First Universalist Church (1845)
Snecked ashlar masonry
Nena Nanfeldt invited us to play at the First Universalist Church of Chester, which houses a lovely Kawai baby grand in a building of snecked ashlar, a masonry technique involving stones of irregular height arranged so that taller stones link lower ranks to higher ones, creating tensile strength. The craft was brought to the region by masons from Scotland, and Chester’s historic stone village, with 13 snecked ashlar structures, has the highest density of such buildings in Vermont.
Nena Nanfeldt fills in Chester
My most critical listener
With Mark Csikszentmihalyi and Anne Hope
Among the audience of 40 were two friends from college, Anne Hope and Mark Csikszentmihalyi, who hopped over from across the New Hampshire state line. Mark’s father Mihalyi was a research psychologist who coined the term “flow state”. Mihalyi featured in a Play Every Town blog post two months earlier, where I referenced a study he’d done showing an inverse correlation between how happy people were at a given moment and how much energy they were consuming. I took advantage of the coincidence of Mark’s attendance to mention this in the concert, and how it tracks with the joy my wife and I feel in traveling close rather than far in this all-Vermont 252-town tour. A snip of this chat is in the video below, and you can read more about this idea in the blog post.
Chester chat: Csikszentmihalyi
Scarlatti Sonata in F major, K.17, preceded by 17 ii-V-I’s
Bach Gigue, normal speed (begins ~ten seconds in)
Bach Gigue, super slow mo
A planned collaboration with a Chester singer fell through when she came down with Covid (fortunately not serious) so this was an all-solo concert. Annelies McVoy, Play Every Town videographer and my life partner, took advantage of the piano’s flawless mirror finish to record the eye-pleasing hand crossings in the Gigue of Bach’s Partita no. 1. The clips above show the choreography at regular speed (preceded by the tail end of Eubie Blake’s Charleston Rag) and then in a super-slow close-up. Speaking of the piano...
After many years of using the small studio piano loaned by a parishioner, we felt that the church deserved a decent grand piano. We searched New England for one and finally settled on a second-hand piano we found in the Boston area.
One other church member joined us in paying for the piano. Today we take pleasure in knowing that this vital church has a good musical instrument to support its services and to draw local audiences to musical performances.