Carmel Symphony Orchestra to feature ‘Love Letter’ to violinist


By Zach Dunkin

One might describe their romantic connection as “love at first note.”

“It kind of was,” violinist Tessa Lark said of her relationship with composer-musician Michael Thurber. “I mean, I had met him before as alumni of NPR’s ‘From the Top,’ and we had mutual close friends for years and knew about each other’s works. We don’t really believe in love at first sight, but when we sat beside each other at a board meeting, we liked what each other said.”

They soon fell in love.

Attendees at Carmel Symphony Orchestra’s Feb. 10 concert at The Palladium will hear and feel just how much in love these two music-types are. Lark will join the CSO in the world premiere of a composition called “Love Letter,” composed by, yes, boyfriend Thurber.

“I was so impressed with Michael’s writing that I asked him to write a concerto for me,” said Lark, the silver medalist in the ninth Quadrennial International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in 2014. “There was a lot of back-and-forth during the writing process. We wanted something with a lot of my different styles in it and written in kind of ‘letter movements.’”

“Love Letter” consists of four movements and embodies Thurber’s admiration for Lark as both a musician and human being.

“Each movement is a tone poem that depicts different sides of Tessa’s personality and musicianship,” said Thurber, a double bassist who occasionally plays with Lark as a duet, playing a blend of bluegrass, jazz and classical.

“I didn’t know until the end that it was called ‘Love Letter,’” said Lark, a native of Richmond, Ky. “When it was finished he slipped the score under my door and with the words ‘I love you.’ It was an unbelievable gift,  and it means everything to me to be able to play it.”

Although Lark has played two movements of the piece in public, this will be the official world premiere. Thurber, a native of Ogden Dunes in Northern Indiana, will not only be in attendance for his girlfriend’s performance, but will work with the CSO during rehearsals since the piece is so new.

“Michael has never heard it with a full orchestra, so he’s excited about it,” Lark said. “I think everyone will love it. And if the crowd claps really loud for it, there may be a special guest appearance. Hint, hint.”

Continuing the love theme in recognition of Valentine’s Day Feb. 14, the CSO also will perform familiar melodies of Gershwin and Bernstein, such as the Gershwin Brothers’ hit “Girl Crazy,” “Embraceable You,” “But Not for Me” and “I Got Rhythm,” and Bernstein’s “Three Dance Episodes” from “On the Town.” Following intermission, the CSO will perform Charles Ives’ “Variations on America,” and Howard Hanson’s “Symphony No. 2 in D-flat Major, Op. 30 Romantic.”

When: Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Palladium, Center for the Performing Arts, Carmel