Tag Archive: Hamilton


An organist who makes you chuckle?

I recently played two organ recitals (hopefully there will be more about that soon). I received a lot of positive comments about my biography in the program, so I thought I’d share it with you.

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Organist and pianist Christian M. Clough is really happy that both you and he are here today.

Christian goes to concerts, operas and plays occasionally, and generally finds performers’ biographies dull as dishwater.

Christian moved to Hamilton with his family in 1980, and graduated at the top of his class at Hamilton Central School in 1987. He went away to college determined not to pursue a career in music, and chose to major in geology, but one too many late-winter field trips in Western New York digging trilobite fossils out of damp, cold riverbeds in waning sunlight under cold, drizzly skies turned him away from field geology. After his graduation, Magna cum laude, from the University of Rochester, where he was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa, he looked toward a career in management at Walt Disney World. Little did he know at that tender age that climbing the corporate ladder would require spending an unspecified number of summers in polyester costumes under blistering summer sun in the withering humidity of central Florida for tiny hourly wages.  He sought supplementary income, and a musical outlet, through part-time employment as Organist-Choirmaster in a small Episcopal church near Orlando that didn’t really want good music at the traditional service, just fewer praise songs than at the “family” service. When the resident squirrels chewed up the speaker cones of the 1950s Allen electronic organ, Christian planned his escape back Up North, where he entered the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, earning a Master of Music in Organ Performance and Choral Conducting from the Yale School of Music (1997), and a Master of Arts in Religion, in Liturgical Studies, Magna cum laude, from Yale Divinity School (2003), punctuated by a fabulous year of private organ study and cultural tourism in London and beyond.  He loved New England, but left for full-time work in Santa Barbara, where he was uncomfortable living in paradise (Did you know that Central New Yorkers think it’s divine punishment to have to endure that much sunshine, and also that they need to wear long underwear annually?), so he moved Back East in 2005 to work as Director of Music Ministries at The Church of the Epiphany in Washington, DC, which, in summer, is worse than central Florida (except for the polyester). When the opportunity to flee northward arose again last winter, Christian accepted a job in Chicago as Director of Music at the Episcopal Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer in the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood. There, he conducts three choirs and oversees a fourth, and plays a wonderful 2004 Martin Pasi two-manual tracker organ for two services every Sunday.

Christian’s mission in life is to “Cultivate Curiosity, Encourage Exploration, Deliver Delight”. He hopes that, in bringing both familiar and new musical works to life this afternoon, you will be inspired to look and listen just over the horizon from your own musical comfort zone, and find greater delight as a curious individual. You can read more of Christian’s own explorations and ruminations on his blog, “18 Pockets”, at <18pockets.wordpress.com> (Please leave comments and stimulate conversation!). To inquire about additional performances and offerings, please contact Christian at <christian.clough@aya.yale.edu>.

Christian has won a few prizes and merit scholarships along the way. His piano teachers have included Lois Rainsford and Kerry Eustance Koen; his organ teachers, the late Mary Ann Dodd, John Bodinger, Michael Messina, Charles Krigbaum, Thomas Murray, Gerre Hancock, Anne Marsden Thomas, James Parsons and Martin Jean. He’s supposed to tell you that, as a professional. More importantly, they have all been sources of invaluable inspiration, each in her or his own way, and many of them have become dear friends and treasured mentors over the years.

Immediately following this concert, Christian plans to spend forty-eight hours enjoying what he hopes will be a heart-stoppingly beautiful display of fall foliage in this, his beloved hometown, before returning to that great city in the pancake-flat Midwest.

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Beer me, Hamilton!

Saturday 7 Jul 2012

It has been a great Saturday in Hamilton, NY. Five of us (including two dogs) went to the Farmers’ Market (in the rain, alas) on the Village Green, and I chatted with My Farmer (actually, it was more with Kelly, his companion and business partner) for the first time since last fall. Such nice, bright and earnest people. And, boy, were those salad greens super-fresh!

The afternoon began with my 25th-year high school reunion. The rain quit, and twelve of us, the “faithful remnant” as in chapter 23 of the Prophet Jeremiah, along with spouses, partners and children gathered for some tasty barbecue from Holy Smoke and a couple hours of friendly conversation. It’s funny, I think, that I feel closer to my classmates now than I ever did in school. It was our twentieth reunion in 2007 that sparked new friendships, and it was a major bummer that so few people returned for this year’s event. Mom, as optimistic as I, questions whether people will come back again in quantity before our 50th reunion. Our 50th!! Oh, my God, I can’t bear the thought. Since so many Hamiltonians return every year for the Fourth of July anyway, I might start hosting an annual reunion at the family home.

