The Bach family has been so important to the history of music that, for a time, any musical family in Europe earned that surname, not by pedigree but by prestige.
I learned that Saturday afternoon from Carol Leybourn, matriarch of a family that, by any standard except birth, easily could be called Bachs.
As she has for each of her past milestone birthdays, Carol celebrated her 85th birthday on Saturday by hosting a concert featuring three generations of her family.
From the youngest, 10-year old Katarina Kenney to the oldest, Leybourn herself, the performers took my breath away with their musical ability and sophisticated interpretations.
They sang, played the cello, violin and piano and filled Peabody Hall with their talent and love. In their posture and conduct they demonstrated a respect for each other, their instruments, their audience and the music they chose that belied their mostly tender years.
What a perfect way to honor their grandma, who has spent the bulk of her life promoting excellence in music, especially chamber music.
I first met Carol when she taught my daughter Katherine piano many years ago. She has established chamber music programs throughout the Midwest and, for many years, headed the chamber music program at Lawrence University.
Carol’s granddaughter Kayla, now a sophomore Physics Major and Concert Master at Macalester College, once kindly played my stepfather John Spalding’s mother’s violin for him on his 87th birthday. Kayla’s mother (Carol’s daughter) Laura Kenney plays principal cello for the Fox Cities Symphony and performs nationally and with the PAC and Weidner Center. She also teaches cello with the Lawrence University Music Conservatory.
So, I knew I was in for a treat when I received an invitation to Carol’s birthday concert. I recorded a few of the extraordinary numbers and, with their permission, I’m sharing them with you.
Happy birthday Carol and thanks for sharing your incredible gifts with us all.