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.” (

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!