Renowned cellist Lynn Harrell struck a chord with Laguna Beach seniors Jan. 23 as they bade farewell to the veterans memorial building.
Harrell’s appearance under the auspices of Laguna Beach Live! marked the end of an era for local seniors, who will be moving their activities from Legion Hall, as the building is known familiarly, into new digs Saturday, but not without mixed emotions.
“Without Legion Hall, we would not have the seniors’ organization,” said past President Pauline Walpin. “You need a place.”
Walpin’s sidekick, Louise Buckley, said the seniors are looking forward to moving into the new Community/Senior Center, but they still will have fond memories of the building.
Harrell’s appearance must be among the best.
“This is a farewell and a hello,” Seniors President Chris Quilter said. ”If you love the cello like I love the cello, it just doesn’t get any better.”
Surely the highest tribute paid to Harrell was not the applause, but the sighs of appreciation at the conclusion of each piece he played and the delighted reception to his comments.
But perhaps he is used to it by now.
“I have had this cello since I was 18 years old,” Harrell confided. “It’s been 58 years and when you spend that much time with an instrument, you grow with it.”
Occasionally familiarity saves a performer.
“There are times when your mind blanks out and you get through it [performance] with muscle memory,” Harrell said.
His hands tuned his instrument with the ease of long practice, all the while chatting with the audience.
“The cello is ideal in a room this size,” Harrell said. “It can be submerged by large pianos strongly played or a full symphony orchestra.”
Of all instruments, Harrell said, the cello is the most like a human voice. He demonstrated the high notes of a coloratura soprano, some of whom can hit higher than High F above Middle C, and the lowest notes of a basso profundo.
Harrell “warmed up” the audience with short “dances” called sarabands, each more robust than the previous one.
“Now you are ready for more exuberant music,” Harrell said.
Indeed, his next piece sounded like four instruments being played — the brighter tones dancing over the deeper throbs.
Bach, Harrell said, is the outstanding composer for solo cello.
His achievement was so intimidating many composers simply left the field to him.
Chopin, an accomplished pianist, did write music that was great for cellos, Harrell said.
He played examples of the romantic Polish composer’s nocturnes.
Some of the passages were so sweet they brought tears to the eyes.
“The cello is more romantic than the other strings,” Harrell said. “It says I love you.”
The audience reciprocated.
Harrell concluded the presentation on a note to which all seniors could relate.
“I am facing a time when age and rheumatism will separate me from my cello,” Harrell said.
But happily that time is not yet.
The city of Laguna Beach will hold a grand opening for the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Senior Center, 380 Third St., from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
11:45 a.m.: Community Band Performs
Noon: Ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony
12:30 to 3:00 p.m.: Open house and class demonstrations
1 p.m.: Miss Linda’s Castle dance
1:30 p.m.: Kyne Dance Academy performs
2 p.m.: Belly dancing (Jheri St. James, instructor)
2:30 p.m.: Kyne Dance Academy performs
BARBARA DIAMOND can be reached at (949) 494-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.