Concert planned to honor Pittsburg composer Barbara York

·2 min read

Jul. 1—PITTSBURG, Kan. — Months before she succumbed to a yearlong struggle with pulmonary fibrosis, internationally renowned composer and musician Barbara York took her daughter aside to have a short but serious talk.

"She did not want a funeral," Megan Gabehart said Monday afternoon. "She wanted a concert of her work as a way of celebrating her life."

When York died in November at her Pittsburg home, Gabehart immediately took steps toward her mother's wish. As a result, York's concert — free and open to the public — is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday, July 10, in the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts.

"We miss her and love her, and this is our chance to publicly grieve," Gabehart said. "It's also so heartwarming to see the outpouring of love from our local community and from the national and international music community. She was pretty extraordinary."

York was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award from the International Tuba-Euphonium Association. Musicians for many years — particularly those in "low brass," or low-pitched instruments — have been recording albums of York's songs.

Composing since the age of 7, York regularly received commissions from the nation's top orchestras and saw her music sold around the world. Described as "a hidden gem in the Pittsburg community," she worked at Pittsburg State University's Department of Music as a piano accompanist for an untold number of performances.

"She is pretty darn famous in the low brass world," Gabehart said. "If you're not aware of that world, you don't realize just how big of a name she was. ... It's a great opportunity to show Southeast Kansas just what they had."

The concert will feature a number of musicians from Southeast Kansas and from across the country — many of whom are directly influenced by York in some way.

"It's as if (York) gave us permission to play beautiful melodies and invited audiences to enjoy them," said A.J. Beu, a friend of York's who serves as music educator for the Wichita School District. "She revealed potentials and built confidence in each of us and made many, many fine artists through her inspiration."

Beu will be joined onstage by nearly a dozen musicians, including Pittsburg State University's Joanne Britz, Raul Munguia and Denissa Rivas.

"All of these soloists and ensemble members are donating their services because of their love for my mother and her music," Gabehart said, "and that is really touching."

York's request for a public concert in lieu of a funeral service didn't come as a surprise to anyone in the family, she said.

"That is my mom." Gabehart said. "Music was her life. Her legacy is her music. So it seemed fitting to have a concert instead of a traditional funeral because that's the best way of embracing who she was and what her life was about."

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