BRANDON — Brandon artist Candace Knapp has a signature way of sculpting instruments out of wood, twisting and swirling their bodies and necks to evoke a sense of sound, emotion and movement.
When the Florida Orchestra wanted to honor six retiring longtime members this spring, they asked Knapp to make awards for them. She used mahogany, ash, chinaberry and walnut to carve sculptures featuring each instrumentalist’s violin, viola, violoncello, bass or trombone.
The retirees are second trombonist Don Zegel, praise band director at First Presbyterian Church of Brandon, who has played with the Florida Orchestra 37 years; violist Karl Bawel, orchestra member for 34 years; Kathie Aagaard, assistant principal violist, 33 years; bassist Deborah Schmidt; Gretchen Langlitz, violoncello, 40 years; and violinist Evelyn Pupello, 50 years.
Pupello was the last remaining original member of the Florida Orchestra, having started in 1965 with one of its precursors, the Tampa Philharmonic. She retained her seat when the Tampa Philharmonic and St. Petersburg Symphony officially merged in 1968 to become the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, and she continued on after the 1984 renaming, when it became the Florida Orchestra.
These instrumentalists experienced career highlights including sharing the stage with celebrities like cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Whitney Houston at Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium, as well as recording Gregory Smith’s “Be the Thunder” theme song for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For Knapp, who plays piano and ukulele, honoring musicians is an expression of her lifelong love of music, and this isn’t the first time she has fashioned customized sculptures for the Florida Orchestra. More than 20 years ago, Kathryn Holm McManus, then the orchestra’s managing director, asked her to sculpt an award for George Steinbrenner to thank him for his support of the Florida Orchestra.
“After that, I made several awards every year for donors and board members and sometimes for retiring musicians,” said Knapp. “It might have been over 10 or 15 years, several each year, [including] two very large sculptures for Jahja Ling and Thomas Wilkins when they left.”
Ling, music director for the San Diego Symphony, was a former Florida Orchestra music director, and Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, was a former Florida Orchestra resident conductor.
“This work, which I would only do for special people on special occasions, was a good fit for me,” said Knapp, “because at that time I was making a lot of violins and pianos for galleries.”
Knapp recently retired from a career of designing and building church furniture and statues and now looks forward to the freedom of “painting, making sculptures, writing, walking in the park and whatever else my soul whispers in my ear,” she said.
Visit her virtual gallery at www.candaceknapp.com.
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