YellowBarnBlog

"We want Music Haul to do as much good as it can"

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Yellow Barn Music Haul has been visiting food drops, health care institutions, nursing homes, and housebound individuals, playing recorded music for the enjoyment and well being of all. 

Nancy Olson, reporter for The Commons, wrote this story published on April 29: 

Yellow Barn Music Haul brightens the scene

Mobile music venue pressed into service to brighten the dark days of the COVID-19 battle

At this challenging time of disruption and social distancing, when people need something to help cheer them up, it’s Yellow Barn Music Haul to the rescue.

The Music Haul, a retrofitted 17-foot U-Haul truck, is visiting area food drops, nursing homes, health care institutions, and housebound individuals, to play recorded performances of music, ranging from the Beatles to Beethoven, for the enjoyment and well-being of all.

“Certainly in this time, we want music to do as much good as it can,” said Seth Knopp, artistic director of Yellow Barn, the internationally renowned chamber music center located in Putney. “Our emotional health is as essential a part of ourselves as our physical being, and needs nurturing.”

Knopp curates the playlists.

“We play a variety of works,” he said. “The bottom line is music is music, whether it’s Bach or the songs we grew up with. Sometimes the list goes out the window, and I choose in the moment when I have a sense of the location and the listeners. The main idea is all music for all people.”

The Music Haul has what Knopp calls “incredibly good speakers” on its roof that are impervious to inclement weather. The truck itself is also is visually pleasing, with a late 1960s vibe; 1969 was the year Yellow Barn was founded and the year the Beatles released their Abbey Road album.

“Music Haul was out after the 2016 election, playing in downtown Brattleboro,” said Catherine Stephan, Yellow Barn’s executive director. “It’s been part of the Strolling of the Heifers parade, the NECCA groundbreaking, and the Putney Central School Lantern Supper. Performances have taken place at the Brattleboro Retreat and the Chelsea [Royal] diner, as well as on Main Streets throughout Windham County. It’s the perfect resource. The question is always ‘How can music be helpful?’”

Once the shelter-in-place order went into effect in Vermont, she said, the opportunity arose to provide the relief of music.

“We first reached out to the Vermont Department of Health,” Stephan continued, “and are following their guidelines for physical distancing, face coverings, and other safety precautions.”

With Vermont schools closing, and the need for the Windham Southeast School District to provide meals to families, the Music Haul has played at meal pick-up sites.

In this situation, it’s not a communal listening experience, Knopp said, because people don’t linger —they’re there for a few minutes to pick up their food, then they leave.

When the Music Haul plays at a residence, however, it’s different.

“We went to Thompson House and parked outside,” Stephan said. “The residents came to the windows. Some of them were waving. We could see some were dancing.”

The music was even audible at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, said Maria Basescu, Yellow Barn’s managing director. A nurse heard the music on her floor and came outside to say how much she appreciated it, adding, “We thought we were in heaven.”

Music Haul is also a traveling stage, opening up into a space for live performances.

Yellow Barn bought the used truck in August 2015, and invited architect John Rossi of Visible Good, a Massachusetts-based company that specializes in rapid-deployment shelter systems, to join the project.

Artist John Kramer created the truck’s wrapping, using exterior and interior images from Yellow Barn’s summer performance hall, the Big Barn, in Putney.

The Yellow Barn team designed this self-contained, traveling concert venue for as many as six musicians, fully equipped with interior and exterior performance spaces, the high quality internal/external sound system, video capabilities, and climate-controlled passenger and storage areas, including storage for percussion, stringed instruments, and a piano.

In October 2015, the Music Haul made its maiden voyage, traveling from Putney south to Baltimore, Md., and west to Dallas, Texas, playing 10 locations in seven days. In West Baltimore, the performers visited the same neighborhood where Freddie Gray had died in the custody of police that April.

“Music Haul played Bach Partitas,” Stephan said. “To see the way people came to life, it seemed the day was transformed. They listened, they danced, they waved. It was an instant connection.”

In recent weeks, the Music Haul has played its recorded music in Putney for the workers at Soundview Paper, on Elliot Street near the Brattleboro Fire Station for people in the neighborhood, at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, and at food drops in Brattleboro and West Brattleboro.

Someday, when the coronavirus restrictions loosen and people can gather again in groups, the Music Haul will show how it transforms into a concert venue for live performance.