Today’s title, though, refers to the post-picnic activity, a tour of Hamilton’s brand-new micro-brewery, Good Nature Brewing. It was started recently by a young woman whose family has been connected to Hamilton for many years, and her husband. They are jazzed about Hamilton and are committed to nurturing their business and related commerce in our sleepy, economically-challenged town and region. Their website states, “Good Nature Brewing, Inc. (GNB) aims to contribute to a socially, economically, and ecologically thriving community. GNB aims to support and provide impetus for the establishment of independent businesses and family farms.  By encouraging a deeper understanding of an age-old craft, with historical significance in Central New York, GNB aims to foster a sense of pride, ownership, and a deeper connection to home.” (You can read more at their website: .)

In the 19th century, the hamlet of Bouckville, just northwest of Hamilton, was the epicenter of the largest hop-growing region in the United States, producing 80% of the American crop… until a blight wiped out the plants, and with it the industry. (More recently, American hop growing has been concentrated in the Pacific Northwest.) Good Nature Brewing is using local hops, and in turn is helping to revive a part of Central New York’s agricultural heritage. On the north side of NY Route 12B between Hamilton and Bouckville, you can see the trellises set up for the skyward growth of hops plants, and maybe a cottage beer industry!

I never, NEVER drank beer when I lived in Hamilton. I was a bit of a prude (well, not just a bit) in high school, and I was afraid of all illicit activities. No wonder I didn’t have many lively friendships. I tasted Bud in college (I was nonplussed), and didn’t drink any beer again until graduate school.

Prior to the year of my arrival at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, organ and choral conducting students gathered on Thursday evenings to commiserate about the evening’s church choir rehearsals (collective drowning of sorrows, I gather). For some reason, the event moved in-house, and the ISM Lounge became the site of the weekly Beer Night. Someone would bring some decent brew, and attendees would chip in a dollar or two per beer. My first successful beer consumption was a Rolling Rock; not great, but not bad, either. The “bottle summons” (to the evening’s host) was, “Beer me!”

Hamilton has its share of beer outlets. It’s the home of Colgate University—not a major center of teetotalers. It’s been a long time since someone made beer in Hamilton, though, so it’s high time to motor up to 13346 and summon your next brew.

All together, now: “Beer me, Hamilton!”

Thursday 5 July 2012

With the Fourth of July behind me, I finally found time to begin my summer foraging. You remember last August’s post “…and about 10% black bear”. This morning, I revived the bicycle part of that story. I have a few favorite spots to look for wild berries along the roadside. One time, I picked nearly three pints of black raspberries in one spot.

Bicycling around Hamilton, NY, is pretty awesome. You can leave town by any of the half-dozen or so roads and have your choice of terrain and views. I haven’t lived here long-term for eighteen years, but every summer, I discover new routes that, because of a lack of adventure or ambition, I never tried in my youth. One could map out a different 30-mile ride for every day of the summer, I suspect.

To the southeast, you follow the Chenango River for gentle slopes or go up and over the ridge toward the West and the Town of Eaton.

To the East, big hills separate Hamilton from Brookfield, site of some forested hiking and horseback-riding trails, and the Hubbardsville Mall (http://www.flickr.com/photos/juneny/6810780826/).

Head due south over rolling hills to tiny and cute Poolville, with one of the best restaurants in the area (The Poolville Country Store), as well as a great rural cheese shop (Jewett’s).

You can follow the old Chenango Canal to the north. Huge hills to the west on US Route 20 challenge the strength and stamina of all but the beefiest of bikers.

Lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and streams are everywhere. Fascinating historical, cultural and natural resources are scattered all around, and many, like the Oneida Community Mansion House in Sherill (New York’s smallest incorporated city) and the Gerritt Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro (Smith was a prominent abolitionist, and Peterboro “became a crossroads of human benevolence”, according to the website) are just two of a plethora of reasonable bicycle-tourism destinations from Hamilton. Next week, if you go along, we can bike to the Madison County Fair in Brookfield. It’s been going for 173 years. The Colgate Inn in the center of Hamilton has 25 beers on tap as a reward for completing the round-trip ride.

There were no berries along the route this morning.