ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 3 * * All Arts News On the Web * * DECEMBER 30, 1999


      We have changed the ArtBits format from monthly to weekly. This issue includes the entire text of the weekly newspaper column
      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County.

      There is a free AAC Networking Meeting/Coffee House at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, and workshops every month at the The Northwest Transportation Network office in St Albans.


      Did you get your New Year's Eve tickets yet?
      You could go to Fiji for the first strike of the New Year's bell or to Attu in the Aleutian Islands for the millennial clock's last gasp. You could go to Mount Pahie in New Caledonia for the second ringing of the New Year's bell or to Necker Island for the millennial clock's next to last gasp. Franklin County still has the best offer: come to St Albans City Hall for Sterling Weed's last dance concert in this century (and his first in the year 2000).
      "I wanted to do a concert for everyone," Mr. Weed who celebrated his 98th birthday this year said.
      New Year's Eve with Sterling Weed and his Imperial Orchestra will feature swing music, hors d'oeuvres and refreshments by Chow! Bella, and good times for everyone. It will be an alcohol free event.
      Any visit with Sterling Weed is a trip; his conversation offers an instant romp through Vermont history. Mr. Weed loves to share the details from his days playing the scores for silent movies at the Waugh Opera House to leading his own orchestra in the great pavilions, and his years as a school music teacher and leader of the Enosburg Town Band.
      Reputed to be the oldest orchestra leader in the United States, Sterling Weed has been directing since 1928. He played every other Thursday at the Franklin Town Hall and spent the summer months at the Lake Carmi Pavilion. Daisy Glidden (nee Ploof) of Franklin started dancing to his music when she was 12 years old. "Back then he had a black piano player, Hobie Taylor on drums, Guy Burnell's son on trumpet, Rodney Ledoux of Swanton on trombone," she said.
      Sterling Weed and I chatted on Public Access TV (Channel 10) this month. Check the station for the times.
      Tickets are just $10 for adults, $5 for children, and are available at the St Albans Chamber of Commerce, the St Albans Recreation Department, Jukebox CDs and Tapes, Spears Pharmacy, and Swanton Rexall.
      Please drive carefully.


      Thanks to the Missisquoi Arts Council (our earlier incarnation), the AAC has made it to the ripe old age of 15. That, I'm glad to report, is older than most television programs. Here are some of the high points of those years.
      There have been 112 Summer Sounds concerts, featuring nearly every style of music. We have had the blues of Nobby Reed, country from Southbound, family fun with Jon Gailmor and Bill Shontz, opera and Broadway from Through the Opera Glass, pop from the Silvertones, and we have rocked with 8084. About half of the performers played their first concerts in Franklin County as part of the Summer Sounds series.
      Starting with Brass, Wood & Tom, a residency and concert featuring VSO ensembles and principal percussionist Tom Toner, we have put the best musicians and artists in New England on school stages and in classrooms. The programs included the Wildwood Marionettes, 93 Strings, and Claire Hungerford. AAC exhibits have featured student artists at the Rotary Home Show, the Opera House at Enosburg Falls, St Albans City Hall, and, most recently, at Railroad Days.
      The Franco Voyageurs Soirée Grand Ménage was the first statewide festival to celebrate French-Canadian music and arts.
      We introduced the Constitution Brass in Vermont and presented 76th Division Army Reserve Band. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra brought us Project Allegro and the 251 Project, concerts in schools and in every Vermont town. More recently, the VSO has visited for the Made in Vermont concert series.
      Kids enjoyed our shows like the No Strings Marionettes and Tom Foolery and designed a series of outdoor murals in Franklin County. Three well known paintings are at the St Albans City Pool, Houghton Street Skateboard Park, and at the Marble Mill in Swanton. Young actors participated in Summer Stage, an intensive stagecraft residency.
The McGill University Jazz Band played at MVU. We presented the third annual visit of the Vermont Youth Orchestra on the same stage this year.       The Sugar Mill Mall regularly hosted our standing art gallery. Artists from Northern Vermont have participated in a dozen shows in businesses, schools, libraries, and sports centers. Our exhibits at the Rotary Home Show have been the most popular.
      The Ketch Dance Company introduced avant garde dance to Franklin County and gave us our first reminder that most artists here have day jobs. The Ketch Troupe included plumbers, lawyers, realtors, and a cop. That was reinforced last week when trumpeter and NMC emergency room doctor Jim Duncan played in the Vermont Brass Quintet at the Northwestern Counseling and Support Services holiday concert.
      The AAC/WLFE Music Spotlight has introduced 8 new albums by area musicians. We began All Arts Music Productions this year to help musicians develop and promote their works.
      The Grand Holiday Crafts and Fine Arts Tour combined shows in Bakersfield, East Fairfield, Franklin, St Albans, and Swanton in an extravaganza of Franklin County gift buying.
      Artrain USA came to town in November for the Railroad Days Festival in St Albans. With an 80 piece exhibit called Artistry of Space from the NASA collection, we saw the work of Deborah Deschner, Peter Max, Norman Rockwell, Jamie Wyeth, and many more. Our festival was its first-ever stop Vermont. Railroad Days included a major All Arts Council exhibit, the NASA Mobile Aeronautics Education Lab, two Gate Players plays, and train and model train memorabilia. We reenacted a Civil War Days bank robbery and a train robbery.
      Artists often donate time or work to the community. AAC musicians staged a little concert called Floodstock; 18 bands played all day at the Franklin County Field Days site to aid flood victims in Montgomery.


