By Michelle Miller
---- — FLY CREEK
Once a year, the Fly Creek Methodist Church is transformed into a Philharmonic hall.
A zany group of musicians gets together to play traditional instruments such as guitars, banjos and organs while also breaking out other noise-makers such as sand paper blocks, wash boards, tuned bottles, jugs and Kazoos. All of these items are used to put on an orchestra-like show.
The Fly Creek Philharmonic musicians are celebrating more than 15 years together, and will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16. The performance will be held at the Fly Creek Methodist Church and tickets are available at Augur’s in Cooperstown and the Fly Creek General Store.
The show has taken on a different theme each year. Some past titles include “It’s About Time,” “Any Way the Wind Blows,” “For the Birds,” “What’s Love Got to do With It,” “Let’s Get Physical” and “Money Matters!” This year’s theme will be, “Location, Location, Location.”
According to organizers, the music will relate in some way to a place: From “Route 66” to “Hawaiian War Chant.”
Creative Director Paula Schaeffer said performances will feature full cast instrumental and singing numbers as well as smaller group assembles. She said: “In addition to our usual smaller groups like the Fuzzy Logic Jug Band and Alphabet Singers, this year we’ll be mixing it up even more with other groups as well.”
For example, Schaeffer said children will be featured more.
“The kids are becoming seasoned performers in their own right. They’ve all been with us for at least two seasons,” she said.
Schaeffer and her husband, Bill, have been with the group since its inception. Paula took over directing the Fly Creek Philharmonic about six years ago from Susan Rodd, a local piano teacher. Rodd began the tradition by having her students perform and it eventually grew into a community event, according to many of the musicians that were at a rehearsal last year.
Long-time Philharmonic participant Ellen Tillapaugh said her two daughters were students of Rodd and performed under her direction when they were children. Tillapaugh said she and her husband, Gary Kuch, decided to get involved as adults.
“We do not consider ourselves real talents,” she said during the rehearsal last year. “We are here for the comedic effect. It is something we can do together.”
Tillpaugh, a Cooperstown village trustee and owner of Tillapaugh Art Conservation on Beaver Street, said partaking in the Philharmonic is a fun way to get through the winter.
“It allows us to get a little silly,” she said.
Members of the Philharmonic range widely in age and occupation, but they all come together for a few months of intense rehearsals, which begin in January.
Not long after the Fly Creek Philharmonic was formed, Bill said, its fame spread when it was chosen to perform on “A Prairie Home Companion” in 1996. Bill said the group was selected to be featured on the radio show hosted by Garrison Keillor from 1,000 entries. He said it had been an annual contest of “Talent From Towns Under 2,000.”
The group from Fly Creek did not win first prize that year, but Bill said the trip to St. Paul, Minn., was unforgettable. Bill said the group has traveled to perform in some concert series and other events since, but it has become hard to continue.
Each year the group selects a local charity to support with a portion of ticket sales. Because of pressing need, organizers said money will be donated to the food bank once again.