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Encores and Curtain Calls

Encores & Curtain Calls: Goodbye to an old friend

Submitted photo
The Greenfield Community College Chorus’s upcoming concert — Songs of Nature, Sunday, April 6, at 4:15 p.m., at The Sloan Theater in the Greenfield Community College Main Building — is dedicated to the memory of Judd Blain, long-time member of the chorus.

Submitted photo The Greenfield Community College Chorus’s upcoming concert — Songs of Nature, Sunday, April 6, at 4:15 p.m., at The Sloan Theater in the Greenfield Community College Main Building — is dedicated to the memory of Judd Blain, long-time member of the chorus.

“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!”

— Sitting Bull

Even though it seems as if Old Man Winter is very reluctant to let go of the land, take heart and laugh in his blustery face — the spring musical bulbs are popping up everywhere one looks.

Some quick snapshots:

GCC chorus April 6

The Greenfield Community College Chorus presents Songs of Nature, Sunday, April 6, at 4:15 p.m. at The Sloan Theater in the Greenfield Community College Main Building, with Margery Heins, directing and Marilyn Berthelette accompanying.

I was both stunned and chagrined to learn that the concert is dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased Judd Blain, long-time member of the GCC Chorus.

I well remember Judd, one of the most life-affirming and colorful souls to have crossed my path since first I came to the Pioneer Valley. We first stumbled across each other at Deerfield Academy, where he was an administrator and I an adjunct music instructor. Judd evinced an enthusiasm — both in whomever stood before him, and in life in general — which was little short of heartwarming.

And that enthusiasm endured throughout the decades where and whenever our paths recrossed, from a long tenure of some years at Eaglebrook School, where he had morphed into an English teacher whilst I continued my pursuit of the music, to various serendipitous meetings wherever life may have led us. Once, during one of my many appearances at various nursing homes, Judd and his family happened to have been visiting a friend among those in my audience. Off-duty preacher that he was, he took time — interrupting my matchless flow of music and rhetoric — to let everyone in the room know just how special a blessing it was to have Joseph Marcello personally visiting and serenading them. Whether or not they believed it, many of them, hearing his Stentorian tones and seeing his illumined visage, smiled and nodded happily, whereupon I proceeded to do my best to fulfill Judd’s luminous praises.

How to describe his specialness? Few if any moments with Judd were plebeian, routine, devoid of the excitement of him truly delighting in the presence — not to mention the potential and possibility — of who was present with him. Raconteur extraordinaire, spiritual philosopher, warm-hearted human, he was an heirloom presence, especially here, in tight-lipped New England, the land of interpersonal constraint and caution. Such a soul was a prize, a breath of true fresh air indeed.

In my final meeting, the last of a series of visits to his Deerfield home upon learning of his late illness from his daughter Rachel, now the wife of the presiding headmaster Andy Chase — I brought my guitar to Judd’s bedside, where his life-partner, Beaty, hovered with her seldom-absent — yet increasingly tenuous and care-worn — smile.

And there, sensing, after so many similar bedside vigils, his extreme fragility, I sang for him — as often I have sung — songs of my own making, each in its way aimed at the inescapable transience of this life, including the all-time summer camp favorite of many decades “Today’s the Only Day of My Life.” The chorus goes, at breathtaking pace:

So don’t wait another day — don’t wait another afternoon!

(Don’t wait a cottonpickin’ chickenpluckin’ minute now —)

Make up your mind to be the kind of guy you wanna be real soon ...

(Make sure that what you do you put your whole magillah in it!)

I know — everyone knows —

How fast your livin’ time goes,

So make the most of the show right now,

Right now

As the rip-roaring, life-affirming pulse of the song faded, Judd was clearly tickled, beside himself with the humor and delight of the lyrics and the life-energy of the music, and began brainstorming ways in which my unsung talents could somehow be made known to the world, where everyone might enjoy them — hardly a new discussion for the market-place shy composer that I am.

Writes Maestro Heins: “The chorus will present sacred and secular choral music in several languages on the theme of nature: madrigals, rounds, folk songs, spirituals, children’s songs and pieces by renowned composers about mountains, flowers, birds, bugs, wind, the ocean and the earth. Renaissance music will include a wonderful imitation of a cricket by Josquin des Prez in “El grillo,” and Orlando di Lasso’s clever “Echo Song.” “Come All Ye Songsters” from the “Fairy Queen” by the early baroque composer Henry Purcell will feature GCC Chorus member Henry Gaida, tenor. The concert also includes Haydn’s famous choral movement from “The Creation”: “The Heavens are Telling,” with soprano, tenor, and bass soloists. Two great 19th century composers, Felix Mendelssohn (“The Nightingale”) and Antonín Dvorák (“Songs Filled My Heart”) will also be represented. Highlights from the 20th century will include Samuel Barber’s own choral arrangement of one of his loveliest solo songs, “Sure on this Shining Night,” and Pete Seeger’s “To My Old Brown Earth,” arranged by Paul Halley. Two contemporary composers: the well-known Eric Whitacre (“Seal Lullaby,”) and the young composer Eric Barnum, wrote the most recent pieces on the program. In Barnum’s “Afternoon on a Hill,” which sets a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, the chorus is instructed to produce wind sounds layered over a five-part choral texture, and glissandos representing “rising” grass —  contributing to an unusual and exciting piece of music!”

From Blain’s obituary: “Throughout his life he was an enthusiastic singer. He traveled through Europe singing with the Harvard Glee Club and most recently sang with the Greenfield Community College Chorus. During the last two weeks of his life he found joy and peace of the voice(s) of singers who came to his bedside.”

Lynn Klock’s ‘Adieu’ concert April 6

Hear what a saxophone can do beyond its iconographic jazz/pop music status: professor of saxophone Lynn Klock’s “Adieu” concert, his farewell to 35 years of teaching at the UMass Amherst Department of Music & Dance, takes place Sunday, April 6, at 8 p.m., in Bezansen Recital Hall. Among his offerings will be UMass professor Charles Bestor’s award-winning “Suite for Alto Saxophone and Percussion” and music by composer colleague Salvatore Macchia. Living music by living, local composers.

Avanti Wind Quintet at UMass-Amherst Tuesday

Experience the pastorale richness of layered winds as UMass’ Avanti Wind Quintet, with hornist Laura Klock’s making her final ensemble appearance, gives a world premiere of Allen Shawn’s Wind Quintet No. 3, along with Fred Lerdahl’s “Episodes and Refrains” and Ingolf Dahl’s “Allegro and Arioso,” Tuesday, at 8 p.m., Bezanson Recital Hall, UMass-Amherst campus, with the not-to-be-bettered ticket prices of $3 UMass students; $5 other students, children, seniors; $10 general public; free for UMass music majors & minors. Tickets are available at the Fine Arts Center Box Office, 413-545-2511 or at fac.umass.edu/musicanddance.

Pioneer Valley Ballet opens ‘Beauty and the Beast” Saturday

The Pioneer Valley Ballet dances “Beauty and the Beast,” Saturday, March 29, at 1 p.m. and Sunday, March 30 at 4:30 p.m. Choreography by Maryanne Kodzis and Thomas Vacanti is set to the music of Antonin Dvorak. Academy of Music Theatre Box Office 274 Main St., Northampton; 413-584-9032 ext. 105

Senior and student discounts are available for in-person sales only. Seniors: $5 discount/ticket, two-ticket limit. Students: RUSH tickets (high school & college with ID) will be available at the theater 30 minutes before each show. Tickets are $15 and restricted to the upper balcony. Groups of 10 or more receive a 10 percent discount.

An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at josephmarcello@verizon.net.

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