York Symphony Orchestra honors an original member
As a slow, graceful stream of music flowed from the York Symphony music director's violin on Thursday, 104-year-old Elizabeth Sensbach tilted her "good ear" toward the musician and rested her cheek in her hand to enjoy the melody coming from the instrument she once played.
"I'm going to play for you like you used to play for everyone," Lawrence Golan told her before tucking his violin under his chin.
The first song the music director played was titled "Indian Summer," and the second was written by violinist Fritz Kreisler in 1911, the same year Sensbach was born.
After he finished playing, Sensbach thanked Golan repeatedly and then made it a point to tell him, "You're very good looking."
Golan, along with the orchestra's recently appointed general manager, Michael Reichman, visited the Jewish Home of Greater Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, where Sensbach is a resident, to honor the former musician as one of the original members of the York Symphony Orchestra. They presented her with a book outlining the history of the orchestra — which she accepted with a grin and a quiet "thank you" — and a framed photograph of the orchestra after its very first concert.
Sensbach, her daughter Virginia Parkumm and Golan stood huddled around the image trying to find the younger Sensbach.
She was one of six women and likely the youngest in the ensemble, Parkumm said.
Violin: Sensbach grew up in York in a house on Duke Street and graduated from William Penn Senior High School in 1928.
She moved on to study violin at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and on Nov. 14, 1933, she played violin in the York Symphony Orchestra's very first concert. Sensbach played with the orchestra for two seasons before leaving in 1935.
"I always knew she played the violin because I used to see it on the floor of the closet, but I never got to hear her play," Parkumm said. "Then on her 104th birthday in August she was going on and on about playing in the York orchestra."
So Parkumm set out to see if the music ensemble was still around.
"I called them up and learned not only are still around, they're thriving," she said.
After speaking with Sensbach's daughter, Golan and Reichman knew they wanted to honor the violinist.
"Music can connect people, connect communities," Golan said. "It was very special to be able to connect with Elizabeth, one of our founding members, on the instrument that she used to play."
York Symphony Orchestra: The organization this year is celebrating its 82nd anniversary and has grown to offer a diverse set of programming.
The orchestra on Saturday will have two performances, the first a family-friendly event intended to introduce youth to music, and the second is a concert called "The Piano Men," which will feature favorites from Billy Joel and Elton John. The first performance will be at 10 a.m., and "Piano Men" is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, 50 N. George St.
Golan, who has been with orchestra two years, reveled in the York Symphony Orchestra's long-standing presence in the community.
"There's obviously a very special, very long tradition here," he said. "I consider myself and other members torch-bearers. The generation before us has passed down that torch, and we will also pass it down so the tradition continues."
— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org.