Harpist Lisa Tannebaum.

Carnegie Hall-Caliber Performances Are Coming to the Witherell

Everyone knows the line about how to get to Carnegie Hall, but on Sept. 27, Witherell residents won’t have to worry about that old joke. They can enjoy a world-class performance right here in our very own auditorium. Even though we are far from the famed Midtown Manhattan concert hall, residents will be able to enjoy music by renowned harpist Lisa Tannebaum, who will perform half of a two-hour classical music performance she is scheduled to give at Carnegie Hall later this fall.

Tannebaum will return to the Witherell in October to perform the second half of the concert, and in December, she’ll play a holiday-themed show. “The performances may continue into the New Year as well,” says Lynn Mason, a music therapist at the Witherell. “It’s a real treat to have somebody of her caliber play here.” (Hear Tannebaum play at: http://bit.ly/2cZIEQP.)

At the Witherell, Tannebaum’s program will include works by Handel, Haydn, Debussy and others. For two of the pieces, she will be accompanied by pianist Suki Gurrier.

But Tannebaum does more than just perform; she also chats with residents, discusses the harp, demonstrates how the pedals work, and answers questions. “I enjoy speaking to everyone about each piece I perform to give them some context. I want my audience to be involved and part of the concert,” she says.

Take, for example, the solo “Fantasia for Harp in C-Minor.” When Tannebaum performs it, she tells the story of the 19th-century German composer Louis Spohr, who wrote it. He also played violin. Spohr had become smitten with the harpist Dorette Scheidler, and set out to win her with music.

“To spend time with her, he wrote pieces for violin and harp,” Tannebaum notes. “And when he said, ‘Would you like to spend the rest of your life playing music together?’ she said ‘Yes.’”

Spohr wrote “Fantasia” for Scheidler after they were married, she points out.

Mason says that “Lisa’s visits are part of a rich musical program that Witherell residents are treated to. Six to eight times a week, musicians and singers entertain residents with country music, rock and roll, and the standards from the American song book of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.”

Recent performers have included piano prodigy David Sacks, a 16-year-old whose classical repertoire includes Bach and Beethoven; and singer, actress and writer Patty Carver, who recently performed a Mary Martin tribute show.

Witherell residents have been treated to the lush cascades of notes tripping from the strings of Tannebaum’s harp before. The world-class musician, a Stamford resident and friend of Witherell Executive Director Allen Brown, performed for our skilled nursing center once in 2014 and several times in 2015. Her performances have been extremely popular.

Tannebaum has been performing widely for almost 19 years. She has toured Europe with the Broadway show “42nd Street” and played harp for “The Fantasticks” at the Sullivan Street Theater in Manhattan. She also has performed at Carnegie Hall with both the Bialystock Orchestra from Poland and the New England Symphonic Orchestra, and has been on stage with the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra, North Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and the Shanghai String Quartet, among many others. She has recorded three CDs with Peter Pan Records; a new solo CD will be released soon.

A teacher as well as a performer, Tannebaum gives harp lessons at her studio in Stamford. She has also taught at music camps, and has appeared on television both as a performer and as a lecturer on harp history.

In December, Tannebaum will add Christmas and Hanukah songs to her Witherell program and may hand out sheets to have people sing along. She’s looking forward to it all, she says, and enjoys the relationship she’s built with the residents there. “I really love the rapport you have when you come back,” she says. “Music is great entertainment for the nursing home, where it is another way to make connections with residents. You realize that you can say so much without words.”

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