If you are fortunate in life, you may have the opportunity to meet, know and be influenced by a rare and gifted individual whose special being impacts humanity. The late Carleen Hutchins was one such person. Born in 1911, Hutchins passed away in 2009 and left behind a musical legacy that has inspired countless people around the world. In Orange County, Joe McNalley has become a disciple of Hutchins' musical legacy, dedicating his life and professional career to her work, which encompasses the design and creation of one of the world's most unique violin octets.
McNalley's passion takes the form of what is called the Hutchins Consort. McNalley and his musicians join with a group known as Hutchins East, which are the only two professional ensembles on the planet performing on the violin octet created by Hutchins. To explain, the octet of instruments encompasses a series that includes a gigantic contrabass violin that stands over seven feet tall all the way down to a very small treble violin which is only 16 ½ inches long. Whenever the Consort performs, audiences are enthralled by the experience.
Recently in Corona del Mar, the philanthropic Roberta and Howard Ahmanson opened their oceanfront English cottage to welcome McNalley and devotees of the Hutchins Consort for a very special weekend repast in the central garden of the whimsical country English residence. The occasion marked the introduction of a special guest, Academy Award-winning documentarian Cynthia Wade, who had flown in from New York to attend the Ahmanson reception and announce the start of production on her next directorial project: a film on the life of Hutchins. Wade won her Academy Award in 2008 directing the film "Freeheld" and was nominated in 2012 for her film "Mondays at Racine," for which she also received a 2012 Emmy Award. The Hutchins Consort has received a 2012 media grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support development of Wade's documentary film. Wade was joined at the Ahmanson reception by Vanessa Bergonzoli, also of New York, who will produce the film.
Both women charmed the local crowd, including the dedicated Sharon McNalley, Joe McNalley's mother and a passionate supporter of the Consort, Cindi and Bart Young, Laura Carroll, chairwoman of the Hutchins Consort board, Carol and Walter Boice, Bobbitt Williams, Marcia Larson, Howard Jelinek and the lovely Jan Landstrom with her children Suzi and Steve Lyons. The crowd listened attentively as Wade shared some of the back story on Hutchins' life. She told the assemblage that Hutchins is the only woman to be elected an Honorary Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America. The award has been granted a total of only 19 times, the first in 1929 to Thomas Edison. Hutchins octets are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Music Museum in South Dakota as well as museums in Stockholm and Edinburgh.
Also enjoying the musical afternoon at the Ahmanson residence were Dr. Robert and Ruth Ann Burns, Jean Galloway, Betty Andrews, Elaine and Carl Neuss, Ralph Smith, Katie and Phil Friedel, Nella Webster, Fran Farrer, and Sande and Richard Schwarzstein.
THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.