We originally approached Tim Mulligan, Principal of Newark’s preK–8 public school, about doing a concert there. Tim was supportive but advised us that the austerely beautiful Newark Street Church was the better venue. He put us in touch with Elly Barksdale, Erin McKinnon, and Jericho Bicknell—Newark natives and alumnae of the town’s long-running Balkan Youth Choir—who sang beautifully at the concert.
This was the first concert of the project on an electronic instrument. It took a moment for me to get my bearings on the unfamiliar action. But the audience’s remarkable energy bore me along. The crowd of 50 represented almost 10% of Newark’s population. We’ve been graced with appreciative crowds overall, but in Newark there was an unusually powerful sense of community. This combined with the warm acoustic and the gorgeous voices of the singers to quickly put me at ease. By the time I got to the “Charleston Rag” the Yamaha DGX-505 and I were getting along fine.
Elly, Erin, and Jericho sing “One Voice”
The Charleston Rag; next generation is rocking out around 0:30
Jericho has just filled in Newark [sic]
That said, I had not yet adjusted to the keyboard when I played the delicate Scarlatti Sonata no. 19, so I reprised it in Sharon the following week and will post that performance instead.
The afternoon was both delightfully and disturbingly warm. It was the warmest November day ever recorded in Vermont, reaching 76º in Burlington. Yet with El Niño coming and greenhouse emissions continuing to increase, it is a virtual certainty it will not be the last record-breaking monthly high we experience over the course of this project.
...about the keyboard
The Yamaha DGX-505 was purchased for the church by Jan Clausing.
For years, the only instrument in the church was the Estey pump organ. It became increasingly difficult to find accompanists comfortable playing it for services.
Jan, active in the St. Johnsbury Players, knew they had a keyboard they no longer needed. So about 5 years ago Jan gave the Players $200, loaded the keyboard in his truck, and dropped it off at the church.
Our concert was the first time it was used for substantial solo playing.
Like most electronic keyboards, the DGX-505 is touch-sensitive, meaning that it responds to how hard a key is depressed–usually by playing back louder or softer, though it is possible to program other responses. Keyboard actions are also weighted or unweighted. Weighted keys serve no mechanical purpose and add significant weight to the instrument, making it less easily portable. But they feel more like a traditional piano action and provide inertial feedback that makes it much easier for a player to control how forcefully the keys go down.
The DGX-505 has unweighted keys, making dynamic consistency and nuance more challenging.
And here is the Estey organ, on which I accompanied the singers for “One Voice”. I also opened the concert here with an impromptu rendition of Heinrich Isaac’s “Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen”.
Esteys are found in quite a few of the smaller churches we’ve played. This is not surprising as that the Estey company of Brattleboro was once the largest employer in Vermont (!) and manufactured more reed organs than any other maker. (They also built about 3,200 pipe organs.)