Even knowing in advance that the Concert Hall at Groton Hill Music would be amazing, there was not a way that I could have conceived how spectacular it would actually be. The same blond wood, and gentle, intentional curves as the smaller Meadow Hall, as well as the stone at the bottom, and pattern of vertical wooden reeds just above it create again a sense of being held in a large ship. The 1,000 seat theater still feels intimate, with the mezzanine encircling the stage, and the balcony set just above the back part of the auditorium.
The openness of the room makes one want to breathe in the atmosphere and talk to other people, because it’s just too good to hold in. The woman next to me had been to a sound check and noted that the panels lining the sides of the upper part of the room move up or down according to the need of the performers, and the clear panels floating above the middle of the room (perhaps seventy-five feet up?) can also shift to adjust the sound. We were seated in the seventh row of the orchestra, but had walked around to take in the astounding beauty of the place before the concert began, and it was clear that every seat in the house would offer not only a terrific view, but also stellar sound.
We were marveling at the thought that went into every detail of the hall as the performers for the evening walked in: twenty-two year old jazz piano prodigy Mathew Whitaker and his incredible band. From the clips I had heard, I knew it would be remarkable to see him at his tender, and already seasoned age, but there was no way I could have anticipated the exuberance with which he lives the music. Seated at the grand piano, with an electric keyboard just above the regular keyboard, and a Wurlitzer organ just behind him so that he could pivot and use all three in any given piece, it was an astonishing treat that left us all spellbound and awestruck. I knew that he was born with the facility to repeat even complicated patterns after hearing them just once, but to listen to what he has already composed is another feat. Having played piano through high school just makes me appreciate that much more the exceptional fluency he embodies, and uses to express what is clearly flowing through him. It is not just that he learned the language of music at an early age, it is the way he takes it in, and makes it his own brand of joy that he hands us on one ebullient plate.
I wasn’t sure I would be able to sleep last night, because it was that igniting an experience. But if the performance demanded a lot of the audience to keep up, it was clear that he delivered with every ounce of his being, and was thrilled to do so. When this young man announced that it was the last tune of the evening, the audience let out a disappointed “oooh.”
“I know. I’m sad, too,” he replied and then smiled broadly. He was loving it as much as we all were. I will be able to listen to his music on the various platforms on which it is available, but nothing will replace being in the room with this exceptional musician and every member of the five pieces with which played at the magnificent Groton Hill Music hall.