ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 4 * * All Arts News On the Web * * December 28, 2000


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      Stop in for the AAC CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and workshops. We come together on the second Wednesday for a booked musical performance and an art exhibit at Simple Pleasures in St Albans. On the fourth Wednesday come to the Kept Writer in St Albans for acoustic Open Mike Night featuring music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.

Programming note: we have changed the AAC CoffeeHouses to a new date and time in January:
Simple Pleasures ... 2nd Wednesday of each month
Kept Writer ... 4th Wednesday of each month


      2000 hasn't seemed like such a busy year until I looked back at the arts programs around Franklin County and saw I needed to trim a couple thousand words out of this column.
      The homeless Arts Council moved the AAC CoffeeHouses around from members' to members' house until we settled in our new spaces in June. The CoffeeHouse is a monthly feature with great music and the original works of Franklin County artists now hosted by Simple Pleasures and by The Kept Writer.
      Nearly 100,000 people will see Franklin County artists at the Highgate Springs Welcome Center each year, thanks to a rotating show of paintings, photographs, and sculpture. Each featured artist is on exhibit for one month. We also held art exhibits at the VYO and VSO concerts, in City Hall for the Maple Festival, at the Grand Openings of the Family Center and the Swanton School Apartments/Community Center, an outdoor Summer Show with the Swanton Historical Society, and our Christmas exhibit and sale at Holiday Jazz, the NCSS annual fundraiser.
      The Vermont Youth Orchestra came to town three times this year, twice as part of a "Symphony Sandwich" with the VSO. In January, they performed A New Birth of Freedom, a tribute to Aaron Copland. I was particularly pleased to narrate one of Copland's most popular pieces, the Lincoln Portrait. The VYO returned with an Opera House concert and Romeo and Juliet, a fall concert of the music based on this most famous of love stories.
      A New Birth of Freedom was also the first of many AAC events to appear on Local Access Adelphia Cable Television, Channel 10 in the St Albans area.
      Maple Festival chair George Cook asked for continuous entertainment on the Main Street stage. We rounded up a statewide showcase of popular bands, a magician, individual musicians, martial artists, a classic ensemble, storytellers, dancers, and even a family of 3-foot puppets.
      Meanwhile, Enosburg Lions President Maurice Parent wanted great music going all weekend in addition to the shows, the parade, and dairy exhibits at the Vermont Dairy Festival. We had two stages of performers plus the annual True Value Country Showdown. Showdown winner Candace Myers went on to win the Tri-State finals for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont..
      Summer fell down on the job this year, but that didn't stop the "Summer of Milk and Music." For the tenth season of our Got Milk Summer Sounds concert series, we gained a major sponsor for the live free summer Sunday concerts. The series started in Highgate, so each concert there was a double feature.
      21 groups played 15 concerts in five Towns and more than 4,200 people attended. We saw Diane Zeigler with Josh Brooks, 40th Army Band, The Naturals with Bob Gesser, Surf's Up, the Nobby Reed Project with Jenni Johnson, the Enosburg Town Band, the Constitution Brass Quintet, Dark Horse with Upper U.S., Mister French, the Roy Hurd Trio, Redwing, 8084, the Stockwell Bros with Derrick Jordan, the Champlain Echoes, and Andersen-Gram with Tom MacKenzie. Although one TV meteorologist reported an inch below average rainfall for the season, my concert notes show we had tornado warnings, threats of thundershowers and regular rain, cold with threat of rain, warm with rain in the afternoon, overcast with rain after the concert, one "clear" day (rather different than "sunny"), and only two Sundays of sunshine and beautiful weather. Rain forced us indoors only twice, although Dark Horse played through a Highgate drizzle and the audience stayed.
      "Free" concerts are expensive. The Dairy Farmers of New England, the five municipalities, local business sponsors, and the All Arts Council hire the bands, create the publicity, and set up all 15 shows. They need your support to continue.
      The Opera House at Enosburg Falls opened its newly painted doors for the Miss Vermont Pageant in June. Restoration efforts that began in the mid- 1970s culminated this year in a million dollar project to make the building Franklin County's cultural jewel.
      Other Opera House events this year included the second annual People Really Interested In Developing Education (Berkshire P.R.I.D.E.) Berkshire Variety Show. The Millennium Series also featured the Woods Tea Company, Once Upon a Mattress, the 8th Annual Talent Show, singer/songwriter Kelly Moore, a Franco-American Soiree with Matapat and Michele Choiniere, and the annual Holiday Concert with the Enosburg Town Band and Community Chorus.
      The Cardiac Capers Millennium Show brought 100 Years of Music to the BFA-St Albans stage and raised money for construction of the new surgical suite.
      A series of special benefit Events for Tom concerts brought the joyous sounds of Cajun, Irish, Qu‚b‚cois, British, Old Time, and other traditional musicians . Grammy-winning performers from the United States and Canada flocked to Vermont to help raise funds for a bone marrow transplant for 14-year-old Tom Sustic.
      Counterpoint debuted as a professional vocal group that brings choral music to a new level. With soprano Claire Hungerford of St Albans and acclaimed composer-conductor (and VSO Chorus Director) Robert deCormier, they have performed in concerts and in schools around the state.
      The Fairfax Community Theater Company Spring Production was Overtones, The Music Lovers, and Infanta. FCTC and the Fletcher Union Meeting House Association also produced three one-act plays Overtones by Alice Gerstenberg, Infanta by Lewy Olfson, and The Music Lovers by Georges Feydeau.
      The Gate Players produced Godspell in conjunction with Maple Festival this Spring. The Festival helped draw audience to the musical and the musical lent some of its audience to the ongoing festival.
      Fontella Bass and the Bosman Twins completed a three-day residency in the ongoing St Albans CAN-Flynn Theater partnership. The event was a special tribute to Lester Bowie and included performances, a community jam session and workshops.
      Art students in over 100 Vermont schools including MVU created artwork with a message for a statewide postcard show that mixed original imagery with powerful comments about art.
      St Albans City Hall hosted the first collaboration showcasing the talent of K-12 art students including sculptures from BFA-St Albans, print making from Fairfield Elementary, paintings and drawings from St Albans City Elementary, plus clay fountains and wind chimes from St Albans Town Elementary Center.
      The Elder Art Program, a statewide non-profit arts organization for artists age 55 and older, held St Albans area classes and hosted shows in St Albans storefronts and in City Hall.
      The Alburg Library and Island Arts presented Cabaret Shakespeare's Jim Hogue in scenes from Taming of the Shrew, Henry IV, and a Minute and a Half Hamlet. at the Ransom Bay Inn.
      The Third Annual FNESU Art Gala in the Montgomery Grange Hall showcased works by art students in northeastern Franklin County.
      Bakersfield dancer/weaver Carol Crawford's and Fairfax visual artist Gail Salzman's performance art piece, Fell Line, was one of six performances in New Works Revealed, in the intimate new FlynnSpace.
      St John's Ministry of Arts continued its annual 3-concert summer series at St John's Episcopal Church in Highgate Falls. The series featured the Celtic music of poet Leanne Ponder on Celtic harp and Tim Jennings on concertina; classical music of Peter and Wendy Matthews on guitar and flute; and the Three Sopranos, Christina L. Boerner, Nancy B. Greene, and Evelyn Hardman Kwanza.
      The Fourth Annual Blues Fest at the Boonys at Lake Carmi was nearly rained out. The Dave Keller Blues Band, Bloozotomy, and the Wildcats set up in the restaurant and dried out the crowd.
      The Montgomery Historical Society Concerts By the Common explored the sounds and sensations of string instruments in a String Along series.
      Village Harmony reprised the Summer Music at Grace series at Grace Church in Sheldon. Summer Music also hosted Peter and Wendy Matthews, and Michele Choiniere.
      The Lost Nation Boys, Hogboy Shull, John Cassel, the Oleo Romeos, the Spyders, and Doctor Burma played the Eighth Annual Jig in the Valley benefit concert and dance to raise money and awareness for the Fairfield Community Center. The Community Center offers an NMC regional health center, pre-school, Head Start, Teen, and Senior Citizen programs.
      The new West Brome Storytellers' Festival offered storytelling for kids from age 0 to 150. The Festival featured Vermont's Ernie Hemingway and the Traveling Storyteller,
      VSA-Arts Vermont and Northwestern Counseling and Support Services sponsored the Can Do Art III workshop lead by Gail Salzman. Called Drawing and Painting from Nature, the class culminated in a exhibit in the skylit City Elementary School Gallery.
      The Vermont Symphony Orchestra Made in Vermont Music Festival returned to St Albans with a world premiere by Vermont composer Kenneth Langer. The VSO commissioned Langer and Vermont Poet Laureate Ellen Bryant Voigt to create Voices of 1918.


