THE FIRST PiP CONCERT
A roadside sign in Plymouth, N.H.
Midori and Charles Abramovic take a bow after the concert in Plymouth, N.H.
Midori greets young audience members
Midori and young audience members in Plymouth, N.H.
BY CHARLES DANZIGER
The first concert to launch Midori’s extraordinary new foundation, “Partners in Performance” (affectionately known as “PiP”), took place on Sunday, November 2, 2003, in Plymouth, New Hampshire. The purpose of PiP is to bring top-flight performers of chamber music and recitals to under-served venues in the U.S. that would not normally have the funds, stature, or connections to attract such talent. Plymouth, New Hampshire was delighted to have been chosen.
Midori (and, we hope, other performers in the future) donated her services, and the money from ticket sales will be used to sponsor further classical music events. Friends of the Arts in Plymouth, like the next two presenters on the PiP tour (The Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vermont, and Algonquin Arts in Manasquan, New Jersey), had been selected because of their impressive record of promoting the arts and serving the local community.
Although I myself am as far from a musician as one can imagine (I’m actually an arts lawyer in New York City), I was delighted when Midori asked me to be one of four trustees of PiP, the seed money for which came from the prize money she won as part of her Avery Fisher Prize two years ago.
At 7:45 am on October 31 (an inhumanly early hour for late-sleeping Manhattanites like me), seven of us — including, of course, Midori — piled into a rented car on New York’s Upper West Side and made the six-hour trek to the leafy town of Plymouth. We were fueled by coffee and doughnuts, navigated by Midori’s assistant Kelly Gehrs, and masterfully driven by a brilliant advisor to Midori on all things musical, Marcos Klorman. Another trusted trustee, Evelyn Velleman, had come all the way from London to join us, and Midori’s press agent, Kathryn King, and her daughter, completed our merry band. During the car ride, we discussed the future of PiP, and especially how best to expand the organization by reaching out to other artists, performing art centers, and funders.
On the way to Plymouth, we stopped at New Hampshire’s discount shopping outlets (which is, after all, also a part of American culture). Our car nearly bursting with the fruits of this little detour, we finally arrived at our destination: the “Common Man Inn,” a rambling wooden hotel near the concert hall. I realized that we had truly landed in the countryside when I saw the chandeliers made of antlers and the fireplaces in the rooms. The Inn was, in fact, a recently converted popsicle factory.
That evening, our hosts in Plymouth graciously arranged a delicious dinner in honor of Midori and PiP at a home the likes of which I had never seen. We approached it through a series of small country roads and, as in a modern-day Hansel and Gretel, we arrived to find a path illuminated with bright white lights that guided us to the house. Nestled in the dark woods and built and inhabited by an architect, the house had all the fantasy and playfulness of the Spanish architect Gaudi, with a little Walt Disney thrown in: multi-level floors, a spiraling staircase, and cozy cave-like rooms.
The other dinner party guests, all members of the local community, shared Midori’s vision of supporting the arts in parts of the country that are literally and figuratively cut off. They also each had their own intriguing stories of how they had “landed” in Plymouth: one was a die-hard skier from Austria who had fallen in love with the beautiful New Hampshire mountains; another was a video artist from Boston who was inspired by nature; and a third was a transplanted Brooklynite who was a devoted hiker. The latter told me that, for safety reasons, she carries a loaded gun during night-walks (this was New Hampshire, after all — the state with the motto “Live Free or Die.”). Each new acquaintance was equally charming and welcoming, and by the end of the evening – as I dipped into my second helping of chocolate cake and fresh fruit – I thought to myself that country living has its distinct advantages.
The following day, Midori rose at dawn (as usual) to prepare for the concert, while the rest of us lazily enjoyed our leisurely Sunday brunch. When we finally arrived at the concert hall, a young boy in the atrium was playing his violin to entertain the audience before the real concert began. As we milled about, the excitement of the day’s event was palpable: a performance by the likes of Midori at this venue was, quite simply, unheard of.
Finally, the concert began, and Midori and her accompanist, the gifted pianist Charles Abramovic (who had flown up especially from Philadelphia), did not disappoint us. The first piece, the Paganini/Liszt La Campanella was, even to my untrained ears, fiendishly complicated and revealed Midori’s virtuosity. It was, I thought, akin to the double-black diamond ski slopes located just a few miles away. We were riveted to our seats as Midori went on to play sonatas by Brahms, Bach, and Saint-Saens. The concert ended with an encore – Le Printemps (Spring) by Milhaud – that gave us all hope for the time of year when the leaves would once again come to the New Hampshire trees. The hushed audience was enthralled not only by the performance, but also by the unusual gift of music they had been chosen to receive.
Afterwards, as I put on my coat and began to contemplate the long ride back to New York, I was approached by a gentleman who I remembered from the night before. He was a young music teacher in Plymouth (although his Italian accent suggested more distant roots.) He declared that this was the best concert he had ever attended, and that it would leave a lasting impression on his students. His parting words to me were: “New Hampshire is filled with trees, but PiP has brought us oxygen.”