Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Launching Longwood Symphony on Call

Longwood Symphony on Call: In addition to our orchestral concerts at Jordan Hall, we've added a new program, "Longwood Symphony on Call," which was inspired by conversations we had with Dr. Lex van der Ploeg and Dr. Reid Leonard at Merck Research Laboratories - Boston. MRL Boston has been a great supporter of our work. This year, they were particularly interested in helping us develop new ways to share music with our community. Thus, LSO Musicians on Call was born.

Each month, small groups of musicians from the orchestra will travel to clinics, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and hospices to play for patients who might not otherwise be able to hear our music. While we've been sending musicians to visit hospitals on an ad hoc basis for many years, the grant from Merck gives us the opportunity to create a much more organized, coordinated program that can touch many more lives.

In November, the program began with two performances at two of the Hearthstone Foundation's Alzheimer's assisted living facilities. Hearthstone runs eight facilities, four in Massachusetts, and four in New York. Each living center incorporates the arts into its work with residents. Last week, a string quartet of musicians performed at the Hearthstone in Marlborough. This week, a flute quartet traveled to Hearthstone at Heights Crossing, an assisted living facility in Brockton, Massachusetts for an afternoon of music.

Music for Alzheimer's: Longwood Symphony's December concert will be a collaboration with ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer's. This program, which is incorporated into many aspects of the care of the residents, provides visual and musical arts opportunities and also conducts research to further the study of the positive effects of the arts on senile dementia. ARTZ's program director is the remarkable Sean Caulfield, who joined us in Brockton for the performance. His observations of the effect of our music on the patients were invaluable.

It was a poignant day for Dany, Peter, Marty and myself. As we played, each of us could not help thinking about our own close family members living with Alzheimer's. But it was also uplifting.

We performed music of Mozart and Haydn, followed by Broadway tunes and old favorites from the 1940s, inviting our friends to join in a sing-along. They sang music from their memories.

Sean observed residents who had lost their ability for coherent speech who were able to sing the correct words to the songs we played. Others clapped in rhythm or tapped their fingers, as if playing the piano again. Afterward, we met a resident who had once been a college professor, but who was now no longer able to express herself with the words that had been her life. When Sean asked her if she had enjoyed the music, she only smiled, with tears running down her face, and gave him a hug.

Once again, music transcended language, and minimized disease. The music not only healed the patients but healed us, the healers, as well.

On December 6, 2008, Longwood Symphony will perform Ralph Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony to support the work of ARTZ. Some of the residents from Hearthstone will travel to Boston to hear that performance.

Next steps: In December, Longwood Symphony's Musicians on Call will be very busy: we'll perform in four locations: an assisted living facility for patients with multiple sclerosis, Boston Medical Center, The Women's Lunch Place which is a safe haven for homeless women, and Childrens Hospital Boston.

As a doctor, I have found the most difficult moments with my patients and families are also the most rewarding and transforming. Each time I am brought to the edge of my emotions, on the verge of tears, I remember that this is why I became a doctor and continue to practice medicine after 25 years. It is a privilege to feel and share this depth and intensity of humanity with others.

Sunday's visit to Hearthstone brought us to that familiar edge. What a gift to be able to see the direct and profound impact of music on our audience and to remember that even when other aspects of the mind are lost, music remains.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Music and Healing for SMA

Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter – to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way.
--Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Last year was the 25th anniversary season of the Longwood Symphony which we marked by bringing together multiple organizations with shared visions, and by introducing a new way of communicating our music and healing, a symposium series called Community Conversations. This year, our 26th season, focuses on music and healing for those affected by neurodegenerative disease. Midway through the year, our Community Conversation will be a symposium on the use of the arts as a means of healing.

The care of a family member with a neurodegenerative disease is complex. Beside the multiple doctor’s appointments and variety of therapies there are braces, wheelchairs, and so many other things to attend to. With children, one adds daycare, access, and education. And the list goes on.

Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy chose to use their concert on Saturday not to raise funds as much as to raise awareness. Jim Gaudreau spoke simply and caringly about the nature of the disease, how it has affected his family, and his seven-year old daughter. Many in the audience said “I learned something tonight, and was moved.”

FSMA honored Dr. Laurie Glader, a special physician whose compassion, understanding, and ability to make things happen has smoothed the road for so many parents and families.

Dr. Glader, a pediatrician in the Complex Care department of Children’s Hospital Boston accepted graciously and spoke eloquently. Dr. Glader’s father, Dr. McCarthy, here in Boston for the American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, looked on proudly.

Creativity, Caring and Community. For me, the moment that is magical at every concert is when I feel and see the orchestra transform. The words, dedication, and passion of Jim Gaudreau as a caring father and that of Dr. Glader as his physician touches the musicians on stage as well as the audience. I see it on the faces of your youngest medical students and most experienced physicians alike. It is the recognition of how our music itself is healing.

Suddenly, even beyond the power of Brahms and pure beauty of the symphony itself, the music is an extension of the work we do day to day.

Perhaps it is captured best by the last person to bid us goodnight at the end of a moving evening. She said “You played the music like it is part of life—I heard and felt all of the emotions. I really got what you were trying to say.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Music and the mind--a season begins

Creativity, Caring and Community

Tonight we will open our 26th concert season at NEC's Jordan Hall in a concert to benefit the Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. This group is particularly special to me because two of the children in my pediatric practice are afflicted with the disease.

The entire season focuses on the way we use Music to Heal. This letter is my opening welcome to the audience.

Dear Friends:

Welcome to the 26th season of Longwood Symphony Orchestra. This season we focus on neurologic diseases and consider Music's role in healing.

Music has had a profound effect on all of LSO's healer-musicians. As music students, we were introduced to the magic of Music and challenged by its complex set of multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary problems. Music required the coordination of all the senses--auditory, visual, and motor--to make the notes on a page come alive. In a symphonic orchestra like the LSO, powerful and profound emotions are expressed, passion is revealed. The whole is greater than the sume of the individual parts, providing musicians and audience with emotional strength, a sense of identity, and a sense of order.

Medicine, like music, is a series of complex multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary challenges. We are inspired and touched by the science and the humanity of every patient, and work together as an ensemble in the classroom, in the laboratory, and on the wards. Medicine requires and provides the same life-sustaining inspiration, clarity, emotional strength, and sense of identity as Music.

Music is best when it is shared, performed, and given voice. Our Healing Art of Music program grew out of our passion for community and passion for music. Our music truly makes a difference and enables medical charities to touch the lives of thousands of patients and families.

I would like to thank all of you for being a part of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra family and sharing in our dual passion for, and mission of, Healing our Community through Music and Medicine. I look forward to seeing you throughout this exciting season.

Lisa M. Wong, M.D.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

From Dr. Lisa Wong, LSO President

Dear Friends,

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that pulls the many threads of a life together. This week, this tour, has done that more frequently, more completely, and to a greater extent than any of us could have anticipated.

While we knew that it would be exciting to combine music and medicine beyond the theoretical to the practical with the delivery of musical performances and medical lectures, the tour has gone beyond all expectations.

In five short days, Longwood Symphony members visited , shared clinical and scientific knowledge or met with people in London from the following institutions:

-St. Bartholomew’s Hospital

-Marie Curie Research Institute (MCRI)

-Eden Hall Marie Curie Hospice

-Royal Marsden Hospital

-Royal National Orthopedic Hospital

-Weatherall Institute for Molecular Medicine, Oxford University

-Arthur Rank Hospice, Cambridge

-British Association of Performing Arts Medicine

-St. Christopher’s Hospice

-National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence

-Macmillan Cancer Trust

Each day, a different member returned to excitedly report about a new meaningful medical or scientific connection made at these opportunities

-LSO trumpet Dr. Len Zon and cellist Dr. Heidi Greulich discovered the complementary research and therapeutic threads in each other’s work: they plan to develop new collaborations at Harvard Medical School in the near future

-Violinist Jennifer Chang, 7th year Harvard Medical School M.D. –Ph.D. student found that researchers at the MCRI are doing similar work in genetics as she is doing in her lab and were familiar with the work of her advisor.

