2 Memory Lane, Woodbury, Connecticut*

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Back-to-back live performances in homey settngs brought a trip down Memory Lane to Woodbury. Connecticut, on May 21, 2023. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

For my wife and me, Memory Lane is in Woodbury, Connecticut.* I moved to the area when we were married in the North Congregational Church. The reception was in the Old Town Hall. We lived downtown on Main Street North and walked the kids to Mitchell School.

Our Scouts marched in the Memorial Day parades. We were there in 1986 when the town dedicated the Leroy Anderson Memorial Bandstand on the North Green with a concert by the West Point Military Academy Band. In the early 1990s, I landed a bit part in a community theater production of a Depression-era comedy at the Old Town Hall. I had to bail out when a sprained ankle left me on crutches for a week.

Woodbury is a true community, one bound by geography — neighbors doing things together. Like any good community, it will interact and intersect with other communities — neighboring towns, yes, but also communities of interest: churches, schools, Scouts, musical, theatrical, athletic, artistic, and so on. As with people, good communities build their own networks along things they have in common. That’s what communities are all about. In fact, that’s where we get the word.

Over this past weekend, we strolled down Memory Lane in Woodbury at two events: closing night of “The Fantasticks” by Community Theater at Woodbury, and a concert by the Candlewood Brass Quintet at the Leroy Anderson House in memory of Eleanor Anderson.

‘Try to Remember’

Our first date — back around 1970 — was to see a touring production of “The Fantasticks” in New Jersey, where we grew up. By then the show, which went on to break records for the number of performances, was in its 10th year off-Broadway across the river in New York.

With music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, “The Fantasticks” tells the story of “a boy, a girl, two fathers, and a wall.” Young lovers, as we were at the time, know all about fathers and walls. It’s a familiar theme in the community of young lovers.

“The Fantasticks,” like its song “Try to Remember,” is also familiar to the community of once-young lovers. We try to catch it whenever it’s playing nearby. Others of our community were in the audience; a couple sitting next to us was celebrating their anniversary. And the director, Lois Fiftal, and producer, Don Fiftal, met and fell in love as the leading couple in a campus production of the show in 1966.

This production was working from a slightly different script than we once-young couples remember. Playwright/lyricist Tom Jones tinkered with the script and songs several times over its long run and the 2006 revival. Some changes kept it appropriate to the times and the modern-day community. Others, such as the final line, seem to change the whole meaning of the show — or maybe not.

‘Summer Skies’

The summer skies were rainy and wet on Saturday, which is how we could catch “The Fantasticks” when an outdoor concert at the Leroy Anderson House was rescheduled to Sunday.

The mid-century modern home of the mid-century modern composer is preserved as a museum to his memory. The Leroy Anderson Foundation, which operates it, was the vision of his widow, the late Eleanor Anderson. The house is open on selected weekends throughout the year, and for occasional concerts.

The home, and the Anderson family, have always been a hub of the musical community. This weekend’s concert by the Candlewood Brass Quintet featured musicians from the New Milford and Danbury area. Most are members of the Western Connecticut State University community.

The pops-style concert featured familiar fare for brass — Sousa marches, Gershwin tunes, Anderson favorites — and some surprises. I never would have expected to hear Bach’s “Air on the G String” played on brass instruments, or a tuba playing the piccolo part in Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

The highlight of the afternoon, however, was the world premiere of a new arrangement of Anderson’s lesser-known work, “Summer Skies,” by Tom Hundemer. This was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the original orchestral arrangement in 1953. Anderson later arranged the piece for piano as well. Hundemer’s arrangements for brass quintet and woodwind quintet are the first new versions since the composer’s death in 1975.

The late-spring skies eventually turned sunny on Sunday, and the community of 120 or so music-lovers from all over warmed to the bright music of the afternoon.

The next concert at the Anderson House will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 10, when the Westfarms Quartet will perform Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 in Bb Major, Op. 130 — and, of course, selections by Leroy Anderson. Admission is free but space is limited; reserve your spot by email to leroyandersonfoundation@gmail.com. Bring your own seating for the lawn.

*Don’t look for Memory Lane on a map of Woodbury. It does have an Easy Street, but we never lived there.

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