Until then, however, it will travel around, providing recorded musical interludes as a necessary diversion.

Learn more and recommend a visit

Yellow Barn Music Haul serenades community

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Brattleboro Reformer published the following story about Yellow Barn Music Haul on April 21:

Photo: Yellow Barn Music Haul at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital

Yellow Barn, the internationally renowned chamber music center, is channeling its resources and creative energies in order to contribute to the well-being of the community at this unprecedented time of challenge and social distancing.

Yellow Barn Music Haul is touring the region, uplifting spirits by bringing music to relief workers, volunteers, neighborhoods, and individuals. With a playlist ranging from Beethoven to the Beatles, Music Haul is visiting nursing homes, health care facilities, and each of the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union's school district's food distribution sites, serenading children and families as they come through, as well as thanking the generous volunteers working at each site.

Working with individuals and partners, Music Haul makes scheduled stops throughout the week. Community members are invited to recommend a visit, whether it be a location, an organization, or an individual, via Yellow Barn's website.

The brainchild of Yellow Barn, Music Haul is a traveling stage, with the capacity for live performance as well as recorded music played from speakers on the roof of the truck. It began with the purchase of an old U-Haul in 2015, and an invitation to architect John Rossi, founder of VisibleGood, a Massachusetts-based company that specializes in rapid shelter deployment, to join the project. Yellow Barn's team devised this self-contained, traveling concert venue for as many as six musicians, fully-equipped with interior and exterior performance spaces, a high quality internal/external sound system, video capabilities, and climate-controlled passenger and storage areas, including storage for percussion, string instruments, and a piano.

When not practicing social distancing, Yellow Barn musicians travel and perform on Music Haul, presenting "Music No Boundaries" tours across the country, and throughout southeastern Vermont. Redefining what a concert hall can be, Yellow Barn Music Haul brings music to grammar schools and universities, urban neighborhoods and arts districts, city lots and open fields. It plays for people regardless of their experience with or knowledge of music, their attention captured in the unexpected moment.

While touring at this time, the Music Haul is following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Department of Health. 

Learn more and recommend a visit

Music No Boundaries: Epiphany Slam

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Yellow Barn is committed to the health and safety of everyone in our community. We are closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Department of Health. Accordingly, we are postponing Music Haul's visit to the Epiphany School to a later date TBD.

This May Yellow Barn Music Haul returns to the Epiphany School in Dorchester, MA, for a four-day slam poetry residency. Working with saxophonist Travis Laplante, harpist Charles Overton, and Epiphany School’s art director, A.B. Deleveaux, six Epiphany students in grades 5 to 8 will write and perform poetry expressing their personal thoughts and experiences with civil rights, racial discrimination, gun violence, and climate change.

Participating students (three from the 5th and 6th grades, and three from 7th and 8th) will be selected from a school-wide poetry slam at the end of April. In May, they will pair with saxophonist Travis Laplante and harpist Charles Overton to create six performances that integrate their poetry with the musicians’ improvisations. Overton is both a member of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute and an accomplished classical harpist based in Boston. Laplante, who is an international soloist and chamber musician, as well as a master qigong practitioner in Putney, Vermont, explores both avant-garde classical compositions and free jazz. Their work will culminate in a day of performances on Music Haul at the Epiphany School and in downtown Boston (May 21st or 22nd, weather depending).

This will be Yellow Barn’s second slam poetry residency. The first residency, titled “Intimate Letters”, brought four poets ages 17 to 24 from Stockton, CA to Putney, VT together with the Parker Quartet, baritone William Sharp, and Yellow Barn Artistic Director and pianist Seth Knopp for a program interspersing original poetry with chamber music. The residency culminated in a tour of performances in Vermont, Boston, New York, and Dallas.

The upcoming residency marks Yellow Barn’s third visit to the Epiphany School. An independent school for children of economically disadvantaged families in Boston, with scholarships for all, Epiphany offers structured support to enable children to discover and develop the fullness of their individual gifts and to help their families thrive.

The first traveling stage of its kind, Music Haul is the brainchild of Yellow Barn, an international center for chamber music based in Vermont that generates an international troupe of faculty, alumni, and ensembles. Like all street performers, Music Haul and its musicians make the most of an environment conducive to personal conversation, musical and otherwise, that happens on common ground. By giving people the shared experience of listening to music on a street corner, playground, or field, Music Haul opens up the unique possibilities of what music can do to unite us.


