Baroque trumpet player Perry Sutton and "closeted optimism"

I spoke with baroque trumpeter Perry Sutton a few weeks ago before the Middle East burst into flames. I’ve felt paralyzed since then, wanting to avoid all the horrible news but unable to look away. On some level it feels trivial to be talking about art and culture given everything going on everywhere including the chaos here at home.  On the other hand, as my dear friend Bronson de Stadler has pointed out, music and art are one of the truly good things in the world, a way to bridge divisions, to bring people together, to make things better instead of worse.

The legendary Maurice André
Trumpet playing at its zenith

This comes out particularly when talking with Perry, who will be featured in the NCMF Winter Baroque Concert on Sunday, December 17th at 3:00 in St. Paul’s. Perry’s personal story – a terrible accident and remarkable recovery – and what he describes as his “closeted optimism,” is refreshing during these dark times. He agreed to discuss the accident with me.

Back in September 2017 I suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of a Grade 3 (severe) concussion following an accident at my apartment. While I was getting ready to go to work at Dillon Music, I slipped and fell in my bathroom, falling backwards into my shower. The fall knocked me unconscious, cracked my head open, and I suffered some lacerations to my upper thigh and abdomen. The head injury led to hearing sensitivity (hyperacusis), light sensitivity, a brief period of speech loss, a several-months-long stretch of insomnia, anxiety, and serious effects on my short-term memory, including a six-month period of almost complete memory loss. I’ve dealt with symptoms of post-concussion syndrome since then as well.

Life is like that sometimes – everything can be fine one minute and then suddenly go all topsy-turvy. I’ve had close shaves more times than I can count; most were the result of a combination of ignorance and stupidity (spoiler: it wasn’t 50/50). We can channel this into our music: art as counterpoint to disaster. There is a brilliant scene in the film “Amadeus” where Mozart’s father and wife are fighting and he retires to another room to compose and the strains of beautiful music gradually subsume the awful yelling.

Clark Terry and Oscar Peterson
“Making Whoopee”
Perry’s comfort music

Winter Baroque this year features Perry, Cynthia Roberts (head of historical violin performance at Juilliard, returning to Newburyport after many years), Eliana on cello, and the avuncular presence of harpsichord player John McKean. For those of you who enjoy brass, this concert will be a special treat. There is also solo violin music and a Bach sonata for cello and harpsichord. Starting at 3:00, the concert will be a little over an hour with no intermission so people can still make it back in time for holiday dinners (or in some cases another concert). The centerpiece of the program will be a period version of Handel’s “Water Music.”

Our winter concert differs from the summer festival in that there isn’t time to get to know the artists up close. In lieu of that, I’m recording conversations with Perry, Cynthia, and John as the next best thing. I hope you enjoy these while you are cooking or doing the laundry or just sitting quietly at home.

This week, I’ll start with Perry.

David Yang, Artistic Director

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