A reflection about Music on Norway Pond


from Jazimina MacNeil, mezzo-soprano

In the dress rehearsal for Fiddler on the Roof two years ago, the men's chorus was really struggling to bring the L'chaim song to life (pun intended). Jody asked them to put away their music, to trust in themselves and each other that they had it memorized, and explained to them that the task at hand was not to be perfectly correct, but to embody the joy and communion and wild jubilation of the musical story in that moment. I still get chills remembering the alchemy of what happened next: how the skill and focus of the professional singers mixed with the enthusiasm of the children and Jody's permission to be fabulous transformed these men from proper, inhibited, anxious adults, into shining, wild, exuberant citizens of Anatevka. In the performance they sang like they'd never sung before and that gift of freedom, Jody's permission to exceed our own expectations, still lives inside each of us who were there with them in Hancock that Sunday afternoon.


It's not just children who need this kind of encouragement, we ALL need to be reminded that our limitations are the stuff of our own imagination. We're making our world every day, consciously or unconsciously, and singing with Jody reminds us that beauty is an option.


2016-2017 Season Announcement

In just a few weeks, our new season of music will be launched, thankfully after the election and just in time for us all to start gathering together for Thanksgiving feasts, holiday parties and soul-satisfying concerts. And what a terrific season has emerged!

Highlights are difficult to prioritize because all of the concerts seem like they will be highlights. 

In February, the Norway Pond Festival Singers, with its annual contingent of tenors and basses, will join forces with the Conval Select Chorus and a hot new Bluegrass ensemble out of the NE Conservatory called The Ladles for a performance of Carol Barnett’s powerful “The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass”

And the Hancock Family Christmas Concert just keeps getting better (and more crowded!). This year, guitarist John Muratore will be our guest artist, joining the Junior Minstrels, Festival Singers and Village Ringers. 

Our first concert on November 13th is going to appeal to a broad spectrum of music-lovers. Three Blind Mice is an uncannily engaging jazz trio from NE Conservatory. There might even be some tap-dancing involved. 

During last year’s well-received performance of “Of Thee I Sing”, we all fell in love with presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen played by David McFerrin. Lucky us…he has agreed to return and sing a poignantly crafted recital of songs from World War I with soprano Deborah Selig. 

The premier string quartet from NE Conservatory, the Omer Quartet, will be causing our pulses to race at their performance in April. 

The schedule is outlined below. There are four Series concerts and you can order season tickets online or at the door. Tickets to the Bluegrass Mass must be purchased separately. Your donations at the door for both the Family Christmas Concert and Junior Mints production of Bells Are Ringing (“The Party’s Over”, “Just in Time”) will be gratefully received.

And finally, our annual BISTRO DINNER is on Saturday, April 8th and will feature a film called “Talent Has Hunger” about four young cellists in Boston over a five year period. It is a compelling documentary and features three cellists who have played here in Hancock. One of them, Emileigh Vandiver (“The Armed Man”) will be at the dinner. 

So, let the music begin! I can’t wait to greet you all at the door of the Meeting House. Thank goodness for music – it lights up the soul and connects all of us in the best of ways.

Junior Mints Prepare for Tanglewood Debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Thirty-two young singers from the Monadnock region are busily rehearsing for their debut performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood on Saturday night, July 9th!

The Norway Pond Junior Minstrels, prepared by their founder and director Jody Hill Simpson, will perform Carl Orff’s iconic work Carmina Burana with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Canadian maestro Pierre Lacombe.

Jody was the founder and artistic director of the Boston-based PALS Children’s Chorus (now know as Voices Boston) until ten years ago when she and her husband moved to Hancock where she formed Music on Norway Pond, which includes a Concert Series and three choruses. During her 16 years with PALS, they performed over 70 concerts with the Boston Symphony in Boston Washington DC, Tanglewood and New York City’s Carnegie Hall. 

The Junior Minstrels (fondly known as the Junior Mints) were founded by Jody about 7 years ago and it was just this past season when she felt that they were ready for an adventure outside of Hancock. The children performed Carmina Burana with the Norway Pond Festival Singers under her direction in 2014. She became aware that the BSO had yet to contract a children’s chorus for their Tanglewood performance of Carmina Burana and on an impulse, contacted them in January, proposing the Junior Minstrels as a potential children’s chorus. Within a few hours, they were hired. By word of mouth, we have opened up the experience to other children in the region including members of the Conval choral ensembles under the direction of Krystal Morin. 