Yellow Barn Music Haul at the Epiphany School, September 2016 (Photo: Iaritza Menjivar)

The Music Alliance Project

Monday, February 10, 2020

Pianist Chase Morrin and vocalist Cordelia Tapping, a duo whose lives are both rooted in jazz-based improvisation, and also deeply tied to classical music communities, have established The Music Alliance Project, an ensemble of ever-shifting membership that crosses the perceived boundaries that often separate jazz and classical idioms. Together with Rosie Gallagher (flute), cellist John Myerscough (cello), and Charles Overton (harp), their Artist Residency will explore ways of embracing the commonalities between improvised, free-form music, and music that has been notated for performance. 

The Music Alliance Project aims to bring classical and jazz musicians together in a comprehensive and experiential way. Chase says about the project:

There are many musicians and composers who have crossed the boundaries of jazz and classical idioms; nevertheless, the communities at large remain distinct and separate. Young classical musicians rarely learn how to improvise and create spontaneous music, and jazz musicians rarely play chamber music and learn from the classical pedagogy. Those who are interested in the other world tend to meet barriers within institutions or struggle with current teaching methodologies that emphasize awareness over immersion. Classical musicians who want to learn how to improvise are often scared, and jazz musicians are often left unaware of the full context and tools within the classical aesthetic. This project shows the potential there is for collaboration and understanding between the classical and jazz communities. An ideal world would shed labels and allow musicians to explore all facets of musical experience in a rich way.

During their week at Yellow Barn, the five resident artists will immerse themselves in collaboration, and ultimately present their work in their residency concert. This free performance will take place on Thursday, February 20 at Next Stage. Following the performance, audience members will be invited to ask questions and offer their observations, a critical component of all Yellow Barn Artist Residency events.


Left to Right: Cordelia Tapping, Chase Morrin, Rosie Gallager, John Myerscough, and Charles Overton

View the complete season of Artist Residencies

Duo-ING returns to Yellow Barn

Monday, February 10, 2020

This February, alumni Ying Xue (violin, 2006, 2007, 2010) and Qing Jiang (piano, 2011-2013) return to Yellow Barn to further explore and perform a program inspired by the spirit of Yellow Barn. Their residency will include two performances. The premiere will take place in Putney on February 23rd, followed by a second performance at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York on February 24th.

"Ying and I spent several summers at Yellow Barn when we were students at New England Conservatory. It was a magical place allowing each of us to connect to our inner-self and to one another while adventuring in music that are often centuries apart. Coming back to Yellow Barn through the Artist Residency helped us reconnect to that immersive experience," says Qing.

The two musicians returned to Yellow Barn last year to formalize their partnership as Duo-ING and begin developing their program, entitled Refractions, which includes the world premiere of a new work by Daniel Temkin, plus additiona works written over the past decade by Tonia Ko, Eric Nathan, and Sean Shepherd, together with sonatas by J.S. Bach and Maurice Ravel.

Ying Xue (left) and Qing Jiang (right) rehearse during their artist residency in February 2019

When we co-curated the "Refractions" project with Daniel Temkin, one of the composers on the program, we felt there was an important arch here— the ideas of old works resurfacing in newer pieces and back again. Looking at our own artistic journey at Yellow Barn, we feel our musical lives also mirror this thematic element, as we are coming back to Yellow Barn and finding connections we first experienced deeply many years ago as students. It all flows together in a larger continuum of musical expression and life experience. One of our other project collaborators, composer Eric Nathan, echoed this sentiment. He mentioned how his work on the program, DUO, was first premiered at Yellow Barn in 2013, and how exciting it was to see it coming back to Putney.

Audience members are invited to ask the duo about their work and share their experiences during a post-concert discussion with the artists, moderated by Artistic Director Seth Knopp.

View the complete season of Artist Residencies

Who is the other Mozart?

Friday, January 24, 2020

Nannerl Mozart was a child prodigy like her brother Wolfgang Amadeus, but her musical career came to an end when she was 18. A one-woman play puts her back on the stage. In September 2015, on the occasion of the 100th performance of her play The Other Mozart, actress Sylvia Milo writes about her inspiration and process. On June 26, 2020, Yellow Barn brings The Other Mozart to Putney, Vermont. (This article first appeared in The Guardian on September 8, 2015.)

