Behind The Scenes

Shirley draws music's innovators

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Stephanie Schorow
Globe Correspondent / April 24, 2008

Even the most ardent fans of the Shirley Meetinghouse concede that it's in the middle of nowhere.

You take Exit 36 from Route 2A, drive several miles along country roads and then, suddenly, you're at the Shirley Common, where in an 18th-century church you can hear some of the most innovative music of the 21st century.

"That's one of the wonderful things about it," said flutist Laura Finkelstein, of Concord, a semiprofessional musician who will perform at the meetinghouse during its summer concert series.

"It's not Cambridge. It's not Boston. Yet Holly pulls in some outstanding professionals, and she pulls in enthusiastic, passionate amateurs who she meets all around the area," Finkelstein said.

"Holly" is Holly Haase, Shirley's tax collector and one of the volunteers who has led the way in bringing music and more to the historic meetinghouse, a building that dates to 1773.

Since about 1992, Haase has been helping to coordinate various artistic events at the meetinghouse, a lovingly maintained former church with an 1847 organ and, according to Finkelstein, wonderful acoustics.

Next Sunday, the Trio Cordefiato - with Finkelstein on flute, Sean Winkler on guitar, and Jeff Leiserson on clarinet - will perform with Trinity Brass, featuring trumpeters Arthur Magazu and Ron Smith; Chloe Nester Sundberg, French horn; and Chip Schopp, trombone. After each group performs a set, they will join forces in the finale for a Sousa march - "something never attempted on guitar before, I think," Finkelstein said.

A concert welcoming spring will be held the following week, and a week after that, on the day before Mother's Day, female musicians, singers, performers, and dancers will create a "Ladies Night Out," designed to tell "herstory" in a multitude of ways.

"We've been having fun with it," said Haase, a grandmother and singer who will perform several songs. "It's all women that are performing." She added, lightheartedly, "We're being very mean to men - we will let them come but they can't be in the show."

The schedule for Ladies Night Out is still being worked out, but Haase said the program will be both serious and funny. "We're very good at the laughing part of it," Haase said.

Historical reenactor Mary S. Collins's dramatic piece about Sarah Kinson, a slave on the famed ship Amistad, may be followed by a song sung by Kristin Davis from the 2005 musical based on "Little Women."

High school student Kimberly Huxley will perform a solo dance to the tune of "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" by Shania Twain, and Finkelstein will play "Yearning for Home," by Richard Shulman, a piece that reflects on the cycle of life. Words by humorist Erma Bombeck will also be highlighted.

The idea for "Ladies Night Out" has been brewing for years, Haase said, and reflects in part, the abundance of women who like to sing, compared with a somewhat smaller number of men. It fits in with Haase's effort to create challenging programming that, nonetheless, draws on the talents of local artists.

"I think the concert series at the Shirley Meetinghouse is the hidden jewel of concert series in the entire Boston and Metrowest area - and I've played just about everywhere over the past 20 plus years with a variety of ensembles," Finkelstein said.

Moreover, she added, "It's really not that far to drive."

Laura Finkelstein (right) will be performing solo on May 10, and on Sunday with the Trio Cordefiato featuring Sean Winkler on guitar and Jeff Leiserson on clarinet.
Laura Finkelstein (right) will be performing solo on May 10, and on Sunday with the Trio Cordefiato featuring Sean Winkler on guitar and Jeff Leiserson on clarinet.

Shirley Meetinghouse Concerts

Shirley Common

Free; donation requested

Sunday, 2 p.m., "Double Your Pleasure," Trinity Brass and Trio Cordefiato

May 4, 2 p.m., "Spring Is Coming, Spring, My Joy," The Stratus Ensemble

May 10, 7 p.m., "Ladies Night Out," multiple performers

June 21, 8 p.m., "Poetic Pictures," tenor Murray Kidd with Elenye German, pianist, works of Ludwig van Beethoven and others

June 26, 6 p.m., Shirley Charitable Foundation Summer Concert Series, Nashoba Valley Concert Band

Sept. 27, 7 p.m., "Gospel Night - Lift Your Voices," local choirs

Dec. 14, 6:30 p.m., Candlelight vespers with the Meetinghouse Chorale and unusual arrangements of traditional holiday tunes

978-425-2600, ext. 211

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