The Rapp for April 17

Open for business

Landscapers at work Wednesday at The Inn’s new Parsonage.
Landscapers at work Wednesday at The Inn’s new Parsonage. | Rappahannock News

Two big winter-renovation projects in the town of Washington are due to open their doors this weekend: The Inn at Little Washington’s new six-suite luxury annex, The Parsonage (formerly known as Clopton House) is scheduled to open to guests this Saturday (April 19), just a day after Tula’s off Main reopens as a full-time, full-service restaurant on Gay Street under Thornton River Group executive chef Tom Nash.

Elsewhere in the county, we hear that El Quijote — Emilio and Laura Fontan’s tapas and Spanish cuisine restaurant — is also very close to reopening those too-long-closed doors at the rear of the River District Arts complex in Sperryville. ¡Qué guay!

Back in the town of Washington, the White Moose Inn appears to be open — and there are already 18 glowing, five-star reviews on As this sentence was being written, a first-ever email arrived from recommending that we seek our Easter escape at White Moose’s ultra-cool Main Street digs.

We also hear that White Moose owner Jim Abdo, who’s apparently been instrumental in keeping deed recorders warm over an otherwise cold winter in Little Washington, has been talking to Warrenton’s Red Truck Bakery about a possible commercial bakery and retail space nearby. Could Red Truck owner Brian Noyes, a former newspaper and magazine designer, have designs on a certain former newspaper and magazine office?

It’s possible we’ll have a more reliable report after our Easter escape.

— Roger Piantadosi

Point-to-point (and pint-sized) races Sunday

Something you rarely get to do with the family on Easter Sunday is take in a steeplechase race — or participate in one with other kids on the same course. This Sunday (April 20) at 1, the Thornton Hill Fort Valley Hounds offers not only its rescheduled annual point-to-point races amid the rolling hills and close-in mountains of Thornton Hill racecourse on U.S. 522 south of Sperryville — it’s also offering kids a chance to compete in the hunt club’s first-ever stick-horse race.

Thornton Hill's annual point-to-point is this Sunday (April 20).
Thornton Hill’s annual point-to-point is this Sunday (April 20). Courtesy photo

After the full-size horses finish their always-breathtaking thing, probably about 2:15, the “Great Rappahannock Stick Horse Race” starts, for kids 4 to 12 in three age groups, with ribbons for race winners and for the best-turned-out stick horse in each race. (It is Easter, after all — and this Sunday was the only date available on the local steeplechase circuit after this winter’s never-ending weather canceled THFVH’s usual early-March Saturday races.)

Course entrance is $20 per vehicle for the day. If you’re racing in a stick-horse event, you have to do what the real racers do — bring (and dress) your own horse. If you have questions, call Diana Perry at 540-631-1919.

Musical benefit

Kiaya Abernathy, who often performs locally with her father, William Abernathy, is offering a free evening of music at Headmaster’s Pub in Sperryville Saturday (April 19), as friends and family of the elder Abernathy gather to celebrate his rehabilitation from a stroke. Kiaya is, as she put it, “accepting donations, love and support” starting at 8 p.m. at Headmaster’s (in the Sperryville Schoolhouse complex). For more information, call 540-987-5008.

Smithsonian at Little Washington

The Smithsonian Chamber Players return to the Theatre at Washington at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27, for a concert of Joseph Haydn’s Keyboard Sonatas and Trios performed by Kenneth Slowik on fortepiano, violinist Ian Swensen and cellist Elisabeth Reed.

Violinist Ian Swensen performs with the Smithsonian Chamber Players April 27.
Violinist Ian Swensen performs with the Smithsonian Chamber Players April 27.

Slowik is well known to Theatre audiences for his warm and warmly appreciated remarks at all Smithsonian at Little Washington concerts about the music and its composer. He notes that the originality of Haydn’s string quartets is well known, but that his keyboard works also illustrates how he was able to infuse sonata form with novel and penetrating ideas.

The fortepiano Slowik will play is made by Thomas and Barbara Wolf of The Plains, and the works are from an all-day seminar Slowik is presenting the day before for the Smithsonian Associates in Washington, D.C.

