Yesterday brought the very sad news that American cellist Felix Wurman has died, age 51, of cancer. Felix was an inspiring person with a passion for adventure and an extraordinary gift for making friends.
He was the founder of the music group Domus, which had its own portable concert hall in the shape of a geodesic dome. Its members met at the International Musicians’ Seminars in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, in the early 1980s. I was the pianist. We wanted to find a way of making music that was less formal and intimidating than we were beginning to experience as young professionals playing in orthodox concert halls. When we started discussing how to create our own more intimate concerts, someone jokingly said that we should build a portable concert hall.
Felix was several steps ahead of us, then as at many other times. As an American school student he had come across Buckminster Fuller’s designs for a geodesic dome, and he declared that if we were to have a portable concert hall, it must be in the shape of a dome. With typical enterprise and energy he set about building us a geodesic dome. It wasn’t the most practical idea, but the beauty of the white dome galvanised lots of young musicians into helping to make it a reality. Some of the story is told in my book ‘Beyond the Notes’, and is too long to tell here. Suffice it to say that Felix was probably the only person in the world who could have got me to run about in the rain carrying heavy boxes full of aluminium tubes. When things got tough, as they soon did, he rallied us all with his heartfelt cry of, ‘It must never not be fun!!’
Felix had an amazing gift for dreaming up idealistic projects and, even more, for inspiring people to join him in bringing them to fruition. He did it with Domus, and later, when he had returned to America, he did it again with the Church of Beethoven, a concert series he founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ironically, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about it on the day that Felix died, though I don’t think the writer can have been aware of the sad coincidence.
When I knew Felix in the ’80s we didn’t use the word ‘animateur’, but I think that’s what he was – an animateur of genius. He made people want to be in his gang. His love of music, combined with his love of fun, adventure, and the perfect cappuccino made him a magnet for other people throughout his life.