Sights, sounds around the corner


The Old Post Road Musicians have partnered with the Sudbury Historical Society for the streaming of “Sites and Sounds of Early Sudbury”. Their exploration of the city’s historic sites and presentation of the modern premieres of 18andThe Massachusetts and New England-bound works of the century brought home largely unknown music. A dozen short tunes delivered with New England purity in a vivid historical context found authentic meaning. Co-artistic directors Suzanne Stumpf and Daniel Ryan made good use of the streaming medium. Fine, even audio, whether indoors or outdoors in different places, surprised. As the tunes found a home, too many dates and details in the narrative were dizzying.

The first stop was the Rice Tavern site where only parts of the foundation remain. “Scotch Cap”, heard in all the English colonies, had as special guest Vincent Canciello perched on old stones with a fife in his hand. Its softly singing sonorous refrains, like birds in the middle of the trees, illuminated.

The Loring Parsonage is the new headquarters of the Sudbury Historical Society. In Handel’s water featureArranged by Samuel Holyoke from the Massachusetts North Shore and New Hamphire, Stumpf (flute), Ryan (church bass), and Darling (violin) performed the upbeat arrangement in front of a fireplace that warms the past.

William Shield Air to Rosine, also arranged by Holyoke, gently rocked by the trio, then half cadences with rests burst into the choruses. “Perfect for the parsonage,” “Go to hell and shake yourselves,” from the Framingham Singing Society manuscript, danced brilliantly in jig style.

On the way to the revolutionary war cemetery for Death of General Wolfe. Vincent Canciello stood in period costume. The mournful melody of his fife floating among the tombstones was deeply touching. On the way to the old cemetery on the west side of the river with the oldest tombstone, and in the background cars and trucks driving by! Stumpf and Ryan’s “Coryon’s Ghost” (Framingham Singing Society) was also affected.

Stumpf and Canciello’s pair of flutes softened the sad synchrony in Shield’s ‘When the Rosy Morn’, against the backdrop of the united exterior of the Hearse House.

“Stray animals were a problem for the farmers,” so the Town Pound and “Hunt the Squirrel,” a Scottish tune with that rhythmic snap. Suddenly appearing in the pound made of stone walls surmounted by a chestnut threshold, Darling, then Ryan, don’t care.

Then, the Hosmer house, located in the center of the city. The Old Post Road musicians performed in its famous upstairs ballroom with a keyboard and paintings by Hosmer. “Washington Menuet and Gavotte”, by French-born American dance master Pierre Landrin Duport, who worked in Boston, naturally felt at home. Jeremy Irons joined the others, emphasizing civility, excluding anything adventurous.

The beautiful First Parish, where these musicians performed for many years, has become the venue for Shepherds, rejoice by Isaac Lane, who has worked in and around Bedford, MA. They stood in front of an 1899 pump organ during a discussion of history. “We really like this instrument.” Also accompanying the vocals, a church bass, a little bigger than the cello. The flute and string trio delivered the Christmas hymn in mixed tempo in front of the simple pulpit. A certain majesty and low cello figuration in the blink of an eye moved the program towards complexity.

The remains of the Rice Tavern provided the site for Oliver Shaw’s arrangement Mr. Augustus. The flute and string duo returned to the forest, a bit of sky and sun. The ballroom gestures of the music could not even faintly evoke the ghost of a tavern in this wooded landscape.

Go now to the pub side of the Wayside Inn for the opening and air of JC Pepusch from The Beggar’s Opera, his tunes have appeared in numerous contemporary American manuscript sources. Darling recited Longfellow. The video captured the Inn’s Longfellow signage. The trio energized the see and hear streaming release. Robustness, ample melodic curves, dance scents, shaped trills, a surprising false ending, everything was balanced with the precision of the whole. Nothing over the top, however; all the musicians played with refinement as in American purity and simplicity.

Oliver Shaw’s Dispatch of John Stanford Smith Adams and freedom comes from the collection, The American Musical Miscellany, Northampton, MA. This old English tune, which has survived a teeming history, has come closer. It then morphed into this country’s first political campaign song and, subsequently, our first national anthem. What an exuberant and inspiring finale from faithful musicians of the Old Post Road on their traverses, fifes, church bass and violin remakes.

The show continues to air HERE.

David Patterson, music teacher and former head of the performing arts department at UMass Boston, won a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a doctorate from Harvard University. He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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