James Bolle, founder of Monadnock Music, dies at age 87

  • James Bolle, the founder of Monadnock Music, passed away on April 14 of complications from Parkinsons Disease. Courtesy photo

  • James Bolle, the founder of Monadnock Music, passed away on April 14 of complications from Parkinsons Disease. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/23/2019 7:15:13 PM

James Bolle, who left his imprint on the region as the founder of Monadnock Music, died last week from complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 87 years old.

“Jim was one of the most unique people I’ve ever encountered, in any field,” said Basil Reeve, who played for Monadnock Music many times, and was a friend of Bolle’s. “He had an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He was living and breathing music as long as I ever knew him.”

Bolle, a long-time resident of Harrisville, was mainly known for his conducting and composing, family said, but also was trained in the violin, viola and French horn. Most people heard his musical voice in how he arranged performances through Monadnock Music.

What eventually would become Monadnock Music formed in 1966, his wife, Jocelyn Bolle said. The couple summered on Silver Lake in Nelson, and Bolle was drawn to the acoustics in the Nelson Meeting House and wanted to do a recording there. He arranged to bring several classical musicians to town to record in the church, and as a thank you to the community also organized some free concerts.

That was the start of an organization that continues to bring high-caliber classical musicians to the Monadnock Region to perform in intimate concerts.

Edith Milton of Peterborough, a former President of the Monadnock Music board, said Bolle had a talent for finding both well-known and up-and-coming talents.

“There was always music in this area and it was always available,” Milton said. “But I think he seriously put it on the map. It came from a personal love of music, and a connection with the musicians, and it became a serious resource for everyone in the region.”

His daughter, Susanna Bolle of Brookline, Massachusetts, said her father was uncompromising in his expectations of his musicians as a conductor, but knew how to demand excellence without going too far, and often tempered his criticism with his quirky sense of humor.

“He had a soft power,” she said. “He wanted to get the best out of everybody.”

Jocelyn Bolle recalled one incident in which he was conducting and the viola section was struggling with the piece.

“He spoke sharply to them and afterward he felt badly. So he went to Woodman’s [Florist] and bought a bunch of roses and put a single red rose on the music stand of everyone in the section,” Jocelyn Bolle said.

He incorporated his sense of humor into the apology, she added, by including a small card with the roses – which cheekily advised the musicians to “Get better soon.”

“He was very uncompromising in his wishes and his aims, but he was also very tolerant and had a funny, off-beat sense of humor,” Jocelyn Bolle said.

That sense of humor came through in his composing, as well, said Reeve. Reeve, who until recently was the principal oboe player for the Minnesota Orchestra, had several pieces for the oboe written for him by Bolle.

“I liked his style, which was eclectic, and he was strongly influenced by very disparate composers,” Reeve said.

And as a conductor, Reeve said, Bolle was demanding, but also gave his musicians the freedom to experiment and express themselves in ways not usually allowed for a professional symphony musician.

“He was very aware of the fact musicians need to have a creative voice in what they do, and that’s what’s special about [Monadnock Music],” Reeve said.

During his time in New Hampshire, Bolle also created the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra, which he ran for 29 years. Susanna Bolle said her father founded the Symphony so he could do some larger-scale productions and orchestral pieces that didn’t fit in the Monadnock Music model, which were intended for intimate small spaces in local churches and Meetinghouses.

Monadnock Music was his most “passionate endeavor,” Susanna Bolle said, and helped to bring music to people up close and personal through a mix of different types of classical music.

“He never gave people everything you wanted, but he would give you something you didn’t know you wanted,” Susanna Bolle said. “And you could get a really good musical education through it, in a very casual atmosphere.”

Bolle stepped down from leading Monadnock Music in 2009, when his Parkinson’s Disease became too advanced, Jocelyn Bolle said. The organization is still running today.

Bolle passed away from complications from his Parkinson’s on April 14 at his retirement facility in Massachusetts.

The family is planning a memorial concert to be scheduled for this summer. Donations in his memory can be made to the Non-Event concert series, Monadnock Music or Dance for PD that organizes dance classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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