Entertainment Highlights: Cellist ‘Clawed Back’ to Health, Music

  • Bob Cafaro, a cellist with the Philadelphia Symphony, performs two concerts in the Upper Valley on Sunday and Monday with Lebanon pianist Elizabeth Borowsky. He also will talk about his ongoing management of multiple sclerosis, which at first left him unable to play music in 1999. Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2016 12:05:13 AM
Modified: 12/8/2016 12:05:20 AM

After months of exchanging messages via social media and email, Lebanon pianist Elizabeth Borowsky and Philadelphia Symphony cellist Bob Cafaro will finally meet in person on Sunday afternoon.

After a short rehearsal, they’ll perform together for the first time, in a recital that night at Lebanon’s First Congregational Church.

And then Cafaro will tell the audience about how he couldn’t imagine such a collaboration in August 1999, when the onset of multiple sclerosis left him incontinent, nearly blind and unable to use his hands.

“When I first got out of the hospital after my diagnosis, I took my cello from its case and tried to play the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1,” Cafaro recalled during a telephone interview on Monday. “I couldn’t even line four fingers on one string. I sounded like a 3-year-old playing. I dropped to my knees and cried; it was one of the things I love to play. That’s why we chose it to open with.”

Nearly 15 years after Cafaro “clawed back” from the depths of his condition to a remission that allowed him to resume performing and recording, he also will join Borowsky in playing works of Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann, among others, before closing with David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody. And then they’ll perform them again on Monday afternoon at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, before Cafaro makes presentations about his recovery.

“I’m excited to play with him just for the music making, and his story is so compelling,” Borowsky said in a telephone interview last week. “It would have been so easy for most of us to just accept a diagnosis like that and give up. Sometimes when I have a cold, I can’t get anything done for a few days. I was so impressed by his intense desire to explore all the options. He should be a real inspiration to people with chronic conditions, and to all of us.”

Cafaro’s memoir, When the Music Stopped, recounts his remission through a combination of medication and drastic changes in his diet and exercise regimen. The book inspired the organizers of the TED (Technology, Education and Design) lecture series to invite him to share it, and to play the cello, at a conference in Virginia last month.

While Cafaro prepared over the summer and early fall for his TED close-up, Borowsky was arranging for him to both play and speak at DHMC. Amid that process, she performed a concert at the Lebanon church with her mother, cellist Cecylia Barczyk, and enjoyed the acoustics and the church’s Steinway piano so much that she asked church administrator Brian Clancy about bringing Cafaro there the night before the DHMC appearance.

“It was quite an easy project to support,” Clancy wrote in an email this week. “It certainly suits our concert series for its musical appeal alone … but it also offers this inspiring story.”

While neither musician has seen the other perform in person, Borowsky and the Juilliard-trained Cafaro expect no hitches when they play works for cello that Borowsky has performed many times with her mother and her sister, also a cellist.

“She’s an amazing pianist,” Cafaro said. “She is serious. I jumped at this chance. She knows this repertoire very, very well. When you’ve got someone as accomplished as this, it doesn’t take much time to pull something like this together.”

As soon as they start playing that Bach prelude, Cafaro expects any stage fright to evaporate.

“Everything you take for granted — being able to see, to play, to get to the bathroom on time — I grew to appreciate,” he said. “What I’ve been through has opened up my soul, made me a better person, a better musician, a better communicator.”

Pianist Elizabeth Borowsky and Philadelphia Symphony cellist Bob Cafaro perform works of Bach, Schubert, Schumann and David Popper in the sanctuary of Lebanon’s First Congregational Church on Sunday night at 7:30 and at noon on Monday in the rotunda of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. The duo also will give a mini-recital before Cafaro’s presentation at DHMC at 5:30 on Monday evening.

Best Bets

Topping the list of choices of entertainment during Wassail Weekend in Woodstock is the solstice-flavored concert that Paul Winter Consort cellist Eugene Friesen will perform by candlelight at 7:30 on Saturday night at the North Universalist Chapel. Admission at the door is $15.

