Last Tuesday, I attended a concert that had been planned for months, and which had special significance for the musicians who arranged and took part in it. And I can honestly say that the event was one of the most memorable and touching experiences of my life.
It was a concert organized by two members of the Utah Symphony as a benefit to help out one of their colleagues. Scott and Melissa Lewis pulled off an amazing feat by bringing together nearly two-dozen musicians from the Utah Symphony, as well as from the community, to help raise money for Cathryn Manning.
Manning, who has been a member of the symphony's viola section for 31 years, has undergone two radical mastectomies and suffered some unusual complications following her cancer treatment. She hasn't played in the orchestra for the past two years, and according to Scott Lewis, it's doubtful whether she'll ever be able to resume her place among her colleagues.
Before the concert, I spoke with Joel Rosenberg, one of the many violists performing that evening. He told me that he has known Manning for 30 years, and that she is a wonderful musician and a remarkable human being.
That sentiment was also expressed by others. They were all unanimous in their praise of Manning as a musician and in their warm feelings for her as a person. So it certainly didn't come as a surprise that so many people gave so freely of their time and talents to be part of this concert.
Keith Lockhart was also there, playing the piano and conducting a specially assembled ensemble, which performed two movements from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. He also spoke briefly before the concert, expressing what I'm sure many of us felt as we sat in attendance that evening.
Speaking of the orchestral family of the Utah Symphony, Lockhart noted that close bonds are made among musicians, and these ties are evident in just such an outpouring of support that was demonstrated at the concert. "We're doing this out of love for Cathy and for the joy we feel when we play," he said.
The benefit was held in the Chamber Music Hall in David Gardner Hall, and it was gratifying to see the room filled to capacity. M. Walker Wallace, a lifetime trustee of Utah Symphony & Opera, has set up an account for Manning at Wells Fargo Bank, and all of the proceeds from the concert will be donated to her. The Lewises were hoping to raise a large amount of money, and judging by the number of people there, I think their wish was fulfilled.
The money that was raised on Tuesday will help pay Manning's medical expenses. But what is just as important is the love and support that was in that hall that evening. Something that can't be measured in monetary terms.
Manning said a few words just before the end of the concert, and it was clearly noticeable that she was overwhelmed by the emotions of the moment. And I think most of us in the audience were equally affected.
Even if Manning doesn't return to the Utah Symphony, my wish for her is that she will nevertheless remain an active force in our musical community. She has given us so much over the past 30 years.
And there is still a lot more she can give.