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An Afternoon of Elegance

By: Theresa Hayes, JCSO Board Member


At our first annual Johnson City Symphony Orchestra Mozart Masquerade Ball last May, one of the auction items was a private solo performance by principal cellist Cherylonda Fitzgerald to be held at a location of the bidder’s choice. Bill and Judy Beckman placed the winning bid. They aligned their schedules with Cherylonda, and an intimate event was held in the Beckman’s home on July 16th.


Bill and Judy Beckman at 2023 Mozart Masquerade Ball Photo: Courtesy of Happy Dog Photography

Any concert goer knows Cherylonda’s animated personality and love of performance. She exemplifies fun and talent as demonstrated by her appearance as Abraham Lincoln at our recent John Williams Concert and by her beautiful solos. So, as one of Bill and Judy’s guests, I was expecting a perfectly pleasing performance. It was that, and so much more!


Cherylonda covered a broad range of music from selections of movements from solo Bach Suites to Celtic Aires and jigs. Each piece was introduced with a brief commentary which greatly enhanced our understanding and appreciation of the music—similar to Rob Seebacher’s pre-concert lectures. Her audience was deeply moved by her obvious love for each selection. As the afternoon sun gleamed on her beautiful instrument, and Bill and Judy’s cat snoozed beside her chair, each of us were transported back to a time when musicians playing in one's parlor was the norm.


Cherylonda Fitzgerald, Principal cello and JCSO Board Member

When Cherylonda asked us if we had any questions, her performance turned into an educational experience! We learned the duties of a section principal. For example, string principals must study and mark parts with “bowings” (which dictate bow movements and articulations) for their sections. They are responsible for ensuring a cohesive sound within their section and with the other string sections. (There will be more about this in a future email!)


We learned about the different types of wood used to build cellos and how each wood affects the tone. We learned that horsetail hair is used for bows and why it comes from stallions and not mares. We learned about the extraordinary price range of cellos and bows and heard about some of Cherylonda’s opportunities to hear and play famous instruments. We talked and talked and no one was inclined to leave!


Bill and Judy report, “It was such an enjoyable afternoon! Cherylonda is a delight. Her willingness to share her time and her excellent talent benefits the JCSO and the community. And we are so fortunate to have a symphony of such quality in our area.”


A delightful selection of hors d’oeuvres and wines ensured that every sense of each guest was satisfied. Seated in the comfort of Bill and Judy’s lovely home, we enjoyed the company of friends, we tasted delectable food and wine, we listened to beautiful music, and we learned more than we ever dreamed of learning.


Fitzgerald performing at the 2023 Mozart Masquerade Ball Photo: Courtesy of Happy Dog Photography

The JCSO Board thanks Cherylonda for making herself available for this delightful experience and thanks Bill and Judy for supporting the symphony by placing the highest bid. “We were glad to be able to share this special afternoon with our friends,” said Bill and Judy.


You, too, can offer such an event for your friends. Ms. Fitzgerald will once again offer a solo cello performance at this year’s masquerade ball. Imagine a private performance beside your lake home…or in your garden…or at your condominium clubhouse. Imagine offering this unique, entertaining, and educational experience to mark an anniversary or a birthday. And imagine placing your bid for this exceptional event during an evening filled with elegant dancing, dining, and beautiful music.

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