      Champlain Chorus--The soloists, Children's Chorus and orchestra performed Hodie (this Day) by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1986. The Christmas Cantata, based on texts from John Milton, Thomas Hardy, George Herbert, and the bible was performed by over 100 musicians under the direction of Donna Thompson Costes. The group has been active since XX.
      Centennial Homecoming--This giant St Albans family reunion was a long weekend Fourth of July block party in downtown St Albans with marvelous music, visits with friends, great food, visits with family, parades and fireworks, visits with friends, art exhibits, visits with family, and a nifty logo created by our own Natalie LaRocque-Bouchard.
      Circus Smirkus tours--The Kiwanis Club of Franklin County brought the circus to Children of all ages here. These family events were amazing displays of juggling dexterity, balancing bravado, and feats of contortion beyond imagination, all performed by kids.
      Exit Stage Left--"We enjoyed our first year bringing the 'Dining Room' to the community," said Matt Peck. They had a great start and hope to see larger audiences and more company members in the coming year. Call Matt (527-1937) for more info.
      Fairfax Community Theatre Company--South Pacific was their very first show in 1991; they had a very good year this year. "Despite our constant struggle for venues, we continue to exist and put on shows," said Muffie Sterling. It's great because "we all have so much fun working together."
      Gate Players--Formed in 1992, the Gate Players moved to the St Albans area last year.
"The 'Carol Burnett Show' was the most fun for me," Tanya Saunders said. The company also brought back Gone With the Breeze for the Railroad Days Festival.       Island Arts--"We have expanded our offerings to people," said Mary Jane Healy. They have events for everyone including six galleries, art shows, craft shows, concerts, swing dance, children's concerts, a house tour fundraiser, and an international croquet tournament.
      South Hero Players--is now about 25 years old. "Probably the biggest happening is that we now have our own lights and sound system," said Mike Guernsey. "We are now getting calls from everyone to do production." They help most area troupes and did the light and sound for the Folsom School Christmas concert last week.
      Opera House at Enosburg Falls--On the National Historic Register, the Opera House was built in 1892 and seats approximately 300 people. It is now completing a major fund-raising effort to renovate the structure, ventilation, heating, and electrical systems, add dressing rooms, meeting space, a sound system, and an elevator. When the Opera reopens this Spring, it will be the County's premiere space to host performances and exhibits.
      Outdoor Art: Vermont sculptor Kate Pond placed Sun Fix for Judy, a major sculpture, at the new border station in Highgate Springs. (Judy is sculptor Judith Brown who died of cancer in 1992.)
      St Albans Area Community Arts Network: Burlington's Flynn Theater chose the St Albans area for an audience building project and St Albans CAN! was born. They have presented an ongoing St Albans community residency featuring world class dancer Liz Lerman, the late Lester Bowie, and actor/storyteller John "Junebug Jabbo Jones" O'Neal.
      Service Bands: The President's Own United States Marine Band performed triumphantly in St Albans with a rousing welcome for the assistant director, First Lieutenant Michael J. Colburn.
      Suitcase Theater: The St Albans Rotary's famed troupe has combined an intense workshop week with a performance week to put summer shows in nearly every library in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and in South Burlington every year since 1994.
      St John's Episcopal Ministry of the Arts celebrated five years of free summer afternoon concerts in Highgate Falls.
      Town Bands: Citizen's Band has played concerts every other week in Taylor Park and Swanton Park for fifty years. They are most proud of their Christmas concerts with the Franklin County Choral Association. The Enosburg Town Band under the direction of Alisa Martin celebrated its 141st anniversary this year. Their Christmas concert drew 200 people; they now have an exchange concert program with the Harmony Band of Milton, PQ. Formed in the 1930s, the Fairfax-Fletcher-Westford Band members range from 12 to 85. Their regular concerts include the Underhill Market Fest, the Champlain Valley Fair, concerts on Craftsbury Common and the Belvidere Old Home Days. Westford has built a new gazebo with excellent acoustics. Each of these bands gathers together for the sheer joy of playing.
      Traveling Storyteller: Ernie Hemingway launched the Traveling Storyteller with the help of the Community Cares Committees and the AAC. The Storyteller reached over 700 people last year, in 28 sites including libraries, schools, and bookstores.
      Village Players--Helen Kenney founded Village Players 25 years ago. "Last year was really special, and a coming together," she said, "but our 1984 production ['Say it With Music,' the life of Irving Berlin] starred people of all ages and I think that was my favorite."


      One would think that I could get the names right in the bands I write about. One of New England's best drummers plays with the Nobby Reed Project; you might recall that I spent most of last year spelling Nobby with a "K." This year, I managed to identify drummer Eric Belrose pretty regularly as Eric Bushey. Write this 100 times: Belrose is the drummer, Bushey is the band director.


      8084 is rocking in the New Year at the White Mountain Chalet in Berlin, NH. Classic Country (the honky tonk band of Franklin County) will play the American Legion party in Richford and Run for Cover is at the Holiday Inn in South Burlington. New Country Edition plays the Cobb Web in Georgia.


      The Vermont Millennium Arts Project is a program of the Vermont Arts Council funded by a grant from the US Department of Commerce Telecommunications Information and Infrastructure Assistance Program.
      Based on the work and creativity of Web Project students and guided by Robert Jarvis, Natalie LaRocque-Bouchard, Patrick Murphy, Phyllis Utigard, Sandra Vaillancourt, and Pam Voss, the web site includes the Vermont MIDI Project and the Vermont ARTT Project (Artists Responding Through Technology).


      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.
      In honor of the Railroad Days Festival, Bookshelf has most of the volunteers from the steering committee online.


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Dick Harper, Chair

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