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Musicians Jeremiah and Annemieke McLane Recover From a House Fire

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Annemieke and Jeremiah McLane - COURTESY OF BRENT HARREWYN
  • Courtesy Of Brent Harrewyn
  • Annemieke and Jeremiah McLane

Early in the morning of Tuesday, August 4, the Sharon home of musicians and educators Annemieke and Jeremiah McLane and their 7-year-old son, Luke, was destroyed in a house fire. Fortunately, the family was vacationing in Maine, so no one was injured. However, the house burned to the ground, and everything inside was lost, including instruments, recording studio gear and sheet music that Annemieke had been collecting for decades. The family's cat also perished in the blaze.

"It was a blow, but fortunately we were spared the trauma of seeing it," Jeremiah said by phone last week.

One could forgive the McLanes for being despondent or angry. Those have become baseline emotions for many of us against the backdrop of a pandemic and the social, economic and political strife it's inspired.

"You could look at the world as being a dark place, especially right now. And then, on top of that, your house burns down," Jeremiah said. "But our experience has been that, in fact, the world is a pretty awesome place because people reach out and take care and are so helpful."

In the wake of the fire, which is still under investigation, the McLanes have received a swell of community support. The United Church of Strafford has organized the McLane Recovery Fund, and the Sharon Elementary School is collecting books for Luke. But the outpouring extends well beyond the Upper Valley. Jeremiah noted support from friends, family and fellow musicians from as far away as the Netherlands, where Annemieke grew up, and throughout the U.S. and Canada.

"We are overwhelmed, and also grateful for all support from all over the world," Annemieke wrote via email.

She recalled returning from Maine four days after the fire to find the ruins of their home still smoking.

"I found the cast iron frame of my grand piano. It felt like I could identify the corpse, all is gone," Annemieke wrote, referring to the Ibach piano she brought with her from the Netherlands when she moved to the U.S. decades ago. "The grounds are quiet now. We need to clean up and start anew."

On Friday, August 21, the couple will step toward a new beginning by revisiting something close to normalcy. For the first time since the pandemic hit, they will play in front of a live audience as the Cassotto Duo at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph.

Copresented by the Chandler and the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival, the show will accommodate a 75-person, socially distanced audience inside the stately concert hall. The performance will also be livestreamed.

The duo, with Annemieke on piano and Jeremiah on accordion, will perform their own arrangements of pieces by composers from Johann Sebastian Bach and François Couperin to Astor Piazzolla and Jo Privat. They'll add some of Jeremiah's original, French-inspired compositions.

"I would say it mostly fits under the umbrella of the chamber music festival," Jeremiah said. "But we're a crossover group. We were never really pure classical."

As an example, he highlighted the duo's treatment of Bach, which he described as "fun," "lighthearted" and, believe it or not, "danceable."

"A lot of people don't play Bach that way, but Annemieke does," Jeremiah said.

If anyone could use some upbeat tunes at the moment, it's ... well, everyone. But perhaps especially the McLanes.

"Music is healing, and is 'in' us," Annemieke wrote. "That is one flame we need to carry on."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Carry the Flame | Musicians Annemieke and Jeremiah McLane recover from a devastating house fire"