The village’s Wassail observance reaches a crescendo on Sunday afternoon at 4, with Opera North artistic director Louis Burkot conducting a choral performance of Handel’s Messiah at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. While admission to the 33rd annual sing is free, donations are welcome. To reserve tickets and learn more, call 802-457-3981 or visit pentanglearts.org.

Wassail weekend also includes readings by Woodstock native Hamilton Gillett, now a Windsor resident, at noon and 1 on Saturday at the Norman Williams Public Library, of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

Next comes a performance of music and dance at Town Hall Theatre at 3 on Saturday afternoon, featuring students from Pentangle Arts’ After School Performing Arts Camp. While admission is free, donations are welcome.

And on Saturday night at 8, Pentangle stages its annual Irish Christmas in America concert, led by singer-accordionist Seamus Begley at Town Hall Theatre. For tickets ($15 to $35) and more information, visit pentanglearts.org or call 802-457-3981.

The Bel Canto Chamber Singers perform two concerts on the theme of “Joys of Christmas” at the Lebanon United Methodist Church this weekend, featuring works for chorus and harp by Britten and Mechem, and choral compositions by Palestrina, Mathias, Shank and Naplan. The recitals are scheduled for Saturday night at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 3. Admission costs $10 to $15.

Accordionist/pianist Jeremiah McLane joins the Clayfoot Strutters in setting the rhythm for the Saturday-night contradance at Norwich’s Tracy Hall. Mary Wesley will call the steps, starting at 8. All dancers should bring clean, soft-soled shoes. Admission is $8 to $12.

Banjoist Pappy Biondo plays Americana music with South Newbury, Vt., fiddler Patrick Ross at the town hall in Newbury village on Sunday afternoon at 3, in a concert benefiting the music program at Newbury Elementary School. For tickets ($15) and more information, visit patrickrossmusic.com or call 802-866-3324.

Northern Stage hosts a staged reading of the Bob Stevens play Yesterday, at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction on Sunday night at 5:30. The play, which re-imagines a heart-to-heart in a hotel room between Beatles songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon, is the full-length version of the one-act play, Here Today, that Northern Stage unveiled during its New Works Now festival in January 2015. A discussion with the cast and crew follows the reading. While admission is free, Northern Stage recommends reserving seats by calling 802-296-7000 or emailing boxoffice@northernstage.org.

World-music singer and multi-instrumentalist Althea Sully Cole performs music of west Africa at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret on Tuesday night at 7:30. While admission is free, donations are welcome. To learn more, visit artistreevt.org.

Looking Ahead

Revels North will kick off its Quebecois-accented run through The Christmas Revels next Thursday night at 6, with a performance of “A French-Canadian Celebration of the Solstice” at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. Subsequent shows are scheduled for Dec. 16, 17 and 18. For tickets ($10.20 to $46) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Theater/Performance Art

Northern Stage continues its production of A Christmas Carol at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction over the coming week, with performances at 2 this afternoon and Saturday afternoon; at 7:30 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night; at 2 on Sunday afternoon; at 11 on Wednesday morning and at 7:30 Wednesday night. The play runs through Dec. 24. For tickets ($14 to $54) and more information, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Shaker Bridge Theatre embarks on the second weekend of its production of Float at Whitney Hall in Enfield tonight at 7:30. The company presents the Patricia Kane play (see accompanying review) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 through Dec. 18. For tickets ($32) and more information, visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.


Violinist Abby Snook and pianist Jane Helms join forces with mezzo-soprano Jennifer Hansen at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon on Friday night at 7:30, to perform arias of Telemann, Bach and Puccini, Irish folk songs and favorites from the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein. General admission at the door costs $5 to $10. To learn more, visit uvmusic.org.

