The Rapidan Orchestra paid tribute to Ukraine during its spring concerts Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Music Room in Orange. With Benjamin Bergey conducting, the program featured Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #2, based on Ukrainian themes, and “Melody for Symphony Orchestra” by Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk. Soaking it all in Friday evening, Willow Drinkwater of Gordonsville came away delighted and inspired. “To be in that space—the Music Room, with crystal chandeliers reflecting rainbows over musicians—brought waves of good feelings, especially during the Skoryk piece dedicated to Ukraine’s triumphant spirit in the face of such adversity.”
In the midst of the concert, she made an interesting connection. “During the pandemic, my sister and I have been writing our autobiographies,” she told me. “I got stuck on ages 13-15 when we moved from easygoing Upstate New York to frenetic Long Island. It was while listening to ‘In the Steppes of Central Asia’ I was transported back to a memory of hearing that tune at a Jones Beach theater and how music had brought me back to life during that period of adolescence.” Suddenly, she had a way to write about those teen years. “Writer’s block has gone!” she declared.
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Lyle Sanford plays second French horn for the Rapidan Orchestra and serves as vice president of the group’s board. He was thoroughly pleased with the performances and the orchestra’s growing ranks: “We now have practically a full wind section—two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets and one bassoon—so just missing the second bassoon. The full harmonies are much richer. Besides sounding better to the audience, we play better when we can hear more of the harmony.” Not only that, the brass section has grown as well. Sanford praised Jen Clark of Culpeper, who recently joined the orchestra and plays first French horn. “She is very good,” he said.
Thanks, Rapidan Orchestra, for the gift of live classical musical right in Orange.
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I’ve walked around James Madison’s Montpelier many times, but until Saturday afternoon, it had been years since I’d taken a guided tour. I got caught up by taking two: one on the Madison family’s enslaved workers, led by Darlene Crawford, and a “highlights” tour with a visit to three rooms in the mansion, led by Sandra Smith. Both tours offered just the right mix of facts and anecdotes, and the interpreters kept things moving while allowing sufficient time for questions.
After Crawford’s tour, I chatted with B.J. Pryor of Williamsburg, who worked for 40 years as an interpreter in Colonial Williamsburg and currently performs as Benjamin Franklin. He said Crawford’s commentary aptly conveyed “the contradictions, the complexity, of the whole situation” of enslavement at Montpelier. Remarking that some people might say the reconstructed slave quarters in the South Yard don’t look all that bad, he quoted Franklin: “There are no ugly loves, nor handsome prisons.”
Later, in the Madison Family Cemetery, I caught up with Matt Moore, a Georgia resident who had traveled to the area for a wedding. Moore said of Montpelier, “It’s beautiful. I feel like I’m more in Kentucky than Virginia.” When I told him a little about the dispute between some members of Montpelier’s board of directors and the Montpelier Descendants Committee, a topic much in the news, he grew thoughtful. The dilemma was not to be solved in a brief conversation, and he had wedding festivities to go to, but he had the interested look of someone who might read up on the subject when time permitted.
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On Saturday evening, Waddell Memorial Presbyterian Church in Rapidan hosted its first Fifth Saturday Open Mic and Jam in two years. After a pandemic-related hiatus, the landmark church with the wooden spire again welcomed singers and bluegrass, gospel and folk musicians from across the region to share in a pot luck supper and then perform in the sanctuary.
Among the singers was Don Gerhart of Radiant, a dapper gent whose songs included “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” and “There Will Be Peace in the Valley for Me.” Lynne Mauss of Locust Grove, whose soaring voice has enlivened many a church service at Waddell, also sang. On this occasion, to the audience’s surprise, Mauss prefaced her performance by lifting up a large white rabbit for all to see. She announced that she and her husband, Gary Mauss, had brought along the 12-year-old August so they could keep a watchful eye on their aged and beloved pet.
Lynne allowed that it may have been the first time a rabbit had come inside Waddell (built in 1874). There are, however, plenty of bunnies scampering around the churchyard. Perhaps August was not the only rabbit in Rapidan listening when Lynne sang or when Waddell’s own Rev. Charles “Mac” McRaven performed “What a Wonderful World,” the hauntingly lovely tune popularized by Louis Armstrong.
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Send your tips and quips to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Hilary Holladay is a biographer and resident of Rapidan. Her most recent book is The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography.