Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Spirits of Lebanon, Part 3

"Tannery Pond Concerts presents a season of six to seven chamber concerts between May and October in the Tannery on the grounds of the Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY.
"The Tannery, built by the Shakers in 1834, is a plain barn-like structure of warmly resonant wood unusually favorable to the sounds of chamber music, whether string ensemble, voice, piano, or small orchestra. Its size (it seats 290) fosters an intimate and interactive relationship between performers and artists, providing an unusual and exciting opportunity for closeness with the renowned artists that have appeared at Tannery Pond since its inception in 1991."

I stumbled upon the Tannery Pond Concerts Web site by accident. It got me to thinking. I guess musicians from all over the world are performing in the old tannery now. It was formally known on campus at the Laflin Whitehead Chapel, and we knew it well. It was where the entire school assembled every night but Saturday for vespers, a contemplative service before supper, and for church on Sunday.

I like to imagine that some of the richness of the acoustics of that building is due to the history of sound produced within it. I like to think that its oak and chestnut beams and woodwork have absorbed a couple of centuries of sound that are teased out by the vibrations from oboe and viola.

What sounds? How about the low rumble of 175 boys entering at the north door, descending the steps to the cellar, kicking off their muddy rubber boots, then ascending the steps at the south end and marching into the chapel. Or picture the suppressed laughter of a row of boys reacting to an inadvertent fart. The droning voices of a student body singing Shaker hymns under duress. The squawking of ducks copulating on Tannery Pond. The creaking of cherry benches. The chirping and fluttering of birds in the rafters. The low buzz of a June bug, tapping against dusty balcony windows. The groaning of timbers leaned on by wind. The sharp, scolding lecture of a headmaster railing against ungentlemanly conduct.

Have these sounds escaped into space, or are they trapped in the old barn forever?
I have gone back to that place. The last time, 11 years ago, my roommate Dean and I sat alone there for awhile, in the afternoon, the chapel on fire with the light of the descending sun, not saying anything. Just listening. Just listening to the spirits.

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