Event Spotlight: Pianists To Remember Mentor

The Rev. James B. Jeffrey

On Saturday evening, alumni of the Pianofest music program will gather at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in East Hampton for a free concert in memory of the late Rev. James B. Jeffrey.

"Most of the musicians have in some way, shape or form been touched by Jim," St. Luke's current rector, the Rev. Denis C. Brunelle said.

Mr. Jeffrey, who died in 2013 at the age of 84, played piano himself and helped mentor the students, now professional musicians. "For some 20 years, he housed some of the Pianofest students, making sure they got meals and got to where they needed to go," Mr. Brunelle said, adding that he often invited them to concerts in Manhattan. "He had a great love for opera and anything with classical music."

The late Episcopal minister was also the force behind the Music at St. Luke's series, approaching Mr. Brunelle when he first arrived five years ago about organizing such a program for the fall and spring. The series is now in its third year.

"Our whole year this year was dedicated in his memory and we thought it would be nice to end this way," Mr. Brunelle said. 

Taking part on Saturday will be Scott Cuellar, Illya Filshtinsky, Matthew Graybil, Igor Lovchinsky, William McNally, Zahari Metchkov, Daria Rabotkina, and Katha Zinn. Due to illness, Keith Miller and Konstantin Soukhovetski, who were also scheduled to play, will be unable to attend. David Williams will join the group in Mr. Miller's place.

Mr. Cuellar recalled Mr. Jeffrey's support after his first Pianofest performance at the Southampton Cultural Center. "Jim approached me, gave me a hug and said, 'There is no greater love for a man than to drive to Southampton at rush hour,' " he wrote in the program for Saturday's concert, which along includes other recollections of Mr. Jeffrey. "This sums up everything I loved about Jim: his unfailing sense of humor at all times and sharp wit, but more importantly, his dedication to the pianist with whom he shared a few weeks every summer, and his love for the music we play."

Mr. McNally remembered Mr. Jeffrey's "kind demeanor and measured Cajun drawl," and his strong beliefs. "The Music at St. Luke's series was born over an oddly ill-fated peach omelette breakfast (he knew of my interest in culinary creativity) with a mission to reach everyone in eastern Long Island who loved classical music but found New York too far to travel. Our friendship grew out of the countless conversations we had for this series, but my favorite memories stem from the delight he so clearly took in hosting people," he wrote.

The concert will be held in Hoie Hall in the Parish House at 4 p.m.