Play Every Town

251 252 Community Concerts for a Cooler Climate


Concert Twenty-One: 12/11/22 at the Richmond Free Library

...donations benefited 350 Vermont
Richmond is home to Cochran’s Ski Area, which is at once a training ground for generations of world champion downhill skiers and an inclusive public institution: the first-ever tax-exempt non-profit ski area, and the winter PE program for thousands of area schoolchildren. The combination of elite excellence and humble public service exemplifies Vermont’s “brave little state” identity. Richmond also represented Vermont in this installment of my favorite web comic.

click any image to enlarge

The library...

...used to be a church

Detail of the south tower

Interior balcony; pussy willow is an Easter symbol

This was our first library concert. Vermont has 188 public libraries; that’s 3 out of every 4 towns, a remarkable number given the median Vermont town’s population is about 1300. Like the library in our adjoining town of Huntington, the Richmond Free Library building is a former church, a not unusual situation in one of the least religiously observant states. (It was also briefly a school gym and cafeteria.) As a local, I had attended several concerts there and knew it to be an excellent space with a fine piano. Library Director Rebecca Mueller, a friend and neighbor, arranged for us to use the space.

A full house

The program

Scarlatti Sonata in D major, K.21
(preceded by 21 ii-V-I’s)

Brahms Clarinet Sonata in F minor, mvt. III, with Ginny Churchill

Recent UVM graduate and Richmond native Ginny Churchill joined me for Brahms’ nostalgic Clarinet Sonata in F minor. I think the balance was better in real life than on this recording, which favors the piano; it would be ironic if I had played too loud in a library of all places. Ginny and her family are actively engaged in the community and the capacity crowd of over 80 may have owed something to their connectedness.

The Richmond Climate Action Committee was also present and distributed booklets from their 2021 exhibition What Will Suffice: Artists and Poets Respond to the Climate Crisis.

This was our first concert since the passing of Pete Sutherland, so we reprised our audience sing-along of his “Robin Hood” which we had also sung in Sharon. Like Cochran’s, Pete combined the highest mastery with the broadest inclusiveness and a passion for passing his art to young people, and his Young Tradition project has become another Vermont institution.

Rebecca Mueller fills in Richmond

...about the piano

“I think of it as Pia’s piano, even though she never played or saw it.”

Kawai serial no. 2475551 was made in Japan in 2003. It is a well-maintained responsive instrument that contributes to the library’s popularity as an area concert venue. A plaque recounts the piano’s provenance:
Dedicated In Loving Memory To PIA CATHARINA (VLIEGER) GARRETT Who Shared A Great Love Of Music With Her Family PAUL, JOHANNES AND GERLISA. Pia Always Encouraged Her Family’s Musical Talents. Through Their Generous Donation, The Garrett Family Provided The Seed And Encouragement That Helped To Establish The Richmond Free Library Piano Fund. They Have Honored Pia’s Memory By Giving Our Community The Opportunity To Experience The Joy Of Music That This Piano Will Provide. May 2nd, 2004

Pia Vlieger was an Dutch exchange student in Missouri when she met Paul Garrett, who was home on a visit. They kept in touch, and within a few years they were married and living in Springfield Vermont. Pia started taking ballet classes, which sparked an interest in anatomy. In the Netherlands, Pia had worked in four languages as a secretary for the cassette tape division of Philips. Her extensive language skills found no outlet in Vermont, so she followed a friend’s advice and went back to school at UVM to become a physical therapist, occasioning the family’s move to northern Vermont. She so excelled in her second career that the Vermont Chapter of the APTA named its award for “Enthusiasm and Love of Physical Therapy” after her.

While still in her 40s, Pia was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. In the last months of her life she expressed a desire to learn to play piano, but by then her disease and treatments had so impacted her mind that lessons were not a realistic option. But Paul remembered her wish, and after her death he launched the library’s grand piano fund with a large gift in her memory. A similar amount was raised in smaller donations during a fund drive, and eventually Trey Anastasio, then living in Richmond, made a final donation for the balance needed to secure the piano’s purchase. The Hilberts of Hilberts Pianos in Bristol paid for the instrument’s shipping, assembly, and voicing.

Paul Garrett was in the house and sketched the piano during the concert.

Reading the dedicatory plaque

The plaque

Sketch by Paul Garrett

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last updated March 20, 2023