A day of rest and song: Florence neighborhood hosts Labor Day music fest to build community

  • Residents in a Florence neighborhood near Arcanum Field walk the streets on Labor Day, moving between homes where musicians performed in their front yards. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Julia Edwards, 16, serenades residents in Florence with her violin during the Cloverdale Porch Fest on Labor Day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Anna Kelly listens as Steve LaCroix plays a piece for neighbors during the Cloverdale Porch Fest in Florence on Labor Day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Erik Morgan plays for neighbors and friends on Carolyn Street in Florence during the Cloverdale Porch Fest. Various musicians performed at nine locations in the neighborhood to boost communuity feeling. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Veteran violin teacher and performer Lynn Newdome, the key organizer of the Cloverdale Porch Fest, plays a piece from her front stoop during the Labor Day event. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Anna Kelly listens as Steve LaCroix plays a song during the Cloverdale Porch Fest on Labor Day, a neighborhood get-together in Florence. Running by LaCroix is Harper Kelly, 10. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Neighbors in a Florence neighborhood near Arcanum Field wander between houses where various musicians performed in their front yards on Labor Day. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jude Hanifin-Brassard, 2, accepts applause after he and his uncle, John Hanifin, played a Bach cello suite piece at the Cloverdale Porch Fest. Well, Jude kind of pantomined playing, but he looked good doing it. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Bob Dylan, The Beatles and more: Erik Morgan plays in his driveway for friends and neighbors during the Cloverdale Porch Fest in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Artistic inspiration: Jude Hanifin-Brassard, 2, imitates his uncle, John Hanifin, while the older Hanifan plays a Bach piece at the Cloverdale Porch Fest in Florence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/10/2020 9:34:10 AM

It could have been any summer day in this little corner of Florence, as people strolled in the streets, neighbors said hello or nodded to each other, and kids cruised around on bicycles, everyone taking in the warmth and sunshine of a late afternoon.

Except in this case, everybody was wearing a face mask, and the people ambling along the streets were also gathering by the front lawns of several specific houses, where musicians were playing for their neighbors — on violins, guitars and cellos — as part of what was called the Cloverdale Porch Fest.

The Labor Day event, also billed as “Musical trick-or-treating for the neighborhood,” was the brainstorm of Lynn Newdome, a longtime violin teacher and performer who lives in the cul-de-sac neighborhood just north of Bridge Road, near Arcanum Field. Ever since the pandemic hit, Newdome, like many music teachers, has been working with students remotely, and she also has been walking in the nearby roads to fight feelings of isolation.

“Because we’ve all been kind of holed up in our houses, a lot of us have been walking around the neighborhood, and we’ve gotten to know each other a little better over the past several months,” said Newdome. “We see each other and recognize each other and say ‘How are you doing? How are you holding up?’”

Newdome had also read of some people in Franklin County, among other places, playing music on their porches for neighbors and friends, and she began thinking of trying to organize something similar in her neck of the woods, where the streets were reportedly named for the children of the developer: Carolyn Street, Claire Street, Mary Jane Lane, Rick Drive (there’s also a short Cloverdale Street).

“Music is something that brings us together, and since we don’t have any live music right now, why don’t we create some of our own?” said Newdome. “This is something that’s meant to strengthen our neighborhood and build some community.”

In due course, she and some helpers posted flyers on utility poles in the area and created small pennants for the music fest that people could post in their front yards; then came a small map, also posted on utility poles, that indicated the nine addresses where music could be found for the hour-long event.

One person Newdome enlisted in the effort was Julia Edwards, one of her violin students. Though she lives in Colrain, Edwards said she was happy to play; she and her mother, Asheley Cole, had set up a small music stand on the lawn of a home on Carolyn Street, and Edwards, with some backing music flowing from a small monitor, played the melodies to a number of songs, including “Sunflower” by Post Malone, a big hit from the film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Edwards, 16, said she has performed as part of the Pioneer Valley Symphony’s Youth Orchestra but had never done a solo gig like this, right on the edge of the street. “It’s fun — I’m glad to be part of it,” she said. Indeed, Cole, her mother, noted that after months of remote lessons her daughter has taken with Newdome, “This is a nice change of pace.”

A little further down Carolyn Street, Erik Morgan sat on a stool in his driveway, strumming an acoustic guitar and singing. He belted out his version of tunes like the Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” and “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” by Bob Dylan; appropriately enough for a Dylan tune, he added a harmonica solo to the latter.

Watching and applauding from just across the street were Mary Lou Robinson, who lives on nearby Rick Drive, and her friend from another part of Florence, Karen Hurd, who teaches at Bridge Street Elementary School in Northampton.

“I think this is a wonderful way to bring people together and just enjoy a nice afternoon,” said Robinson. “Just something different, and for our community.”

About a block away, on Mary Jane Lane, about 20 people were arranged outside another home as John Hanifin sat down on a chair beneath a small canopy set up on the front lawn; he settled his cello in front of him, then performed a flowing version of the prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.

Watching Hanifin from a nearby seat was his nephew, Jude Hanifin-Brassard, 2, who held a small cello in his lap and sort of plucked at it in imitation of his uncle, first with his fingers and then with a bow. The “duo” got a rousing round of applause from the crowd, some sitting on chairs on the edge of the lawn, others standing in the street.

Hanifin, a cello teacher and performer from Longmeadow, explained that his sister, who lives a few doors down from Newdome, had told him of the music fest, and he was willing to join in. “It’s fun, and it might be an inspiration for [Jude], now that he has his own cello and is starting lessons.”

At her home, Newdome had a small billboard posted on her lawn, reading “Today’s music: jazz, klezmer, tango.” Standing on her front stoop with a portable CD player at her feet, with which she cued up backing tracks such as piano and bass, Newdome worked her way through a number of tunes, as close to 30 people stood or sat near the end of her driveway.

“Yeah, Lynn!” someone called after one song ended, close to 6 p.m. Another voice floated above the applause: “Thank you, Lynn!”

“Well, thank you for all coming out today,” said Newdome.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.
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