Play Every Town

251 252 Community Concerts for a Cooler Climate


Concert Twenty-Two: 1/15/23 at the United Church of Ludlow

...donations benefited 350 Vermont
George Thomson, retired principal of the elementary school in neighboring Cavendish, invited us to perform at the United Church of Ludlow. The unusual Shingle Style building is warm yet quietly sublime. The interior photos below give some idea of the style’s conception of “the building as an envelope of space, rather than a great mass”, as the Wikipedia article puts it; the open layout and the exposed hanging arches give a sense of substance to the space itself.

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Announcement; Okemo resort rises in the background

United Church (1891) photograph

United Church, quiltograph

Church interior from the altar

Ludlow’s Black River Academy, which opened in 1835 and served as the town’s public high school until 1938, boasts several alumni of note, including President Calvin Coolidge. Also attending during Coolidge’s time was Ida May Fuller, recipient of the first Social Security check in 1940. She paid in for three years, a total of $24.75; her initial monthly check was for $22.54, almost equal to her total contribution. It stands to reason that the first-ever beneficiary would have paid her tax over only a short period. What is surprising is that she lived past her hundredth birthday and collected almost $23,000 in benefits over 35 years. Concert attendee Bob Kottkamp told us where to find Fuller’s house, just across the street and a few doors down from the church.

Church interior from the back

Black River Academy (1835)

Ida May Fuller’s house

George Thomson fills in Ludlow

George and his wife Linda arranged a lovely event with an engaged audience and a lavish reception. George, a fine baritone, and soprano Lisha Klaiber, another congregant, joined me separately for a few numbers from the Great American Songbook. George’s choice of “I, Don Quixote” was, as he pointed out, well suited to this project. I do often feel crazy tilting at the seemingly indomitable forces of fossil-fuel capitalism on my 88-toothed steed, but—like Quixote perhaps—not fighting only makes me crazier. It is a well-documented tenet of climate activism that active engagement is the best antidote to depression and despair.

The program

Scarlatti Sonata in C minor, K.22
(preceded by 22 ii-V-I’s)

George Thomson sings “I, Don Quixote”

Happy [94th] Birthday Martin

The concert took place on the 94th anniversary the birth of non-fictional social crusader Martin Luther King, so of course I played my homage “Happy Birthday Martin”. I say “my” but—besides the fact that the whole thing is a potpourri of musical quotations from “Give Peace A Chance” to the Woody Woodpecker theme—the entire middle section is nicked from a Cliff Jackson rendition titled ”Happy Birthday to Pat”.

We’ve had lots of advance coverage in the Vermont media, but the Ludlow concert garnered our first proper review, in the Vermont Journal. For more press coverage of the project, see the Press page.

...about the piano

The United Church is rich in pianos. The sanctuary piano is a Yamaha model G2E, serial no. 1568353, made in Hamamatsu Japan in 1973. It had a rich sound, including a surprisingly full bass for a baby grand (the G2E is only 5'8"). The action is heavy but responsive. It was donated by Henry Vail, a long-time church member, in the late 1970s or early 80s. Older Ludlow citizens still call the Main Steet bridge over Jewell Brook the “Vail Bridge” as Vail had a large home on nearby land that now is Benson Chevrolet.

An adjoining room (visible in the back left in the photo of the interior altar-side view, above) had a handsome antique Henry F. Miller upright which is also in fine condition. I couldn’t look for the serial number with all the fragile statuary on the piano, but based on similar-looking cabinet styles I estimate it’s from 1890s.

The community room in the basement has a nice grand as well, a Wurlitzer donated by Virginia Kottkamp, who received it from her mother. Ginny and her husband Bob were in attendance; it was Bob who pointed out Ida May Fuller’s house to us. See the Guilford write-up for more about the colorful history of the Wurlitzer company.

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last updated March 26, 2023