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Remembrance: ASO cellist Christopher Rex was a sort buddy, famend musician

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When pianist Julie Coucheron joined the DeKalb Symphony Orchestra for a live performance on March 22, there was little in her cheerful demeanor and sleek efficiency to recommend that she had simply acquired devastating information: Christopher Rex, former principal cellist for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, had simply handed away. Coucheron selected to soldier on within the spirit of stoicism she’d realized from her years of collaboration and friendship with Rex himself. Her story joins the ranks of so many within the Atlanta music world who've been touched by the lack of one in every of their most beloved and esteemed members. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday.

Rex joined the ASO as principal cellist in 1979 and carried out for 39 seasons earlier than asserting his retirement in 2018. Earlier than the ASO, Rex was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra underneath Eugene Ormandy for seven seasons.

Born February 1, 1951 to Charles Gordon Rex and Betty McCauslin Rex in Winter Park, Florida, Christopher Rex started to be taught the cello on the insistence of his father — who equally assigned his brother Charles to the violin. Filmmaker Cristina Cassidy’s 2016 documentary Concerto for Two Brothers tells the story of the brothers’ formative years with unflinching candor: Their father was an immensely gifted musician and composer in his personal proper, but additionally a menacing patriarch who dominated over his sons’ lives with an iron fist. 

Cellist Christopher Rex enjoying his remaining concert events with the ASO in 2018.

The movie weaves a fancy narrative of abuse and terror by the hands of a father who would drive his sons to attain musical greatness (Charles joined the New York Philharmonic in 1981) at the same time as his personal bodily and psychological well being quickly declined. The top consequence could be two immensely achieved musicians who discovered themselves sorting via the trauma inflicted by their father effectively into the elder years of maturity.

For all that he endured, it might have been comprehensible for Chris Rex to emerge as a bitter, resentful man. His mates and colleagues, nonetheless, keep in mind him as a heat, kindhearted and reassuring presence — a testomony to his personal light nature and private drive to transcend his father’s affect.

Coucheron, who would type the Christiania Trio with Rex alongside her brother David, says Rex had a cheerful, enthusiastic spirit. “That was one of many issues that was so particular about enjoying with him,” she mentioned. “He at all times was so pleased to play collectively. He was at all times so constructive and it was at all times a pleasure to even simply rehearse collectively.”

David Coucheron, violinist and concertmaster for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, met Rex when he auditioned for his put up in 2009.  “He was actually serious about enjoying chamber music collectively,” says Coucheron. “The primary rehearsal we had was a lot enjoyable — we simply immediately linked and he was making me chuckle so arduous. It was a good way to make me really feel included within the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra household.” 

He rapidly realized about Rex’s signature model of humor throughout that first rehearsal. “I left to get some water,” says Coucheron. “Once I got here again he had written a test to himself for 2 million {dollars} and within the memo line it mentioned ‘teaching payment.’ That test remains to be in my room, on my mirror.”

The Coucheron siblings would go on to carry out and tour extensively with Rex all through the latter years of his life, together with with the group The Georgian Chamber Gamers. They shared greater than a decade of musical collaboration with Rex and, above all, friendship. “He was like a brother to David and I,” says Julie Coucheron. “He was at all times making an attempt to assist out in our private lives. He at all times needed us to be pleased.”

“He was someone I might open up to,” says David Coucheron. “Someone that at all times gave nice recommendation.”

Rex was additionally an avid painter, and created the quilt artwork for The Georgian Chamber Gamers’ 2006 two-CD set, Our Sunday Finest.

Christopher Rex
Brothers Christopher (left) and Charles Rex battled via childhood trauma to every change into world-class musicians.

His radiant heat was one thing that will prolong to Rex’s command of the ensembles he carried out with, each giant and small. ArtsATL co-founder and classical music reviewer Pierre Ruhe recollects Rex’s notably skillful dealing with of a tense second with the ASO. “It was a live performance 20 years in the past with an inexperienced conductor, might need been a Beethoven symphony, and issues had been about to come back off the rails,” says Ruhe. “Rapidly you can see and really feel Chris taking cost of that runaway practice. He wasn’t slowing down, however by power of persona — and possibly enjoying barely louder or extra rhythmically taut — he single-handedly bought the entire orchestra to focus and play collectively. Mainly, it was: Cease wanting on the conductor and hear to one another. The entire incident lasted simply a few seconds, but it surely was actually spectacular.”

Rex met his spouse, Dr. Martha Wilkins, in 1979, shortly after he joined the ASO. “I keep in mind when he walked onstage and I assumed ‘Hmmm . . . that’s the form of particular person I need to meet,’” she remembers. A buddy of Wilkins’ was making an attempt to flirt with Rex from their third-row seats, an act that will result in the pair ultimately assembly Rex at a later live performance.

Rex and Wilkins would go on to this point for six years earlier than tying the knot. Regardless of Rex’s super reservations in mild of his personal childhood, the couple would ultimately have youngsters of their very own — daughter Caroline Bethea and son Christopher Austell.

“He was at all times an ideal listener,” says Christopher Austell Rex. “Most individuals, if you inform them tales, their first intuition is to reply. However his first intuition was simply to hear and attempt to put himself in your sneakers.”

Rex’s capacity to carry folks collectively — each onstage and in friendship — made him a pure organizer of musical occasions. In 2001 he created the Amelia Island Chamber Music Pageant, an annual celebration. The pageant would change into a crucial and business success and have performances from Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Wynton Marsalis and Zuill Bailey, amongst many others. He additionally was the creative director of the Madison Chamber Music Pageant. Each festivals had been ardour initiatives for Rex.

Christopher Rex
Rex, proven right here in a soloist position (with David Coucheron to his proper), carried out with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for 39 seasons. (Photograph by Jeff Roffman)

“He discovered the best folks to assist him get [the Amelia Island festival] began and preserve it going” says William Ransom, creative director of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta. “Simply getting these folks to imagine in you and your imaginative and prescient — that’s a expertise in and of itself. It takes a really particular persona, which Chris had.”

It’s a uncommon mixture of expertise certainly, one which Ransom acknowledges will make it a problem to search out Rex’s substitute. “They are saying everyone is replaceable however that’s merely not true,” he says. “It does take such a mixture of so many presents and expertise and pursuits that he had. That’s going to be very troublesome. I’m positive they’ll be effective however what an incredible begin they needed to have him on the helm.”

As one musician after one other has lamented the lack of Rex and paid tribute to an excellent musician and exquisite soul, an outdated buddy from his days as a pupil at Juilliard joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on April 15 as visitor cellist. In a particular encore, he carry out J.S. Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6 in D Main, BWV 1012: IV “Sarabande” as a tribute to Rex. That buddy was none apart from cello celebrity Yo-Yo Ma.

“I really like Chris Rex,” enthused Ma in Concerto for Two Brothers. “I really like him as a human being and I really like him as a musician. He’s somebody who is very imaginative and inventive. He has labored actually arduous to get to this second of life affirming freedom.”

Martha Wilkins says music was her husband’s religious heart. “I actually do really feel like Chris used his music as a technique to serve God,” she says. “He felt like he might carry some ardour and pleasure and soulfulness into someone else’s life via the music that he might play.”

A memorial service will likely be held at Trinity Presbyterian Church on April 23 at 11 a.m,. and can function performances of chamber music of specific significance to the Rex household.

There will even be a live performance on Might 9 in Rex’s honor to shut this yr’s Madison Chamber Music Pageant.



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