NEWBURY – Sounds of an oboe playing a Handel concerto wafted across racks of boxed pasta, can goods and cereals Friday afternoon as Boston Orchestra principal oboist Andrew Price entertained a dozen volunteers at the First Parish Newbury Food Pantry.
For the last year, while Covid shut down concerts, Price has been volunteering at the food pantry where his sister-in-law Jane Merrow is the chief volunteer manager. He helps deliver food to needy in the community.
Next month, Price is organizing a concert by his Essex Ensemble of top area musicians to perform a concert at the Maudslay Arts Center in a continuing effort to raise money to build a permanent home for the food pantry.
Price, who performs also with the Bach, Beethoven and Brahms Society, the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, brought his oboe Friday to delight other yellow-shirted volunteers at the food pantry as a prelude to the concert where he and seven other musicians, playing oboe, violin, cello and viola, will perform between 6 and 8 p.m. on Aug. 14.
He offered to play for the volunteers who assemble and deliver food to the needy when he heard other musicians entertaining the volunteers and food recipients. Music has always been part of our Pantry’s story, Merrow said. When volunteers and recipients came to the church, local musicians played the piano or a harp while people shopped.
“I can do that,” Price told Merrow, to which, she said he should play a concert for the community and raise money for the pantry.
When he began recruiting fellow musicians, the first four he asked readily agreed. Then four more volunteered, and he doesn’t rule out more musicians showing up for the concert.
The concert will present a repertoire that includes the music of JS Bach, Karl Stamitz, Antonio Vivaldi and probably “a few surprises,” Price said.
The concert will feature table and lawn seating and a cash bar. Metzy’s food truck will be on hand, serving great tacos. Reserved table seats are $50 per person in tables of three or four. Lawn tickets (bring your blanket or chair) are $30, which Price said is less than having drinks with friends.
Children under 12 are free. During the intermission, the audience can purchase 50/50 raffle tickets. All proceeds go to help build a permanent home for the pantry.
The food pantry, which serves 250 to 300 needy people each Friday, moved July 3 out of the First Parish Church on High Road in Newbury to allow the church to seat parishioners on Sundays in pews where for the last year the pantry had stored donated food.
Thanks to the generosity of Mary Jo and Bryce Anderson, who leased space on Hanover Road for his car collection, the pantry has a temporary home for receiving and organizing the food distribution.
Compared to the church sanctuary, the temporary space “is a little squishy,” Merrow said, but she and the other volunteers are thrilled to have the space the Andersons leased. It is organized more like a grocery store than in the church sanctuary with racks lined up for volunteers to put together deliveries and for families to select their food needs for the week.
The concert and other efforts are raising funds to build a permanent home at the rear of the First Parish Church grounds. “It’s going to happen,” the ever-positive Merrow said last week. She said the pantry has raised about one third to a half of the funds needed. “We’re going to lay a concrete slab this fall,” she said. She predicted that the pantry will be in its new home by the end of the year.
Down Hanover Road from the temporary space is the Newbury Elementary School where Price was a fifth-grade student when after he first saw an oboist play with the Boston Pops. “I decided right then that was going to do,” he said.
The man in the chair of the first principal oboist was the legendary Ralph Gomberg, who joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra and held the principal oboe chair for 37 years before retiring. Twenty-two years after Price watched the Pops on television and decided his future career, he became a student of Gomberg and succeeded him as principal oboist.
“I think about that every time I sit in that chair,” he said.
Price volunteers every week at the food pantry, even now when concerts are starting up again. “Everyone here is a volunteer and we all find it satisfying work. It feels good to help neighbors. Our work has provided a lifeline for so many in the community. We deliver about 100 orders every week, with three-quarters of our guests from Newburyport and Newbury,” he said.
Merrow, whose husband was Price’s older brother, is excited about bringing such accomplished musicians to help the pantry. “People drive to Boston and Tanglewood to see this quality of performance.”
The Maudslay Arts Center is being donated for the concert. The Institution for Savings and Arthur Page Insurance are major sponsors.
For more information or to purchase tickets, check the pantry’s Facebook page @NewburyFoodPantry, its website, newburyfoodpantry.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To order food, call 978-358-1077.