The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art on July 17 dedicated its first jazz music virtual summer concert 2020 to the memory of its admired former assistant executive director, Christopher Lawing. Christopher, a friend of mine since 2006, passed away June 2, at the age of 48, after a 10-year battle with cancer.
This jazz concert, led by Ziad Rabie, artistic director and saxophonist of the Ziad Quartet, performed a heartwarming tribute to Lawing, their former colleague and friend.
The first set was upbeat and inviting. Rabie announced that the first song in the second set would be a rendition of John Coltrane's "Wise One," saying that Lawing, himself, was "a wise one."
The last song of the evening was written by Ziad in June, right after Christopher's untimely death. I felt that this song of both melancholia and hope, was appropriately titled "Christopher."
I expected to view a couple pictures of Christopher throughout the virtual performance.
I was not disappointed. In the first image, Christopher and a friend are handsomely dressed in formal attire. At the end of the concert was a photograph of Christopher with his arms thrown up in the air. This picture was, perhaps, taken at the finale of one of his own concerts.
Christopher was a musician, an actor and a director who earned his master’s degree in arts administration at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
I had the privilege of meeting Christopher when I was a receptionist at the McColl Center for Visual Arts in 2006. He wore a warm smile, appreciated fresh-cut flowers and reached out to creative people from all branches of the fine and cultural arts.
My friend Stephen and I drove to Gaston County to see the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," directed in its entirety by Christopher. Christopher encouraged me to get involved in Charlotte's blooming fine arts community. When he found out that I had tickets to see "Mama Mia" for the first time, at Ovens Auditorium, although it was difficult for him, he made certain that he did not spoil the ending for me!
Christopher made a list for me of community leisure websites. He wanted me to engage in art-related happenings in the Charlotte and Concord/Kannapolis area.
After I left the McColl Center to start a small business, I dieted and exercised. I lost a significant amount of weight. Almost a year later, I went back to the McColl Center, just to visit Christopher, during a lunch interval. As he turned around in his desk chair, he was shocked to see my new appearance. He stared at me in awe as his smile grew. He spoke quietly: "Robyn, you look very pretty." That is all he had to say to make it an unforgettable office meeting to me.
Christopher was genuine. He was secure with himself and accepting of all others. He spread his enlightenment of the fine arts throughout North Carolina, along with his incredibly positive attitude toward life. Thank you, Christopher.
Robyn Lynne Benjamin is a freelance writer and photographer based in the Charlotte area who enjoys jet skiing, the outdoors and family activities.
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