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Cellist Jim Knudson steps into the spotlight

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By Special to the Monitor

On Friday, Los Alamos resident Jim Knudson will step into the spotlight as the soloist with the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra, playing the “Saint-Saens Cello Concerto.” Knudson is not inexperienced with the limelight. Being a soloist is only one of many hats this man wears.

During the day, Knudson works in the operations group for the accelerator at LANSCE.  He also volunteers his time with the Los Alamos Concert Association, serving as president this year. On Thursday evenings he plays with the Santa Fe Community Orchestra and on Monday nights he serves as principal cellist for the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra.  With any time left over he gathers up friends to play in various chamber music settings or works in his garage on his ‘63 Studebaker.

Knudson’s association with the cello began as a seventh-grader. A notice from the junior high school orchestra director for a cellist or double bass player gave Knudson a chance to “get out of choir.”

Not sure of the difference, he signed up. Since then, he has continued playing cello through high school, college and graduate school. He has studied with local cellists Suzie Barrett and Dana Winegrad, principal cellist for the Santa Fe Symphony and cellist in the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. In addition, he has regularly attended the Princeton Play Week Southwest  – a week-long chamber music workshop held in Albuquerque each summer.

Knudson began working on the Saint-Seans Cello Concerto while in college. In the spring of 2001, he played the concerto with the Santa Fe Community Orchestra. Conductor Michael Gyurik is also well acquainted with the Saint-Seans work, having played viola in the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra where they presented the work on numerous occasions.

Both Gyurik and Knudson appreciate the lyrical and imaginative quality of the concerto. Last year, the orchestra played the “Saint-Saens Organ Concerto,” which Gyurik likened to a dance. In contrast, Gyurik said the Saint-Seans Cello Concerto is more like a series of episodes –  “all nice.”  

Knudson added that although it is in three movements, they “flow into each other,” each one carried by the orchestra.  

Gyurik said he thinks that the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra personnel like the concerto and are finding it quite doable, complementing Knudson, who is “doing a very nice job.”

Knudson said he is looking forward to the performance, especially since he will play on his 2004 cello made by former Santa Fe Luthier George Albeck.

Friday’s concert begins at 7 p.m. in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. Other works on the program are the Rossini “Die diebische Elster Overture,” the Borodin “On The Steppes of Central Asia” and the Haydn London Symphony.

Tickets will be available at the door and cost $15 for adults and $10 for students.  Los Alamos National Bank is sponsoring the fall concert.