When I was invited to read at the Church of Beethoven as the featured poet back in October, I was sadly unable to meet the series' founder, Felix Wurman. First diagnosed with bladder cancer in November 2008, he had major surgery this past spring and experienced a brief reprieve. The cancer returned, however, spreading now to the bone. By the fall, he had gone to North Carolina to be near his sister and receive treatment there. At the Sunday performance I was so privileged to be a part of, there was still talk of Wurman's return. However, this is no longer the case. Wurman’s cancer has proven resistent to treatment.
A cellist with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra for 11 years, Wurman, 51, began the Church of Beethoven in February 2008, then held at the Filling Station. His desire was to create an orchestral experience that was more intimate than a large concert hall yet also had the potential to grow and reach a variety of people. Wurman wanted to foster the same sense of communal experience one can have at a church, but without the dogma. Just like its namesake, the Church of Beethoven is entirely human in its approach to the sublime.
Wurman's fight against cancer—and by all accounts, he has battled it doggedly—has not only been emotionally and physically taxing, but financially disastrous as well. The cost of his attempted cures and care is more than he and his family are able to meet. This scenario is, unfortunately, not singular, but Wurman's friends, fans and colleagues are taking an unusual approach to addressing this challenge. They ask that those who have been touched by Wurman's passion and work—or even those who have never been to the NMSO or the Church and Beethoven and just love art and the act of creation—give back financially. The Sunday, Dec. 20 performance will serve as a fundraiser. Featuring Schubert’s octet and readings by Lisa Gill, Tony Hunt and others, the show is an opportunity to demonstrate your appreciation for Wurman's life and commitment.
However, you do not have to attend to give. You can send checks (with Wurman's name in the memo) to his sister, Candida Yoshikai, at 5608 Woodberry Road, Durham, N.C., 27707-5335. At churchofbeethoven.org, there's also a link to Caring Bridge, a website that allows you to send your well wishes and messages to Felix. You can also contribute at future performances. The Church of Beethoven is held every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (get there early, though) at The Kosmos (1715 Fifth Street NW). Suggested admission is $15, $10 students, $5 kids under 12. It's a unique experience made possible by a unique man.