Play Every Town

251 252 Community Concerts for a Cooler Climate


Concert Forty: 9/15/23 at the First Universalist Church

...donations benefited The Climate Moblization

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The 1832 General Store

Whimsical cafe toad sculpture on the store porch

Joe & Jillian Minerva, revivers and proprietors of the store (photo by Mark Fleming)

More village center whimsy

We stopped for a pre-concert snack at the Barnard store, which epitomizes the community-anchoring Vermont general store. Following a brief closure in 2012-13 after 180 years of continuous operation, it was reborn when the townspeople raised over $500K to purchase the building, then leased it to a brave young couple who continue to run it 10 years later. It is open 364 days a year and remained open throughout the pandemic. You can read more about its history and revival on Wikipedia and on the store’s website.

Silver Lake, created by the dam that once powered a village with two mills, a tannery, blacksmith, publisher, and clothing store, lies in the village center

Even as the town bulletin board sports an article boasting of the lake’s exceptional purity...

...this sign reveals that our new wetter, warmer, climate upends all norms

the concert

The Barnard concert originated in an invitation from my UVM colleague, artist and writer Pamela Fraser. Pamela, along with Anne Marie Delaney, arranged for me to perform at the First Universalist Church, organized in 1802 and in the present building since 1845.

The church (1844-45), with our trusty solar-charged EV (2019)

The unusual steeple location is not a casualty of the summer’s weather chaos–it’s just being restored

Restoration reveals the bell cast by George Handel Holbrook of Medway, Mass.

The sunset competed with the performance for the audience’s visual attention

Pamela was also my local collaborator for the improvised “Ekphrasis”. Pamela’s brother-in-law Patrick selected one of Pamela’s bold abstract ceramic pieces, without her knowing which. It was placed on the piano, covered in a witchy hat (the town players store their props in the church attic), and uncovered just before the piece. I improvised my response to Pamela’s sculpture, while she, with her back to the ceramic, painted in response to my playing.

The sculpture I improvised on

Pamela painted my playing

Pamela finds further use for her professional coloring skills

Pamela’s art, above all her 3D work, is starkly geometric, often with minimalist, boldly contrasting—I want to say muscular—color schemes. You can see more of it at Her ceramic pieces are small, playful, yet stately—they look to me like miniature models of grand monuments. I tried to convey the stark angularity and cubicality of this one with short, brightly dissonant chord melodies, devolving into longer single-note melodies accompanied by low, dark chords to explore the linear ornamentation of the orange glazing against the deep purple ground.

The program

“Ekphrasis” by Pamela and David

Scarlatti Sonata K.40 in C minor
preceded by 40 chords of ii-V-i progression

The central portion of the program presented a Barnard timeline in music, with pieces by the toddler Mozart for the year of the town’s founding (1761) and by the mature Mozart for the year of first town meeting (1788); three dances of Chopin from 1832, when the General Store opened, appropriate for a store-warming dance party; Schumann’s aptly reverent and meditative “Canon” from op. 124 from 1845, the year the church building was completed; and Liszt’s moody, Impressionist-anticipating “Nuages gris” from 1881, to mark the year Vermont’s last known catamount was killed in Barnard.

...about the piano

Kawai serial no. 2271106 was manufactured in Japan in 1996 and donated to the church by a longtime church pianist who has since moved.

It has a beautifully even, slightly heavy touch, and a remarkably bright sound that was well-suited to jazz and improvisation—where the player can choose how many notes to play and how fast—but was hard to reign in for music with pre-composed fast passagework or dense textures. The richly resonant space, designed like all older churches to allow the delivery of long sermons without benefit of a PA system, amplified the piano’s natural power. When we arrived the piano was fully closed with the music desk on top of the lid (not as shown here, but as in the concert videos above) suggesting that others also choose to play it fully closed to moderate the brilliant tone.

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last updated September 18, 2023