A View From Glen Hill: Our 'community' is back

Over the past dozen days, we’ve witnessed some really extraordinary events here in town!

Saturday evening, March 26, set the perfect tone for a week of civility, reconciliation, and celebration of who we are as a town as the Brubeck Brothers kicked off their world tour right here in Wilton, most appropriately in the Brubeck Room of the Library.  

Chris, Dan, and Darius Brubeck were joined by Dave O’Higgins on sax for a remarkable performance that the artists thoughtfully agreed to do twice to accommodate the massively oversubscribed registration following the announcement of this extraordinary concert.

Darius channels his father Dave remarkably on the piano in style and brilliance of performance and also in his witty and informative between-piece commentaries. Seeing him at the keyboard, it often feels like we’re watching Dave again. Dan offers his amazing out-of-body experiences on the drums when he renders extraordinarily complex rhythms almost magically even while, during these two performances, he restrained himself given the smaller dimensions of this venue than the group’s usual performance sites (but really let loose in a solo riff during the Take Five performance that concluded the second show!)  

And our collective Wilton neighbor Chris, now a world-renowned composer as well as virtuoso performer on so many instruments, focused mostly on bass guitar here but also offered an electrifying performance of a Louis Armstrong classic on his signature instrument, the trombone. The group’s newest member and proud “acquisition” from Britain, Dave O’Higgins, wowed us all with his performance on sax, including soprano sax, with brilliant clarity of tone and facility of range in the rhythmically complex yet beautifully melodic and accessible music that is Dave Brubeck’s hallmark. One such piece they performed was a composition by Dave that evolved from a tour of Japan by his quartet. The piece has an absolutely amazing percussion opening and then moves into a hauntingly beautiful Dave take on Asian style composition with peacefully lyrical tonality and a somber, reflective elegance.   

And in fact it was Dave’s own compositions that were the focus of the evening, including both very well-known compositions and others less frequently performed. They covered a wide time period ranging from his earliest work in the 1940s through the later years. During his commentaries between pieces, Darius described one of their father’s multiple tours of “musical ambassadorship” and goodwill. This particular tour in the 1950s took him and his group from Western Europe through the Soviet Union with end point in South Asia but including en route hard-to-imagine venues for such performances today, ranging from Syria to Afghanistan as he crossed the entire Middle East. These concert performances brought America’s own original musical creation, jazz, to a worldwide audience and showed it off in glorious style! It was completely characteristic of their father, joined by Iola, that the focus was consistently on using Dave’s enormous talents for world peace and goodwill even as he also used them here at home to advance racial equality.

The peace and joy that this concert program reflected on Saturday night set the tone for an experience of community-building, reconciliation, and recognition of our core values at the town meetings occurring early the following week. Those two meetings, on two consecutive nights, of our major town boards — education, finance, and selectmen — focused on the presentation of budgets and informative financial background and realities for our town. The Board of Education budget session held on Monday night saw the Middlebrook auditorium filled to capacity. The presentations made by all three boards were excellent, and the quality of public comment (and total numbers commenting, especially at the education budget meeting) was truly outstanding: intelligent, illuminating, thoughtful, and really, really civil.

I think that for many of us, the spirit of these evenings was what our town has always been about: how we do things successfully together, across party lines and even across strongly held personal positions, listening to each other and realizing the wisdom in differing viewpoints from our own, and then reassessing where we are in an open-minded and thoughtful way. Ours is a town that has shown itself time and again able to accomplish whatever it sets its collective mind to with focus and widespread community support and volunteering.  The longstanding experience of engagement in civility, respect, and accomplishment makes us proud to be Wiltonians and mindful of all that we can make happen for the good when we direct our hearts and minds to working together, as we’ve shown again over these past dozen days.