On Sunday May 28, Rites of Spring II offers four brief, beautiful chamber music concerts, as they should be heard—in the chambers of historic homes. Tour the homes, enjoy wine and chocolate too. Music by the Arcanum String Quartet. Tickets at RitesMusic.org. Conversation with Andrew Minguez of Arcanum Quartet, Gail Horton of Stirling Historical Society Q: Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend—May 28—What’s happening?
Andrew: The day starts at the Southold Historical Society’s Anne Currie Bell House. People will get a tour followed by a 20 minute concert—one violin and I [the viola] will play a duo by Mozart.
The performance then moves to Greenport, to the Greek Orthodox Church, where people will get a history of the church and enjoy a solo violin performance.
Gail: That church is so beautiful. It was built in the early 1830s, originally as a Puritan Church. Now it has a lot of beautiful religious iconography, and is a great space for the performance.
Greenport has an amazing history with religious buildings; it had a huge amount of churches in its mile square. Each was emblematic of a group that emigrated here. The Puritans, Congregationalists, Catholics, Lutherans, we were one of the first seven free-from-slavery communities in Suffolk, and we have an AME church. We also have a landmarked synagogue. So even though the Greek Church isn’t a part of the Stirling Historical Society, it is a historic property that fits in with the rest of the ones on the day’s tour.
We at the Stirling Historical Society are doing an exhibit on the Houses of Worship of Greenport that will open on Saturday, July first.
Q: So that is two of the concerts; what are the other two?
Andrew: The final two concerts are both in Orient. First up is the Webb House. Concert goers enjoy a tour, and the cellist will perform. Then we head to Poquatuck Hall. After a wine, cheese and chocolate reception the whole quartet will perform Schubert Death of the Maiden.
Q: These concerts are so unusual—a series of short performances by an instrument or two or four performing in a historic setting. What drew the Arcanum Quartet to this project?
Andrew: Our passion is chamber music, these concerts—playing in a home for a small audience—that’s really what we love. It breaks that wall down between audience and performer. There’s just a different energy. It’s totally different than being on a stage.
We love meeting the audience members throughout the day as we each perform, and then meeting them at the end of the day all together. It’s really a great progression.
Q: I feel like such an idiot. For so long I’ve heard “Chamber Music” and knew it was generally a quartet, but I’ve never paid attention to what “Chamber” meant—now I’ll always think Chamber Music = Living Room Music. How did you/the Arcanum Quartet get involved in this project?
Andrew: I moved to Stony Brook to get my doctorate, and I met Paolo [the festival organizer] at one of my concerts. His vision for the multidimensional cultural event was really amazing, and inspired me to get involved with last year’s Rites of Spring series. That was when I first got to know the North Fork. We enjoyed doing it so much last year we’re happy to be a part of it again.
Q: What’s different with this year’s event?
Andrew: This year we’re going to different places, and performing a different program. , We are the same founding members of Arcanum except the cellist.
Gail: Last year the Greenport stop of the Rites of Spring was the Ireland House, but it’s quite small; this year we would not be able to accommodate the numbers we’re expecting in it. Still it was wonderful, we opened the windows, let the music spill on to Main Street.
It’s a reflective experience, not just a commercial one. It’s an incredible stop on warm spring day. It’s wonderful to bring these great musicians out here, and it draws even local people to places they wouldn’t necessarily go.
Q: So Alex, you discovered the North Fork by helping organize the historical society concerts for last year’s Rites of Spring. It’s a totally different story with you Gail, right? I mean, Horton is one of the founding family names—we have a Horton Point & Lighthouse, for example.
Gail: My husband’s family is descended directly from Barnabas Horton (the 1640s Horton). It’s like 11 generations or so. My mother also traces back to the original Horton, through a daughter, and to several other founding families. My father was first generation American, from Germany.
My husband Dave was from Orient, I was from Southold, and our family and friends couldn’t understand our decision to move away to Greenport, when we married. His people felt like I stole him away from Orient. But I’ve loved living in Greenport; it’s such an amazing place and a great community.
Q: That’s funny. Orient to Greenport is a distance of low, single-digit miles, same from Southold. That’s like a family with roots on the Upper West Side objecting to their kid putting down roots in Chelsea after marrying a Brooklynite. But I guess it reflects the depth of multi-generational roots. Speaking of local history, why is Greenport’s historical society the Stirling Historical Society?
Gail: The British Crown granted Lord William Stirling all the land of Long Island — which included the area of Greenport Village, Hashamomuck and Stirling Creek. The later two areas were originally inhabited and fished and farmed by the Corchaug Indians and the early English settlers followed this tradition. They also engaged in the New England Triangle Trade.
The area has been called Winter Harbor because it never froze and Stirling after Lord Stirling. Green Hill, the initial name of modern Greenport, was so named because when you sailed into the harbor through the bay you could see a massive hill of green foliage. Later it was called Green Port, which eventually became Greenport after its incorporation as a village.
Q: Cool—eventually the lands from Lord Stirling become known as Greenport because when you sailed in you saw a massive green hill. So what can people experience if they want to visit Stirling Historical Society property?
A: The Stirling Historical Society house—the Ireland House—given to us by Fred Preston. It was one of the first houses in the part of Greenport that got developed in the 1820 and 30’s, when whaling took off. When whaling took over they dug out Main Street, built the Clark House Hotel and it was the beginning of modern Greenport with all its wooden boats, machine shops, and maritime industry.
The Ireland House was moved in the 1970s from across the parking lot in between the Arcade and the Whiskey Wind Tavern to its current location, the former site of the Clark House Hotel. Another neat spot nearby is the horse-watering fountain now located in the garden of the Adams Street Parking Lot. The Reeves Fountain was moved from the middle of the dirt road adjacent to the Clark House when paved roads and automobiles replaced horses.
Greenport ‘s amazing-- history is on the streets, even in the sidewalks. Looking down you can see the history of sidewalk technology and development in town; some have little rocks, pebbles and shells from the shore, some are smooth concrete, and everything in between. And we have these beautiful wrought iron fences made by local smithy’s, and…so many details to notice when you know where to look.