WESTERLY — Musician Michael Chicoria will invite music-lovers to accompany him on a musical journey Saturday night at the United Theatre, during a kick-off concert fundraiser for the Harmony Trail project.
Chicoria, a Westerly High School and Berklee School of Music graduate, will perform at 8 p.m. The concert will open with a 7 p.m. performance by the Westerly High School Symphonic Band.
Chicoria said he’s planning to treat audience to “a TED talk without the talk.”
“It will definitely be improvisational,” said Chicoria, who’s been playing piano since he was a youngster. “And it depends on the audience ... everything depends on the audience.”
“It’s meant to be a meditation of sorts,” he added, noting that “an acoustic piano was important for this type of concert.”
“Even the best keyboard does not have the natural resonance that an acoustic has,” added Chicoria.
It was fitting that the conversation would turn to instruments, since the Harmony Trail project is all about instruments.
The project, an effort to install large outdoor musical instruments throughout downtown Westerly-Pawcatuck, has expanded to possibly include more instruments in other sections, according to Tim Lebling, one of the organizers of the project. From the initial eight instruments imagined, it now looks like there may be closer to 20.
Lebling said he was originally inspired by the Joyful Noise Outdoor Instruments project in the city of La Porte, Ind., “where large musical instruments are located in unexpected places throughout the city.” His mother-in-law’s brother, Mark Krentz, just happens to be the mayor of La Porte, so talk of the project and its success was heard regularly within the family.
In La Porte, for instance, the local Kiwanis Club sponsors the towering contrabass, and a local business, the American Licorice Company, sponsors an enormous imbarimba, which combines elements of two African instruments, the marimba and the kalimba.
Lebling said that organizers have so far raised one-third of the $75,000 needed for the instruments and have planned a number of upcoming fundraising events to raise the rest.
Members of the Westerly and Pawcatuck Lions clubs have also become involved with the project, Lebling said, and have created an instrument donation/refurbishment program. People with unused musical instruments can bring them to Saturday’s concert and donate them to the project. The Westerly and Pawcatuck Lions clubs will pay for the cleaning and refurbishment of the instruments, which will then be donated to middle school music programs in Westerly and Stonington for students interested in playing an instrument but who are unable to purchase one.
Alternatively, instruments can be dropped off at Thavenet Machine, 12 Chase St. in Pawcatuck, weekdays from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, and at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, 224 Post Road, Westerly, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Lebling said other events on the fundraising calendar include a Chocolate Stroll On Feb. 7 in downtown Westerly in which 14 restaurants will offer chocolate dishes and drinks from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and can be purchased at BricksandMurals.org.
On April 7, a Mardi Gras party and raffle will be held at the Knickerbocker Music Center.
Lebling stresses that the Harmony Trail project is separate but related to the Bricks and Murals project that saw hundreds of Walldogs — mural and sign artists from across the country — descend on the region in 2017 to paint 14 historical murals on the sides of area buildings. The instruments will be purchased, installed and maintained by Bricks and Murals on behalf of Harmony Trail, Lebling said.