Beloved musician Larry Gordon is on life support after bicycle accident

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  • Courtesy of Clayton Clemetson
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Larry Gordon has a deep bass voice and a love of singing – and he’s dedicated much of his life to joining others in singing. Gordon, 76, has a particular fondness for singing form notes, a tradition he has strived to revive in central Vermont and beyond through Village harmony, the group he founded in 1989.

On November 1, Gordon was in a bicycle accident (with no car involved) near his home in Marshfield, said Sinead O’Mahoney, staff member and singer of Village Harmony. Gordon has suffered a brain injury and will be removed from the resuscitation system at the University of Vermont Medical Center on Tuesday, Nov. 9, according to O’Mahoney.

“Form note is a singing tradition that started here in New England and has almost died out here in New England,” said O’Mahoney, 28. “Larry was really the one who rekindled the tradition here. Now it is very strong.

As the name suggests, in shape-note vocals, notes are represented by a shape on the musical staff. The songs are often hymns or come from other religious texts; they are usually sung in harmony in four voices.

“Larry was not a religious person,” O’Mahoney said. “He really liked good music, and a lot of it was religious.”

Gordon has participated in many choirs and singing groups in central Vermont, including founding Onion River Choir in Montpellier in 1978. But he is probably best known for his work with Village Harmony.

Its programs include a summer camp for teens who visit New England and travel and perform abroad. In places like Corsica, Georgia and South Africa, Village Harmony singers join locals to sing music and songs from the region in which they perform.

“We like to have really eclectic performances,” said O’Mahoney.

Last summer, due to COVID-19, a smaller version of Village Harmony formed: seven young singers and three adults. Instead of staying with host families, an arrangement that was unsuitable during a pandemic, the group camped in Vermont state parks and performed outdoors.

“Larry has a very relaxed demeanor,” said O’Mahoney. “He is demanding in the sense that he believes in his singers and is very encouraging. But he’s a very laid back guy.

A Facebook group, Love for Larry Gordon, is filled with stories about – and tributes to – Gordon. They range from eating his cinnamon-seasoned pasta sauce to listening to teenagers who make music with him “singing at the top of their lungs.”

One person wrote: “Reading all the stories, memories and experiences shared, seeing all the wonderful images, it’s amazing to see the size, breadth and strength of community that Larry has done so much to create. I doubt he even grasped the true nature of the wonderful beast he unleashed.

A vigil for Gordon with songs, food and a bonfire will be held on Tuesday, November 9 at 4 p.m. at his home in Marshfield. The organizers are asking that only people who have been vaccinated and wearing a mask enter inside. Unvaccinated people with face coverings may occasionally attend outdoors. For more information, visit a Caring Bridge site for Gordon.

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Corina C. Butler

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