Gevert Oral History Cover Sheet
Interviewee;Christine Gevert, Musical Director of Crescendo
Place of Interview:484 Lime Rock Road, Lime Rock, Ct.
Date:May 1, 2012
Summary of Talk:History and founding of Crescendo: how the idea came about, the church umbrella, first board members, transition into independent group, first concert 2/14/2004, other types of concerts, venue sites, her specialties of early music and period instruments, 2007 established a period instrument orchestra, future plans, Wanda Landowska & Denise Restout influence, all Polish concert Nov. 2012, some local supporters, Yale Festival at Norfolk, Music Mountain, Falls Village Children’s Theatre, Tri-Arts in Sharon, 2 young local musicians with advanced degrees in Early Music.
This is Jean McMillen interviewing Christine Gevert, Musical Director of Crescendo, at her home 484 Lime Rock Road, Lime Rock, Ct. The date is May 1, 2012.
JM: May I have your full name?
CG: My name is Christine Gevert.
JM: When were you born?
CG: I was born on the 17th of August in 1964.
JM: Where were you born?
CG: I was born in Hamburg, Germany.
JM: I know that you have a wonderful background in conducting, musicology, and choral music so I shall skip over that part of your education. (Her full vita is in her folder in the History Room.)
JM: How did you come to the area?
CG: I came to this area at the end of 2001, by then I was living in Lenox, Massachusetts after one half year in Boston which was the first time I came to this country. The priest of this Episcopal Church here in Lime Rock Beth Long hired me as a part time musician at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lime Rock.
JM: Now Christine tell me how the idea of Crescendo evolved. Give me some background, some history and what your future plans are.
CG: The idea of Crescendo came up in 2003; it came out of concerts that I had started to at Trinity Church in Lime Rock, organ and harpsichord concerts. I had a series of concerts for World Peace every Saturday morning over three plus months. Then I put together a choral concert which they hadn’t had in many years, I understand where we invited singers and musicians from other churches in Millerton, Sharon, and Salisbury as well. We did that concert. The time came for me to move on, to move back to Boston, or New York, or go back to Europe. People in Lime Rock were so excited about these projects-chamber music, the organ concerts or the choral work that they asked me, “Couldn’t you see anything that you could do around here?” I have a lot to offer, a lot of plans, a lot of ideas, but I believe that this church is just too small to be able to have such a big music program that I could design or propose. People told me by then, “Why don’t you come up with a proposal that will be under the umbrella of the church for a few years and if so think of becoming an independent organization.” This by then made sense to everybody to see if it got to be self-sustaining at some point. We thought why not give this a try? It is a beautiful thing to do to design my own music program, and so I did. With the support of the singers and musicians and by then most of the parishioners of Trinity Church, Lime Rock, this program got started in the summer and fall of 2003, officially October of 2003. We also counted on the support of Diane Huntstein who is the musical agent who shares her time between New York and Sharon. She helped us in the sense that she had an international musician who was touring in the states, a pianist Paul Badura-Skoda. He and some other chamber musicians gave the first chamber music concert to raise the first funds for Crescendo. That was in October of 2003, and very graciously Carolyn Rohm gave us her residence (Wetherstone in Sharon Ed.) and held a cocktail party and invited many people to come and hear and find out about Crescendo. So those were the beginnings of Crescendo.
JM: Were there other local people involved from the church or from the area that you can think of?
CG: Oh yes, in the beginning there were parishioners of Trinity Church also the Pastor or Priest Beth Long. If I remember well at the beginning was Gay Tucker who was co-President with Randy Williams, and on the board at the very beginning was Randy Rossano from Sharon, Martha Baer from Lakeville, Kitty Benedict from Salisbury; also at the very beginning I think was Judith Sherman or Brown from this parish, and several others. I would need to look at the records as to who was actually really in. It was a bit of a floating group in the beginning. Very soon maybe after a half year or so our President turned out to be Kitty Benedict who was really the one who worked very hard to get our group organized, and get up through the first years. Martha Baer and Randy Rossano were part of that. There was another person in the first years. That was the first era.
