Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard annual “Peace” concert


The abundance and breadth of the Island’s musical talent was clearly in evidence last Thursday as an audience that completely filled the pews of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church thrilled to the annual, aptly named Reflections of Peace concert. In its 14th year, proceeds from the concert – featuring a mix of devotional, classical, and Christmas music – go to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard.

Every December Kevin Ryan, who produces the event with his wife Joanne, and Judy Williamson, puts together this program of music that embodies the season’s ideal of peace. He switches the performers, as well as the repertoire each year, to spotlight as many of the Island’s accomplished singers and musicians as possible. This year the participants included the St. Andrews Episcopal Church Choir, who opened the program; Novem — a vocal octet made up of two tenors, altos, sopranos, and basses; organ music by Wesley Brown; a duet with Jan Hyer on the cello and Eric Johnson on guitar, and a beautiful Chopin piece for piano performed by the remarkable Lisa Weiss.

Ms. Weiss is a part-time Vineyarder who traveled from her home in Maryland where she is a professor of music at Goucher College, specifically to participate in the concert. Guests were very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear this virtuoso perform.

Another highlight of the evening was a duet by harpist Sandra Bitterman and violinist Rebecca Barca-Tinus, with Peter Boak accompanying softly on the organ. They, as well as the choir, performed from the balcony, which deprived the audience of the opportunity to enjoy the sight of graceful hands fluttering over the harp, and a skilled violinist. The music appeared to be emanating from the heavens, which was a lovely effect, but the visuals may have added to the impact of the material.

Ralph Norton of Oak Bluffs shared a heartfelt story of gratitude about his experience working with Hospice during the illnesses of both of his parents. His story was one that reflected the organization’s philosophies of dignity and peace, as well as support for the entire family. There was nothing at all sad about Mr. Norton’s narrative, only a sense of the calm that he felt at having Hospice step in to his family’s life at this crucial time, and a joy that his parents had quality of life until the very end.

Executive director Terre Young, who gave a short talk before introducing Mr. Norton, stressed after the concert that the benefits of the annual performance are two-fold.

“It generates donations for us, but, just as importantly, it creates support for us,” Ms. Young said. “It invites the community to know about us and to feel comfortable about who we are and what we do in the community.”