[JPL] more on the satchmo maze

Tom Reney tr at wfcr.org
Fri Sep 21 06:32:24 EDT 2007

>From The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, MA

Maze tunes up for jazz great: To honor Armstrong, Sunderland farm adds musical walls


SUNDERLAND - A famous cook, sports figures and even presidential candidates have made appearances in years past. But the corn maze at Warner Farm will have something extra this year - a wall of music anyone can play. 

Created annually by William Sillin and Michael Wissemann, the maze will portray an image of jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

"There are so many directions we can go with this, but this year we decided to do something musical," said Wissemann. "And we wanted to do a person of color." 

Louis Armstrong, born Aug. 4, 1901, was one of the greatest influences on jazz. He was arrested at age 12 for shooting off a gun on New Year's Eve, and learned to play the cornet while in reform school where he remained until age 14. 

After making his mark as a trumpet player of extraordinary power, he became equally well known as a vocalist, performing dozens of songs for film and stage. 

Armstrong performed with many musical greats including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and Bing Crosby. Armstrong died July 6, 1971, at the age of 69.

Each year Wissemann and Sillin devise a series of whimsical and knowledge-boosting games to accompany the journey through the maze. 

This year will be no less interactive and will make a musician out of the most tone-deaf. 

Hatching the idea in his backyard on South Main Street with his son Henry, Sillin devised a series of pipes hung on heavy wire, cut to size to play musical notes when struck with a small stick. 

Henry Sillin explained that they started out by finding out how long the pipes need to be. Then he created a set of scales to get a feel for the notes.

Demonstrating Saturday, Sillin walked quickly down the line striking the metal conduit tubes with a chopstick - and playing the melody from Dave Brubeck's "Take 5." 

"We have about 20 songs we came up with, but that was the hardest one," said Sillin. 

Sillin joked that no one in his family has any musical ability, so when his visiting brother Lee tried it, he couldn't stop. 

"He just did it over and over exclaiming that finally he could play music," said Sillin. 

Sillin and his son came up with a variety of songs, classical, jazz, and television theme songs such as Hawaii 5-0 and the Andy Griffith Show. They have about 25 pipes for each melody - about 500 in all. 

Sillin said they will have a demo set up before entering the maze, which will open around Labor Day. The musical walls will line the maze and everyone will be given a chopstick to play the melodies. 

"This is so much fun. I think people will have a blast," said Sillin. There will also be quiz questions relating to the songs and to Armstrong.


For more information, visit the Web site or call 665-8331. 

Mike's Maze at Warner Farm is located at 23 South Main St. in Sunderland. 

Tom Reney
"Jazz à la Mode"
Monday-Friday, 8-11 p.m.

WFCR 88.5 FM
NPR News and Music for Western New England
Hampshire House
131 County Circle
Amherst, MA 01003-9257

tr at wfcr.org
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