A Venue of One's Own
By: Elise Hugus, November 8, 2011
The Glenway Fripp Trio - Pianist Glenway Fripp, bassist Jim Peterson, and Catherine Cramer perform open house concerts every Wednesday night in Woods Hole.
As the first piano notes of "Where is the Love?" pattered in duo with the rain on a recent Wednesday night, 20 people in Catherine Cramer's Woods Hole home settled in for an evening of entertainment and enchantment.
Initially beginning as an invitation to friends to come to rehearsals, members of the Glenway Fripp Trio have been playing to a room full of enthralled audiences every week since July 2009.
"They just keep on coming. It must mean they like it," said Cramer, the trio's drummer.
Though she sends out e-mail reminders to regulars every week, she said there is always a newcomer who catches wind of the concert via word of mouth.
"I've met people from the community, whom I knew by face, or had heard their names, but never knew them," she said.
An inside night out
While audiences may come for a recession-proof night out, trio members said their rehearsals have been transformed into an opportunity to play for the public as they seek venues to play in Falmouth and beyond.
"In this economy, people are saying, 'What do I want to do differently?' " said pianist Glenway Fripp, who tunes pianos by day.
"As my work diminishes, I have more time to play. We get to listen to each other, and feed off the audience's energy. And it's all by donation."
Cramer said playing in the comfort of her home might have spoiled the trio, who enjoy their audiences' rapt attention and the ability to play whatever—and however—they chose.
"It's very different when you start to play in this house. It's like sculpting the air, like in a symphony hall," said Jim Peterson, the bassist, who also moonlights in the Jeff Lowe Band and Stage Door Canteen.
"It's more of an experience that touches people inside. It's hard to get a spiritual experience in a bar."
A jazz potluck
At times contemplative, at times playful, the trio improvises on jazz standards, prompting the audience to guess what they heard after the song is over.
Cramer said that it was always her intention to give concerts in her home. Her late husband, Thomas H. Hiksdal, designed the high-ceilinged concert room to accommodate 60 people—and a Steinway baby grand piano. The house has seen the likes of classical guitarist Eliot Fisk, who has performed two concerts to raise funds for musicians' scholarships to the Boston Guitar Festival.
"It's so fulfilling for me that the house be used in the way Thomas designed it. It's a gratifying reaction from the community," Cramer said. "And it seems to be filling a need out there."
With people in the audience ranging in age from 22 to over 80, the house concerts provide an opportunity for people of various backgrounds to find something they have in common.
"It's a jazz potluck," said Harvey Culbert, a regular attendee who brought a bottle of wine to add to the assortment of refreshments on the dining room table.
Verity Salmon, the youngest in the room, said she'd met an older gentleman who had hiked the same mountain range in Alaska, where she worked last summer as a research assistant.
"I love it. It's the complete opposite end of the spectrum from what you would find in a student neighborhood," said Salmon. "I came for the music, and ended up meeting people and making connections."