Playing for Cumberland was a one of a kind thing. It was one of those things that happened almost by chance, and ended up being a significant life event that felt like coming home to people you had never met before but who seemed to have known you all your life.
The city of Cumberland is Maryland’s constant beating heart.
An old railroad town, once a thriving haven of industry and commerce, like many American towns succumbed to the inevitable course of history, to become a place of hidden gems and unfettered beauty.
Cumberland is the city of souls.
The mix of architecture alone warrants a visit, steeped in history stemming back to the time of Washington and our forefathers. But, it is when you connect with the locals that you realize the depth of steadfast loyalty, love and support they uphold for their town, for the arts and culture in their town, and for their understood need for revival and health and well-being for all who live there… and all who visit.
Cumberland is a city of angels.
I had the fortune of being introduced to the Gilchrist Gallery and Museum, through a music colleague of mine who had a hunch that the collaborative work my partner, oil-painter Alexander Volkov and I do musically and artistically, could bring a welcome presentation. A larger than normal exhibit of Al’s work was rounded off with a concert on the eve of the closing of the exhibit.
Nick had discovered Cumberland at the beginning of his eminent career as a pathologist. He had accepted a position that he thought would be short term and ended up staying claiming he “just loved this town”. Over the years Nick and Shirley Giarritta rallied their friends, colleagues and other like-minded comrades and worked hard to develop the local health services, hospital and the arts and culture of the town, among (I am told) a myriad of other projects that nurtured the city… They have spent their lives, it seems, working tirelessly to help Cumberland and the surrounding region.
Saturday November 16th was perhaps the most meaningful concert I’ve done since crafting my second album, Another Place and Time. Amongst the full house audience, was Nick, who prior to the concert Shirley informed me, was likely taking his last outing of his life. Nick has a congenital condition, it was his 88th birthday and she and her husband were not surprisingly, the founding members of the organization I was playing for. Nick could no longer talk, was barely conscious, supported in a wheelchair and surrounded by loved ones for the whole evening.
According to Shirley, during the Mozart Nick was tapping two fingers on his left hand squarely on the beat for several bars. She said he would never have known he was doing it and in the second half (my music) we could all hear his sighs and purrs in response to each piece. Shirley said that she didn’t know whether to take him out or not… I’m so glad she didn’t. With every sound coming from Nick, I went deeper into the music, determined to give it all to him as purely as I could. It was so humbling and fulfilling and I really think that in some part of his psyche Nick was aware of the music, something registered, something spoke to him. It was a deeply emotional experience I’ll never forget.
Though we are strangers, this was my small gift back to Nick for he showed me through the window of this one evening the summation of all the work he and others have done over the course of their short time in this town.
One can only hope that this lasting energy is passed on through the generations and that ‘Cumberland Love’ serves as a example to us all… and that Cumberland Love, flows way beyond Cumberland…