ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 2 NUMBER 12.5 * * All Arts News On the Web * * DECEMBER, 1998


      Shower soloists, operatic divas, and fogbound road graders alike, we lift up our voices in song during the holidays, usually in the two most familiar kinds of Christmas music: The Messiah and carols.
      An oratorio is an extended, dramatic musical work in which the chorus takes center stage to emphasize a religious theme. The best-known oratorio composer was George Frideric Handel who, in the 1730s, began work on his first of more than 20 works in English. Handel's Messiah, first performed in Dublin in 1742, is the most influential, most widely performed, and most popular of all oratorios.
      Caroling combines sacred perspectives with winter fun, chesnuts, decorations, Santa Claus, furry friends, sitting around the piano with family and friends, and memories.


      On the night before Christmas, the organist of the parish of St. Nicholas (really) in Oberndorf, Austria, set the assistant pastor's poem to music because the organ was broken. (In one story, the mouse made famous in a later poem had actually stirred enough to eat the bellows.) The world premiere of Silent Night came on Christmas morning with the organist accompanying the choir on Italian guitar.
      Thanks to his authorship of some 6,000 hymns, the Rev. Charles Wesley had a reputation as The Prince of Hymn Writers. His original lyrics, "Hark, how all the welkin rings, Glory to the King of Kings" were altered in 1753 to the words we sing now. English organist W.H. Cummings borrowed the second movement of Mendelsohn's For a Tercentenary of the Invention of the Art of Printing when he first performed Hark the Herald Angels Sing on Christmas Day.
      Although the date and author of God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen are obscure, Charles Dickens changed the words in A Christmas Carol.
      Speaking of lyrics, most people think Deck the Halls is a relic of the British Yule festival. It is of Welsh origin and had been popular for centuries when Mozart borrowed the melody; incorporating folk tunes was a fairly common practice of the classical composers. The words we sing were written in New York City in 1881.
      The Good King Wenceslas was actually a Bohemian duke, murdered by his brother in a power struggle forgotten a millennium ago.
      It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was written by a Harvard Divinity School graduate to emphasize the message Peace on earth, good will to men. It was set to music by a Yale composer who apparently never met Harvard on the football field.
      O Come, All Ye Faithful is often called "The Portuguese Hymn" because its British debut came at the Portuguese Embassy. It has been translated at least 120 times, perhaps one reason it does not rhyme.
      J. Pierpont wrote One Horse Open Sleigh, America's first pop Christmas carol, for a Boston Sunday school choir. Although the lyrics instruct the listener (or singer) to jingle the bells themselves, the song we know as Jingle Bells never mentions Christmas. I hope the instructions don't carry over into Jingle Bell Rock.


      There is also music everywhere as we remember the miracle of a small, brave, band of warriors' victory over the Greeks and the cleansing of the Temple.
      Davida Chazan, an Israeli friend, suggests the lovely "Ladino version of Ma'oz Tzur. I've also always liked singing Mi Yimalel [Who Can Retell] in a round," she said.


      All Arts Council members and friends are invited to the monthly AAC Coffee House in the Collins-Perley Sports Complex Thursday, December 3, at 7 p.m. With no agenda, this meeting is a good chance to network and to have fun with other Franklin County artists. Artists may bring works for show-and-tell or instruments to jam. Coffee and cider are free; munchies and other finger foods are pot luck.
      Although the Coffee House is a new venture for the AAC, the gathering marks a return to a "no business" rule at the meeting. Committees will discuss concert schedules and upcoming exhibits and shows in a short business meeting at 6 p.m.


      The arts hold a unique position--both as a giver of long lasting gifts and as the recipient of a great boon in order to survive.
      Tonight, let us reflect that Christmas is not just an illustrator's dream made real in wrapping paper and credit card slips. It is a time of giving.

      An artist, musician, and AAC member, Moppo suffers from cancer and is trying to keep a low profile. Mike Kelly is organizing a bluesy and dance music benefit concert for Moppo featuring the great tunes of the Nobby Reed Project (Nobby, Phil Grazianno, Ray Bushey, and Eric Belrose), The Naturals (Deana Paquette, Kevin Agusty, Mike Trombly, Brian Crogan, and Doug Ryan), and Available Jones (Mike Lykens, Scott Dubois, and Eric Belrose). Available Jones will open the show with other topflight musicians rotating in. MSR Sound is contributing the sound and Claire Trombly has donated a pen-and-ink of a wolf to be auctioned at the event. The benefit will be held Monday, December 28, at 8:00 p.m. at the Rusty Nail in Stowe. The cover is only $5
      The Rotary Club of St Albans gives to Franklin County in so many venues. Their famed Suitcase Theater and their major support for Summer Sounds are just two of the ways these volunteers have become one of Franklin County's most important arts champions.
      Gifts of art bring unexpected smiles. My neighbor Fernand Gagne won a signed print of Corliss Blakely's Summer Flowers at the B.P.W. Christmas Party last week. His wife Pat was so thrilled she was beside herself when she found out.
      Giving isn't just for grownups. Last Spring, BFA students gathered a bunch of AAC menbers and student musicians to present Ice Jam, a concert to raise funds for the American Red Cross after the ice storm.
      Alice Astleford has a different artist exhibit each month at Holiday House. "It's something the residents look forward to and enjoy ever so much," Alice said. "Anything like this from the community is such a gift." Anne Beauregard is exhibiting old world Santa Clauses there through the end of this month.
      Charley Thomas started the Bethany's Children Foundation. This organization underwrote our Summer Stage and will continue bringing the arts to school children across Vermont.
      Around the County this year, Americorps volunteers, Caring Community volunteers, New Connections Youth volunteers, and local kids painted public murals in a great display of free public art. Claire Hungerford sang Schubert and Friends all one Sunday afternoon to support an elementary school class. Studebaker John and the Hawks came from Chicago to join many well known Franklin County performers in the first of many Blues Fests Live at the Boonys, a benefit concert for the Franklin Fire Department. St John's Episcopal Ministry of the Arts combines Evensong with the gift of music each summer in Highgate Falls. Finally, there is the beautiful music our excellent town bands and town choruses bring to us throughout each year.

