Friday, July 16, 2004
Music in the air
"Summertime, and the livin' is easy," sings a character from the American classic Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Yes, this is that time of year, "from May 'til September," to quote from another well-known tune, when one's thoughts turn to the opportunities that abound for enjoying musically events indoors and outdoors in the Boston area and sometimes further afield.
For me, it started in the middle of May when my husband and I traveled to Connecticut to see the '50s hit Call Me Madam at the historic Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam on the Connecticut River. The cast for this musical production, which originally starred Ethel Merman, was outstanding and the leading lady of the evening belted out the number "Hostess with the Mostest" with the same verve as did Merman. The 1948 musical comedy Where's Charlie? is now on stage at the opera house, playing until September 25. (Check the web sitewww.goodspeed.org)
Next week we'll head out to the Fruitlands Museums in the town of Harvard to hear one of the Concord Band's "Concerts on the Lawn," which are scheduled for each Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. throughout July. Joined by family or friends, we try to get there ahead of time to settle on the lawn with a delicious summertime picnic, enjoy the view of Mt. Wachusett in the distance and sit back and relax, listening to the rousing tunes provided by the Concord Band. (Web site — www.concordband.org)
A friend of mine goes northeast with her family, up to Ipswich for concerts at Castle Hill on Thursday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Here, throughout July and until August 19, one can enjoy music, depending on the evening, which includes Bluegrass, Country, Celtic and Blues. This is a great opportunity for a picnic and a concert on a seaside lawn under the stars. She suggests combining a late afternoon swim at nearby Crane Beach with the picnic concerts later in the day. Parking at Crane Beach, she says, is much easier in mid-afternoon than in the morning. (Web sitewww.thetrustees.org.)
Many Carlisle folks will be heading up to Lowell July 23- 25 for the Lowell Folk Festival, "the largest free folk festival in the nation." The three-day festival will include traditional music, dance, craft demonstrations, street parades, dance parties and delicious ethnic food presented throughout the city. If you have missed this wonderful event, talk to your neighbors and friends who will tell you not to miss this great cultural weekend, just 20 minutes away. (Web sitewww.lowellfolkfestival.org).
Last but not least is a weekend out in the Berkshires, and a chance to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the shed at their summer home, Tanglewood. We especially enjoy the Saturday morning open rehearsal for the Sunday program. This year we will hear an all-Mozart program that includes the Jupiter Symphony. When the program ends we will traipse across the lawn for a picnic lunch with friends, not far from Ozawa Hall (Web site — www.bso.org)
These are just a few ideas of places to go to hear the wonderful music that is performed throughout our area during the summer months.
There's a line in Goodbye, Columbus where Richard Benjamin says, "You know it's summer when my cousin starts reading War and Peace." Around our house you know it's summer when we resume work on our stone wall. Started back in the twentieth century with the delivery of five skids of lichen-encrusted Pennsylvania flats, this modest project has achieved historic proportions. We conceived our wall as a two-foot high serpentine curve meandering through the garden, and serpentine it has become. Snakes have molted in the skids; even the molted skins have molted. We now call it our habitat project. We used to call it our driveway.
What possessed me to order five skids of rock? Weakness of character? Was I seduced by the appearance of rurality; egged on by the legal definition of a stone wall? (Yes! It's true! There is a legal definition! And beware all you residents on Scenic Roads!) Was it hubris? I did my research. I read the books. I watched the experts on the videos and in real life choosing the stones, chipping them to the perfect fit, keeping the courses level. My husband and I attacked our wall with the same degree of care, for a while. It didn't take long to conclude, however, that stones we had piled haphazardly didn't look half-bad. How quickly we had reached the moment of truth every do-it-yourselfer faces, when you realize that your standards have slipped.
At moments like this, it is wise to take a philosophical approach. Rather than a dilution of standards, the imperfection and lack of progress are simply examples of the Darwinian principle of biological creatures adapting to their environment. In other words, you learn to live with it. You begin to appreciate the sculptural qualities of the cubes of stone as a comment on modern society's confinement of nature. You realize how easily it sometimes happens that a few yards of compost, earnestly dumped, can become a feature of the yard, overgrown with grass, one day perhaps to be mistaken for an ancient burial mound. How precariously we stand on the edge of oblivion, conquered by chaos! With gin and tonic in hand, we ponder the need for constant vigilance, the fate of civilization resting on the completion of one stone wall.
Moments of discovery! There is an advantage to a long driveway. This project is out of sight of neighbors who might express a friendly interest in getting it finished. I, of course, am tolerant. We used to live across the street from a retired fisherman who "temporarily" parked his decommissioned lobster boat in his driveway. With a 40-foot hull the boat was bigger than the house, so the Bo-Peep became a convenient landmark for directions ("You've gone too far if you pass the prow..."). Teachable moments! Forget the MD or MBA, kids, look for a life partner with a worn pair of work boots. Candidly, this project has merely emphasized the folly of grown-ups, inspiring disbelief and a fourth-grade essay entitled, "Don't Buy Rocks." The children have also learned the importance of taking the long-term view. And there's nothing like two tons of rock to understand the meaning of commitment.
Luckily, right here in Carlisle, this summer offers renewed inspiration. Each day I pass the remnants of the house on Concord Street and see the 'GBH crew hard at work (well, most days). Surely, if they can move a barn, I can move a few stones. The truck out front cheerily encourages me, "Ask This Old House." Here's what I really want to ask: "Norm, can you come to my house and help finish this wall?"
© 2004 The