-Cellist Nancy Chane, RN, works with Partners HomeCare in Boston, and has been doing intensive research through the week on the similarities and differences between the hospice movement in the UK and US. During the week, Nancy visited Marie Curie Eden Hall Hospice, St. Christopher’s Hospice, and Arthur Rank Hospice, met with people from Macmillan Cancer Support, and will present her findings in Grand Rounds in Boston.

-Dr. Mark Gebhardt, clarinetist and orthopedist, in his lecture, described the treatment options for children with bone cancer. The next day, he met with colleagues at the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital and Stanmore Implants to help design more effective prostheses. This work will continue across the Atlantic.

-Even at a performance: at our Bishopsgate Institute concert, violinist Dr. Anna Legedza, a biostatistician at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, met Dr. Alastair Fletcher, a fellow statistician from the UK’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence during the concert intermission. They had a lively discussion about biostatistics and their research on the global spread of Hepatitis C.

And of course there was the music. Jonathan McPhee’s repertoire truly represented a bridge across the Atlantic, and had a remarkable symmetry in programming. The first half opened with Bach’s Double Violin Concerto, an opportunity to showcase the remarkable talent of our medical students, Sherman Jia and Sandy Mong. The second half opened with Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Heiter Villa-Lobos, that composer’s homage to Bach. The centerpiece was Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” in its original scoring for three winds, piano, and strings. Jonathan had brought an intensely personal “Appalachian Spring” to London—this is a work he had performed with Aaron Copland and Martha Graham, and he was delighted to share with London audiences once again. Added to that were the performances of two visually evocative masterworks: Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville Summer of 1915” and Ralph Vaughan Williams “The Lark Ascending” with American Soprano Janna Baty and British violinist David Juritz. In both performances, one could hear not only their fine musicality but deep humanity.

The tour was a demonstration of Music as healing, Music as a means of communication when there are no words left, and Music as a gift. It was also a demonstration of Medicine as healing, Medicine as a means of communication, and Medicine as a gift. Truly a bridging of our two disciplines, across the Atlantic.

Lisa M. Wong, M.D.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

From Dr. Mark Gebhardt

About a year ago I met a little girl from Puerto Rico who had a malignant bone tumor of her tibia. She was sent to me to excise her tumor after some extensive preoperative chemotherapy. Because she was only 7 at the time, the removal of the tumor below her knee would leave her with a major inequality of the lengths of her leg. Fortunately, there are internal metal prostheses that can replace certain bones (in this case the tibia) and can be “expanded” or lengthened in small increment as the child grows. The expectation is that by the end of growth the two limbs will be equal length. One of the pioneers in this field of prosthesis manufacture and scientific development is a biomechanics laboratory at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. The Centre for Biomedical Engineering has become Stanmore Implants Worldwide Ltd, a company that has a specific interest in making custom prostheses for limb salvage following tumor resections. I had them make one for my little patient and it has so far worked beautifully.

While in London, I visited with the bioengineers and technicians at Stanmore to plan the first lengthening for my little patient. It was a morning well spent. I got to tour the facility and see first hand how they computer model the implants and physically make them. I got a demonstration about how the expansion works and planned a trip for them to come to Boston for the first expansion.

I also got to meet the President of the company, Brian Steer, and discussed a research project with their bioengineer Paul Unwin. Their group has developed a specialized technique involving tissue ingrowth into a metal implant that has to potential to augment the way we currently attach artificial limbs to an amputee. A few centers in the US will participate in a pilot study of these implants and this visit provided an excellent venue for them to present their research to me and begin the collaboration.

