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Surry Arts: At the Barn

Surry Concert Barn community page
Formerly known as The Concert Barn, where Rinzai Zen teacher and classical pianist Walter Nowick and guest musicians and singers from Maine and around the world delighted audiences with their virtuoso performances for decades, Surry Arts: At The Barn is carrying on Walter’s legacy under the enthusiastic and competent direction of musician and music therapist Alan Wittenberg, to whom Walter left the property. I have a very personal connection to the project, not only because I was a student of Walter’s in the 70s, and was very close to him during his last years and last days, but also because Walter cured me of a lifelong phobia about my ability to sing. Having been asked to leave the children’s choir at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth because I sang so loudly and off key that nobody else in the choir was able to carry the tune, either, and having received similar walking orders from my high school glee club for the same reason, I was less than enthusiastic when Walter insisted I could sing and signed me up to be a member of the chorus in The Surry Opera Company, which he founded in the early 80s. Thanks to Merle Bisberg, an alto next to whom I initally sat, who told Walter that I was definitely not an alto, it was determined that the reason for my fear of singing was that I was actually a tenor, but had mistakenly been placed in the girl’s alto sections of choir and glee club, because I had a low voice for a female. Walter moved me to the tenor section, and I sang loudly and happily and mostly on key in Surry performances, and in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Tblisi, Georgia. I am very impressed with Alan’s efforts and help out whenever I’m able … although nobody has yet asked me to sing! Facebook page

June 25, 2017

Dear Mike,

I’m unsure at this point whether or not Sally Mills is still representing me, but I think not. She’s doing a great job with what she considers to be the salient aspects regarding how to resolve our specific economic and quality of life issues. I hope you continue to work with her to complete that process.

But there is a much larger issue at stake here, and I’m writing to seek your help in addressing it. I know you to be a very decent person who does his best to comply with all the laws governing gravel extraction. I’ve spoken with someone at the DEP who has done a lot of work with you and he concurred with my estimation of who you are as a man. I don’t have a problem with you personally. My chief concern is with the unpreparedness of the Town of Surry regarding its mineral extraction permitting process.

The larger issue I hope you and your attorneys will work with me on is this: What is decided now about how we should proceed as neighbors with conflicting interests regarding land use, the economics of providing gravel to meet the needs of the community, and quality of life issues for those living near its extraction, is going to have a powerful impact on the future ecology of this area and on the lives of those who will come after us.
While I think you did a great job with completing the application given you by the Town, and I appreciate all the environmental concerns you addressed, that application does not yet address quality of life issues for people living near a gravel extraction process. For that reason, I think it’s vitally important that the Town’s application include reference to the ways in which that issue is to be handled.

I am confident that you will faithfully abide by whatever informal agreement you come to with Sally, being who you are.
But what about others who will now be able to obtain gravel extraction permits that do not contain such a requirement, and are unwilling to negotiate with neighbors about their quality of life concerns? What about future owners of your properties? Will they be as ethical or as concerned about the environment and the quality of life needs of their neighbors as you are? In today’s world, with so much at stake regarding the environment and so much polarization around social issues, I think it behooves us to do everything possible to safeguard the future of both as best we can in our small part of the world by getting this application right from the start.

That is going to take some time, and I don’t want to see you held up regarding your work needs, so I wonder if together we could convince the Town of Surry to grant you a temporary permit based on the current application, and then work cooperatively to assist the Town in developing a permanent mineral extraction application that addresses both your needs as a businessman and the needs of your neighbors.

My understanding is that the Town has no ordinance to provide for this, but I would hope that if we jointly agreed to such an arrangement, they might be persuaded to find a way to make an exception. I trust that they, too want to do the right thing here, but I fear they’re feeling a lot of pressure to correct their previous mistakes and issue a permit as quickly as possible. While I understand why they might feel that way, I think fast-tracking this permit as they appear to be doing is not the best way to make sure all pertinent issues are considered.
My position is that everything is interconnected. When natural systems are traumatized and changed in one place, reverberations are felt in other, sometimes distant places. Mineral extraction processes are traumatic events for the land on which they are carried out and adjacent ecosystems as well as distant ones may feel the effects for generations to come. The decisions and choices we make today will impact for better or worse the generations that will follow us.

I’m therefore inviting you to work with me and others to ensure that the decisions we’re making now have a positive, rather than a negative, impact on all of our lives in the present as well as on the lives of those who come after us.
Please let me know as soon as you can what your thoughts are about doing this, because I have a terminally ill family member who needs most of my attention for the next few weeks, and I’d like to have some kind of agreement about this in place before the Planning Board hearing on the application on Wednesday night. Tomorrow morning I am sharing a hard copy of this letter with the Town to be delivered to Planning Board Members, so that they can begin thinking about what I’m suggesting here and perhaps find a way to deal with my request.
Thanks, and Best Wishes,

cc: P. Andrew Hamilton
Eaton Peabody
80 Exchange Street
Bangor, Maine 04401