Friday, August 9, 2019

The New England Jazz Band: A fundraiser for area art and nature at Hacker’s Hill

By Mary-Therese Duffy

Carrying a mission statement of creating community together through the arts is a tall order.  How do we do that?  How do we foster a sense of warmth and welcome, a chance to get to know and support one another through the arts? How do we foster community ownership of it so that it becomes a sustaining, nourishing and long-lasting presence in our lives?

The New England Jazz Band entertains the crowd at Hacker's Hill
We could start with the beautiful setting of Hacker’s Hill, precious gem of our community, tended lovingly by Don Fowler for well over 20 years now, sculpting it into what it has become today. Or his pleased, watchful eye of the multiple cars, families, pets and roaming youth pausing for an afternoon of leisure and enjoyment together.  Or the Loon Echo Land Trust now formally stewarding it.

We could also start with a 16-piece band that by the work of leader Steve Schann, has dedicated itself to the promotion and preservation of the Great American Song book. Together for five years, this group of professional musicians and music educators toted their instruments once again to the wide-open expanse, blustering winds and all, with music clips, even clothes pins and binder clips in tow, to secure their sheet music to their stands and performed their concert on Hacker’s Hill on Sunday, August 4.

Their offerings weren’t just sheer delight, they were timeless, timely and for many - stopped time altogether - creating a long and lovely pause to greet old friends and catch up, make new ones over shared fare, similar pets, delightful raffle winnings and more. 

Those attending could look right and enjoy the scrabble of kids up and down the hillside or left to find a couple stealing a sweet dance together, all glowing in the warmth that wasn’t just Hacker’s Hill to own. It was community, people clearly happy to see one another again, generous to meet others for the first time, glowing with the familiar soundtrack of who we are that is treasured as our songbook. 
Everyone even enjoyed a boisterous throwdown: “an extra donation to the RAA (Raymond Arts Alliance) if you can do Mac the Knife!” was the challenge when the band had finished their last song.

Ever read a face that said “Pshaw!”? Jeremy Turner, talented singer and sure fire, crowd pleaser, clearly knew a cake walk when he saw it, and offered a rendition that brought everyone to a fun filled and joyous standing ovation.

There’s a lot wrong in the world right now, but what is very right, is community: local, engaged, kind and welcoming community. Some say that’s generosity, but isn’t it also courage? The arts move our hearts, connect us in ways that drop pretense and allow us to transcend differences, meet each other in the warmth of other horizons, beyond the fences we keep. This not only happened again this year, it deepened; and the requests for next year are already coming.

The Raymond Arts Allaince cannot thank enough the members of the New England Jazz Band, the Loon Echo Land Trust, the many Raymond merchants who donated raffle prizes, (see the Raymond Arts Alliance July newsletter at the Raymond Village Library website for a full listing) and every individual that arrived and engaged, sustaining a kind and welcoming community, beyond the fence.

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