Thomas Aquinas College to host Ashuelot Concerts

  • Ashuelot Concerts members perform in front of a full house at the Marlborough House in Marlborough, New Hampshire. The group will perform Friday at St. Thomas Aquinas College. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/DALE MONTRONE

  • Ashuelot Concerts members perform in front of a full house at the Marlborough House in Marlborough, New Hampshire. The group will perform Friday at Thomas Acquinas College. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/DALE MONTRONE

  • Ashuelot Concert members, shown at the Marlborough House in Marlborough, New Hampshire, will perform Friday at Thomas Acquinas College. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/DALE MONTRONE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/15/2021 3:14:01 PM

The first performance in a three-concert classical music series slated throughout the year will be held Friday, Sept. 17.

Thomas Aquinas College will host Ashuelot Concerts at the Moody Auditorium, 58 Winchester Road in Northfield, for formal chamber music performances as part of the college’s lecture and concert series. In addition to the first performance this month, a second concert will be held Nov. 7 and a third concert on March 20, 2022.

Tickets for the performances, which are open to the public, cost $30 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for college students. Tickets for this month's performance, and the future Northfield concert series hosted by Thomas Aquinas College in Partnership with The Moody Center, can be purchased online at ashuelotconcerts.org or https://bit.ly/2WUzujj.

The series is being hosted by Thomas Aquinas College as part of the school’s lecture and concert series. Students at the college are taught by way of the Discussion Method, whereby students work through the Great Books, together, in a classroom conversation, guided by teaching faculty. 

“Yet the college has always considered it important to supplement this primary method of instruction, and to that end we offer the St. Vincent de Paul Lecture & Concert Series,” said Director of Communications Chris Weinkopf. 

The series consists of monthly events and is designed to aid students in grappling with the long-form arguments presented in lectures as well as in developing an appreciation for fine music. Lectures and concerts are not a formal part of any particular class, but attendance is mandatory.

The schedule for the Sept.17 concert performance includes renditions of — Notturno, a nocturne for piano trio by Franz Schubert; Piano Trio in D Major, Op. 70 No. 1, “Ghost,” by Ludwig van Beethoven; and Piano Trio No. 1 B major, Op. 8 by Johannes Brahms. Performers include Ashuelot founder and pianist Nick Burns and his wife, violinist Louisa Stonehill, along with cellist Paul Cohen.

Ashuelot Concerts was founded by Burns in August 2017, a year after he and Stonehill moved from London, England. Ashuelot Concerts was created to enrich the community through world-class, live music, Burns said. He believes classical music can make a real difference in people's lives, and said the group aims to “remove the barriers that prevent people engaging with this incredible music.” Since being established in August 2017, Ashuelot Concerts has managed to make a name for itself. The group has presented 35 world-class concerts, performed to 5,490 school children, hosted 25 house concerts and provided 20 community events in Keene, New Hampshire.

“Music heals; it challenges; it stretches our brains and it touches even those who are least expecting it. It brings people together in a unifying and uplifting shared experience,” Burns says.

Speaking to the Recorder, he said Ashuelot Concerts was founded in response to two things. Firstly, the majority of classical music audience members are getting older and they want to connect with younger generations. Second, the group aims to provide access to classical music concerts for children to discover the experience of live musical performance.

“... The heart of our mission is to take music from our concerts into elementary schools and give it to kids unvarnished,” Burns said. “We play songs, and talk about what it’s really like to be a musician. Partly because of our English accents, and partly because we’re doing unusual things, we really do get their attention.”

One message they try to instill in their young audiences is to recognize when something feels impossibly difficult, this is often simply because it is new and their learning. 

While their skill level may make the performances look simple, he said they emphasize the importance of practice, and teach children to notice that, more often than not, when something feels impossible it is often just because it is new and they can learn. With time and practice, something scary unfamiliar like learning a new instrument will eventually become instinctual.

“Most people don’t realize that over a career you assemble hundreds of pieces, but when you’re starting a new piece you still encounter those same feelings,” Burns said. 

By performing in Northfield at the D.L. Moody Auditorium, he hopes the concert group will continue to attract  and introduce the art of classical music to new audience members. According to Burns, sales of classical music makes up just 1% of the music market.

“And that’s for one very simple reason,” he explained. “Recordings of classical music bear no resemblance whatsoever to live performance.” 

While some genres like rock ’n’ roll have embraced the effects of electricity as part of the sound, classical music “is one of the few genres that doesn’t rely on electricity or amplification” and Burns said “it’s literally impossible to translate by capturing it through a microphone.”

In addition to the clean sound of live classical music, he noted the importance of physically feeling the sound as it carries through an auditorium or concert hall.

“There’s an energy in the room, literally, the acoustic instrument is moving the airwaves and space between it and the audience,” Burns said. “I think some instruments lend themselves to this better than others, and string and classical chamber music have to be experienced live.”

While passionate about the power of the music they play, Burns said they realize the music was written for another time and in many cases for an audience who knew a great deal about music. Each performance from Ashuelot Concerts is introduced with context and historic information and “anecdotes about the raw human emotions, including love, jealousy and professional envy” pulled from the diaries or letters from the composers, Burns said, so the audience gets to know the background of each piece. The group chooses their music carefully so that each program is balanced, emotive and inspiring. After the performance the musicians are always available to talk with the audience over refreshments.

“Classical music is complicated, but incredible, Burns said. “It is almost impossible to capture the essence of this music from a recording. It is something that must be experienced live and familiarization with the language makes a huge difference to the impact the music can have. We want to share our love of this music with the wider community and make it so enticing that everyone will feel welcome at our events.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.




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