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Hill and Hollow celebrates 25th anniversary

SARANAC — In the beginning, J. Kellum Smith and Angela Brown sang in the choir at the Saranac United Methodist Church.

“We thought the acoustics of the church were so lovely, and the space was very beautiful,” said Brown, who co-founded Hill and Hollow Music with her late husband in 1995.

“It has a lot of wood, beautiful windows, high ceilings. We just thought it would be nice to produce some concerts in that lovely space.”

“Shoestring budget”

— -Recent transplants from New York City, where they were actively involved in music and the arts, they had a lot of contacts.

“Plus, I was teaching at Crane School of Music, where my colleagues there at Crane were good musicians,” Brown said.

“Our earliest concerts, which we started on a shoestring budget, were some of these friends of ours.”

They raided the talented faculty in New York City and places like Crane, University of Vermont, McGill University and SUNY Albany.

Hill and Hollow cast its net wider to attract touring ensembles with bigger names and working with artists’ managers, agents and publicity people.

“It got kind of complicated, and it still is,” Brown said.

“Along the way, we started doing residencies because we acquired the old farmhouse next door that we fixed up and outfitted with a piano.

“We started having artists come not just for concerts, but to come for anywhere from two to five days ahead of the concert where they could give concerts and workshops in the schools in the three-county region, mostly Clinton County but also Essex and Franklin.”

Artists apply for a week, or two-week artist residency to prepare for a concert tour, a recording or break in a new ensemble member.

Hill and Hollow got very busy with this educational component as well as taking ensembles into senior residences such as Meadowbrook Healthcare and the Clinton County Nursing Home.

“We actually ran a parallel series at Lake Forest Living for a number of years,” Brown said.

“Rolls Royce”

Another high point was acquiring the Steinway, a 9-foot Model D concert grand piano, in 2003.

“It’s like the Rolls Royce of pianos,” Brown said.

“Ben and Millie Davies were music educators living in Chazy. They were downsizing and moving to Lake Forest, and they contacted us and asked if we would like to buy their piano. They gave it to us at a very good price.”

The Steinway needed work.

“We put a lot into it to really bring it up to concert standards,” Brown said.

“It’s a 1925-built Steinway. It comes from the Golden Age of the Steinway Company. It’s a very fine instrument, and artists love to play it, and it sounds fabulous. It rings.”

Season lineup

Hill and Hollow continues to engage artists and ensembles without a residency such as Sunday’s program, “Chamber Music for Strings,” which features Arturo Delmoni, violin; Patricia McCarty, viola; Julia Lichten and David Geber, cellos, 3 p.m. at the Saranac Methodist Church.

“These artists are coming up from New York City where they all have very high-powered careers performing and teaching in conservatories in New York,” Brown said.

“Two of them are professors at Manhattan School of Music. They are all eminent soloists also. They are coming for this concert. It’s not a residency. It’s just an outright concert engagement.”

On Jan. 10, 2020, Hill and Hollow welcomes back Alexis Chartrand and Nicolas Babineau with dancer Mlissandre Tremblay-Bourassa for a “CD Launch Party (“un beau ptit son,” a beautiful little sound) and Veille” 7:30 p.m. at the Saranac Fire Hall.

“They are a duo, traditional French-Canadian music,” Brown said.

“This will be their third residency.”

Hill and Hollow celebrates its 25th anniversary with a roster of world-famous artists.

Time after time

Twenty-five years of Hill and Hollow Music programming passed in a flash.

“I miss Kellum,” Brown said.

“I wished he had been here to see it. The board of directors are trying to figure out our plan moving forward and see if we can keep it going.”

2019-2020 Hill and Hollow Music Season at a Glance

¯ Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 — CD Launch Party and veille: Alexis Chartrand and Nicolas Babineau, fiddles, foot-percussion and guitar, with Mlissandre Tremblay-Bourassa, dancer — Saranac Fire Hall, 7:30 p.m.

¯ Friday-Sunday, March 20-22, 2020 — Jazz at the Fire Hall: Sisters Ingrid Jensen, trumpet and Christine Jensen, alto sax; Tim Collins, vibes; Marcos Varela, bass; Jon Wikan, drums; with opening local ensemble Wickmoore Jazz Trio — Saranac Fire Hall, 7:30 p.m. on Friday-Saturday, March 20-21, 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 22 Sunday, May 3, 2020 — Horszowski Trio: Rieko Aizawa, piano; Jesse Mills, violin; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello — Saranac Methodist Church, 3 p.m.

¯ Sunday, June 7, 2020 — Krakauer-Tagg Duo: David Krakauer, clarinet and Kathleen Tagg, piano — Saranac Methodist Church, 4 p.m.

¯ Thursday, July 23, 2020 — Meadowmount School advanced string student ensembles — Saranac Methodist Church, 7 p.m.

¯ Sunday, Aug. 16 — Dana Muller and Gary Steigerwalt: piano four-hands — Saranac Methodist Church, 4 p.m.

¯ Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020 — Alon Goldstein, piano; Mozart Piano Concerti (arr. Lachner) with string quartet and double bass — Saranac Methodist Church, 3 p.m.

¯ Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020 — Rebel Baroque Ensemble: Jrg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Marie Marmer, violins; Matthias Maute, recorder, traverso; John Moran, viola da gamba, cello; Dongsok Shin, harpsichord — Saranac Methodist Church, 3 p.m.