At a lunch following the most recent Massachusetts Cultural Council board meeting, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Dr. Lisa Wong, who, along with serving on MCC’s board, is the president of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra.
Longwood Symphony Orchestra is a unique – and uniquely Massachusetts – organization. Nearly 80% of its musicians are health care professionals, including current and future physicians from Mass. General Hospital, Harvard Medical School – basically, if it’s an impressive local health institution, it’s probably represented on the LSO.
The Boston-area ensemble is about to have its Tanglewood debut, playing at Seiji Ozawa Hall in Lenox on June 12, 2010. And on June 11, the day before their concert, the group presents an arts and parenting symposium in partnership with Berkshire Children and Families, called Inspiring Prevention, at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.
Both events get to the heart of LSO’s work: a confluence of music, medicine, and service. The group’s mission is to perform works of musical excellence while supporting medically-related nonprofit institutions. To achieve this, the LSO often partners with like-minded organizations, such as Berkshire Children and Families for the June events. Another of the LSO’s partnerships, long-running and fruitful in nature, is its relationship with the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which supports emerging leaders addressing health disparities. The group’s namesake, the physician Albert Schweitzer, was a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate devoted to the most imperiled and under-resourced communities, and a proponent of a “Reverence for Life” as a unifying personal philosophy.
He was also a renowned organist and authority on Bach. In short, he’s the perfect figure to symbolize LSO’s art and work. And indeed, among the works performed at the June 12 concert will be Albert Schweitzer Portrait (2009), a work co-commissioned by the LSO and the ASF.
“Today,” Lisa writes in a blog post about the origins of Albert Schweitzer Portrait, “the members of the LSO are traveling along Schweitzer’s path. Music is the first influence in their lives, followed by a desire to make a difference, and a sense of compassion, leading to a career in caregiving.”
The piece was initially conceived by Thurston Moore, founder of the Tennessee Players (not to be confused with Thurston Moore of Northampton, founder of Sonic Youth). Moore, who has made it his life’s work to uphold Dr. Schweitzer’s legacy, envisioned a work similar to Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, weaving excerpts of text into an orchestral composition. LSO Artistic Director Jonathan McPhee and ASF President Lachlan Forrow crafted the text, utilizing Dr. Schweitzer’s own words, as well as words spoken about him. They collaborated with composer Gene Scheer and orchestrator Gary Fry, who created the musical score.
For the Tanglewood performance, the narrator will be State Representative Daniel E. Bosley. It’s another fitting partnership; who better than a local statesman for a performance – and an orchestra – equally engaged in serving the community and giving expression to its artists?
Inspiring Prevention: A Symposium on New Insights to Strengthen the Parent/Child Relationship through Literacy, Music, and the Art of Parenting
Friday, June 11, 2010, 9 AM – 4 PM (registration and coffee: 8:30 AM)
Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield
Co-sponsored by Berkshire Children and Families and Longwood Symphony Orchestra
Longwood Symphony Orchestra Debut at Tanglewood
Saturday, June 12, 2010, 8 PM
Seiji Ozawa Hall in Lenox, MA
Jonathan McPhee, Artistic Director and Conductor
Symphony No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” Carl Nielsen
La Mer, Claude Debussy
Albert Schweitzer Portrait (2009), Gene Scheer, State Representative Daniel E. Bosley, narrator
Images: the Longwood Symphony Orchestra; Albert Schweitzer; LSO Artistic Director and Conductor Jonathan McPhee; the LSO.