A Bach family birthday

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.

Carol’s grandson Nolan, a seven-year veteran of the Appleton Boychoir, kicked things off with a beautiful solo rendition of  Once in Royal David’s City.
Katarina played three numbers, including The Swan from the Carnival of Animals.
Ava Kenney played an astonishingly mature Symphonie Espagnole.
Granddaughter Marqaux sang Breathe from In the Heights.
This one made me well up. This is Dylan Schang singing Music of the Night, accompanied by his 85-year old grandmother, Carol. Such a beautiful moment…and what a voice! (You can catch him in March during Appleton North’s production of Newsies!)
I mean, come on! This is talent! Treat yourself to Ava Kenney’s Symphonie Espagnole,, accompanied by former Carol Leybourn student Joseph Hauer.
The concert wrapped up with this duet, featuring Laura and Kayla. Enjoy!
Happy birthday Carol and thank you for the music.
The Bach family of the Midwest.Carol gave me this treasure when I saw her on Saturday — a copy of a program.from a 2003 piano recital and these photos from.the big event.

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