This is truly an innovative group that maintains a close tie to the University and they are clearly leaders in the field of tumor prostheses. In addition to enhancing the scientific collaborations, they kindly donated funds to the London tour that sponsored a medical student for the trip.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Chance to See the Sights

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday provided an opportunity for some sightseeing around the beautiful city of London. Many people took advantage of the beautiful weather and after returning our borrowed celli to Florian Leonhard’s shop, headed to Portobello market in Notting Hill. The market, which comes alive on Saturdays, was packed with bargain hunters, tourists, locals and nearly any item under the sun.

Dr. Lisa Wong and Dr. Denise Lotufo stumbled upon an antique print shop where they found old issues of Philhamonic Post from 1949 and The Strad Magazine, dated 1951! Among the articles were an editorial on the need for government support of the arts that is still current today, and a fascinating comparative survey of which composers were most popular in concerts in four European musical centers (London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam).

In the evening, we went back in time attend “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in the Globe Theater, recently restored to reflect the feel and acoustic of Shakespeare’s Day. While there were seats available (and seat cushions that could be rented!), some of us chose to be authentic and stand in the central clearing amongst our fellow peasants.

After the performance, Chris, our Tour Leader and Colin, our amazing bus driver, treated us to a surprise by driving over the London Bridge which was beautifully lit for the mild evening.

Windsor Castle and the Anvil

Friday, June 27, 2008

On Friday morning we headed to visit Windsor Castle. We arrived at the grounds and were immediately impressed by its grandeur and history. There was something for everyone: from armor and armory for those Arthurians among us, to historic documents, to grand ballrooms full of masterworks of art and architecture. We arrived in time to witness the Changing of the Guards. Having already had the surprise opportunity to wave our greetings to the Queen on Tuesday evening, perhaps we should not have been surprised to hear the Royal Guards Fife and Drum Corps playing Copland’s Shaker Melody there on the grounds of Windsor Castle!

We then wandered through St. George’s Chapel and the Castle to admire the luxurious accommodations, and splendid history preserved within in their walls. Some LSO member favorites included Queen Mary’s Doll House (complete with electricity and functional plumbing!), sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, and a marble sculpture in memory of Princess Charlotte, that was so beautifully convincing, that it was as though the subjects in the piece would stand up at any moment.

After grabbing a quick lunch, it was back on the bus for another hour or so to Basingstoke for our afternoon concert and evening performance. We arrived at the Anvil and immediately began rehearsing. The Anvil, built just fifteen years ago, has a wonderful acoustic that brought out the best in our 30-piece ensemble.

In the audience for the evening concert was the Mayor of Basingstoke who opened the concert with warm words of welcome and thanks to the LSO for traveling to London and for performing for such a wonderful cause.

The final piece on the evening’s program was Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. Before beginning the piece, there was a palpable energy on stage and off. As we journeyed through the amazing score, there was a level of connectedness amongst the musicians that had never, until that moment, been experienced. It was as though the entire orchestra was one body—thinking, moving, and breathing as one. The evening was simply amazing. Some, indescribable, intangible magic embraced us all for our final performance of the tour.

We headed back to the hotel, to celebrate with what had become the “usual” post-concert meal --a pint of Guiness and beer-batter Fish and Chips!

Check out the rest of our photos here!

Grand Rounds

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On Thursday morning, Dr. Daniela Krause, Dr. Tom Sheldon, Dr. Steve Wright, Dr. Mark Gebhardt, John Hecker, Dr. Nick Tawa, Dr. Sue Pauker and Jonathan McPhee traveled to Royal Marsden Hospital’s cancer research center in Surrey for Grand Rounds.

Hosted by Royal Marsden Hospital’s Dr. David Cunningham and Dr. Alan Horwich, the morning session featured presentations on cancer surveillance and preventive care by both Royal Marsden physicians and by Longwood Symphony’s Dr. Tom Sheldon (prostate cancer) and Dr. Steve Wright (colorectal cancer).

Dr. Horwich led a lively discussion between UK and US oncologists comparing medical approaches, treatment modalities, and prevention. Afterward, Drs. Sheldon and Wright performed a musical offering of Beethoven duets arranged for oboe and bassoon, and were joined by Dr. Krause, Mr. Hecker, and Dr. Gebhardt for a performance of the Ibert Woodwind Quintet. Following the performance, the musicians asked for any questions from the audience. The only question that was posed was “Is there an encore”? And there was!

At the same time in South London, Dr. Lisa Wong, Nancy Chane RN, Dr. Katherine Hein, Tamara Goldstein OT and M.D.-Ph.D. student Jennifer Chang visited St. Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham. Forty years ago, Dame Cicely Saunders began her work at St. Christopher’s with mindful care of the dying cancer patient. She is widely recognized as the founder of the current hospice movement.

There we met a remarkable musician who is very much like we are. Mr. Nigel Hartley gave us a brief tour of the grounds and then related his experiences as a concert pianist, psychologist and now music therapist for a wide variety of patients and families who are part of the hospice community. He has demonstrated with his life work the power of music to cross boundaries and to communicate, even with those who have lost the ability to speak. We hope to bring Mr. Hartley here to Boston to share this gift with musicians and caregivers.

After returning the hotel for just long enough to change our clothes, we loaded up the bus again to head to our second full orchestra concert, this time with a different repertoire! In keeping with our “Bridging the Atlantic” theme, the concert, held at Bishopsgate Institute in central London, a featured American soprano Janna Baty (singing Barber), and British violinist David Juritz (playing Vaughan Williams and Villa Lobos).

The concert brought together over 75 people, including Ms. Susan Munroe, Marie Curie Director of Patient Services, Mr. Alastair Fletcher from the British NHS National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Mr. Barrie Walkley of the U.S. Embassy London and other music lovers who were cancer specialists from Marie Curie Cancer Care, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Macmillan Cancer Support, and the Marie Curie Research Institute, among others.

Prior to the second half of the concert, Ms. Munroe spoke poignantly about the remarkable work of Marie Curie Cancer Care. As always, the orchestra was as touched by her words as the audience members, and gave an impassioned performance. The concert also raised over #450 in donations for the work of MCCC.

LSO in the News!

The LSO was featured in the UK publication Classical Music Magazine! Click here to read the complete article!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Healing through Music

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Wednesday morning, a group of 17 LSO musicians set off for Surrey to visit the Marie Curie Cancer Research Institute. After being introduced to rush hour, London-style, on "Europe's largest parking lot," our coach bus, driven by the virtuoso bus driver Colin, finally wound its way up a narrow road to a beautiful stone building overlooking miles of breathtakingly beautiful English countryside.

Upon our arrival, we entered the Lecture Hall of MCRI, where many of the lab’s researchers had gathered. Dr. Robert Cross talked about Marie Curie and her dedication to innovation in research. He introduced us to the Institute, which consists of 100 scientists whose work focuses on “the molecular mechanisms responsible for the development of cancer, with the ultimate aim of exploiting our efforts in the development of new methods for the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and palliation of cancer.” (http://www.mcri.ac.uk/)

Dr. Lisa Wong explained the LSO’s mission and vision and then our musicians and scientists introduced themselves by instrument and profession, and then performed a concert of solos, duos, quartets and quintets. The analogy of collaborative science and chamber music was immediately apparent.

After the concert, LSO musicians and MCRI researchers mingled over a lovely lunch, talking about music and science. Dr. Cross described that there were at least two accomplished musicians in his lab, and many others who had played music as children. The view was breathtaking. Shared research interests were found between medical student violinist Jenny Chang and scientists at MCRI .

