Concert to play homage to handmade violin

Four area musicians will present a benefit piano and violin concert at 3 p.m. Aug. 28 at the ArtsAltoona Sanctuary, 2212 Sixth Ave.

The concert features the musical talents of Barbara Weller Crain, her student, Neo Chen, Carole Reifsteck Parsons and her sister, Cheryl Reifsteck of York, formerly of Altoona.

The “Centennial Violin Concert” is in homage to Reifsteck Parsons’ Haberlein violin, which was handcrafted in 1922. Admission is $10 with the proceeds equally benefiting ArtsAltoona and the Altoona Symphony League.

The concert will feature the musicians playing violin and piano pieces, including selections from Vivaldi and “Fiddler on the Roof,” the theme from the movie “Somewhere in Time,” and selections by Debussy, including “Clair de Lune” by Weller Crain. Chen will play an arabesque by DeBussy and “Blues on the Mississippi,” by Kevin Olson.

Chen, who will be a senior at Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School this year, is the son of Karen Jiang of Hollidaysburg and Sam Chen of Hollidaysburg.

Reifsteck Parsons described the selections as “modern classics.”

The concert will feature each of the musicians alone and playing together, including a four-hand piano selection.

The Haberlein violin is crafted in the Stradivarius-style, said Harald Dertinger, special projects coordinator for ArtsAltoona. He will share his research during intermission. The violin was made in Markneukirchen, Germany, an area well-known for making high quality instruments.

It was originally owned and played by Reifsteck Parsons’ late father-in-law, Thomas Parsons. Parsons used the violin in college and when he played in the Russell Gerhart String Ensemble, a precursor to the Altoona Symphony Orchestra.

The violin still plays today with the ASO in the hands of Reifsteck Parsons, a longtime member of the Altoona Symphony Orchestra. Her sister is a substitute violinist with the symphony and a regular player with the York Symphony Orchestra. While the sisters have played together previously, this recital is their first of this magnitude, they said.

Weller Crain, a well-known piano teacher in the Altoona area for decades, said of Chen, “He is absolutely outstanding. He is a marvelous student to teach. He is always prepared. He practices several hours a day and his lessons are a joy. He is the kind of student you look forward to having.”


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