cheer.
But, as with many orchestras across the country, funding for the Lawrence group is on a downswing, and the resources weren't available for an extra performance.
So Elisha, a concert cellist, recruited a friend, Kansas University piano professor Jack Winerock, to join him for a recital. The pair will present "'Twas the Night Before the Night Before" 7:30 p.m. Thursday -- two days before Christmas.
"Rather than canceling the concert, I thought this would be a chance for us to raise some money for the orchestra and, in the spirit of Christmas, donate our services, so to speak, to the orchestra," Elisha says.
"I thought this would be perfect for us since he (Winerock) is a Lawrence favorite and a KU faculty. And now that I'm part of the Lawrence community, it's part of my mission anyway with the orchestra to involve our wonderful musical talent from the area with the orchestra."
Winerock is an acclaimed soloist who, in 1976, placed second in the International Beethoven Competition. He made his orchestral debut with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.
In addition to his position at the helm of the Lawrence choir, Elisha leads the strings faculty at Washburn University and directs the Topeka Youth Symphony.
Though each is quite accomplished on his own, Elisha and Winerock had never played together.
"You can know somebody and like someone personally, but you have no idea what the music making is going to be like, as well as the chemistry," Winerock says. "But when we played together for the first time (several weeks ago), we played one movement of the Brahms sonata and one of us said to the other, 'Gee, it seems like we've been playing together for years.'"
The program will include:
¢ The aforementioned Brahms Sonata No. 1, Op. 38 in A major, the first sonata the composer wrote for cello and piano.
¢ Beethoven's Sonata No. 3, Op. 69 in A major, a cornerstone of the Romantic era, which Elisha and Winerock will perform one week to the day after the composer's birthday.
¢ David Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody, a virtuosic cello showpiece by a gifted musician, who, incidentally, taught the teacher of Elisha's teacher. "So there's a lineage there," Elisha says.
A few holiday favorites are in the works for encores. All the pieces feature both musicians equally.
"They're as hard for the piano as for the cello," Winerock says, "so I have to work as hard as he does."
All proceeds from the concert will go to the orchestra's musician fund. The group includes about 30 professional instrumentalists and relies, in part, on support from private donations.
"Part of my vision for the orchestra is that we can really stimulate our financial base so that we can be very competitive in salary, and therefore be able to hire the finest musicians and create a world-class organization," Elisha says.
"The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra is a fine orchestra, but to build it and bring it to world-class status requires the same kind of financial security that the Kansas City Symphony and the Topeka Symphony enjoy."