By Harry Anderson
As though mesmerized by the gossamer music of a flute and harpsichord playing baroque sonatas of Locatelli, Quantz, and Benda that floated from the open windows of an 18th century cottage down a way from Putnam Pike on Jackson Schoolhouse Road, a horse placidly grazed in a paddock aside a barn on a knoll across a gravel lane. Inside the cottage a score or so of men and women sat on antique chairs arranged in rows, listening to the day’s featured artist – Virginia Sindelar on the flute – accompanied by Suzanne Cartreine on the harpsichord.
June 9th, the second Sunday of the month, and the second concert of the second season for what Sindelar calls “Music at the Farm” was under way. She is the program’s founder and its impresario.
The ten acre spread, just beyond the Glocester/Burrillville line on the outskirts of Pascoag that she had purchased in 1994, she has named “Grace Note Farm” – an apt name because music has been Virginia’s spiritual nourishment since she began piano lessons at age 5, eventually graduating from Julliard with honors and then concretizing throughout New England, Alaska, Peru, and South Korea. She has also cut CD’s on the Titanic and Centaur labels, taught flute at Lowell and Clark Universities and Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute.
“My resume,” she smiles, “fills four pages.”
But, notwithstanding the excitement of music-making and the acclaim that had come with it, Virginia knew that something was missing in her life. “It gives me life to hear a great artist in a setting that offers beauty and history. Yes, the highest level of life is achieved when there’s a merger of music, unspoiled nature, and a nexus with our colonial heritage!”
Knowing that she could not attain that level in her home base in Boston, she quested the six New England states for a locale that could, finally finding for sale the abandoned Benjamin Smith farm, circa 1730, in a northern Rhode Island village whose name she could not pronounce.
“What you see today,” she says, “isn’t what was here in 1994. The house was a shamble, and the land was a thicket of overgrown brambles. My mother warned me: ‘You’ll be sorry.’ But I had a vision, and with a lot of sweat, time, and money the vision became a reality.”
With her flute at hand, a restored 18th century cottage furnished with antiques, and ten trimmed acres that abut the pristine George Washington Management area, Virginia had attained “the highest level of life.” But fate had something else in mind. An accident happened that concussed her and broke her neck. She laid aside her flute and brooded. With no income, she had either to come up with an idea or lose everything. Always an enterprising sort, she had a large, open room attached to the cottage and a stable built, and she went into the inn-keeping business, targeting equestrians who could vacation and stable their horses in her barn and explore the twenty-five miles of trails coursing through the adjacent state park.
“I have to thank a Wampanoag fellow I once had come upon on a visit to Mashpee. He was shucking quahogs, and all the while stared through a window at Nature. His face showed total peace. He unknowingly was teaching me true spirituality.”
Fate continued to have its way, and along came a young guitarist who booked a room at her inn. Persuading her to unpack her flute and have a go at a duet, he restored her confidence in music-making. She scrabbled together enough money to refurbish the instrument, and together they performed at gigs in Newport.
Forever restless, Virginia has formed a compact with the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and has perpetually preserved Grace Note Farm by persuading the Burrillville Land Trust to deem it a “Land Conservation Farm”, the first of its kind for the town. But perhaps the capstone of her restlessness is bringing classical music to North County.
At the conclusion of June’s edition of Music at the Farm, she cradled her flute and whispered, “That’s it. I think I can’t play this very well anymore.” With that said, she turned to the kitchen counter upon which she had spread an array of muffins, scones, and cookies of her making and invited her audience to help themselves.
Perhaps the general public will never again hear her perform, but her two best friends may: Tobias, her horse, and Abigail, her Australian Shepherd. And then there is the Music at the Farm program. After all, music “has always been my way out”, Virginia Sindelar acknowledges, “an integral part of my spiritual trinity.”
For the schedule of upcoming concerts, tickets, and other information, visit on line gracenotefarm.com.