Then by 2006 somebody who was also known in this area Herb Prem joined our group and helped us very greatly to transition Crescendo into becoming an independent 501C3. He did all of that work for us to help us become an independent nonprofit organization.
JM: Now would you tell me some of the types of concerts that you have done.
CG: The very first own concert of Crescendo was actually a small vocal ensemble group, similar to our recent concert last week. It was with some of the most talented and dedicated singers, amateurs then; we did a program in February of 2004 on Valentine’s Day so it was about love and music. It was so gracious of the church to host us even though the first concert wasn’t even religious music. Those singers were: Eileen Epperson, soprano, Pam Haft, alto from Sharon who has since moved away, Tom Schindler who is a Trinity Church choir singer as well, and Randy Rossano who was by then singing counter tenor, the male alto voice, and myself. I brought my harpsichord and we did a program that was very well received. That was really our own Crescendo concert with a few singers.
Then I thought about something that I am passionate about which is large choral music, especially the music that has the chorus and echo which is such a fascinating phenomenon. When you have more musicians and singers, you can do this beautiful repertory that was explored by the Italian composers like Gabrielle in the second half of the 16th century, and so we did a double choir concert, right away; the very first choral project of Crescendo, November, 2004. For that because I knew some singers in the area, and people started to come right away, but I thought maybe it wasn’t enough, I collaborated with Norfolk Congregational Church, Elizabeth Allen and her choir. They joined us at the very end. We did one concert in Lime Rock and the other concert in Norfolk. That was our first choral concert in 2004.
JM: Then you moved to Great Barrington for some?
CG: As well. over 2005 we were still establishing ourselves and trying different things. In 2006 we started performing in Great Barrington as a second venue. We had tried a second venue in Hartford which didn’t go very well because we didn’t know the terrain. No body was really was from there. We did a concert in December of 2005 where everybody was doing other things. We had a small to no audience for a wonderful concert; everyone was really very disappointed. We realized that even in the Hartford Cathedral which was wonderful, but we had no clue about publicity, and what it takes. Great Barrington is a wonderful area and a great number of our singers come from Massachusetts; I would say a third of them are from Massachusetts. So it was much more natural. Everybody here is used to going to Gt. Barrington; so we talked. We have had 2 venues there: St. James first that unfortunately had been closed down but will reopen. We are looking forward to going back there as well. Then very graciously and kindly the Congregational Church in Gt. Barrington has hosted us for all these years.
JM: That’s my home church.
CG: That’s your home church. Pastor Van Ausdall, Fred Ford and other trustees have been so supportive of us, really wonderful. Gordon, my husband, has custom built risers around their wooden 6 foot tall pulpit that is otherwise an obstacle for setting up a choir and an orchestra. We store them there, and they can use them for their functions so we have sort of a symbiotic relationship with that church. We get great audiences there. There is a different crowd that here in Lakeville or Lime Rock. Trinity is our home church: our choral concerts are mostly sold out even from the beginning.
JM: They are always different: you’ve done one on Death that was extremely interesting and innovative and in 3D. You have done European music, South American music, and you brought in Chilean performers and instruments. So your concerts that happen usually in November and March are varied, and nobody knows quite what to expect except that it is going to be wonderful.
CG: Thank you for saying that. That is the excitement of being in a chorus, and it is organic. I research constantly, but I also find new musicians. I see how our own singers are developing, what we can achieve, what the next step is, and what will be the challenge for the singers. I come upon repertory and I remember something that I already did; my specialties are the early music and the period instruments. In 2007 we really established the period instrument orchestra which is still a rarity in Connecticut. The Yale School of Music has a period instrument ensemble, very fine and professional. They also draw on some musicians from Boston and New York. Our musicians also come from Boston and New York: I have a core of the same musicians that come back every year, every season. In 2007 we started performing with period instruments which is also a specialty. Nevertheless we’ve done the Brubeck Jazz Mass, the Dance of the Death project was a multimedia with projections, animations, dance, and narration. We collaborated with Simon’s Rock College in Gt. Barrington. There is contemporary music: there is the musician and my Baroque ensemble partner, Rodrigo Tarraza, who also plays the electronic wind instruments, he’s improvised with them, a fusion of Renaissance with modern improvisation. Yes, we always explore new alleys and tried to surprise our audience.
