What do you do when you get snowed in for a couple of days in Vermont? Plan a trip to get out of Vermont!
This year, we went to Carnegie Hall to see Keith Jarrett’s piano solo concert. I had never been to Carnegie Hall and did not quite know which seats to select, but I ended up with the front row of something called “Dress Circle.” Carnegie Hall has four layers of balconies, of which the third one is called “Dress Circle.” Reading about the history of Carnegie Hall, I learned that it was specifically designed and built for superior acoustic characteristics. The idea was conceived in 1987 and the construction of the building was completed in spring of 1891.
|Around the same time that Carnegie Hall was being constructed in New York City, Edward Swift Isham, a Chicago lawyer, purchased an old Vermont farm house in 1885 and turned it into a 10,000 sqft summer house. Isham renamed the house Ormsby Hill and welcomed many guests, including Mrs Julia Grant, a wife of General Ulysis Grant, on July 29th, 1895. Atop rolling hills in the valley, sandwiched between the Taconic mountain range and the Green Mountains, it must have been an idyllic place for Isham to spend summers, where his grandfather, Dr Ezra Isham, came to practice medicine in 1800.|
|Ezra and Nancy Isham had six children and their oldest son, Pierrepont, born in 1802, studied law under Judge Richard Skinner and established his law practice in Bennington. Pierrepont married Samantha Swift, a daughter of the first minister to serve Manchester’s Congregational Church, was appointed to the Vermont Supreme Court and later lived in New York City where he died in 1877. Pierrepont and Samantha had three children, Edward Swift, Mary and Henry. Edward’s sister, Mary, married Major Sartell Pretice and had four children. Marry’s oldest son married Alta Rockefeller, daughter of John D. Rockefeller.|
Over on the other side of ocean, Japan was coming to the end of the Samurai era, when Commodore Perry came to Shimoda with the infamous Black Ship and demanded to open the country for trade with America. Japan had been a closed country for 220 years (1633 to 1853), since the Tokugawa shogunate enacted the policy whereby no foreigner could enter, nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death.
|My great great grandfather, Bunnai Endo, was born in 1853 in a Samurai family. At that time in Japan, there was a class system that indicated social hierarchy and everyone was classified as either Samurai, Farmer, Engineer, or Merchant. My great grandfather, Zensaku Endo’s birth registration shows Bunnai Endo as his father and he was a Bushi (samurai class). Bunnai taught children of Samurai families at a school generally called “Terakoya”, and later became the first principal of the Minami Koizumi Elementary School in Sendai, Japan. The Office of School Principal, which still to this date proudly hangs the pictures of all the School Principals in the past, has the framed photograph of Bunnai Endo on the wall. How do I know that is my great great grandfather? I have the same picture that was handed down to me by my father.|
Between 1887 to 1891, at Andrew Carnegie’s request, Carnegie Hall’s architect William Burnet Tuthill toured and studied European concert halls famous for their acoustics. He also consulted with architect Dankmar Adler of the Chicago firm Adler and Sullivan – a noted acoustical authority who was responsible for Chicago’s Auditorium Building, itself completed in 1889 and known for superb acoustics. A favorite quote from Isaac Stern said, “Everywhere in the world, music enhances a hall, with one exception – Carnegie Hall enhances the music.”
The five-day opening festivities of Carnegie Hall in 1891 attracted the cream of New York society such as the Whitneys, Sloans, Rockefellers, and Fricks who paid $1 to $2 to see the performance. It is fascinating to think that the Ishams and Lincolns might have been among the people who attended the opening of Carnegie Hall. 124 years later, Kelly, Diane and I went to Carnegie Hall on a snowy evening to see Keith Jarrett play solo piano. With the packed audience completely mesmerized with his piano playing and deep harmonic sound enveloping the entire hall, Keith Jarrett came back to the stage three times for encores. What a night!.
Come to Ormsby Hill and reimagine the 19th Century Isham life…
In pursuit of the best acoustic moment…
|The Inn at Ormsby Hill
1842 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255