The children will travel to Tanglewood on Thursday July 7 and immediately rehearse for three hours in the Koussevitsky Music Shed. They will spend three nights in the Berkshires rehearsing and touring the area. On Saturday morning, the children will rehearse again in an Open Dress Rehearsal format with the Boston Symphony and on Saturday night, they will perform for over 10,000 concert-goers. 

The Junior Minstrels will be wearing new uniforms, embroidered peasant-style shirts, hand-made for them in the Ukraine. Several donors have generously under-written the expense. Graphic designer Margaret Baker has created a Junior Minstrels logo which will appear on their rehearsal tee-shirts. 

We are quite sure that the experience awaiting the thirty-two member of Junior Mints will be life-changing.  Jody enthuses, “The transformative power of making music on a stage with over 200 professional musicians is profound. The young singers will use it as an important benchmark for the rest of their lives.”


Launching our Eighth Concert Season on Norway Pond

You might not know this about me, but I could very well win the prize for being one of the most challenging audience members in the region.  I am known to get restless during concerts.  I make lists, plan meals, and read the program ads and lists of donors too many times.  I am even guilty of leaving a concert at intermission…more than once!  To keep me glued to the edge of my seat, the performance has to be riveting, with passionate risk-taking and consummate artistry. I want to feel that the musicians are communicating right to me. I like it when my heart races, when I get goose bumps, when I get choked up.

I set Music on Norway Pond’s series of concerts to my own ridiculously high standards and I invite you, our essential audience, to join me.

Johnny Appleseed in Hancock?

Bill Faller, master piano technician in the Monadnock region, is my hero. He is quietly omnipresent, like a spirit, slipping into our churches, concert halls and homes, giving our pianos much-needed makeovers, tweaks and TLC. He even “plants” pianos, or should I say “transplants” them in new places- the Johnny Appleseed of piano cultivation. Many of these pianos have been abandoned- unplayable, extinct relics. (There is a warehouse called Piano Artisans in Fitchburg full of these forsaken, once-loved pianos. Last Thanksgiving, Bill took me there and helped select a piano for the newly renovated lower floor of the Hancock Meeting House. It was a baby grand made by Stanwood…and “Stan” has already become an essential part of our town’s rehearsals, concerts and celebrations, living a new and happy life in that sunny, vibrant space).

With his artful touch, Bill glues, sands, felts, fiddles, tinkers and tunes. He adds humidity stabilizers and mends or replaces broken ivories. He even polishes. Have you ever heard the term “voicing”? I hadn’t but that is his true genius, transforming the sound or “voice” of the piano from a metallic, unsubtle noise to a warm, inviting, flexible voice. And suddenly, the piano becomes fun to play. Under Bill’s care, every piano becomes its best self. 

And Bill remembers when the concerts are and shows up to give the piano its empowering massage. He gave our Yamaha its pre-concert tweak this past Friday in preparation for the highly anticipated performance by Brazilian pianist Cristian Budu. Cristian arrived early Sunday afternoon, in plenty of time to greet and make friends with his piano for the afternoon. He sat down on the bench and played a few impressive bars of music, broke into a huge smile and declared “I love this sound! It is my favorite sound! Thank you!” He stood up and we hugged in our shared glee at how great the piano felt and sounded.

An hour later, Cristian came to our house next door with some scary news. The e-flat, two above middle c, would not play. It broke during his warm up. omg. Beethoven, Debussy, Scriabin…just how many e-flats were going to be missed? Is it possible to play without an e-flat? Panic set in. After a few phone calls, and only voice messages left on a recorder, all I could do was pray that Bill really did show up for the concert. He said he was coming but it was a heart-breakingly gorgeous day..the first real day of spring. Anyone in their right mind would be out raking or pruning or hiking or biking until sunset. Who would not be seduced by the balmy outdoors?

I waited and I paced while Cristian sat upstairs at the compromised keyboard and played as the audience began to trickle and eventually stream in. I think he was trying to adjust to an e-flat-less sound world. "Just how many e-flats are there?" I obsessed. Probably thousands.

It was ten minutes to 4 and another car pulled up. Out jumped Bill, his tool case in hand. “I was outside and didn’t get any of your messages til late,” he said as he ran upstairs to the sanctuary. I heard applause from the awaiting audience, clapping as he strode confidently down the aisle. A few minutes later I heard a cheer worthy of Fenway Park. The concert-goers had been treated to an extra, unexpected performance, witnessing Bill Faller work his own kind of artistry and magic on the piano. It was mersmerizing.

