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Roger & You …. & Me

Afternoon Gathering & Maxwell Shepherd Concert Dedicated to Roger Clarke

Collinsville icons and consummate townies, Max Shepherd and Roger Clarke were friends, neighbors and long time community advocates. While their passing from this life makes them harder to communicate with, you wouldn’t know it from the March 21 gathering at Canton Town Hall and the concert which followed, at the Collinsville Congregational Church.

A reunion of about 150 family members, friends, neighbors, town officials and experts in the field of architecture and historic restoration gathered to share funny stories; poignant reminiscences; and moving accolades of Roger Clarke, who passed away on Jan. 8, 2011.

Clarke was remembered for his gentleness, honesty, humor, artistic gift and unwavering devotion to family and community. “He led an admirable and enviable life,” noted his brother-in-law. A fellow architect lauded his drawings for, “the way he depicted space by what he left out, versus what he put in.” And colleagues spoke admirably of Clarke’s innate ability to, “balance economic development with historic preservation.”

What was perhaps the most moving part of the gathering, however, were those recollections that everyone in attendance could share:  the offerings of hot tea to guests, even in 90 degree heat; his green thumb in the small garden that he tended each spring; the elegant bow ties he wore for those special occasions; his kind words and ability to touch people.”  It was the absence of that touch, in the form of his annual hand drawn Christmas card, which alerted many that something would be different about this, (past), holiday season.   

And oh yes, he loved spring.

So on this first day of spring, Clarke the renowned architect and Shepherd the accomplished pianist, were celebrated by flute, viola and harp at the Maxwell Shepherd Memorial Arts Fund Music Series. Walter Kendra, Shepherd’s partner, Fund President, close friend and neighbor of Clarke shared the anticipation of the full house. “I know it is all going to be beautiful and it will be our best that we bring for dear Roger.”

Shortly before the performance began, About Town asked musicians, Itay Lantner, (flute), Amina Tebini, (viola), and Maura Valenti, (harp), about the added pressure of playing on both the first day of spring and in dedication of a beloved, larger than life, town character. They provided an artistic perspective.

Lantner noted that, “while we do not play music based on the season, there is no doubt that spring brings with it a feeling of something new, optimism.” Valenti concurred. “This program is bright; the mood definitely lighter.” Tebini added, “it creates a good energy, atmosphere and focus when you have this additional responsibility. Music brings out emotion.” “We’re ready,” concluded Lantner.

The Shepherd program of Bach, Debussy, Ibert, Bartok and Ravel invoked the best of the season: light textures; lilting harmonies; animated tempos; folk rhythms; and spontaneous imaginings of what is to come, through the expert interpretation of the young performers.

At the end of the program, the audience was invited to join the performers at a reception in the Collins Room of the church. “Can you believe all this is in Collinsville?” said a first time attendee.

I bet I know at least two guys who believed.

Here’s the Deal

The Maxwell Shepherd Memorial Arts Fund was created in 2003 as a living memorial to Maxwell Shepherd, who passed away in April/2000. The Fund, “seeks to promote the arts, provide cultural enrichment and give support and encouragement to artistic creators.

For Donations: Maxwell Shepherd Memorial Arts Fund, c/o Collinsville Savings Society, P. O Box 197, Collinsville, CT 06019: For Information: 16 South Street, Collinsville, CT 06019: 860-693-2762: awkendra@yahoo.com.

Collinsville Congregational Church, 7 South Street, Village Green, Collinsville; 860-693-6333: www.collinsvillecongregational.org.

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