Behind the oak trees and brick of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, a 200-year-old cello will be heard Sunday afternoon playing out the dances of the Complete Unaccompanied Cello Suites by J.S. Bach.
“It’s a terrific instrument, and when I play it I feel that much more connected to the music because it was built at the same time the music was composed,” said Kevin Hekmatpanah, Gonzaga University music department chairman and member of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.
While Hekmatpanah has performed more than 120 solo performances, his upcoming two-part concert will not be for professional accolades, but to collect donations for the Hillyard neighborhood and St. Patrick’s.
“He’s doing it out of the goodness of his heart (and) because he loves opportunities to play,” Jamie Klanderud, parishioner and concert organizer, said.
Since the piece is extensive, Hekmatpanah will play the suites in two concerts over consecutive Sundays, July 10 and 17, both at 1 p.m.
“I wanted to do a performance of the complete Bach Cello Suites and that is really the Mount Olympus of all cello suites,” Hekmatpanah said. “And doing them as a set and a cycle is really an event.”
While the concert is free and open to the public, any donations gathered during the concerts will support St. Patrick’s and missionary work within the Hillyard community, including the Missionaries of Charity, a group of religious sisters who provide charitable resources in the community.
“I think that there’s always been a general need in a community,” Klanderud said. “Now the Missionaries of Charity sisters always have people coming asking for food, just showing up at the door. So any financial support would go to the community in that way. The parish is always looking for ways to help the community, too.”
Klanderud pitched the idea to Hekmatpanah, then brought the concept to her parish priests, who she said were all on board and excited about the opportunity. Klanderud said the idea for a concert benefiting the community seemed natural in a parish steeped in music.
“I do play music for our parish; I play the cello and violin in our choir, so it’s a pretty musical place,” Klanderud said.
Hekmatpanah’s previous performance experience at St. Patrick’s years before, along with the opportunity to tackle the Bach, caused immediate excitement.
“Playing at St. Patrick’s is a very warm experience because the people who attend are coming from a deep and sincere desire to hear music and connect with the performer,” Hekmatpanah said.
Hekmatpanah said he enjoys smaller, more intimate concerts as it gives him an opportunity to connect with the audience through speaking about the piece he will perform and any challenges it brings.
While Hekmatpanah has continued to teach the Bach Cello Suites at Gonzaga University both as a professor and orchestra conductor – he leads the GU symphony – he has not performed the piece for 10 years and looks forward to the test.
“It’s been different every time,” Hekmatpanah said. “They’re very technically challenging and very musically and emotionally draining and you approach them with a great sense of humility.”
Some of the piece’s difficulty rests in its interlocking parts. Hekmatpanah described the piece as a collection of dances, each with a different origin country.
“There is a German dance, French dance, Irish dance, and they have a certain similarity but also a unique feel in their key and timbre,” he said. Their differences lead to “a great cohesiveness in each piece” with each short movement building upon the last and fitting together to create a great whole.
Klanderud encourages anyone who wishes to watch Hekmatpanah play to come, regardless of ability to make a donation.
“I feel it is time to honor a professional in our community that gives so much and the more people that can come the merrier,” Klanderud said. “Not to mention that he’s got a great skill and talent.”
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