A Tale of Two Kauffmans and Two Spirits

There are two landmarks in Kansas City named after city benefactors Ewing and Muriel Kauffman. Actually, there are more than two, but this post focuses on Kauffman Stadium and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, both of which are on my mind this week.

Kauffman Stadium, photo from Wikimedia Commons

Kauffman Stadium, photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Kansas City Royals baseball team was once owned by Ewing Kauffman and the team plays at what is now called Kauffman Stadium. Much of the world knows that the Kansas City Royals are in the World Series this year for the second year in a row. In 2014, they scrambled their way from a wild card bid, through a roller-coaster playoff season and into the World Series, which they lost in the seventh game.

This year, they started the playoffs at the top of the American League Central Division, won their division (but took all five games to do so), won their league (in six games, the last of which was a 4-3 nail-biter victory after a rain delay), and started the World Series with the home-team advantage.

All this after a dearth of World Series appearances of twenty-nine years.

I am not a sports fan, but even I am caught up in the spirit of Kansas City these days. Sports teams can be good and sports teams can be bad, but when they bring a community together, they are at their best.

I have no intention of going to Kauffman Stadium for a Worlds Series game. I probably won’t even watch many innings on television (though I may sneak glances at the score from time to time). But even I am rooting for the Royals, as are 99% of the citizens of this metropolitan area. It is rare to have such unanimity of opinion on any topic.


Kauffman Stadium, photo from Wikimedia Commons, by H. Gascoigne

This week, the spirit of Kansas City is strong.

Last Saturday evening my husband and I attended a Kansas City Symphony performance at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. This world-class hall is home not only to the symphony, but also to the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City. It is a shining monument on a hilltop just south of downtown Kansas City, which I pass by regularly as I drive around town.

Kansas City Symphony warming up on October 24, 2015, with chorus behind them

Kansas City Symphony warming up on October 24, 2015, with chorus behind them

The program last weekend was called “Festa Italiana” and featured selections from Italian opera overtures and choral works performed by the Kansas City Symphony and the 160-person Kansas City Symphony Chorus. The instruments and voices filled the concert hall with lovely music—pieces from Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, and others.

The Royals had won the American League title the evening before, and the mood in the concert hall was festive. Even the snootiest of arts patrons were part of the Kansas City spirit on Saturday.

But another spirit was more on my mind that evening.

Pasadena Boys Choir, 1940s sometime

Pasadena Boys Choir, 1940s sometime

My father was a huge fan of classical music. His love of music may have started when he was in the Pasadena Boys Choir as a youth. They performed throughout the Los Angeles area in the 1940s after World War II, including on stage with Bob Hope and in the Rose Bowl Parade. He couldn’t play any instruments, but he could sing, and frequently hummed or whistled as he went about chores, sometimes embarrassing his children.

My father had a large collection of classical records . . . later replaced by cassettes . . . and then by CDs. He played classical music frequently in the evenings while he read. He almost always had music playing as he drove—either classical music or country. (When I drove his car after he died, the Sirius presets were tuned to half classical and half country. I chose the classical options.)

While I don’t know much about opera, I recognized most of the pieces the symphony played last Saturday from listening to music with my father. His spirit was with me that evening through every crescendo and pianissimo, through every allegro and adagio. His spirit was with me as the chorus sang from Mascagni’s “Regina coeli”:

“The Lord is not dead, radiant He has opened the tomb.”

My father’s spirit was as strong as that of Kansas City.

P.S. I wrote this post before the first game of the World Series on Tuesday, October 27. The Royals won, 5-4. It took 14 innings, one of the longest World Series games ever. After finishing six innings as starting pitcher for the Royals, Edinson Volquez learned his father had passed away. Triumph and tragedy—both require strong spirits. My heart goes out to the Volquez family.

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  1. My dad was a fiddle player and even though he’s been gone 32 years, when I hear certain tunes, I hear him playing it. I’m currently typing his WWII letters home for research a new book. He tells of entertaining his fellow soldiers with a violin they found in Germany. Music carries strong memories. It’s also a great unifier across language barriers.

  2. My mother always wanted to play the violin but her family didn’t have the resources for her to do so. Therefore, she was determined for her children to take violin lessons. I wasn’t always thrilled to have to practice but I am so grateful that my mom instilled a love of music in me at a young age. I had the opportunity to play in the youth symphony when I was in high school. My father died of a heart attack when I was on a trip with the youth symphony my senior year. Thanks for sharing your post. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

  3. I enjoyed how you tied all of this together so beautifully, Theresa. Your father’s love of country and classical music warmed my heart. So much of our life is spent growing independent of our parents. Then, nearing our older years, we yearn for more time with them and wish to carry their messages forth. My Dad has been gone since 2001. He enjoyed musical theater albums, Johnny Cash and many 70’s bands. The spirits of the player’s (Volquez) father and your own were blended into a memorable celebratory symphony.

  4. Baseball, community, music, family….yes, they can all be connected through our stories and memories. My boyfriend’s daughter plays the French horn, went to my first opera this past spring.

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