First Congregational (1867/1913)
As I told the crowd in introducing my performance of Scarlatti’s Sonata K.26, I have a bone to pick with Essex Junction. Back in 1892, Essex Junction became an “incorporated village” within the town of Essex—a uniquely Vermont designation that allows more developed areas within a town to levy local taxes for village services such as municipal water or sewage. In recent decades, there has been increasing dissatisfaction with the arrangement, and after several unsuccessful efforts, in 2022 majorities of both Town and Village residents voted to make Essex Junction a city separate from the Town of Essex.
As explained on my blog, the number of Vermont cities and towns—251—was the foundation of the musical pun behind my improvisatory intros to the Scarlatti sonatas, which are based on series of ii-V-I (i.e. 2-5-1) chord progressions. The number 251 has become iconic, having stood for exactly 100 years, from when the city of Winooski was carved off from the town of Colchester, up to the Essex/Essex Junction divorce; in fact the 251 Club, dedicated to encouraging people to visit all Vermont’s towns, decided to keep its name.
I likewise decided to stick with my ii-V-I plan (ii-V-ii progressions are too static to generate much interest, though they can be the basis for extended groove jams, as in Santana’s “Oye Como Va”). But it is perhaps fitting that it was at Essex Junction that I let go of having the number of ii-V-I progressions match the Kirkpatrick (K) number of the sonata. Instead, beginning with this concert, I allow myself instead to have that many measures of ii-V-I, or that many chords’ worth. When I get truly deep into the project, perhaps it will shift to that many beats, or that many notes…
The venue and piano came highly recommended from several people, including my colleagues Tom Cleary and First Congregational music director Bethany Blake. So when Ed Owens, who runs the Music at First series, invited us, I immediately accepted. I was also told that the Music at First audiences are enthusiastic and generous. They were for us: it was our first 3-figure crowd and our first 4-figure donation haul, which benefited 350 Vermont.
The choir sings “Vermont”
Bethany fills in Essex Junction...
...whose tiny outline I had drawn in by hand
Scarlatti Sonata K.26 in A major
…preceded by 26 bars of ii-V-I’s
and by some ribbing about Essex Junction’s “divorce”
Liszt, Five Hungarian Folk Songs
from Eight Czech Duets