Play Every Town

251 252 Community Concerts for a Cooler Climate


Concert Twenty-Three: 1/21/23 at the Thetford Hill Church

...donations benefited 350 Vermont
Robin Osborne invited us to perform at the historic Thetford Hill Church. As in many Vermont towns, in Thetford churches have consolidated or closed in recent years. But the still-active Thetford Hill church is the oldest meeting house in continuous service in the state: the church was organized in 1773, and the present building dates from 1787.

It sits just up the hill from Thetford Academy, Vermont’s oldest secondary school. The original constitution of the independent country of Vermont (1777) called for ”one grammar [i.e,. post-elementary] school in each county”. Like many independent high schools in Vermont, Thetford Academy does double duty as the public high school for the town. The town also boasts an arthouse cinema and is thick with authors past and present, including Anne Lindbergh, Annie Proulx, and Grace Paley. I almost accompanied Grace’s granddaughter on our Thetford concert, but she had a conflict.

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Thetford Hill Church

Linda Galvan

Robin Osborne (dressed to match the map) filled in Thetford

The program

Maureen Burford, music director at the church, put me in touch with Linda Galvan, a remarkable cellist and Thetford resident. Linda joined me for Pablo Casals’ signature arrangement of the Catalan carol “Song of the Birds” and the Elegy of Gabriel Fauré.

Scarlatti Sonata in D major, K.23
(preceded by 23 ii-V-I’s)

Linda plays “Song of the Birds”

Fauré Élégie

On our way to the concert we passed Thetford’s Camp Hanoum (now Farnsworth), birthplace of the Camp Fire Girls. In 1910, Camp Hanoum’s girls were involved in preparation for the town’s sesquicentennial pageant. Wikipedia:

In 1910, young girls in Thetford, Vermont watched their brothers, friends, and schoolmates—all Boy Scouts—practice their parts in the community's 150th anniversary, which would be celebrated the following summer. The pageant's organizer, William Chauncey Langdon, promised the girls that they too would have an organized role in the pageant, although no organization similar to the Boy Scouts existed for girls at the time. Langdon consulted with Charlotte Joy Farnsworth, known as “Madama” [of Camp Hanoum]. Both approached Luther Halsey Gulick M.D. about creating a national organization for girls... After many discussions and help from Gulick and his wife Charlotte, Langdon named the group of Thetford girls the Camp Fire Girls.

This was not the Luther Halsey Gulick who taught at Springfield College and assigned his class to devise an indoor game for city kids to play, resulting in the invention of basketball—that was his nephew. Growing up in Lexington Massachusetts, my backyard neighbor was Bob Gulick, whose grandfather was Luther’s (I think the Camp Fire one’s) cousin.

...about the piano

The church’s Baldwin baby grand has a rich, thick sound. The heavy but cushiony feel was wonderful for sustained accompaniment in the cello pieces, more challenging to handle in crisper and faster contexts like the Scarlatti. It’s a rather old piano, rebuilt by Tom McNeil (whose work we’ve encountered before in Cambridge and Berlin ) in 2009. Its serial number was painted over, so I was unable to date it precisely.

The plaque above the keyboard informs us it was donated by Jane Raymond Rogers. Unfortunately no one I spoke to at the church could tell me more about Jane or her gift, not even after consulting the church’s music records.

I have asked Tom for more information and will post what I find out.

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last updated March 30, 2023