The bell in the steeple rang four times and Debussy filled the church...nuanced, ethereal, powerful and literally, all over the keyboard…a different incarnation of mastery and magic. His playing of Debussy (and Scriabin and Beethoven) was brilliant and more. We were all transfixed. And there were lots and lots of e-flats.

It was quite an afternoon- an unforgettable experience on many levels. But more than anything, it confirmed my hunch that Bill Faller is indeed the Johnny Appleseed of pianos. All he needs is a pan for a hat and some ragged clothes. As Artistic Director of Music on Norway Pond, I am ultimately responsible for all e-flats and more. Thanks to Bill, I went to bed that night with another tune playing in my head..Johnny Appleseed’s famous grace. “Oh the Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need - the sun and the rain and the….e-flat key…”

Our entire region of music lovers should join me in a quiet moment of gratitude for having Bill Faller in our midst.

2014-2015 Season Announcement

Music on Norway Pond launches our 7th season, which will feature some of the most exciting musicians in New England as well as singers from our own Monadnock region. 

It is time to make your way to the newly renovated Meeting House for our Sunday afternoon Concert Series.  These concerts are always at 4 pm, always an hour in length, and always incredibly exciting. Three of the concerts, including the first one on November 16th,  will feature some of the most gifted young musicians at New England Conservatory.  Our Artistic Director Jody Simpson has been a student, the head of the Choral Department, and a Trustee at NEC, and she has maintained a close connection over the years.  We are all reaping the rewards with concerts that are rich with the inspired artistry and incomparable spirit of these dynamic young musicians.  The fourth concert in the series is an operaSegnor Deluso (this one's on a Saturday afternoon, January 10th).  

On February 15th, the Norway Pond Festival Singers will offer a performance of the powerful choral work The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace that is sure to rival the impact of last year’s Carmina Burana

Of special note are two events in January. After Segnor Deluso, there will be a Bistro Dinner next door in the Vestry. Last year, our Bistro Dinner sold out, and for good reason, as it was a magical night for all who attended. And on Saturday, January 24th, in the late afternoon, there will be CD Release Party for Choro Bastardo, last year’s surprise hit ensemble from NEC. They have graduated, but are coming back to Hancock to play at the Simpsons' house and to give you an opportunity to buy their newly released CD. These will be two fabulous parties to brighten up the darkest afternoons of the year.

Please visit our website to see our calendar in detail.  You can also buy tickets to the Concert Series, the performance of The Armed Manand the CD release party.   And please watch for future announcements about the upcoming Bistro dinner.

Summer Update

Taking a summer breather… 

                                               recharging for the fall...

                                                                                      waiting for a visit from my muse 

Every June, after the last concert is over, I hibernate. Not the usual climate for this sort of activity, I admit,  but warm, muggy weather always puts me in a state of suspension. And I rest. I reflect back on all of the concerts of the year and I wonder how on earth I ever managed to produce 8 concerts and will I ever be able to do it again. Hibernation…low-level depression…exhaustion…. waiting for the return of my trusty muse.

And invariably, she returns and I feel myself waking up to the possibilities of another season of Music on Norway Pond. I greet her with great relief!

Last season was one for the record books. Carmina Burana was a peak artistic experience for the choristers, soloists, instrumentalists and audience. The weather behaved and the audience stood in appreciative awe. Joy abounded. NEC on Norway Pond sent us the Trio Cleonice playing the Tschaikovky trio, Yoo Jin Jang playing her Stradivarius and the hugely popular Choros Bastardo, wowing the audience with their infectious virtuosity. Damn Yankees also hit the mark with little kids turning in big performances. We even had our first opera, Bon Appetit! and our first fund-raising dinner right afterwards. 

How on earth to follow up on such a stellar season? And then, I hear a knock at the door……and next year begins to take shape. The ideas begin to flow and the concerts emerge.

Three more NEC on Norway Pond concerts. A one act opera in January. A performance of Karl Jenkins’ iconic The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace in February. The Hancock Family Christmas Concert featuring a 9-year old fiddling phenom, Quinn Eastburn. These are just a hint.

And in the middle of it all, we received word from the IRS that Music on Norway Pond has received official non-profit status, making all donations tax-deductible and also making MONP eligible for receiving grants from foundations and corporations. That should help us a lot, as our expenses are rising along with the breadth and depth of our season.

Our goal for this coming year? Spread the word about our concerts to the colleges and high schools in our region, encouraging students and faculty to come to the concerts and enjoy our unique one-hour no intermission format, featuring some of the most passionately performed, excellent, inspired music in our region.

See you in November!


An Unexpected Visitor

You never know who might be sitting next to you!


