Strike up the Chamber; music to save the savage beast | Column

Journal columnist Howard Schonberger - Journal file photo
Journal columnist Howard Schonberger
— image credit: Journal file photo

"Music to save the savage beast"

My first experience with classical music was some 90 years ago, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, my birthplace.

My grandma Kate lived on a hill. My dad Ed was running the general store my grand-pop had owned until his early death.

The store had burned down and the insurance company turned out to be a fraud and we moved back to dad's hometown of Omaha across the Missouri river when we were flooded. The insurers went to prison.

Nonetheless, Kate (known as "Battling Kate" by friend and foe alike) insisted that the family get together for dinner on Sundays, whenever possible. My mom Anna played the piano after a great meal. Uncle Joe was violinist, aunt Rose was lead singer and uncle Harry tried to join with varied tymphany when he was in town from Des Moines.

My older Bro, Stan and I were the audience, along with whomever else was invited.

Believe it or not, it was good music. Not that my brother and I had much time to be musicians, we always enjoyed listening. The closest I came was as leader of the Henry Yates grammar school Bugle and Drum Corps.

I have loved classical music ever since. This endearment never wanes, and since the day that Chamber Music San Juans started we have rarely missed a program, public or private. CMSJ

During the depression years, I delivered papers to the home of concert pianist Abram Dansky, in Omaha. When I went to collect the bill each month I tried to get to their house at the time he rehearsed, and would wait outside in all kinds of weather until I was discovered and they caught me, and then insisted I come in to be more comfortable.

My Uncle Joe and aunt had an apartment at the Blackstone hotel and lived next door to Joseph Littau, director of the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, another place I could occasionally hear great living room chords presented.

Once a year, the OSO would present their season of symphony, opera and ballet. On one day of that year they would have every school bus pick up all the students in Omaha for a day at the great auditorium. What a treat.

I thought about those days this last Sept. 2l, when I attended Chamber Music San Juans' annual concert. It was a good crowd, but not a sellout.

This article is to proclaim that those who missed it should eat their heart out. They missed a fantastic group of talents.

Artistic director Patricia Kostek deserves kudos, not only for the wonderful musicians from near and far assembled, but also for her superb artistic performance with her clarinet music, which joined the talented guitarists, Alexander Dunn (who could pick guitar notes as though he were keyboarding a grand piano) and Randall Pile, who did the only solo piece, Artur Girsky who gave background chats about the music from as far back as 250 years, and Natasha Bazhanov were flawless violinists, as was Rowena Hammill Davis on cello.

Jessica Choe was a show in herself as her every gesture at the keyboard seemed to seduce the music to our ears.

You've come a long ways since 1987, Chamber musicians. Thanks for a wonderful evening.

Go with the Flow


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