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251 252 Community Concerts for a Cooler Climate


Concert Twenty: 11/13/22 at Seven Stars Arts Center

...donations benefited 350 Vermont

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The concert is warned

Church, Grange, Garage...and now Arts Center

...note detail

The program

The Seven Stars Arts Center is in the former Baptist Church. There are lots of disused or converted church buildings in Vermont, which with neighboring Massachusetts and New Hampshire is one of the three least religious states—though ironically Sharon is the birthplace of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, the fastest-growing religion in the US.

Seven Stars sounded like a promising venue. Passing through in the first summer of the project, we stopped by unannounced in the early evening and explained our mission to the woman watering the flowers. This was Anne Mapplebeck, an artist and the event organizer for Seven Stars, who told us she’d heard about the project and hoped we would play there. It was in the stars, so to speak.

Prior to Sharon we’d played in 11 churches, 2 current or former Grange halls, and one school. In its varied history Seven Stars has been all of these. It was also an automotive shop for a while, making this our first garage concert. Anne and ceramicist Michael Barsanti, president of Seven Stars and Anne’s husband, did a fine job promoting the event and presented us with a full house of 60 enthusiastic listeners.

Scarlatti Sonata in F minor, K.19, preceded by 19 ii-V-I’s

Chris Rua plays Schumann Romances 1 & 3 for oboe

“Evening” from Eight Czech Duets (Karel Husa) with Annemieke McLane

Liszt, Five Hungarian Folk Songs

In Sharon, for the first time, I reprised a Scarlatti, playing K.19 in place of K.20, because (a) I’d been caught short by the unweighted digital action of the keyboard at the concert the previous week, and felt I hadn’t put across the delicate no. 19 as I’d hoped to, and (b) because Sharon came as the sixth concert in six weeks, Sonata no. 20 looked hard, and with classes and all it was just too much to work up that week. I’ll loop back to pick up no. 20 at a future concert.

Meanwhile I was graced with multiple local collaborators. Chris Rua teaches oboe at Seven Stars and played two of the darkly passionate Romances op. 94 by Robert Schumann. Chris is active in the local chapter of 350 Vermont, the beneficiary of the afternoon’s donations, and spoke about their activities. I also reprised the Eight Czech Duets of Karel Husa with Annemieke McLane, who had joined me in Strafford in August. (Annemieke lives in Sharon but was music director at the Strafford church, so we got to count her in two localities.) I chose the Five Hungarian Songs of Liszt because of another local connection. Richard Bush is a volunteer at the therapeutic riding center High Horses and had asked if he could say a few words about the operation, and if I could play something horsey to lead him in. (The fourth of the Liszt songs is a jaunty gallop about a peasant who outsmarts the commissary whose horse he has stolen.)

Our recording M.O. is high-tech lo-fi: a stationary iPhone set up in the back of the room. For the Sharon concert we were lucky to have Chad Finer volunteer his much fancier services. CHad a prolific recordist of the music of the Connecticut upper valley which he posts to his dedicated YouTube channel. All clips here are from Chad’s video, and the complete concert is on his channel.

Chad Finer sets up his mics

Audience and historic curtain

Anne Mapplebeck “finally makes use of that art degree...” one audience member wisecracked

There was one further collaboration, this one unplanned. A week or so before the concert we learned that our friend Pete Sutherland, an anchor of the traditional/social dance music scene in Vermont and beyond, mentor and model to hundreds of musicians, had entered hospice care. Pete probably played in as many Vermont towns as anyone, and this project is the most Pete-like thing I have done. So at intermission, my partner Annelies McVoy suggested we lead the audience in a rendition of Pete’s irresistibly catchy “Robin Hood”. This last-minute addition was rough around the edges, but Pete’s music thrives in all sorts of circumstances. Half the audience knew Pete, and before the song was finished everyone had at least met him. We sent the recording to Pete, who expressed pleasure while diplomatically offering to teach us “another version” of the lyrics—i.e. not messed up. Pete was no longer among us by the time of the next concert. But we sang it again in Richmond, and Pete, that time we got it right!

...about the piano

The Seven Stars piano is a Kawai baby grand on long-term loan from Kevin Quigley, a singer and conductor in neighboring Thetford. More info coming soon.

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last updated March 01, 2023