Hartland’s community chorus and flute choir perform seasonal favorites during Hartland Community Arts’ annual holiday show on Friday night at 7:30 at Damon Hall. Entertainment also includes The Crabby Christmas Cabbie, a theatrical vignette. Admission is by donation of non-perishable food to the Hartland Christmas Project.

Flutist Leslie Neighbor Stroud, cellist Margaret Gilmore, pianist Ernie Drown and clarinetist Meghan Donahue Davis accompany soprano Beth Hilgartner through a recital of chamber works of Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven on Saturday afternoon at 4, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley on Route 5 in Norwich. Admission is by donation to the Upper Valley Haven.

Emily Miller and Zara Bode bring their Sweetback Sisters’ Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular to the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Saturday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($10 to $35) and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

Bar and Club Circuit

Arthur James sings and plays the blues at the Lyme Inn’s tavern tonight from 6:30 to 9:30.

The jazz trio of singer Cyn Barrette, bassist Peter Concilio and pianist Bob Merrill performs at the Canoe Club in Hanover at 6:30 tonight. Next to the microphone over the coming week with evening shows from 6:30 to 9:30 are guitarist Ted Mortimer and saxophonist Katie Runde of The Party Crashers on Friday, singer-guitarist Cindy Geilich on Saturday, guitarist Michael Blum and bassist Shane Allessio on Sunday, pianist Gillian Joy on Tuesday and pianist Will Ogmundson on Wednesday.

Groove Sum pulls into Windsor Station tonight at 7 for a set of rock and R&B. Next to the microphone over the coming week are the Gully Boys on Friday night at 9:30, The Tricksters on Saturday night at 9:30 and on singer-songwriter Chris Kleeman on Tuesday night from 6 to 9.

The BluzGrass ‘n’ Boogie duo of Brian Warren and Mike Gareau performs at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock tonight at 7. Following them to the microphone on Saturday night at 7 is singer-songwriter Ana D’Leon.

Folk-pop singer-songwriter Ari Hest performs tonight at the Flying Goose Brew Pub and Grille in New London. Singer-songwriter Matt Nakoa will open for Hest at 8. To reserve tickets ($25) and learn more, visit flyinggoose.com or call 603-526-6899.

Sensible Shoes plays at The Public House in Quechee on Friday night starting at 7, followed on Saturday night at 7 by singer-songwriter Will Hatch.

Singer-songwriter Jim Hollis kicks off the weekend of music at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon on Friday night at 8. The next night at the same time, The Joe Mitchell Project plays a set of rock.

The weekend lineup at Salt hill Pub in Hanover features Turner Round frontman Chad Gibbs with a solo set of acoustic rock on Friday night at 7, and bluesman John Lackard on Saturday night at 8.

Salt hill’s Newport pub welcomes the roots-rocking Dusty Gray Band to the microphone on Friday night at 8, and Borderstone on Saturday night at the same hour.

Automatic Rooster sets the rhythm for dancing at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday starting at 9.

Singer Lydia Gray and guitarist Ed Eastridge perform Brazilian and American jazz standards during the monthly Corinth Coffeehouse at Corinth Town Hall on Cookeville Road on Saturday night at 7. Donations benefit the Blake Memorial Library. To learn more, visit the town of Corinth’s page on Facebook.

Royalton singer-songwriter Alison “AliT” Turner performs with Soulfix at the Farmer’s Table in Grantham on Saturday night from 7 to 10.

The Vermont-based trio Masefield Perkins Bolles performs bluegrass at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Saturday night at 8. For tickets ($10) and more information, visit skinnypancake.com.

Open Mics

Jim Yeager hosts the monthly open-mic at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in Pomfret tonight at 7.

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Joe Stallsmith leads a weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass at Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Monday nights at 6.

Bradford’s Colatina Exit holds an open mic on Tuesday nights at 8.

Jim Yeager hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, at 8:30 on Wednesday nights.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.comand at 603-727-3304.

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