My job is rarely mundane. At times it is a bit routine. At other times it’s quite hectic. But some of the most heightened times are right before our concerts featuring visiting musicians. I worry a lot. Will enough people come? Will the musicians come? (That is the scariest worry) Will the concert “hit its mark” artistically?

Last Sunday was no exception. I had never heard Yoojin play the violin. Trusting Rick Feit at New England Conservatory to send me their finest, I still began to worry. And then I had to pick them up at the bus stop in Nashua. Will the bus arrive on time? Will they be on it? (And I haven’t even discussed snowstorms!)

Little did I know that when Yoojin and Mana disembarked, another totally unexpected guest arrived, too, sitting quietly in the dark, invisible until 4:00 when the music began.

Yoojin and Mana played Mozart, Dvorak and Strauss with passionate energy. The audience sat in rapt attention for over an hour,  absorbing the unusually rich sounds of the violin, appreciating Yoojin and Mana’s mastery of the music. Afterwards, we all rose to our feet, asking for just a few more minutes with the music, the musicians and that glorious sound.

It was only afterwards that Yoojin revealed the identity of the third visitor to Hancock- “Rainville”, her 1697 Stradivarius violin. Actually, it wasn’t hers, it was on loan to her after winning the prestigious Munetsugu competition.

“May I hold it?” were the first words out of my mouth and indeed, I held it… reverently. I couldn’t have been more thrilled than if someone pointed out the Mona Lisa hanging on the back wall!

The bell in the steeple rang. I looked up and thought “Paul Revere, meet Antonio Stradivari, 100 years your elder.” What a wonderful introduction to make on a cold November afternoon!

Season Opener Features Brilliant Young Violinist Yoojin Jang


MUSIC ON NORWAY POND launches its 2013-14 season this Sunday, November 17, at 4pm featuring violinist Yoojin Jang, a graduate student at the New England Conservatory of Music. “She is 20 years young, beautiful, brilliant and heading towards a stellar solo career” enthuses Jody Hill Simpson, founder and artistic director of Music on Norway Pond. 

Simpson, also a graduate of the same New England Conservatory, has recently forged a new collaborative relationship with the Conservatory. Four concerts this season will feature some of its most promising and dynamic young musicians. “I don’t think there is anything more exciting than experiencing the unbridled energy of a brilliant, emerging young artist” says Simpson. “Being able to regularly tap into the excellence of the young musicians who are training at the Conservatory is an enormous gift to our area, invigorating for the older concert goers and inspiring to the young musicians.”

Yoojing Jang performed extensively throughout her native country of South Korea, appearing with the top Korean orchestras including the KBS Symphony Orchestra and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Yoojin also appeared with the Budapest Festival Orchestra under the direction of Ivan Fischer and was awarded the Prize for Best Performance of the New Zealand commissioned work at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition. She will be playing sonatas by Mozart and Strauss and a work by Antonin Dvorak. Collaborative pianist Mana Tokuno, a member of the NEC faculty will join her in performance.

Highlights of the upcoming season include an opera in January (Lee Hoiby’s Bon Appetit), Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in February (with soloists from New England Conservatory), the Trio Cleonice in March and the winners of the Conservatory Honor’s Competition in April.

The concert at the Hancock Meeting House will be approximately one hour in length with no intermission. Tickets are $15, available at the door. Children are admitted free of charge. Season tickets can be purchased on Music on Norway Pond’s new website musiconnorwaypond.org.


Welcome to our Website

Summer is almost over and in my world, the best season of the year is upon us. I can feel the energy buzzing and sparking wherever I go.

After seven years of music-making on Norway Pond, our new web-site has been born. Created by Ruth Smith with the professional assistance of graphic designer Margaret Baker, we are launched! I think it looks elegant, inviting and pleasingly aesthetic!

The site contains lots of useful information including the season’s calendar and how to join our choral ensembles. There is a gallery of all of our past visiting artists and a slide show. There is also an easy way to contribute on-line to Music on Norway Pond and to add your name to our mailing and e-mail lists.

We are particularly excited about our brand new collaborative project with New England Conservatory of Music.  Three NEC on Norway Pond concerts will feature some of their finest young emerging artists…not to be missed!

Finally, we have formed a board of directors to help steer us bravely into the future. We have filed for non-profit status which will allow all contributions to be tax deductible and also make us eligible to receive grants  to support our activities.

This blog will be used for commenting on upcoming concerts, recommending other concerts in the New England region and to share other musical insights and anecdotes with anyone who wants to read them. It is a first for me and I am inspired!

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