JM: What do you see as the future of Crescendo?
CG: It is a difficult question. I have so many plans on the one hand; I have many dreams and thoughts. I find constantly it is very hard to think far in the future. It is a little bit the nature of how small organizations and culture exist in the United States. Unfortunately you cannot plan very much into the future due to the finances. Even though we have been advised and learned over the years about strategic planning which is a very important thing, we have not gotten to that point. I have a list of things that I would like to do, but I do not know what of them will actually become a reality. I had several plans: one of them is a regular Baroque cantata series. I wouldn’t want to say only Bach cantatas, but Baroque cantatas: they have different formations-from a few instruments and a soloist to a full orchestra or two orchestras and two choirs plus children’s choirs. My idea has always been to start to establish something that does periodic concerts on a more ongoing basis than just twice a year. I would like to draw in people and give younger musicians as well as older the opportunity to perform with really high-end musicians and instrumentalists and learn how exciting it is to perform in historic style.
I think of children’s choruses, such a “Joyful Noise” where some dedicated kids could probably take a couple of other concerts a year, just collaborating with a sister organization, or there is the Berkshire Children’s Chorus where the kids at schools who are very talented. That was one of my dreams: I haven’t been able to realize it.
I also like inviting musicians from other choirs to just come. We set everything up, we have it organized. We have the orchestra. To be able to provide that structure, the venue, and the planning of it to just have people come to enjoy the rehearsals and a concert. That is a little bit my dream to do more than twice a year a large concert which is already wonderful. We haven’t gotten there; it obviously takes a lot of money and organization to do that.
JM: I know that you play the harpsichord beautifully; were you at all influenced by either Wanda Landowska or Denise Restout?
CG: Ah yes, maybe already when I was a young student in Chile, I was not yet a harpsichord student but I already knew of her (Landowska Ed.). There were recordings that I could hear: she was an incredibly inspiring personality. I remember an incredibly inspiring moment when I hear her Goldberg Variations for the first time. I believe it was in Chile on a cassette. When I studied in Germany, I occasionally was able to hear some recordings of her. She was always the incredible figure that I was aware of that had started the early music and harpsichord playing. She was one of the really great people who did that. There was never a place where she was featured so much, neither in Chile nor in Europe that I was aware of. Only when I came to the States and ended up for this incredible coincidence in Lakeville where she lived so much of her life, I started to immerse myself a little bit more and really study her life and legacy, read her books, and listen to more. Only after a couple of years of being here I finally made my way to Denise Restout, and I was enchanted by her. She was so giving and gracious. She was older, but nevertheless very vital; she gave me her long tour (of the Landowska Center where she had lived with Wanda Ed.) with all her explanations. It kindled my passion; I played a little bit for her. Our friendship started, but then unfortunately a few months later she passed away. I regretted that so much. Then I took it upon myself to promote this legacy in this town and also further. This has kind of started to take on a life of its own. What Crescendo is involved with now is a result of our yearlong tribute in 2009 that you were involved with in an exhibit of newspaper clipping and other memorabilia at the Academy Building, home of the Salisbury Historical Society. It was in memory of the 50th anniversary of Wanda Landowska’s death. Then our musicians got involved. Later on a Polish harpsichordist (Wanda was Polish) came and wanted to play here, and asked if we could organize it for him which then I did. Crescendo supported me in that. I was invited last year to travel to Poland to study their early music. All of this was as a result of honoring Wanda and the importance of her tradition which is the only thing that I have been able to bring to the schools so far. Salisbury Central School with Lou Bucceri invited me, and I collaborated with him so we could do something for the first time at a school which was really motivating with kids. You know that as you taught there.
This year in November, 2012, Crescendo is doing an entirely Polish program of choral music mostly of the 17th century. It is again wonderful echo music. Many of the Polish composers studied in Italy with Gabrielle; probably some might have met Monteverdi. There is very little know about their lives but it is fantastic music. Thank God it is all in Latin so we do not have to learn the Polish; that would be a stretch for the amateurs. That was what I was saying; it all evolves pretty organically. You don’t quite know; I have plenty of idea and thoughts.
