Charles “Chas” Wetherbee served as a violin soloist and concertmaster for the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. Wetherbee played The Nutcracker with the Boulder Philharmonic Thanksgiving weekend.
But shortly after that, his health took a turn. He wasn't sure he'd be able to play at all with the orchestra in January. Wetherbee suggested his University of Colorado colleague, Alex Gonzalez, as a wonderful option to replace him.
Then, on Jan. 9, Wetherbee died suddenly from cancer. And the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra is celebrating Wetherbee the best way they know how — with music.
Music Director of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, Michael Butterman, said this concert was originally planned to feature Wetherbee as a violin soloist and concertmaster. They would play Mozart's Fifth Violin Concerto and Bruckner's Seventh Symphony.
Butterman says it isn’t common for a person to play both a concerto and be the concertmaster of a major symphony in the same concert.
“But Chaz was that sort of artist,” Butterman said.
Now the concert is dedicated to Wetherbee, and more than that, Butterman reached out to Wetherbee’s wife, Karina, to ask about pieces of music that might be especially meaningful to him — and to her.
“She suggested the 'Vocalise’ of Sergei Rachmaninoff, a piece that he enjoyed especially and, and would often play for her,” Butterman said. “So we're going to present an orchestral version, the one that Rachmaninoff himself orchestrated, to open our concert with an empty concertmaster's chair.”
Butterman said he thinks it is a small gesture, but it is the sort of tribute that only musicians can pay.
“It is sometimes more impactful than if we were to use our words to describe our feelings and our love for this, dear colleague that we have lost,” Butterman said.
Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert celebrating Charles “Chas” Wetherbee is Jan. 22 at 4 p.m. with a pre-concert talk at 3 p.m. at the Macky Auditorium on the campus of the University of Colorado Boulder.
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