      The gifts the arts receive are truly life sustaining. Local businesses and other sponsors contribute thousands of dollars to bring "free" popular programs like Summer Sounds, classics like the VSO and the Vermont Youth Orchestra, and learning experiences such as the Liz Lerman workshops to us. Volunteers have donated priceless hours to make sure these events happen. The money and the time are the lifeblood of public art. They are the greatest gift we receive.
      Thank you all, on this night before Christmas, for enjoying our gifts and for making them possible.


      The County is alive with music, dance, art, and projects.

ST ALBANS--St Luke's Episcopal Church presents The Messiah, Part I, on Friday evening, December 4. David Neiweem will conduct the University of Vermont Concert Choir with organist John Henzel. The soloists are Lisa Jablow, soprano, and Dlenda Cosenza, mezzo-soprano.
      The Messiah blends a graceful, Italianate melody, resonant sections from madrigals plus Handel's own Baroque ceremonial style for the chorus, and virtuoso vocal performances for the soloists. The Messiah is Handel's gift of spiritual renewal. A preview is available online at
      The concert begins at 7 p.m. in the Sanctuary at St Luke's Episcopal Church in St Albans. A free will offering will be accepted.

RICHFORD--An annual tradition continues Sunday in Richford with a tree lighting and community concert.
      The tree lighting ceremony starts at 6 p.m. on Sunday, December 6, in the Main Street Park in Richford. "The tree is a symbol of a loved one or family member," said Paulette Legault. "We put their name on the ornaments and attach it to the lights." Chet Parsons and Vicki Clark will announce all the names on the tree. "We light candles as we call the names."
      Ornaments are still available. Call Paulette (848-3886) to add your name.
      This is the third year for the Community Chorus concerts led by Lynn Raymond. The Chorus is about 25 voices strong with members from Berkshire, Enosburg, and Richford with Rod Sanborn as accompanist. The concert, which features traditional carols and special Christmas music, begins in Richford Town Hall immediately after the tree lighting. Donations are encouraged.
      "There's so much community spirit," said Paulette. "It brings a special meaning to me to see everybody there lighting the candles."

COMMUNITY SHARING--Were you inspired by the theater workshops with John O'Neal? Do you want to build on the Liz Lerman experience? Looking forward to the Lester Bowie workshops coming in March?
      "Judith and Manon and I are collecting people who want to go further," said artist Gail Salzman.
      Under a grant from Vermont Arts Council, three Franklin County artists will hold workshops to develop community stories in dance, visual arts, and music. The Locomotion Project will build toward a major community performance. Dancers Judith Karstens and Manon Pellman, and artist Gail Salzman are assembling a group to translate personal and community stories of railroad history to create Locomotion 2, a community dance performance, scheduled for next spring. There will be an informational meeting to discuss details and scheduling on Saturday, December 12, at 9:15 a.m. in the St Albans Free Library. For information, call Gail Salzman (524-5057).
      "We're really excited about bringing in theater, music, and art," Gail said. "They get combined into a wonderful interaction that is different from what people normally think of storytelling."

ENOSBURG FALLS--The Traveling Storyteller brings stories, a puppet show, and art activities for children ages 4-10 to libraries and malls around northern Vermont. This Saturday, Ernie Hemingway will perform Little Red Riding Hood at the Public Library from 1-2. This free show is presented by the Highgate Caring Community Committee.

