Labor Day Concerts

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(Host) Then commentator John Scagliotti purchased his home in Guilford, he inherited a Labor Day Tradition along with it.

(Scagliotti) There’s a big antique pipe organ in my barn. The barn came that way when my partner Andy and I bought our farm from some hippies back in 1974.

A few weeks after we moved in, we met the people who actually owned the organ. They called themselves the Friends of Music at Guilford and it seemed that they had been having concerts every Labor Day weekend in our barn since 1966. Everyone we talked to simply assumed that the annual end-of-summer organ concert – already at that time a 9 year tradition – would continue no matter who owned the barn.

We were curious to know how the old organ had ended up in our barn so we asked our new friends of music.

The story was that back in 1965 Graham Down was a summer resident of Guilford. He taught literature at a school in New Jersey, and he was an organ enthusiast.

When he heard that a church in Bitterford Maine was selling their 1896 Pipe Organ, he went up there and bought it. Thousands of pieces of organ (there are 550 pipes alone) were disassembled.

Now since the organ was about twice the size of Graham’s Guilford hunting cabin, he did what many of us would find strange. He asked his neighbors if he could rebuild the organ in their barn. Even stranger, they said yes.

So Graham celebrated the completion of his 1966 summer project of organ reconstruction with a concert and invited his neighbors in Guilford to come by.

After a few years, Graham left but the organ stayed; and ended up with the Friends of Music at Guilford.

When we first met this motley band, we had yet to hear their music. And when we were told that in addition to the organ concert, they had established an annual Labor Day Sunday tradition of inviting their non-professional musician friends to get together as a weekend orchestra to perform on what was our front lawn, we just assumed that with friends like this, music needed no enemies.

Imagine 20 violins, 2 oboes, a few French horns, a base, a bassoon, two tympanis, and a big ole tuba coming over to play at your house! Well what could we say but yes?

I was really struck by how determined these folks were to entertain themselves and anyone who came to listen in such a grandiose way.

When I questioned the amateur nature of the event, Nick Hume, one of the founders, reminded me that the word amateur is actually from the Latin word, amore, which means to love. And it got me thinking I too had fallen into the trap of believing that professional musicians are just better than amateurs.

What a surprise I was in for, when I first heard the hills of Guilford filled with the sweet sounds of amateur music. It’s still going on here at our farm 39 years later and if you’re in the neighborhood this weekend, drop on by. Everyone else does.

This is John Scagliotti from Guilford.

The Friends of Music of Guilford, a non-profit music arts group, presents many free concerts in southern Vermont. A schedule of concerts is online.

John Scagliotti is the creator of the public television series “In the Life” and the Emmy Award-winning producer of the documentary “Before Stonewall.”

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