Friday, December 16, 2022

My Friend Beth Orson

I just learned that my friend Beth Orson died yesterday. I do not know the circumstances, and if she had been sick I didn't know about it because we have only had casual Facebook contact over the past few years. Her posts were mostly about her dogs (whippets), and their races.

Beth joined the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1990, and began teaching at the University of British Columbia School of Music in 1993. I last time I saw her was in New York in 1984 or 1985.

I first met Beth when I was a teenager in my second to last year of high school in a youth chamber orchestra at the New England Conservatory. We began the academic year with the Robert Schumann Piano Concerto, and I sat next to Beth, a senior oboe player who drove into Boston from Providence, Rhode Island.

I was impressed by the fact that she drove all the way to Boston by herself, pleased that she was a really kind and friendly person, and totally blown away by the authority in the way that she played the opening woodwind passage after the piano entrance. The flutes don't play that passage, so I could listen with full attention.

While we were waiting for the first woodwind sectional to begin, Beth sat down at the piano and played the opening of the Schumann Concerto. After the sectional she told me that she had spent the past summer at Fontainebleau, and studied there with Nadia Boulanger. Beth was the most grown-up high school musician I had ever met, and it was such a thrill for me when we became friends. I visited her in Providence, and met her twin sister Diane, who was a terrific violinist. I remember Diane practicing the Bruch Violin Concerto in the basement of their house before breakfast, and I remember their younger brother, Ted (who they affectionately called "turd"). I remember their actress mother who had starred in Peer Gynt. I had to look that play up when I returned to my home in Newton.

The next year Beth went to the Oberlin College Conservatory, and I stayed with her when I went there to audition. My SATs weren't good enough for me to get accepted to the college (I thought I could sneak in a regular education on the basis of getting admitted to the conservatory, but no soap). So I went to Juillard, where my test scores wouldn't matter.

But Beth came to New York after graduating, so I did get to see her again. And Beth had fortunately met my friend Liz (while I was out of the country) and they became roommates, so I got to spend some time with "adult" Beth, who was the same Beth as teenage Beth.

There is a series of videos of Beth teaching. She is exactly the same Beth. I'm so grateful to have known her, and am so grateful that these videos are available. And I feel honored to share this post and these videos here.


Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm so sorry, Elaine. Loss of a childhood friend is so hard

Elaine Fine said...

Thank you, Lisa. I am still trying to wrap my head around it.