AP NEWS

Symphony to honor violinist who perished mid-concert

April 9, 2019

The Symphony of Southeast Texas is planning a memorial concert to honor the violinist who died during Saturday night’s performance, a tragedy that has orchestra members rallying behind the violinist’s family.

Yu Zhao Gu, 60, fell from his seat while performing next to his wife and stand partner, Ying Zhao, at the Julie Rogers Theatre in Beaumont. He died of a heart attack.

The city has sent symphony officials several dates when the theater will be available for a memorial concert, executive director Douglas Fair said. It could be several more days before a date can be confirmed.

“This is a very sudden and deep loss of one of our colleagues,” Fair said. “Everyone is in a state of shock.”

Gu and his wife were a fixture of the symphony and were especially attuned to each other while performing, an even more rare sight than seeing a couple together in the same symphony, Maestro Chelsea Tipton said.

“They were the dynamic duo and rarely did one play without the other one being there,” Tipton said. “They played with us for over 25 years, and they always came smiling and ready to play.”

Gu had been with the symphony since the mid-1990s.

As first-section violinists, the couple were directly in front of Tipton when the health emergency occurred. Tipton said it was touching to see at least six physicians in either the symphony or crowd respond to provide resuscitation to Gu, and to see other members stop to pray for the family.

The Rev. Jim Fuller, senior pastor at Calder Baptist Church and a member of the symphony board, said he saw the incident from the balcony where he was watching the performance and lingered while physicians responded. In the balcony, and later on the stage with members of the symphony and audience, Fuller said he did what he knows best: he prayed.

“There isn’t much one can pray in such a moment, but — I think, at least — we ask God to be with all the parties, lend himself to the medical intervention and be with the family during their traumatic loss,” Fuller said

Like most of the symphony musicians, Gu and his wife lived in Houston. Their son is a student at University of Houston. As professional musicians, they also performed with other area groups including the Lake Charles Symphony and Galveston Symphony Orchestra.

Sparky Koerner, Galveston Symphony manager and principal trumpet player, said Gu and his wife at been with the string section there for at least 10 years.

“They always talked to me and said hi when we saw each other — his wife called me ‘Mr. Sparky,’” Koerner said. “I remember their son coming to all of the rehearsals. He would color or read and listen to the music.”

Koerner said Gu was a model musician and a vital part of the group, even filling in to direct when the concertmaster was unable to make rehearsals.

He said Gu would likely be memorized in the April 21 program for the symphony’s Easter concert.

Fair said the members of Symphony of Southeast Texas were trying to support Gu’s wife and family during this time, including raising money through a GoFundMe available at the symphony’s Facebook page.

R.A. Schuetz in Houston contributed.

jacob.dick@beaumontenterprise.com

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