Artist, impresario David Smith mounts 20th village concert

KINDERHOOK–On Sunday, February 12 at 2 p.m. Concerts in the Village will present its 20th performance in seven years. The program, held at The School on Broad Street (Route 9), is 20th Century Music for Strings and Women’s Voices and will feature works by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Saint-Saëns, Poulenc and Foote performed by sopranos Amanda Boyd and Caroline Dunigan, and flutist Elizabeth Chinery with the women of the Broad Street Chorale and strings of the Broad Street Orchestra.

The concert will highlight the orchestra’s string musicians and the group’s female vocalists as well as the acoustical environment of the former Martin Van Buren school, which was repurposed into an exhibition space for contemporary art and opened in 2014.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis written and performed in 1910 at England’s Gloucester Cathedral will be a “sonic miracle,” David Smith, the group’s artistic director, conductor, manager and founder, said during a recent interview.

Kinderhook resident David Smith, artistic director of the Concerts in the Village, will lead a concert of 20th Century Music for Strings and Women’s Voices at The School on Broad Street February 12. Photo by Debora Gilbert

Also performed will be Benjamin Britten’s “Les Illuminations” composed in 1939, in which the composer sets poems by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud to music; Camille Saint-Saëns’ “La Nuit”;

Francis Poulenc’s “Litanies à la Vierge Noire”; and Arthur Foote’s Suite for String Orchestra, Op. 63.

The concert is the third in a four part series staged during fall, winter and spring.

In 2004 Smith, now 70, retired and moved to Kinderhook with his piano and harpsichords, not knowing exactly how he would spend his time. “I don’t play golf,” he said.

He had run Cartier’s Fifth Avenue store before moving on to Tiffany’s and later to a management position at Morgan Guarantee Trust. He was born in Troy and was a virtuoso pianist who began studying music at age 6. He graduated from Harvard and Yale with advanced degrees in musicology, music theory and conducting, and he planned to teach.

But a dearth of opportunity in education at the time inspired him to take a crash course at the Wharton School of Business aimed at turning artists into business people. He then embarked on a successful career in business while continuing to nurture his love for music.

In 2009, the Reformed Church of Kinderhook asked if he would help after their organist became incapacitated before the Christmas service. He discovered a beautiful organ and a space that can seat 450. Soon he was programming increasingly elaborate concerts for a growing audience.

After 175 people showed up for his first organ recital and more came his next production–a choral and organ performance of Mendelssohn–he concluded, “There seems to be a desire.”

“It was very exhilarating to touch again on something that had been so important to me early in my life,” he said.

The following year Smith added brass players and expanded the singing ensemble to 20. That’s when he came up with a name for the enterprise: Concerts in the Village.

Now in its seventh year, the performers include singers from the Bard College Conservatory of Music and musicians from the Albany Symphony and Glimmerglass, and a number of non-professional singers. Most performers reside within 40 miles of Kinderhook. He has been able to recruit more local talent than he expected to find here, people capable of performing challenging works like Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” or Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

“I can’t believe the talent,” he said. “I could not have imagined the performing quality we are capable of now.”

In addition to talent, the group has access to three performance sites, all on Broad Street: The School, the Kinderhook Reformed Church and Kinderhook’s Village Hall, a recently restored 19th century space with acoustics that Smith has found are perfect for chamber music, Handel and Bach.

For a musical organization to have access to three first rate performance spaces that the group does not need to maintain is a huge advantage, he admits.

Smith’s knowledge of the musical cannon combined with his musical ability and organizational and people skills enable him to keep his organization growing. He and his wife, Vicki–they met in school, she was a soprano–volunteer their time for the concert program and their efforts have has received enthusiastic support from local businesses and individual supporters, who appreciate how musical performances enhance the community.

He has also devised ways to give back to contributors and performers.

“Programming is an art, involving length, textural and rhythmic variety,” he said. With that in mind, the introduction of unfamiliar works by well known composers is a guiding principal.

“Now living near my birthplace, I’ve come full circle,” he said. “To come back to music after 40 years, it might not be possible elsewhere.”

The season’s final concert on April 2 will feature works by Bach, Hayden and Mozart and will take place in the Kinderhook Reformed Church.

For more information and reservations go to: www.concertsinthevillage.org. The School | Jack Shainman Gallery is located at 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, www.jackshainman.com/school/.

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