Snells' Barn
Norwich Vermont

The barn.

Joan and Laurie Snell provided music programs and art exhibits in their barn Saturday nights during the summer from 1967 to 1973. Only amateur musicians were allowed to perform but the wonderful acoustics of the barn and the wine and vermont cheese made the performers sound like professionals.

Joan tending bar.

Son John helped park the cars and daughter Mary passed out the programs.

Mary passing out programs with her friends Annie and Jane Epperson.

Laurie singing in a performance of a new opera- a setting of Chaucer's The Nun's Priest's Tale by Ruth Scroggs.

The conductor is Robin Scroggs. Other singers, in the first row from left to right, are John Lamperti, Barbara Davis, and Dick McGaw. Orchestra members in the second row are Margaret Shakespeare(violin), Dick Williamson (flute), and Reese Prosser (cello). The pianist (hidden) is Beverly Gaylord. John Lamperti, Dick Williamson, and Reese Prosser were colleagues of Laurie in the Dartmouth math department. Reese also played in a number of chamber music concerts for the barn.

Reese (cello), his wife Nancy (viola) and their friend Eddie Sherrard (violin) taking a bow.


Here are some comments on Snells' Bam that Nancy Prosser wrote for Musical Offering, the quarterly newsletter of the Upper Valley Music Center.

The Snells' Barn
Nancy Prosser

Laurie and Joan Snell bought a beautiful Federal house with a big red barn in Norwich in 1967. But they were only secondarily interested in the house-especially Laurie. He had his own dream. He wanted to make the barn into a summer concert hall that would give their many musical friends opportunities to perform and play and sing together. After accepting and rejecting many suggestions for lighting and baffles, and talking to architects and builders, he hired those with ideas he liked. Then came a new floor, baffles hung from the rafters for good acoustics, a new electric system, and decisions on decor.

The result was spectacular. Everything worked the way it was supposed to-the lighting, the baffles, etc. But the marvelous thing was the ambiance of the place. The Snells ordered 100 yellow directors chairs, which were a beautiful contrast to the warm wood tones of the barn. The baffles were yellow, too. The decor was further enhanced by various local artists' work displayed along the walls of the barn.

The concerts were on Saturday nights. The performers were singers and instrumentalists, mostly amateur and local and some professional. All sorts of musical offerings were included. I will mention a few of my highlights. With Walter Stockmayer, Eddie, Reese and I played "An Evening in g Minor" when we performed Mozart's g minor piano quartet, and Brahms' g minor piano quartet. Another time, with Stocky, we played Brahms' f minor piano quintet with the addition of Danny Domjan, a very gifted Dartmouth student. A concert including Schubert's Trout Quintet with John Koch, Eddie, Reese and Willy Weeks on bass was very special, and the clarinet quintets (Brahms and Mozart) with Don Wendlandt were a real treat. There were so many more moving, musical performances. Someone involved will tell us about them, I hope.

Cars were parked in a nearby field. Laurie purchased cases of good French wine and soft drinks and Joanie provided Vermont cheese and sometimes roast beef or spagetti dinners for all to enjoy. Laurie said he made a lot of money from a textbook he wrote with John Kemeny and Gerald Thompson, and thought this project, with all the extras, was the best way to use it. No one paid a cent. We were all guests. And it was such fun!!

The concerts were a great success, and, with a glass of wine in hand and the warm atmosphere, the audience was lulled into thinking some of the amateur sounds were almost professional. The concerts were very popular. People came early to be sure of getting a seat. Laurie, with a smile, would compare our concerts to those in "Bentley's Barn!"

But all good things come to an end. The Snells decided to close up shop in 1973. Nothing seemed to persuade them otherwise. So ended a glorious and unique musical era. But the memories linger on.