The afternoon brought us to Eden Hall Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead where flutist Dr. Daniela Krause had spent several weeks during her third year of medical school.
Dr. Philip Lodge is a palliative care physician at Marie Curie Edenhall Centre, one of their many hospice facilities. He led a lively discussion about similarities and differences in palliative care between the UK and the US. Several different chamber ensembles shared their gift of music to the patients, the patient lodge, in halls, individual patient rooms. As one family said a final farewell to their loved one, they thanked us that her final hour was filled with music.

LSO cellist and Palliative Care nurse, Nancy Chane met with Dr. Philip Lodge of Edenhall to learn more about Hospice in the UK. When Nancy returns to Boston, she will share what she has learned during her time on this tour with her colleagues at the Transitions Program of Partners HealthCare.

In our orchestra, music heals the healers themselves: it was a real gift to share our music with the staff and patients at the Hospice—a perfect example of the healing abilities of music.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Royally Great Day

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Tuesday morning, 12 of our 30 travelers returned to Barts to visit the newly renovated Bodley Scott Infusion Unit. The morning consisted of a tour of the facility and a brief chamber music performance by LSO musicians. The state-of-the-art oncological facilities housed harmoniously in this 900 year old hospital was a bright example of the juxtaposition of modernity and history that seems quintessential London.

In the early afternoon, the group reconvened at Regent Hall, located on the bustling Oxford Street, for a rehearsal. Soprano Janna Baty arrived directly from the airport after a long flight delay from Washington D.C. She added her rich and luxurious voice to the orchestra's storytelling for Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915". We also rehearsed with the remarkable David Juritz, with whom we had performed at Tufts University on May 31, and who was now joining us on his home turf in London. David and Janna will be the featured British and American soloists in the Longwood Symphony's upcoming concerts on Thursday June 26 at 7:00 p.m. at Bishopsgate Institute and Friday June 27 at 7:45 at The Anvil in Basingstoke.

Directly following our rehearsal, we loaded up the bus and headed to the prestigious lawfirm Freshfields, Bruckhaus and Deringer for a Harvard Club of the United Kingdom event hosted by Don and (former LSO violinist) Sue Guiney.

As the musicians were warming up and changing into concert attire, a few members learned that the Queen was about to drive by! After a few minutes of waiting, the gates of the building across the street opened, and the Queen's motorcade poured out. As the car turned the corner, eager LSO members waved, and the Queen, in her iconic, peacock blue hat, waved right back!

The evening's event was a combination of music and medicine and was the first time the space at Freshfields had been used as a concert hall! The program for the evening was an eclectic mix of chamber music by Ibert, Mozart, and a hilarious flute quartet purportedly written by Mozart's lost great great grandchild, Wolfgang Schroeder. Before each ensemble played, members introduced themselves and shared some information about their professional work in medicine and science. The program concluded with a performance with the Bach Double Violin Concerto with our co-concertmasters Sherman Jia and Sandy Mong.

Following the concert we had the chance to meet our audience, many of whom had fond reminiscences of Cambridge and Boston to share. Old memories combined with new ideas about the interface between music and science, leading to thoughts of how the Longwood Symphony Orchestra might return for a second performance at Freshfields. After the reception, we returned to the hotel, where many musicians gathered in the hotel restaurant for a late-night dinner where we got to taste London's famous fish and chips!

For a look at more pictures, click here!

Getting to know....Dr. Leonard Zon

Dr. Zon is a renowned stem-cell researcher and principal trumpet of the Longwood Symphony. On Saturday, June 21st, Dr. Zon flew directly to Boston from Delaware where he watched his son's soccer team in the regional semi-finals. Instead of heading home, he changed terminals and met up with the rest of the LSO as we prepared for our flight to London. For him, the trip represented a great opportunity to share science, medicine and music with others and to raise funds for cancer care through his music.

