Friday, September 16, 2005

Sicut locutus est...

These days I have my iTunes on random, with a smart playlist that jumps around a lot. There are some problems with the way iTunes does this - it seems to play some songs a lot more than others. But sometimes it jumps into the middle of this lovely Musical Heritage Society recording of Bach's Magnificat in G, performed by the Orchestra of St. Luke's in Putney, Vermont. I am going to embark on a reminiscence here - prepare to be bored.

When I was a little kid, my father used to teach at Windham College up in Putney, Vermont. Windham was a small college, a kind of a strange and unique place. I won't try to describe it from an adult's point of view, because I wasn't an adult then. To me Windham College was a place with a lot of really neat people, who were sometimes busy, but sometimes would talk to me. The buildings were connected with a cement and pebble walkway that was covered with a stressed concrete roof suspended on two steel girders every sixteen feet or so. This is roughly how I remember it - I don't know if this description is accurate.

What I do remember very well was that if you stomped your feet under the stressed concrete roof, it would resonate. It was really, really cool. I could entertain myself like this for ten minutes at a time, anyway. In the music building, there were harpsichords. I developed an immediate love for harpsichords there, which hasn't left me to this day - whenever I hear one it seems to, if you will pardon the pun, strike a happy chord in my heart.

The library had a music section. A friend of the family, Linda Ruggles, used to work in the library there, and she would sometimes offer to keep track of me while my father was teaching. I don't really remember her watching me very closely, but I think as kids go I was pretty easy. I used to check myself into the listening room, lie back on a bench with headphones on, and listen to a Musical Heritage society recording that I loved over and over again. I am sure I wrecked the record, not by scratching it but just by playing it too many times. It was a recording of Pachelbel's Canon, a few other pieces of Pachelbel chamber music, and a bunch of chamber music by Johann Friedrich Fasch, a composer from (I guess, ignorantly) the Baroque period who did some very nice trumpet concertos that everybody should listen to, because they are some of the best music ever. :')

Of the library I also remember a plant stand, sort of an open terrarium, about six feet square, in the middle of a room in the middle of the main room of the library, with a lovely skylight above it. I would hang out there as well, but I don't remember what I did there - probably read books or annoyed the students who were trying to find books there.

Our family's connection to Putney somehow lead us to connect with the Friends of Music at Guilford, the Brattleboro Music Center, the Monteverdi Players, and a wonderful group of musicians who had abandoned the big city and moved to Brattleboro and points remote during the late sixties or early seventies. So for a period of my childhood it was a regular thing, particularly during the summer, that we would go up to Brattleboro or Guilford on the weekends so that my mother and father could rehearse with one or another of these musical groups. Sometimes there would be impromptu performances - I remember a performance, I think either at Don and Evie's house or at Zeke and Linda's house, where twelve violinists, violists, cellists and bass players (bassists?), and for all I know someone on a viola da gamba just sat down spontaneously and played Pachelbel's Canon. Needless to say I was in heaven.

I grew particularly fond of the organ barn. This was a barn, out in back of a farmhouse, up in the hills above Guilford Center. In the barn was an old tracker organ, in not very good shape, which was being lovingly restored by certain interested parties. I'm given to understand that to some extent FoMAG formed around this organ, but I didn't know that at the time. My recollection of the organ as a child was that it was huge.

Anyway, of all the times in my childhood, our time with FoMAG and the Brattleboro Music Center were some of the most purely wonderful. So every so often when I'm sitting down at the computer, minding my own business, this recording comes on. The conductor is Blanche Honegger Moyse, who is one of the grande dames of the Brattleboro Music scene. I don't know who I know in the orchestra or choir, but I'm sure I would have recognized many faces if I had been at that concert. So when this music randomly comes on, sometimes it's just music, and sometimes it strikes that delicate chord in my heart, and I remember all the wonderful times I had as a kid because of the kindness of a bunch of wonderful people, and things shift for a while in a very sweet way.


Anonymous Andrea said...

You are so adorable.

Saturday, September 17, 2005 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Patricia said...

"I don't know who I know in the orchestra or choir, but I'm sure I would have recognized many faces if I had been at that concert."

Your mother was very likely one of the choir voices; I do remember the Magnificat as being one of the pieces we sang when I was singing with her group.

She was a fabulous choral (and other) conductor with an unerring instinct for the emotional content of any piece. Most of what I know about choral singing I learned from her, and my favorite of her dicta was, "In rehearsal, sing your part good and loud, so if you make a mistake, I can help you correct it"--something worth applying in almost any new endeavor, I think.

Monday, September 19, 2005 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

If you were in the choir, I probably _was_ at the concert, but I don't remember it being up in Putney. The Magnificat I remember was back in the seventies, whereas this was recorded in about 1990. But this one definitely reminds me of the one you did, which is probably part of its attraction.

I really wish there was some way to get all the old FoMAG recordings. If only they could release them online as MP3s, or something. But I imagine it would be a lot of work just to get them all in digital form, to say nothing of setting up a merchant site to sell MP3s.

Monday, September 19, 2005 8:06:00 PM  

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