FAIRFAX--The Fletcher-Fairfax-Westford Band and the 25 voice-Fairfax Community Chorus present a Community Christmas Concert on Sunday in the BFA-Fairfax Gymnasium.       "We will have traditional Christmas carols, a Bach chorale, Sanctus from Schubert's G Minor Mass, Sleigh Ride, the Hallelujah Chorale from Handel's Messiah, and a festive toccata," said Frank Mehaffey.
      The concert begins at 1 p.m. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

ST ALBANS--The Vermont Good Time Country Music Club continues on Sunday afternoon. A hot honky tonk band is on stage to help you sing your favorite old time country song. If you play, the band invites you to sit in. This club has a dance floor and stage that are open to all.
      "The Club is an alcohol free, non-competitive environment," said organizer Doug Salisbury.
      The house band, Classic Country, features Mary Ann Medeiros, lead vocal and rhythm guitar; Jack Medeiros, lead guitar and vocals; Elie Laroche, fiddle, steel guitar, and vocals; Dennis Lanpher, drums and vocals; and Doug Salisbury, bass guitar. Having a house band means guest vocalists and musicians have easy access to a professional sound system and the services of a good back up band. Seniors have enjoyed happy times and young singers and musicians have taken the opportunity perform live at the two earlier events.
      Vermont Good Time Country Music Club will appear from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, December 13, in the Knights of Columbus Hall in St Albans. A canteen provides coffee, tea, soda, and cookies. Admission is $3 at the door; children under 12 are free.

JEFFERSONVILLE--The 30 local singers of the Chambridge Classic Chorale perform a capella music in Jeffersonville, Friday December 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. in the church.

ST ALBANS--Every Friday evening, Diamond Jim's offers some of the best jazz around on Friday, December 18, as Joe Davidian and Ellen Powell begin at 7:30-p.m. Planning on a career in music, Joe is a senior at U32. Ellen, a bass player from South Burlington and Joe also have a regular gig at Leunig's Bistro. Jon Haynes who teaches days at BFA is almost always there too, except for hockey nights. The whole band will be there New Year's day. Regulars also include Nick Warner, bass, and Tom Cleary, Rob Guerinna or Larry Dugan, keyboards.

MONTGOMERY--East Coast Muscle with special guest Ray Bushey will play the Thirsty Boot in Montgomery, Friday December 18 at 9 p.m. With Noble Francoeur hammering a bass under Nobby Reed's fiery guitar, plus drummer Richie Ward and George Curry on harp, this group brings plenty of power to Montgomery.

ALBURG--Speaking of Nobby, the Nobby Reed Project is at McDuff's in Alburg Saturday December 19 at 9 p.m. That means simply the best blues around is in Alburg again.


      The A.A. Brown Public Library in Richford showing the portraits and still lifes of Bakersfield artist Rebecca Anne Bennett. Rebecca works mostly in oil and watercolor and accepts commissions for interior murals and portraits. The exhibit continues into January
      Northwestern Medical Center has AAC artists Alice Astleford of St Albans Town and Donna LaRochelle of Enosburg on exhibit in the main lobby through December.
      AAC member Valerie Ugro is the December featured artist for the neighboring Cambridge Arts Council's exhibit in the Smuggler's Notch Inn in Jeffersonville, across from the church. Her architectural watercolor paintings and prints feature nineteenth-century stone buildings in the landscape of Isle La Motte. The showing can be seen 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.


GRANTS FOR TEACHERS--Public and non-public school educators can apply for up to $25,000 to provide professional development to support the implementation of local school action plans for the arts. Call Lynn Provasi at the Vermont Department of Education (828-3894) for more information. The Deadline is Tuesday, December 15.

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP--For listings in the Arts/First Register, we will ask for a professional quality black and white photograph, either a photo of a painting, sculpture or other work, or a head shot of the artist or group. That photo will be printed in the register. We will also need a low resolution color image for the Internet catalog.
      Taking high quality photos of your work requires the same craftsmanship that goes into creating the work itself. It is a skill that can be learned.
      Photographer Chuck Meunier will offer a free workshop on photographing your work at the next AAC Coffee House and meeting, Thursday, January 7, at the Collins Perley Sports Complex.


      Year end is only days away. Are you "trading up" in office equipment or shuffling inventory? Consider a donation to your friendly local neighborhood community group or church. It will help the group, give you a warm and fuzzy feeling through the holidays, and the tax write-off may very well be greater than the trade in value.


      Vanny's Web Cabin offers holiday music for your listening pleasure. Vanny has a pot of coffee on the stove and has left the light on for you plus a cool applet of the cabin itself on a lake. The music comes in midi clips of Auld Lang Zyne and the Ave Maria through Holly Jolly Christmas and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day to White Christmas and Winter Wonderland. There is also a list of Bubba's Top Ten Favorite Christmas Songs. I'll give you a hint that I Saw Mommy Hiss at Santa Claus and The First Meow made the list. You'll have to go to the site for the rest.
      The Free Art site has graphics files of ribbons, bows, holiday greetings and much more. The files are for personal use--that means print them out and enjoy, but don't use them in another site, in publications, or otherwise distribute them.
      The best instrumental Christmas music I have found so far was electronically set by Randy D. Ralph. His site has hymns and carols from All Hail the Power of Jesu's Name and All My Heart, through How Bright Appears the Morning Star and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, to "Ye Sons of Men Rejoice" (Star of Bethlehem).
      Refrigerator art is featured in the works of the students at St.Andrews.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


Dick Harper, Chair

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