On Monday June 23rd, Dr. Zon joined his LSO colleagues as part of the LSO's "Artful Innovations in Cancer Care" symposium. He shared his ground-breaking work in embryonic stem cell research using zebrafish as the animal model. Using this knowledge, he is working on new models of tissue regeneration and cancer therapies.

In the evening, Dr. Zon switched gears to perform the Albinoni concerto for piccolo trumpet, a work that he loves . The Great Hall at St. Bartholomew's Hospital was the perfect venue for the work: the sound was fantastic, ringing and reverberating from the ancient walls.

An interesting side note: in preparation for this performance, Dr. Zon took his trumpet to get it acid-washed, or cleaned at a local shop in Boston. While he was there, a Japanese news crew asked to record him-the group was quite impressed, and now Dr. Zon will appear on Japanese TV!

After his quick visit to the UK, Dr. Zon boarded a flight back to Boston on Tuesday in order to join 1200 colleagues at the 2008 Zebrafish Development and Genetics meeting in Madison, Wisconsin by Wednesday morning!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bridging the Atlantic at Barts

Monday, June 23rd, 2008:

Our first full day in London included a six-hour medical symposium presented by members of the Longwood Symphony and our medical counterparts here in London.

We arrived bright and early at St. Bartholomew's Hospital--which is commonly known as Barts. Barts was founded in 1123 and remains a working hospital nearly 900 years later. William Hogarth's awe-inspiring wall murals, created in 1731, greeted us as we climbed the winding stairs to the Great Hall, in which the symposium and concert took place. These works, depicting Christ caring for the sick, seemed a perfect introduction to our day focusing on Arts and Healing.

We entered the Great Hall, a large, beautiful room with walls covered with historic placards and paintings, where King Henry VIII looks down benignly from the far end of the room.

As orchestra members, we are trained to communicate our passions through our instruments. Today was a very different day for us. Our identities as violinists, bassoonists, flutists and cellists were temporarily put aside as we shared our passions, not for music, but for our research and our patients. This was the first time we have had a chance to hear in depth what our fellow musicians do in the labs, in the wards, and at the bedside.

The Symposium focused on all aspects of cancer care and was divided into sections. Speakers in the "From Bench to Bedside" section shared the latest in cancer biology and targeted therapy. "Living in Harmony with Cancer" raised important questions about quality of life for the cancer survivor.

As the day progressed, connections surfaced between and LSO members, Symposium attendants and colleagues from Barts and Marie Curie Cancer Care found that his or her work resonated with that of a colleague and resulted in an almost musical give-and-take amongst researchers.

Near the end of the day, Dr. Lisa Wong and Music Director Jonathan McPhee, reflected on the phenomenon of the musical physician and a medical musician. Solving a diagnostic dilemma and performing a musical masterpiece requires a very similar approach: discipline, passion and creativity.

The symposium was brought to a close by an inspirational narrative by Bob Champion, winner of the 1981 Grand National and a cancer survivor. He shared with us his intense passion as a jockey and how he harnessed the determination to finally win the ultimate race: that of beating his cancer. His life has since been devoted to supporting cancer care.

After a quick rehearsal/sound check, we headed across the street to Carluccio's for a delicious meal. After the meal, we returned to the Great Hall as musicians. The evening concert showcased our own musicians, opening with Bach's Concerto for Two violins featuring Harvard Medical Students and LSO co-concertmasters Sherman Jia and Sandy Mong.
The duo was followed by a beautiful performance of Borne's fiendishly difficult "Carmen Fantasy" featuring flutist Dr. Daniela Krause. Dr. Leonard Zon,
whose talk on zebrafish, embryonic stem cells and cancer biology inspired us early in the morning, returned with an equally inspiring performance of Albinoni's piccolo trumpet concerto.

The evening concluded with a performance of Copland's "Appalachian Spring". When Music Director Jonathan McPhee shared with the audience his own personal connections with Copland and Martha Graham, the piece took on a new meaning--to musicians and audience members alike.