"I am writing to you with an erection on my head and I am very much afraid of burning my hair”, wrote Nannerl Mozart to her brother Wolfgang Amadeus. What was being erected was a large hairdo on top of Nannerl’s head, as she prepared to pose for the Mozart family portrait.

It was that hairdo that drew my attention. Nine years ago I was visiting Vienna for the 250th birthday celebrations of Wolfgang Amadeus, and I was thrilled to explore the city following in Wolfi’s footsteps, many of which turned out to be Nannerl’s as well. At the Mozarthaus Vienna – Wolfgang’s apartment – on the exit wall, as if by an afterthought, there was a little copy of the Mozart family portrait. I saw a woman seated at the harpsichord next to Wolfgang, their hands intertwined, playing together. I grew up studying to become a violinist. Neither my music history nor my repertoire included any female composers. With my braided hair I was called “little Mozart” by my violin teacher, but he meant Wolfi. I never heard that Amadeus had a sister. I never heard of Nannerl Mozart until I saw that family portrait.

I was intrigued and determined to find out more. I read Wolfgang Mozart biographies, studied the situation of women and female artists during Mozarts’ time and in different countries, read writings of Enlightenment philosophers, conduct manuals … But the richest source of information came from the Mozart family letters. There are hundreds, and we have them because Nannerl preserved them. Most are written by Leopold and Wolfgang but some of Nannerl’s letters survived as well. Through these letters, sometimes only from the replies to her lost letters, Nannerl slowly emerged. I was able to understand the Mozarts as people, as a family, and through the lens of the times and the social situation in which they lived. I saw Nannerl’s potential, her dreams, her strength, grace and her fight.

Maria Anna (called Marianne and nicknamed Nannerl) was – like her younger brother – a child prodigy. The children toured most of Europe (including an 18-month stay in London in 1764-5) performing together as “wunderkinder”. There are contemporaneous reviews praising Nannerl, and she was even billed first. Until she turned 18. A little girl could perform and tour, but a woman doing so risked her reputation. And so she was left behind in Salzburg, and her father only took Wolfgang on their next journeys around the courts of Europe. Nannerl never toured again.

But the woman I found did not give up. She wrote music and sent at least one composition to Wolfgang and Papa – Wolfgang praised it as “beautiful” and encouraged her to write more. Her father didn’t, as far as we know, say anything about it.

Did she stop? None of her music has survived. Perhaps she never showed it to anybody again, perhaps she destroyed it, maybe we will find it one day, maybe we already did but it’s wrongly attributed to her brother’s hand. Composing or performing music was not encouraged for women of her time. Wolfgang repeatedly wrote that nobody played his keyboard music as well as she could, and Leopold described her as “one of the most skilful players in Europe”, with “perfect insight into harmony and modulations” and that she improvises “so successfully that you would be astounded”.

Like Virginia Woolf’s imagined Shakespeare’s sister, Nannerl was not given the opportunity to thrive. And what she did create was not valued or preserved – most female composers from the past have been forgotten, their music lost or gathering dust in libraries. We will never know what could have been, and this is our loss.

Director Isaac Byrne and I searched for the ghost of Nannerl, and the story she needed to tell in my one-woman play. Period-style movement transports us to the Mozarts’ time using delicate gestures, court bows and curtsies, and the language of fans.

To create the 18th-century world of opulence and of restriction, the set became an enormous dress which spills over the entire stage (designed by Magdalena Dabrowska), with a corset/panniers cage on top. Finally the hair stands as tall as Nannerl’s, after we found the right hairspray to hold it all up-up-up – and yes, it is all my own hair.

Creating music for the show was down to two composers, Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen, who chose, rather than to try to re-create Nannerl’s compositions, to portray her musical imagination, using the sounds she would have had in her ears: the fluttering of fans, tea cups, music boxes, bells, clavichords.

I’ve been touring The Other Mozart for the last two years: this month marks its 100th performance, how fitting that it will take place just a few steps away from where Nannerl performed in London as a girl.

It has been a long journey to bring Nannerl back to England after an absence of 250 years. I sometimes feel like Leopold Mozart – on a quest to show the world this brilliant Mozart.

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