Violinist Swensen is an active soloist and chamber musician, appearing with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and with members of the Cleveland, Emerson and Tokyo quartets as well as with Yo-Yo Ma, Menahem Pressler and others. Like Swensen, cellist Reed is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory, where she teaches baroque cello and is co-director of the Baroque Ensemble. A graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and the Eastman School of Music, she is in demand throughout the country as a chamber musician and soloist.

Tickets are $25 for the April 27 concert. Reservations at 540-675-1253 or

An excellent show in our town

This dispatch came in from retired ambassador (and lifelong music appreciator) Carl Coon of Woodville:

Paul Reisler, Heather Mae and Lea Morris perform at RAAC Theatre April 6.
Paul Reisler, Heather Mae and Lea Morris perform at RAAC Theatre April 6. Cheryl Toth

I went to Paul Reisler’s Thousand Questions concert on April 6 at the RAAC Theatre expecting something along the lines of the songs he inspires school children to produce in his Kid Pan Alley program. Cute and clever but not exactly professional.

Was I ever wrong! The program was seamlessly excellent, soup to nuts, with a whole series of outstanding performances. Howard Levy does incredible things with his little harmonica; he’s as much a virtuoso on that humble instrument as Heifetz ever was with his violin. Percussionist Tom Teasley would have stolen the show if it weren’t for the competition.

The two singers, Heather Mae and Lea Morris, were excellent. In fact, Ms. Morris did a number that produced a couple of astonishingly effective climaxes. And Paul, of course, was his usual genial self, strumming his guitar and steering his talented group through a complicated program as if it were the easiest thing in the world. It sounded like all five of them were having fun, and so did the audience.

I continue to congratulate myself on having moved out here from the city some 25 years ago. The cultural life is great, and so much more accessible.

Dinner, a parade and more on Pantry Day

Bring your appetite, the family pet and a generous heart to Washington on May 10 for the annual celebration of Food Pantry Day in Rappahannock County.

Festivities begin at 10 with a pet parade at the Food Pantry (603 Mount Salem Ave.), where the entry fee is a can or bag of dog or cat food, prizes are awarded and, as always, the contestants promise to be too cute for words. Live music to lead the parade adds to the lighthearted atmosphere, and the pantry will be open so folks can see what the excitement is all about.

The grand finale comes at 7 that evening at Jessamine Hill Farm, the beautifully restored 1830s home of John Anderson and site of the Food Pantry’s gala benefit dinner. Tickets for an Italian feast are $85. With food and wine donated by local farms, restaurants and wineries, all proceeds go to the pantry. Reservations may be made at; by mailing a check to the pantry (603 Mt. Salem Ave., Washington, VA 22747); or by calling Bette Mahoney at 540-675-3446.

Between pet parade and dinner, St. Peter’s Catholic Church (on U.S. 211 just outside of town) is again holding a benefit bake sale, and other churches and community organizations will be conducting non-perishable food drives. (Contact pantry director Mimi Forbes at 540-675-1177 if you’re interested in organizing a drive.) Fresh flowers in time for Mother’s Day will also be sold on the pantry’s behalf.

The little one-room grocery provides about 200 Rappahannock families a month with dairy products, meat, bread, canned goods, fresh fruit, vegetables and other staples. The pantry is self-supporting, its operations financed primarily through fund-raising events and donations from individuals and organizations. Volunteer growers, shoppers, stockers and drivers are always welcome.

For more information, call 540-675-1177, and mark your calendars now for May 10, Food Pantry Day in Rappahannock County.

— Daphne Hutchinson

UUBridge’s ‘Green Sanctuary’ seminars

The Unitarian Universalist of the Blue Ridge congregation, which meets at the Hearthstone School in Sperryville, is pursuing a Green Sanctuary Certification from the Boston-based Unitarian Universalist Association. As part of the process, three main seminars, free and open to the public, will be held at the school — on environmental sustainability, especially energy; on social inequality and wealth differences among Americans; and on such endemic health issues as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

The first seminar is this Sunday (April 20) after UUBridge’s noon service: A presentation on nutrition, whole-foods diets and health issues led by George Mason University professor emeritus Vernon Gras, who has a farm in Sperryville. There’s a whole-foods, plant-based buffet available between the service and the seminar.

UUA’s “Green Sanctuary” program is meant to build awareness of the significance and complexity of environmental issues, to encourage lifestyle changes and community action to reflect engagement with those issues, and to strengthen the connection between spiritual practice and Earth consciousness. For more information, call 540-227-3037.

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