Encores & Curtain Calls: All Souls musical haven
Submitted photo Lisa Woods, mezzo-soprano and Jerry Noble, pianist, will perform at the next Mid-Week Music concert at All Souls Church Wednesday.
“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”
— Billy Joel
“I had recently moved to Greenfield, and, still without a job, had just spent four hours pounding the pavement, when I looked up and found myself standing in front of a sign announcing a 12:15 afternoon concert just by the entrance to All Souls Church. And I said to myself, ‘Gee, what the heck? Why not?’ And so I went in. The person who was playing was a performer by the name of Jim Scott (previewed in several prior Recorder features) who, it turns out, was the composer of a number of hymns in the Unitarian/Universalist hymnal. The scheduled performer for that afternoon had not been able to come and Scott, who turned out to be a friend of one of the members of the church, was able to fill in. Who would have thought, in out-of-the-way Greenfield, you would come across such artists?”
These are the words of Robert Traynor, who, thankfully, did find the employment for which he was so assiduously seeking, at the very church which so serendipitously claimed his attention that day, becoming its parish administrator co-overseer of the now iconic Wednesday afternoon concert series at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.
Here, within the vaulted space, a hush mutes and all but dissolves the constant hum of life and traffic on Main Street, ushering its visitors into the perfect space and place for “stopping the world” and lulling them into a ready and receptive mood for taking in intimate sounds, heartfelt music, as if nothing else existed.
A mere three quarters of an hour later they emerge, refreshed, renewed, their batteries recharged, ready for whatever “slings and arrows” still await in the outer world.
Below is a talk I had with Traynor.
JM: There must be a story behind the series, what might it be?
RT: Well, it’s been going on since the 1990s, but no one knows exactly who started it. Since that time, several people have been overseeing it, including David Bigda, Diane Dix and, presently, Marty Ortiz-Romboletti.
JM: What is the reason for the seasonal schedule of the series?
RT: A large part of it is the difficulties presented by winter conditions, the travel and parking, as well as the challenges of performers from out of town getting here during those times; it’s easier all around. For instance, the closing act of this season’s series is coming from central Vermont and we don’t want our schedule to be hostage to the snow.
JM: Who sponsors the series, or does it pay for itself?
RT: Well, we run on a deficit; it’s free and we do accept donations. Generally, when we receive enough, we try to give our performers a stipend of $100. Though we generally fall short, it’s all paid for by our congregation’s budget and we have had Greenfield Community Arts Council grants at times. Our flea market recently raised $1,000, enough to completely cover our seasonal budget.
JM: Given how long the series has been active, and my own experience teaching group lessons there in the past, it would seem that All Souls has a strong commitment to the arts.
RT: Indeed it does. I am a musician myself and have performed in Boston at Jordan Hall, New York at Lincoln Center and many other settings, but as music goes, I would put the acoustics of All Souls’ sanctuary against any other space in the country. In that sense, Greenfield’s punch far exceeds its size. There hasn’t been a midday musical venue where one can walk in during a lunch hour, hear 45 minutes of beautiful music and go back to work energized. Some people regularly come in from South Deerfield to enjoy the concerts.
JM: I believe it because I know a musically passionate couple in their 80s who often make the trip from Ashfield.
JM: Have you taken the opportunity to perform at the series?
RT:: No, I haven’t.
JM: Why not?
RT: Probably because we have a lot of traditional acts and straight classical is not a genre the audience gravitates to as much.
JM: Although several of your concerts are just that — I’m thinking of Robin Stone and her ensemble, or Margery Heins and her chorus.
RT: Yes, though the majority are probably non-classical ...
JM: You have many “perennial” acts, such as your series opener (on March 19), Bob Sparkman and Jerry Noble doing their jazz improvs.
RT: Yes, they’re great favorites; and Jerry Noble returns later with soprano Lisa Woods in a program of mixed popular and classical standards. Robin Stone and the Pioneer Consort are also yearly return acts.
And our closing act, Hunter Paye, a folk guitarist from Vermont, is just wonderful. He was a big hit at last year’s concert.
JM: Well, it can’t be the modest $100 stipend that brings these folks to you, especially year after year after year. They must be coming out of the sheer love of it.
RT: Absolutely. We welcome people heartily to come hear one of our afternoon concerts and, for that matter, to come hear wonderful preaching on Sunday mornings!
Mid-Week Music Series’ spring concert schedule
Performances are at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, on the corner of Hope and Main streets in Greenfield, on Wednesdays, 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. 413-773-5018, www.uugreenfield.org. Produced by Marty Ortiz-Romboletti and Robert Traynor
∎ March 26: Lisa Woods, mezzo-soprano, with Jerry Noble, pianist
∎ April 2: Sodade, duo performing jazz standards, classics and the blues. Janice Dompke, vocalist, with Stephen Page, piano
∎ April 9: David Fersh, folk balladeer
∎ April 16: David Dersham, folk guitarist
∎ April 2: Moonlight & Morning Star, blues/jazz duo
∎ April 30: Greenfield Community College Chorus, Margery Heins, director
∎ May 7: Flootissimo, four talented flute players
∎ May 14: Pioneer Consort, chamber music with unique arrangements. Michael Nix, Chris Devine, Greg Snedeker
∎ May 21: TBA (possibly Lynne Walker & Chris Harris)
∎ May 28: Robin Stone & the Four Seasons
∎ June 4: TBA
∎ June 11: Hunter Paye, folk guitar.
An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at email@example.com.