Leslie Quarrier: Sing for Joy
Predicting the future is always risky business but if all goes according to plan, on Sunday, April 10 at 4 p.m., Leslie Quarrier will be singing at Con Brio’s Spring Concert. In fact, Leslie, who lives in Essex, has sung in every concert since Con Brio began 25 years ago. She has also gone on all seven European concert tours that the group has done.
The spring concert, under the direction of Stephen Bruce, features Haydn’s Missa in Tempore Belli, Mass in Time of War, written originally in 1796 when Vienna was under attack. Bruce noted he had chosen the piece well before the current fighting in Ukraine.
Con Brio, he pointed out, often sings about peace, “but often it’s elusive.”
The performance of the Haydn Mass will feature two soloists who are longtime local residents as well as renowned international singers, mezzo soprano Patricia Schuman and her husband, bass-baritone David Pittsinger. Joining them as soloists are tenor Brian Cheney and soprano Louise Fauteux.
Schuman will also perform the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana. According to Bruce, it is perhaps the most applauded piece Con Brio has ever sung. Pittsinger will sing another audience favorite, the Toreador song from Carmen.
Schuman and Pittsinger will join Con Brio for “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from Sound of Music. All four soloists will sing the last number along with the audience and the chorus, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
For Leslie, singing with Con Brio is a change from her business life as a yacht broker with her own firm, Essex Yacht Sales in the Dauntless Shipyard.
“Singing, it’s totally other from my day-to-day life. I love the joy of it and the camaraderie of the group,” she says. “It is a diverse group, a great variety of people and many great friendships from it.”
Leslie, who grew up in Scarsdale, came from a musical family. He mother was a pianist; her father played the violin. She sang in choral groups as well as taking voice, violin, and viola lessons.
At Sweet Briar College in Virginia, Leslie majored in philosophy, but with little idea of what career would follow. She describes her entry into the yacht brokerage business as being in the right place at the right time. She was working in a local bookstore when she was asked to take care of the office of a yacht broker during a boat show. She had been contemplating getting a real estate license but found she liked the yacht business and decided to stay on.
There were challenges. She recalls the day she was alone in the office and a man came in. He asked if anybody was there. Leslie pointed out that she obviously was. His response took her aback.
“He said, ‘I mean, is there anybody here who knows anything?’” she recalls.
Leslie decided she would be not simply the person who knew something, but the person who knew as much as possible. She spent time learning everything she could about what it takes to be an effective yacht salesman. She recalls days learning mechanics in engine rooms.
“Bingo, you never stop learning the systems,” she says. “It’s an ongoing challenge.”
The pandemic has produced good years for boat sales.
“Families couldn’t travel; they couldn’t go places, see friends. They bought boats,” she says.
For new owners, Leslie says that often a boat purchase weighs a home improvement project against a pleasure craft.
“It’s the new kitchen or the boat,” she says.
One of her favorite stories in the more than 40 years she has been in the business is the call she got from someone who wanted to come to see a boat on a day when she had to leave promptly. She explained how long she would be there and cautioned the would-be buyer that there were speed traps along the route, so attention to speed was necessary while trying to make her deadline.
The two men interested in the boat got there in time. Leslie asked if they had passed through any speed traps. They told her they never worried about that.
“They were cops,” she recalls.
Leslie has been involved over the years in community life in Essex. She was a member of the Essex Library Board and she has also served on the Essex Board of Education. Her three children, now grown, went through local schools.
She is still very visible in downtown Essex every morning on her daily walk of from three to four miles.
“Those morning walks are my joy; it puts me in sync with my village. I want to walk in town and see people,” she says.
For many years, Leslie was often accompanied on walks by a dog, a Siberian husky. She has had four of them.
Now she and her fiancé and business partner, Peter Amos, have a nine-month-old Siamese cat. Amos, also a 25-year member of Con Brio, is one of the singers who helped to found the group.
Leslie started in the yacht brokerage business in 1979. When people ask her if she has ever considered retirement, her answer is short: no.
“I don’t have any plans to leave,” she says. “I don’t use the word retirement. What would I do? Be bored!”
Con Brio Anniversary Gala Spring Concert
The Con Brio Anniversary Gala Spring Concert is on Sunday, April 10 at 4 p.m. in Christ the King Church, Old Lyme. For information and to purchase tickets, visit wwwconbrio.org. If tickets remain, there will be sales at the door.