The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 5, 1999


The Sounds of Music

by Marilyn Harte

Mark Volpe, the Boston Symphony Orchestra managing director, was quoted in an interview in The Boston Globe on Sunday during a discussion on Boston's cultural organizations and their future: "I'm concerned about cultural literacy, musical literacy. ...It's very convenient in tough economic times to gut cultural programming in the public schools everywhere. Now, obviously, in the past five, six years, whatever, times have been better, so we've seen a resurrectionBoston went down to 35 music teachers, now they're back close to 100which is encouraging." Volpe continued "...the most common character of people who attend the Symphony, or even the Pops, isn't people who have wealth or five degrees, it's people who had music in their lives at some pointeither played in the [school] band or [sang in the] chorus, not with professional aspirations, but had some contact with it. We were really remiss 20 years ago when schools were getting their programs gutted we didn't, as a political force, go to the school boards and say this is unacceptable."

This got me thinking about the musical culture that exists here in Carlisle. This weekend the Concord-Carlisle High School music department will present the all-time musical favorite "Guys and Dolls" for the second weekend in a row (see review on pages 8 and 9). The Carlisle seventh graders are scheduled to perform the musical "Robin Hood" later this month.

Then, of course there's Tom O'Halloran's top notch Carlisle School band, that has won more competitions than one can possibly count. His Senior Band will be performing at the Massachusetts Music Educators' All-State Conference on March 13. Carlisle was chosen by audition and is the only instrumental group in the state asked to perform.

But general music education in the Carlisle School can be improved. Music is only offered 45 minutes a week to students in kindergarten through sixth grade. In contrast, students in Japan, one of the world's most musically literate nations, spend at least 90 minutes a week in music classes. This year, for the first time, a sixth-grade chorus has been organized during school hours and Joanne Crowell's after-school Carlisle's Children's Choir has been a welcome addition to the Carlisle music scene these past three years.

On the concert scene here in town, the Janet Gates Peckham Scholarship Fund and The Cambridge Society for Early Music offer townspeople a wide variety of chamber music and classical music recitals performed in the Carlisle Congregational Church and Union Hall of the First Religious Society.

The Savoyard's Gilbert and Sullivan operettas or Broadway musicals performed in Corey Auditorium in the fall are highly professional and guaranteed to provide a thoroughly enjoyable "night out on the town."

So to answer Mark Volpe of the Boston Symphony, Carlisle residents have the opportunity to experience music in their lives. All it takes is time and the commitment. The love of music is something to be enjoyed and shared over a lifetime.

Sounds of the Winter Night

The snow finally came. Although it wasn't much of a storm, it did provide some of the winter night sounds that are surely filled with meaning and memories for anyone who has experienced them.

The best of these sounds is the absence of any sound at all the absolute stillness of falling snow as it securely blankets everything outside and softly and quietly surrounds all that is inside. I know someone who can hear snow falling, but what I hear is the utter silence as snow envelops the inside world in a cocoon of mounting whiteness.

A host of mechanical sounds tell us snow is here. The long night silence is broken at 6:30 by the first three rounds of no-school horns, repeated as if to emphasize that the world outside has come to a full stop: engagements will be cancelled and appointments postponed. The no-school signal always feels like a gift of freedom and a promise of adventure.

The plows often proclaim snow's arrival even before the no-school horn sounds. There's a rhythm to their work; a rapid initial swish up and down the street, then silence, then the return run on the other side of the street, more silence, and a final second pass and return with accompanying bangs and rumbles and bumps, and then, the deep silence again. Occasionally this silence is broken by the siren of an emergency vehicle. Sometimes, towards morning, we hear the sanders, softer than the plows, making only one pass.

Woods make their own night sounds. Great trees creak and their lesser branches scratch and squeak. If the night is windy and branches icy I can hear the small scratching of the crabapple against the window. Once, during a heavy, wet and powerful May snowstorm, the surrounding woods sounded like a battlefield, as branches snapped and cracked and huge limbs broke off entirely under the weight of the snow. All that night, there was only the huge sound of a multitude of exploding and crashing limbs. Those who heard it will never forget.

Wind makes night noises, too. We hear it whistle and groan and howl, and there always seems to be a loose door or shutter, or something metallic that is jarred by the wind and goes boomp or clank in the night. If the ground is dry, a leaf may skitter, crablike, scratching over the frozen ground. Sometimes a heavy thump tells us a slab of snow slid off the roof. Every house has its own assortment of night noises.

There are a myriad of animal noises, small scratchy ones in the walls of the house, a lone bird, and sometimes, towards dawn, great horned owls or coyotes conversing over long distances.

The sweetest sound of a winter night comes with the thaw. It is the sound of the sump pump kicking in. No matter how many times a night this happens, it always brings comforting knowledge that the water is being taken care of and the basement will be relatively dry in the morning. Once, the January thaw coincided with a power outage, and that click of the pump starting, the swoosh of water back into the sump hole when it stops, and the gush of water outside as the sump discharges it into its runoff channel were the only noises I wanted to hear.

As night ends, there is always the sound of the paper being delivered and the crunch of gravel on my neighbor's drive. Rather than intrusions, all these sounds are the familiar and comforting guardians of the night, assuring us that things are as they should be.


1999 The Carlisle Mosquito