ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 6 * * All Arts News On the Web * * February 14, 2002


      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 second and fourth Wednesday 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.


      At 39, Claire Hungerford, is a classical concert singer, soloist, mother, wife, substitute teacher, Music Director for St Mary's, and "chief cook and bottle washer.
      "I stick more with the romantic period composers," she said. "Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms are some of my favorites because they truly knew how to write music for singers." Franz Schubert alone wrote more than 600 songs.
      The St Albans lyric soprano likes lush and beautiful harmonies, and great melodic lines. Mrs. Hungerford is growing Counterpoint, Vermont's first and only professional vocal ensemble, as well as singing the Messiah, Elijah, and more. She did the Farmers Night at the Statehouse last night, sings in the VSO Chorus, and will audition for a one act opera in Manchester. "And I will solo wherever they want me," she said.
      A false perception contributes to the difficulty making a living as a Vermont singer.
      "There is the misconception that, because you are a singer, you're not really a musician," she said. "Anybody can sing, the saying goes, so we should sing without being paid for it."
      Mrs. Hungerford took a Washington Post writer to task for that. "Singers are musicians. If you want to differentiate, say 'instrumentalists' and 'singers.' We are all musicians."
      The Crane School of Music graduate studied in high school with Lauria Grandey of Shelburne, took Explorations in Singing workshops with Thomas Houser in Scranton, worked on German lieders [songs], has taken master classes, and studied at McGill. She has carved out her career with choir directing, substitute teaching in elementary school, giving private lessons, and performing in concerts. "I do weddings and funerals. It's one great big circle that you fill in and just hope that your spouse has a good job and health insurance.
      "It makes for very challenging living."
      The nine professional singers in Counterpoint are dedicated to the advancement of choral and vocal music: sopranos Colleen Flynn Campbell, and Mrs. Hungerford; altos Louise De Cormier, Linda Radtke, and Melissa Chestnut Tangerman; tenors Piero Bonamico, Eric Brooks, and Roger Grow; and bass Brett Murphy; and composer-conductor Robert De Cormier. Counterpoint performs in concerts and in school programs around the state.
      "A big event for us is our concert with Peter Paul and Mary this summer." Counterpoint is now looking for sponsors, she said.
      Robert de Cormier has been her conductor, mentor, and friend. That kind of a relationship is crucial to professional success here. Mrs. Hungerford is confident these days about the way she is singing. That comes with having enough experience to recognize her accomplishments and what she can now do. "There was a time when I had no confidence and had to be pushed. I give a lot of thanks to Robert. He has opened a lot of doors."
      She also vividly remembers that the very first song she sang in church was "Let There Be Peace on Earth." The first time she sang on stage was in second grade. The nuns at Holy Angels had decided to do "Up With Little People," following "Up With People"'s first stop in St Albans. "We did a little minstrel show. We did all the songs from the album and my brothers and I did a trio."
      Claire Hungerford's grownup voice is "sort of light and agile. It's not a heavy voice. In other words, I would never be a dramatic Wagnerian soprano. I could never be a Birgit Nilsson who sings these big sounds. That's just not my voice.
      "I thought I wanted to be a cheerleader," but Donna Costes had spoken with the cheerleading coach, "to tell her she couldn't have me."
      Cheerleading's loss is music's gain. As Mr. De Cormier recently said, "You just get better every day."


      About 1732 years ago, Roman Emperor Claudius II forbade all marriages and betrothals. The apparently chaste priest and doctor Valentinus defied his emperor and secretly conducted the ceremonies. He was executed for it on February 14, 270.
      While awaiting his fate, the future Saint Valentine cured his jailer's daughter of her blindness. She fell in love with the saintly cleric. On the eve of his execution, Valentinus sent a final message to the girl.
      The note was, of course, signed "de Valentinem tuum," although Roman epistles usually announced the writer first and the closing was a farewell, not a signature. We translate the Latin as "From your Valentine."
      The first written valentine is generally attributed to Charles, Duke of Orleans in 1415. A prisoner in England after the Battle of Agincourt, Charles spent his confinement writing romantic verses to his wife. Manufactured cards, decorated with Cupids and hearts, appeared in the late eighteenth century and a small industry began in the next few decades. These miniature works of art were often hand painted and lavishly decorated with laces, flowers, glass filigrees, and fine gold-leaf. Today, the glass filigree is usually replaced by electronic chips.
      The Comedy of Eros: A Contrary View of Valentines Month is a collective, mixed-media show ongoing this month at The Kept Writer Cafe and Bookshop in St Albans. Jedd and Launie have topical paintings, other artwork, and writings on display.


FRANKLIN--Singer/guitarist Bob Gesser of Richford plays The Boonys Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Mr. Gesser, who has 30 years experience on the guitar, will play 50s and 60s music from soft rock to country to blues. Call 933-4569 for info.

HIGHGATE--The Highgate Manor offers the romance of dining in a Victorian estate and dancing to live jazz music under a crystal chandelier at the second annual Valentines and All That Jazz Dinner Dance on Saturday from 7-11 p.m. The five piece Mr. Ed's Jazz Band from Underhill delights audiences around the state with straight ahead and Dixieland jazz favorites. The setting includes reserved tables, a split of champagne, scrumptious appetizers, a sumptuous buffet, and warm Chocolate crepes, berries and mascarpone served at each table. Call 868-9007 for reservations and info.

SHELDON--Wit's End, the popular Rock & Roll band will play a Valentine's benefit concert at the Abbey from 8-12 p.m. Saturday evening. The proceeds will benefit The Children's Miracle Network and The Thomas Cook Fund. Thomas Cook died recently of leukemia.
      Wit's End is Charlie Couto, vocals, Dr. Dan Larrow, guitar, Jim Bose, guitar, Kevin Holmes, bass, and Cheryl Driver, drums. The concert will feature great music, the Abbey hors d'oeuvres and bar, and a small donation.


      OK, here it is Valentine's Day and you haven't gotten a card for your sweetie (I took mine out for a scrumptious lunch, so I think I'm off the hook). Art is supposed to take forethought, planning, and extreme talent. However, with an Internet connection, an inkjet printer, and some common household items, it's still possible to finish a magnificent tribute before supper time.
      The "Clip Art of Romance" has free clip art, greeting cards, chocolinks, and a short treatise on the origins of Valentines.
      The Activity Idea Place has Valentines and variations on the art activities page. You might need glitter, crayons, lace string and yarn, the holes from a hole punch, aluminum foil, and even some pasta or rice colored with red food coloring.
      The Sennett Fine Arts Gallery has a student art team's pop art mural adjacent to a paper collage inspired by Picasso.


      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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      This article was originally published in the St Albans Messenger and other traditional print media. It is Copyright © 2002 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).
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