We have had season tickets in row C or D at Sunday matinees since early in Eschenbach’s tenure as music director, right in front of the cellos, which he had at front. At one of our first concerts, we were intrigued by a now-retired Marian Wilson cellist’s small instrument. After the concert, we asked her as she walked out if she had a special scale instrument made for her, and she explained that there was a range of sizes in cellos. After that, we usually exchanged nods & smiles at concerts.
Then the program featured a humorous photo of the cellists dressed as bikers, the “Bad Boys of Cello.” That inspired me to learn the names of the section, which was reinforced when they substitute-hosted on KUHF or played other gigs announced in the arts programs there. Then came the musicians’ strike, where we chanced to meet Chris French, who I think must have been a bit spooked to find anonymous patrons who knew quite a lot about him and his brethren, but who was friendly despite that. Since then, we’ve exchanged waves with Chris every concert. When Tropical Storm Allison ruined all the symphony’s sheet music, of course we chipped in for a cello sonata (Schumann), and when it showed up on a future program, I asked Chris if he could possibly copy just the first page and get all the cellists to sign it for us. He asked if we didn’t want Yo Yo Ma’s (soloist’s) signature, and we said we thought that there were probably thousands of people who had his signature but we might be the only ones with signatures of the entire cello section. When the day came to collect, we had quite a surprise – we got the page, framed, with all the cellists plus Maestro Graf and Yo Yo Ma.
We have hung it in our hall and it warms our hearts every time we see it. So, now we’ve started taking the whole section homemade bread (Joe & I are both bakers) at the end of the season to thank them for the pleasure. We’re not wealthy enough to endow a chair, but we can at least provide a treat. And now we get waves from both Chris and Kevin.
As to most moving symphonic experiences…Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s 9th, Holst’s The Planets, Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream just scratch the surface. The music is so beautiful it feels therapeutic: sitting in the path of that much harmony just naturally heals what ails one.
– Ann and Joe Hightower, Houston Symphony donors and subscribers