Shackleton’s Incredible Journey


The 2023 feature of the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra’s “Legends & Mysteries” educational series focuses upon the gripping story of Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance voyage, shipwreck, and subsequent rescue mission. Shackleton was one of the principal figures in the age of Antarctic exploration and our story focuses on Shackleton’s amazing traits of leadership. In this heroic tale, he brought all of his men back from 21 months of seemingly endless points of peril, to survive against all odds. Musical selections from classical to 20th century orchestral masterpieces represent these leadership traits including a sense of purpose, loyalty, optimism, flexibility, ingenuity, and responsibility. Audiences are given an immersive musical experience as they watch the story of Shackleton unfold through the series of scenes with both live actors on stage as well as original film footage captured by filmmaker and photographer Frank Hurley.

Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the ice in January 1915 and remained stuck until October, when the ice closed in and crushed it. Shackleton and his men then camped on the ice until April 1916 (for over a year!), when the floe broke up, and they were forced to sail in three lifeboats to Elephant Island (see map below). Almost 500 days had passed since they had stood on dry land. At that point, Shackleton and a few of his men made the 800-mile journey in a tiny boat, the James Caird, back to South Georgia, where he got help and returned to Elephant Island to rescue his crew- and miraculously, after nearly two years shipwrecked, every single one of them had survived.

Concert Program

The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra’s “Legends & Mysteries” educational concert series combines history, music and so much more. The presentation of live video, theater, and exhilarating orchestral music truly illustrates associative learning by helping to connect ideas and experiences that will promote intellectual curiosity as the audience learns more about the music, the history and the people who are involved in making both.

Eric Lawson

Assistant Concertmaster

Violinist, violist, conductor and professor Dr. Eric Lawson has had a varied career in performance and education. Past performances as a conductor, soloist and lecturer have taken him to Austria, Brazil, China, Germany, Romania and Scandinavia. Before returning to his home state of Michigan, he was based in North Dakota where, in addition to serving as a violin instructor at Bismarck State College, Jamestown College, and the University of Mary, he was also concertmaster of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra and established the Bismarck-Mandan Youth Symphony. Other former academic appointments have included Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Central College in Pella, Iowa and the University of North Dakota where he founded the string program and the UND Chamber Orchestra.

Here in Michigan, Dr. Lawson as been very active with the Alpena Symphony Orchestra as its concertmaster, conductor and president of the board. He also performs with many other orchestras in Northern Michigan and participates in the Traverse Symphony as a first violinist, in the Gaylord Symphony as concertmaster and as assistant concertmaster in the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra.

And finally, in what has been one of the most important experiences of his life outside of music, he also served almost four years as an Alpena County Commissioner, representing Ossineke and Sanborn Townships. In addition to serving as chair of the Salary and Personnel Committee, he also served on the Airport, Ambulance, District Court, Circuit Court Management and Jail Committees. He also represented Alpena County in Gaylord with the Northern Michigan Regional Entity Substance Use Disorder Board and continues to serve on the Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Board. Dr. Lawson resides in Ossineke with his wife and two children.