Charlie's Rainbow

By Peter and Cathy Halstead

Almost by divine intervention, we had Charlie Hamlen as our friend and artistic advisor for two years, which turned out to be the two last years of his life.

Charlie co-founded one of classical music’s leading management agencies, the International Management Group, helped build the careers of young stars, including Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Leila Josefowicz, Evgeny Kissin, Stephen Hough, André Watts, James Galway, Pedja Muzijevic, Jeffrey Kahane, Natasha Paremski, Ingrid Fliter, and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and then left the business to raise money to help people with AIDS by founding Classical Action, starting with the artists he personally managed and growing to include Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, Cecilia Bartoli, Van Cliburn and Renée Fleming.

Everyone knew that Charlie was their best friend, as he was ours. Charlie came out to Berkeley with us to see the California premiere of John Luther Adams’ Become Desert. He came to the party in our daughter Liza’s house afterwards, with John and Cindy Adams, Jeanne and Craig White, and John Stern. And then he went back to New York. Cathy walked him to the elevator, which he took up and out of all of our lives.

There was a preternatural storm when Charlie died, after which a rainbow appeared on the wall of his room - not an arc, but a line, leading straight up. His friend, Daniele Kucera, took a picture of it.

For Charlie
1943 - 2018

Lightning travels backwards,
as its unseen tie
from the earth to sky:

so may the lightning
of your turn below
heighten us
and then let go.

“Carillon,” written by and read by Peter Halstead in memory of Charlie.

Written and read by Peter Halstead for Charlie Hamlen’s memorial, 2018

Like a cricket’s plangent trill
which our sudden words have primed,
its din and clangor still resonant with age and time,
whose desperate tongue now peals inside its hollow shell,
pendulums, and sings out to our raucous hell,
let the echo of its human tolls chime the hours of our souls,
whose untuned knells ring monstrous changes in everything:
but never from its boisterous height will the incessant hum of bees
restore our unsingable fragilities, or the carols of the summer write
again such flowers on the understory, such trumpets as the seasons choir,
such voices as the heavens glory,
to which these anguished bells aspire.