Archive for Sunday, August 15, 1999


August 15, 1999


Lawrence's community-based vocal and instrumental groups are open to musicians of all ages.

Lawrence has been called a city of music, but this label is especially evident during the winter holidays.

Shortly after the Lawrence Men's Chorale was formed in August 1998, J. Richard Walker, one of its co-founders, tried to schedule its first winter concert.

"There were so many other concerts scheduled that we finally had to have it on Superbowl Sunday," Walker said. "But 75 to 80 people still came."

Reminder of the past

The Lawrence City Band was founded on Aug. 20, 1863, when the New England Immigrant Aid Society sponsored Lawrence's first free band concert.

All but one of the musicians were killed during William Quantrill's raid the next day. Undefeated, the band survived in various forms until it began performing annual summer concerts in 1968.

Barbara Kelly, the band's secretary-treasurer, said its music symbolizes a more innocent America.

"It is a leftover of the old United States," she said.

The band's performances at the William L. Kelly Bandstand in Lawrence's South Park begin in early June and conclude in July.

Conducted by Robert Foster, Kansas University's director of bands, the band plays light classical pieces, marches, pop tunes and music following John Philip Sousa's style.

The city band is made up of more than 60 musicians of all ages. There are no auditions.

"Our band is highly skilled," Kelly said. "The music often takes audiences back to other years. If the listener is young, the music is still something that creeps inside of them and you find yourself smiling."

An orchestral tradition

Originally the Lawrence Chamber Players, the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra was established in 1971 by Jessie Branson, a former Kansas state legislator and the group's first administrator.

By the mid-'70s, the musicians appointed a conductor and changed the name.

The orchestra, which performs in different Lawrence locations, has 30 to 35 musicians and is conducted by Juan Francisco La Manna. New members are selected by audition each fall.

Musicians include KU faculty, Lawrence-area residents and university students. Students who join the orchestra are often recommended by professors, said Diane Reid, the orchestra's manager.

"The orchestra enriches the students because they are treated as professionals and are salaried," she said.

Elegant woodwinds

For the past eight years, the CottonWood Winds have entertained audiences around Kansas with classical and contemporary music.

The woodwind quintet, a sister group of the Lawrence Woodwind Quintet, is run by the umbrella Chamber Winds. Stuart Levine, the quintet's coordinator and a French horn player in the CottonWood Winds, said the two quintets present more than 40 performances a year.

CottonWood Wind members include Todd Hershberger, bassoon; Levine, French horn; Kendra Seman, clarinet; Tim Burfeine, oboe; and Dianne Hamersky, flute. Hershberger is a KU student who also composes music for the quintet.

The quintet recently began performing music by Lawrence-area composers. They play venues such as museums, community centers, libraries, rural schools and even bars.

"We like to put music in places where people are not accustomed to hearing it," Levine said.

Civic voices

Established in 1975, the Lawrence Civic Choir will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year. The choir has commissioned new music and introduced audiences to classical and popular music.

More than 40 choir members recently returned from a two-week tour of Italy, where they performed Italian and American songs in musically historic cities. The choir has toured Europe six times.

Directed by Rob Reid, the choir performs several times a year at Lawrence's First United Methodist Church, where Reid is music director.

The diverse 100-member choir is comprised of residents from Lawrence, other northeast Kansas communities and university students. No auditions are required.

Classical chorale

When Judy O'Neal decided to form a women's choir in late 1987, she contacted Sara Wentz, then a graduate student in choral conducting at KU.

Eleven years later, Wentz still conducts the chamber-size choir. The 18 members primarily sing classical and folk music, although they occasionally perform jazz and blues.

The choir presents concerts twice a year at the First United Methodist Church.

The choir holds summer auditions.

Lawrence's newest choir

The Lawrence Men's Chorale is the newest addition to the city's choral family.

The choir was jointly formed last August by Walker, Geoff Wilcken, then a KU master's student in choral conducting, and KU student Kerry Marsh.

Twenty singers were selected by audition last fall. The choir welcomes singers of all ages, but Walker cautions interested students.

"We love to see the students come out," Walker said. "However, they often realize that they don't have as much time as they thought. When they drop out, this affects our sound."

The choir performs classical, sacred, folk, contemporary and barbershop songs.

-- Teresa Heinz is a part-time writer for the Journal-World. You can e-mail her at

Here's a roundup of some of Lawrence's community-based musical groups:

  • Lawrence City Band: Light classical, marches, pop and music in the spirit of John Philip Sousa. No auditions required. Barbara Kelly, 842-2564.
  • Lawrence Chamber Orchestra: Classical emphasis. Auditions held every fall at Kansas University. Diane Reid, 841-1945.
  • CottonWood Winds: Classical and contemporary. Stuart Levine, 842-0356.
  • Lawrence Civic Choir: Classical and contemporary. No auditions required. Rob Reid, 841-1945.
  • Lawrence Women's Chorale: Primarily classical and folk music, with some jazz and blues. Summer auditions. Sarah Wentz, 842-9037.
  • Lawrence Men's Chorale: Classical, sacred, folk, contemporary and barbershop. Fall auditions. J. Richard Walker, 865-5580.

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