JEFFERSONVILLE--Cambridge CoffeeHouse presents Classical guitarist Peter Matthews at Dinner's Dunn at the Windridge Bakery on Wednesday, January 3, 7 to 9 p.m. The Cambridge Arts Council sponsors the CoffeeHouse on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. e-mail for info. ST ALBANS--Singer/songwriter and St Albans native John Nichols and Friends will play and sing at the Kept Writer, Friday at 7 p.m.


      I blamed the Gate Players for the production of Once Upon a Mattress; it was an excellent Opera House production as part of the Millennium Series.
      This year I annoyed Alan DeMont's mom over and over by spelling her son's name wrong. Got it right this time.


      Alice and Ed Astleford served the community with distinction and love. They have moved to Michigan and will be missed.
      Our own biggest disappointment had to be the Artists Register. With over 200 full and part time artists in the Franklin-Grand Isle region, we had hoped to create a printed register and catalog and website for showcase and promotion, but it was not to be. Maybe next year.


      The AAC wishes you Happy Holidays.


      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.


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Dick Harper, Chair

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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2000 by Richard B. Harper. All rights reserved. Archival material is provided as-is. Links are not necessarily maintained (if a link in this article fails, try or your favorite search engine).
      Thanks to recent misuse of copyright material on the Internet by individuals and archival firms alike, we emphasize that your rights to this article are limited to viewing it and printing it for personal use only. You must receive explicit permission from the All Arts Council and the author before reprinting or redistributing this article in any medium.