Monday was truly a wonderful day. It provided the unique (and first!) opportunity for LSO members to get to learn about the passions that their fellow musicians have away from their instruments--and it was truly inspiring to see.

Click here to see our expanding gallery of photos!


Comments from our Members:

Dr. Thomas Sheldon, oboe, radiation oncologist: "I was struck with the overlap in the talks. It was not with content, but a way of thinking. Was it ensemble science and medicine? Each speaker thought about what the others had covered. Len and Heidi agreed on some collaborative science after the talks!"

"Playing Copland for a European audience is interesting. Some like it, some don't…so American.

Dany, Len, Sherman and Sandy were great! Dany's dress was gorgeous. What a blue, inky and mysterious!"

John Hecker, French Horn, architect: "The historic performance hall of the Hospital was a wonderful space in which to perform. The large volume of the room allowed our music to expand and 'bloom,' bringing the music to life. This effect was especially apparent in Len Zon's performance of the Albinoni Trumpet Concerto. The sound from Len's piccolo trumpet was brilliantly clear and powerful, thrilling when the notes reached into the highest octave."

Monday, June 23, 2008

And They're Off!

On Saturday, June 21st, 31 members of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra boarded a flight to London to launch the LSO’s exciting initiative “Bridging the Atlantic: Artful Innovations in Cancer Care”. Without any hassle from security about the horns and violins and with a relatively smooth, direct flight to London, we arrived at the Heathrow International airport at 6:45am on Sunday, June 22nd. After boarding the bus, we set off for the city—enjoying a brief panoramic tour along the way.

London greeted us with sunshine and we piled off the bus for a brief stop at Buckingham Palace. The quiet Sunday morning served us well as the group gathered for a photo beneath the gold-encrusted gates surrounding the palace.

Our next stop was the violin shop of Florian Leonhard. Mr. Leonhard has generously provided the LSO cello section with beautiful instruments to use during our time in London. (This saved us quite the hassle of either packing the instruments in gigantic flight cases, or purchasing each cello a seat on the flight!). Mr. Leonhard’s shop is a beautiful house off a beautiful (and very narrow!) winding, English road. Violins and violas, displayed in wooden and glass cases, adorn the expansive, museum-like rooms. An unfinished, carved bass scroll sits in the unused fireplace.

Once we collected the five borrowed instruments, a quick phone call to the hotel informed us that the rooms we were hoping to check into were not ready for us—and wouldn’t be for at least a couple of hours! So, we headed to Covent Gardens to explore the shops, enjoy the street performers and grab a bite to eat. After reconvening, we headed to the hotel and gratefully checked into our rooms, with only enough time to drop off our belongings, perhaps change clothes and get back on the bus for our afternoon rehearsal.

Our first London rehearsal took place at Greycoat Hospital--an historic building that used to be a hospital and is now a school for girls. The rehearsal served as a mini-reunion with former LSO members who are now residing in the greater London area: Catherine Brewster, violin, Hilary Cipullo, oboe, Emma Norden, bass, and Kristin Rutter, harp. Despite the fact that we had all been awake for at least 25 hours, we buckled down and focused for an intense three-and-a-half hour rehearsal.

Finally, an exhausted orchestra returned to the hotel, for a chance to rest, shower, and stroll to a nearby pub for some dinner and a pint!

To check out more photos from today, click here!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bon Voyage concert a success!

On Saturday, May 31st, musicians of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra performed a "Bon Voyage" that previewed the medical and musical talent that the LSO will share with colleagues abroad during the groundbreaking trip: "Bridging the Atlantic: Artful Innovations in Cancer Care".

During the LSO's time in London, members will: present a symposium on "Innovations in Cancer Care", perform in hospitals and hospices, and perform three full concerts that will benefit Marie Curie Cancer Care--the UK's largest charity.

You can follow our adventures! We will be posting updates and photos on this blog throughout the tour!