Sunday, October 17, 2004
Kansas University music professor Charles Hoag knew Bunker Clark as an intelligent, funny guy with a playfully antagonistic spirit that, frankly, drove some people bonkers.
But it just made Hoag laugh.
"A lot of people didn't get it, but I did," he says of Clark's sometimes-jabbing humor.
Clark, a longtime patron, musician, board member, musicologist and friend of the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, died the day after Christmas last year. In his memory, Hoag, who worked with Bunker for some 30 years at KU, has composed a contemporary orchestral work in two movements that are just as contrary as his late friend.
The orchestra will premiere "Sarabande and Boogie: A Concerto Grosso for Harpsichord, Strings and Percussion" at its season-opening concert 2:30 p.m. Oct. 24. The first movement is a sarabande (an early dance in slow triple time), Hoag explains, which becomes a dirge for Clark.
In contrast, Hoag, who also plays bass in the orchestra, composed the second movement as a boogie. But instead of the usual rollicking piano, the score calls for -- and this might be a first, Hoag says -- a harpsichord, the instrument Clark played.
"The first (movement) shows where (Clark's) scholarship lies -- in early music -- and the second (movement) is sort of an ode to his sense of humor. I put them together," Hoag explains. "They really kind of don't belong together, but I put them together because that's the way he was. He was quirky and a rather odd guy."
The orchestra has been rehearsing the 10-minute work for a couple of weeks and plays it superbly, Hoag says. For many of the musicians who knew Clark, the music carries a delightful deeper meaning. For orchestra newcomers who weren't familiar with Clark, Hoag's composition seems a fitting introduction.
"I never met him, but through the music that Charles wrote and the stories that I've been hearing about Bunker, I feel that I have become very, very acquainted with him," says cellist Steven Elisha. "He sounded like a very special, very colorful and enlightened human being, and I feel very honored to be part of this memorial concert."
In addition to "Sarabande and Boogie," Elisha himself represents another premiere on the program. Elisha, a concert cellist and director of strings at Washburn University, joined the orchestra as artistic director and conductor in August after a successful trial as guest conductor last spring.
"It was a mutual admiration," Elisha says. "As soon as I conducted the orchestra, I felt an immediate kinship with those musicians. They were, in my view, a group of very dedicated, enthusiastic players, and I couldn't resist."
Elisha has several goals for the orchestra, including increasing the group's visibility locally, regionally and nationally; lengthening the duration of its concert season; collaborating with area musicians; and strengthening financial support of the orchestra through corporate and individual sponsorships.
"I'd like (the orchestra) not to be a secret but something that, when people hear about the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, they immediately associate that with the highest level of music making and cultural contributions, not just to Lawrence, but to the surrounding areas," Elisha says.
In addition to Hoag's work, the program for the season opener features Handel's Organ Concerto in B flat major, opus 7, No. 1; and Haydn's Symphony No. 8, also known as "Evening." Marie Rubis Bauer will play baroque organ for the Handel piece.
"That organ concerto had a very special place with Bunker Clark," Elisha says. "The last day of his life he was listening to that piece."
Clark taught music history at KU until his retirement in 1992. Before then, he occasionally played harpsichord in the orchestra and served on its board. After leaving the university, Clark had more time to devote to the orchestra, says his wife, Marilyn Clark.
"It was a major thing in his life," she recalls.
Hoag says his late friend was an ace at raising money for the group and had "some very good ideas." And he certainly left an impression.
"He had a strong personality," Hoag says. "He was not liked by everyone, but those who did liked him very much."