JM: That’s what makes it so challenging because you haven’t got a straight line. It is all over the place which is very creative and innovative.
CG: Yes, but at the same time I would like have more certainty because sometimes if you know that your future is assured, your creativity can develop differently. I wish that was there. At the moment we are at a point, almost like a breaking point, because one of our large supporters is moving away to the other side of the country. Juliet Matilla has held our concert talks, and sung in the chorus so I have had a real connection with her. She has also really supported Crescendo. They always say don’t rely on one large donor, of course we are not; we are doing many other campaigns.
JM: But she has been a main support.
CG: She has been. Everybody is working very hard. I have to mention Jo Loi who was our President for several years as well and is still a very active board member. She brought us forward so much during many years, and as given incredibly much. Peggy Heck also a teacher has developed our underwriting campaigns and these years have been so difficult since 2008. She has somehow found her way. Jeff Brown who is also a local historian has come on the board in the last years and has developed our web presence. That aspect is so important today. It is modern and out there in the electronic media and the social media. Jeff Brown has done that for us. It is terrible when you start naming people’s names because I am surely forgetting some, but Daniel Garrety, a parishioner of Trinity, has also been a member for many years. Martha Nesbitt acquired people behind the scenes, our treasurer for many years.
JM: And I know that anyone who listens to this tape will realize that there are so many people that on the spur of the moment you can’t remember all their names. They are all valuable in their own special ways.
CG: Oh yes, everybody contributes and for a year or longer our President has been Ed Beatty who was the former broadcaster for the Met. He is not a local person; he lives up in Claverack, New York. He commutes down here; he has given us his time and support. People are also interested in what he has to say with his opera background. It is very interesting our mixture of people that have made this happen.
JM: That’s what makes it so unique, I think. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you would like to add to this interview?
CG: Well, one thing that I envision is that the music and the culture became something more know which is one of the purposes of your interview to make know what is local. Too often I run into people somewhere that have never heard about Crescendo. What I envision, and I am not too ambitious or arrogant, is that people would start to be proud of Crescendo being local and an organization based here. I want people to start to embrace us like Norfolk does with the Yale Festival. I feel that Yale University is a big institution with lots of means and many years of tradition. So understandably the town of Norfolk is very identified with the Festival which is on a great scale. Locally here I am very pleased to see that Music Mountain somewhat is known. I never felt we were competing with Music Mountain; on the contrary we have performed there. Nicholas Gordon has been very supportive of us; he has offered us many times,” Don’t you want to come up on the mountain and perform?” The venue is too small for our chorus. I have only performed chamber music there. I would like people in this area to s become more proud and supportive of Music Mountain, Crescendo and also the Falls Village Children’s Theatre which is becoming a musical entity too, as well as Tri-Arts in Sharon as part of their own culture. We bring international artists here too; we support children who have become musicians in their own right.
There are two local girls that now are becoming both soloists and specialists in early music. One is Rebecca Palmer daughter of Bob Palmer in Canaan. She studied in San Francisco, California, and is now in Boston as a specialist in Early Music. I coached her at first in light opera in Salisbury and then I coached her over the years in Early Music. The other is Elysia Da Paolo, Paul Da Paola and Judy Dansker’s daughter who went to study at Bloomington for Early Music. She is giving her master’s recital now and she has become a soloist. She was our first 16 year old soloist in “Glorious Vivaldi”. I heard her and I believed in her musicianship and her maturity. I coached her in 2005. We have done many workshops and classes, and here and there I have worked with young people. I would like our community to become more aware and work better together.
JM: It will come; you are still a very young organization in the scheme of things.
CG: We are going towards our 10th anniversary.
JM: It is miniscule compared to Norfolk, Tri-Arts. It will come because you have the enthusiasm and support of many people in the community. I want to thank you so much for giving me this interview.
CG: Thank you, Jean. It is a pleasure.
Property of the Oral History Project: The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury, Ct. 06068