"This is the kind of gig I had in mind when I moved to the Hudson Valley." That's what Jason from the King of Rome said when he took the stage at the January 2014 Music Night, and everyone who has ever been knows what he meant: Music Night is suffused with the kind of intimate ambiance lent by the glow of warm embers in a friend's fireplace. The venue is a private residence at the Old Glenford Church, and all the details of it, from the rows of low slung couches, to the overlapping carpets, to the tapestries and the stuffed book shelves, to the giant world map hinting at vastness behind the stage, add up to an uncontrived, comfortable, and attractive space that goes beyond the public/private dichotomy. It's always just so good to be there.
Many people who go to Music Night regularly go first and foremost for the food. The seasonal gourmet fare, featuring a main course with vegetarian option and 10-12 side dishes, is prepared by host Mor Pipman. At $10 a plate, eating at Music Night sometimes feels like stealing. The menus are creative, the food is fresh - much of it is organic and local - and it is at once satisfying and invigorating, like a pleasant week abroad (I would think). Mor is able to make simple dishes with few ingredients that highlight and enhance natural whole flavors in a curious and delightful way; after dinner, you will know what, say, carrots, lentils, and yucca really taste like, respectively (they taste delicious). You will remember what you ate. You will sleep well later (but only when you want to). Some people bring their own wine and beer to Music Night, but the food itself is really enough to get everyone rosy-cheeked, happy, and talking. This is all before desert, too. Mor usually has six or seven options, and it's necessary to have two, at least.
Music Night manages to combine the better features of the formal sit-down concert and the stand-around-in-a-bar concert. Those in attendance form a listening audience, which is part of the draw for the musicians (who are volunteers), but the atmosphere is also relaxed and informal, audience members coming and going as they please, and it is not so hard to find a corner or a nook for quiet conversation (although if you're too loud in the kitchen during the music Mor will shush you don't say I didn't warn you). Better than either a formal or bar setting is the social attitude of the event; it's more akin to a house-party or a gathering of friends than a public setting, so it's easy to approach someone and introduce yourself (but don't worry you don't have to talk to anyone if you don't want to). And that's important because really, the event is about community, in two distinct ways. First, it provides a venue for communal relaxation and enjoyment. There are even regulars at Music Night who only go out once a month, choosing this event. Second, it is a point of contact between the HVSS community and the public. Music Night has lent the school a reputation for outstanding quality in the Woodstock community. The volunteers who put Music Night on do it out of a love for the event and a dedication to the school, and the school owes significant thanks in return: to date, Music Night has generated more than $20,000 in funds for the school. That's important to know because - although most of the people you see at Music Night are not associated with the school, and the event has developed a life of its own - each event is a gift to the HVSS and an expression of the HVSS community's dedication to the project of building an enduring and excellent school. A great deal of hard work and coordination go into producing each Night. But having spent the better part of a year at the school witnessing growth and learning the history of the place, it's no surprise that people are doing it; it's become apparent to me that this is how you build a school from scratch, or any community institution for that matter: you do it together.
[ed. You can find out more about Music Night by visiting their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/HVSS-Music-Night/101144769954447]