Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Friday, November 25, 2005

Local grant helps bring the sweet sounds of Talleyrand Park to life

Thanksgiving is a good time to express gratitude, not just for turkey and trimmings, but also for some of the things we take for "granite," as my imaginative students used to spell it.

Under a Local Government Grant, the Nov. 12 premiere of local musician and composer Rick Hirsch's jazz composition, "Village Green in Blue: A Musical Portrait of Talleyrand Park," at the Garman Opera House, presented new perceptions of a place that some of us might indeed have taken for granted.

Until he started researching the history of Talleyrand Park, Hirsch assumed that the park had been around forever. But it was only in 1964 that plans for the park were first proposed by Borough Council. The site was leveled in 1971, and in 1974 the real work began with the formation of the Talleyrand Park Citizens Committee.

Sculptor Rob Fisher, a Bellefonte resident and an original member of the committee, introduced "Village Green in Blue" by defining Talleyrand Park as "the quintessence of what the American Dream can produce." Then, the Valley Jazz Orchestra, comprised of seasoned players, as well as a young Krupa on drums and a budding Brubeck on keyboards, delivered a gift that will reap returns for years to come.

The composition in five parts was more free-flowing than structured, more pictures in sound than improvised jazz riffs on a theme. Spring Creek rippled along in the first movement, "Lifeblood," gained momentum as it reached the falls, then coming to a quiet close with a repeated figure on keyboard.

The second movement captured the graceful architecture of the suspension bridge in a tranquil scene where wood and steel sway in the breeze. Movement III is dedicated to the true owners of the park: the ducks. Hirsch gave them a calypso beat, while with just their mouthpieces, the trumpet section quacked convincingly.

"Placid" is a mood piece introduced by the keyboard, then picked up by the sax in a melodic passage with gravelly accompaniment on trombone. "Aspire" brought the work to a close, centering on the gazebo as a symbol of persistence and vision.

Sometimes we take grants for granted, forgetting that projects such as "Village Green in Blue" don't just happen. They start with the borough of Bellefonte and the Local Government Grant program with funding also from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts, administered in this region by the Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance. The results, as another of my students might have spelled it, are "ah-some."