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Music and instruments from across the ages featured in Playing with History

Music and instruments from across the ages featured in Playing with History

By Jon Bishop

HARVARD — Claire Rindenello is having fun.

She’s a member of the Harvard Historical Society and a flutist. She’s been planning the upcoming Playing with History event, which on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. will bring some 20 musicians to 215 Still River Road to play instruments from the 19th and early 20th centuries and sing Shaker music from the 18th century.

“What I’ve been doing over the past few weeks is working with our musicians,” she said. “For years, I thought it would be wonderful to put on a performance.”

The Harvard Historical Society has an impressive collection of vintage instruments, such as a George Stevens organ from 1870 and three reed organs, the earliest from 1849. They have the Harvard Cornet Band bass drum; a Firth Pond Flute, likely manufactured somewhere between 1847 and 1863; a rolmonica, which is a player piano-like harmonica; an Edison Standard phonograph from 1905; and a jaw harp, a small instrument which is placed in the mouth and produces a twang-like sound.

In putting together the show, Rindenello uncovered a web of connections and learned that many people in her life have all kinds of talents.

“Every single person who has come into this has brought something different,” she said.

This includes people she doesn’t know personally. She was originally unfamiliar with the tune on the rolmonica, and so she contacted a man from Maryland who owned a lot of rolls. He helped, and they ended up having a great conversation.

“The Internet’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

“Everything is coming together,” she added. “This has been so much fun putting this together.”

She said Tammy Alfano and Doug Cregar, both from the society, have been doing a lot of research about the instruments.

So this is true collaboration — and it’s something that the society has not done before.

“We’ve put on musical programs before,” she said. “This is the first time anything like this has happened.”

And setting up the performance, watching it come together, seeing what the community takes away from it, well, that’s right up her alley, she said.

“I really enjoy doing this,” she said. “It’s just taking off because there are so many wonderful musicians willing to share their talent.”

According to the Harvard Historical Society website, refreshments and conversation will follow the program. A donation of $5 will go toward the Organ Restoration Fund, it said.

For information about the Harvard Historical Society, visit

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