By Cristina Zacharias, violinist
In February 2022 we lost a great friend and cellist, Allen Whear. Allen had worked with us as an occasional player from 1994, and joined Tafelmusik as a full-time member in 2000. He was a deeply committed musician who loved Boccherini above all, but was also profoundly moved by Beethoven and Bach. Together with his bass-section colleagues Christina Mahler, Alison Mackay, and Charlotte Nediger, he was a pillar in Tafelmusik’s foundation, a sensitive player and person who encouraged and supported the entire organization with quiet confidence and deep knowledge.
Allen was passionate about live performance, and never more so than in the last few years. He inspired us all with his unwavering desire to make music together, despite the difficulties presented by his illness, the pandemic, and travel issues.
Allen’s whole being truly lit up when we were on tour. He researched museums and galleries to make the best use of our limited downtime, and loved to explore local attractions, and to enjoy local food and wine. The first time Tafelmusik toured to Melbourne Australia, Allen wasted no time in planning a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria, in order to view a famous portrait of Boccherini. The painting wasn’t actually on display at the time of our visit, so he made special arrangements to have it brought out of storage so he could see it. Years later, at the first rehearsal for a chamber music program featuring Boccherini, Allen arrived with postcards of the portrait for each of the musicians. It was quintessential Allen to have bought many copies of the postcard and saved them for the day when they were the perfect gift for his colleagues. Mine still hangs in my practice room.
Whenever Tafelmusik tours involved bus trips, Allen curated the bus movie selections, finding the perfect films that had some kind of programmatic link to the tours. He approached his film programming in the same way he programmed music—looking for historical or thematic links, opportunities to shed new light on a destination or topic, and always with the goal of delighting the audience.
As the director of Baltimore Pro Musica Rara, and of the chamber music series at the annual Carmel Bach Festival, Allen’s depth of musical knowledge shone. He designed and programmed beautiful and thoughtful concerts with the players in mind, and then wrote nuanced program notes that enlightened and educated the audience. He was always generous with these skills, and many musicians counted on him as an invaluable resource when programming concerts.
Allen was truly an irreplaceable presence at Tafelmusik. We are left with so many memories, many of them embedded in particular bars of the music we played with him so many times over our long history together. He will stay with us in those moments.
Tafelmusik will perform Whear’s Short Story in our season-opening concert Handel’s London: learn more at tafelmusik.org/london