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An Intimate Evening with the Auburn Symphony


Four members of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra performed a chamber concert at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Auburn on January 26th.  The concert featured compositions of Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms.

Schumann and Brahms were friends and held each other in mutual respect and trust.  Their lifelong relationship is expressed in Brahms’ Trio for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano in A Minor, Opus 114.  Feelings of trust, support, and love are expressed in music. Melodic themes are started by one instrument and finished by another, like two close friends that are able to finish each other’s sentences.


Performing Sunday night were Denise Lum, clarinet; Emilie Choi, violin; Brian Wharton, cello and Dr. Tanya Stambuk, piano.  Lum, Choi, and Wharton are members of the Pacific NW Ballet and the Auburn Symphony.  Stambuk is a professor and director of keyboard studies at the University of Puget Sound, a member of the Puget Sound Piano Trio and a Steinway Artist.

I freely confess to having no musical talents or abilities whatsoever.  I belong to the very mass of tin-eared folk that Frank Zappa was referencing when he said: “Most people wouldn’t know music if it came up and bit them on the ass.”

So, what on Earth was I doing at an Auburn Symphony Chamber concert?  I barely know the difference between a dirge and a waltz.  The short answer is that I like it.  It makes me feel good.

However, there is a backstory to this.  My fifteen-year-old grandson was visiting and started playing a succession of cords on my wife’s piano.  He hasn’t had instruction or previously expressed any interest in music.  He was playing a succession of cords that sounded interesting.  I am a great believer in the benefit of broad exposure to life’s offerings.


When I saw that the Auburn Symphony Orchestra was offering a Chamber Concert featuring Steinway Artist Dr. Stambuk, the idea was hatched.  Expose my grandson to classical music professionally performed in a small non-intimidating venue.  It was also an opportunity to talk to my grandson about thematic love and mutual respect.  When I asked him if he would like to attend, I baited the hook with the fact that the Cellist, Wharton played on the soundtrack for the video game Halo 2 and 3.

And there we were.  We enjoyed the Auburn Symphony Orchestra’s Chamber Concert performance of Schumann and Brahms.

Ask a normal teenager for their opinion and it’s hard to get more than a shoulder shrug.  My grandson was talkative.  He was fascinated by the different voices of the four instruments.   He was complimentary of the cookie selection during intermission, too.


Thinking I may be on to something, I proposed going to the full Auburn Symphony Orchestra performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 next month.  I received a “maybe?”  For a teenager to an older adult that answer spoke volumes.  Next month’s hook is going to be that Beethoven’s 7th was used in the movie “X-Men:  Apocalypse.”

Happy Birthday Beethoven, I’m buying tickets.

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