ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 7 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 20, 2003


      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 live music and more at the Fairfax Music Sessions at the Foothills Bakery in Fairfax most Saturday afternoons, at the Kept Writer in St Albans most Friday and Saturday evenings, at the Bayside in St Albans Town most Sunday afternoons, and the Cambridge CoffeeHouses at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of every month.
     These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, "show-and-tell" and occasional workshops. The booked performances and acoustic Open Mike Nights feature music, readings, and more from the best new artists in Vermont.


      Folksinger/songwriter John Gibbons roots are in old-time country.
      He plays two different styles, old-time country flat picking and finger picking and sings solo and in a trio with Karen McFeeters and Craig Anderson. "It's been good for me to work with Karen and Craig," he said. "Craig has played with a lot of groups and played with all different kinds of people and all styles of music and is a prolific songwriter and superb guitar maker. And Karen has a beautiful voice and writes good songs and sings good harmony." Their first gig together was at a singer/songwriter showcase at Contois Auditorium in January, 2001.
      He has played weddings, Campus at Noon at UVM, shows from Ripton Vermont to Cafe Lena in Saratoga to the Kept Writer to the Burlington Coffeehouse. "My songwriting really started at the Burlington Coffeehouse," he said. Owner Jeff Miller hosts a weekly open mic on Tuesday night, weekly concerts, promotes up and coming folk singers, and sponsors the Burlington songwriters group.
      "Once a month on the first Thursday the group gets together and everyone goes of the material they've been working on. We play finished songs for the group and the group offers suggestions and ideas and comments.
      "It gets you out and working with other people and exposes you to new ideas. Sometimes we'll present challenges. For instance, we'll pick a topic and everyone writes a song on that topic and comes back and play them for each other.
      "It's hard to find time to write," he said. He needs to "get into the real relaxed mood that I feel I need to be able to write stuff. Right now I've had a song I've been working on in my head for two or three months and I'll be driving in the car and kind of rearranging words and rearranging phrases and ideas, and I kind of work on it piece by piece over time until I sit down and it comes together."
      That process is different than the way many prose writers work. Novelists often rip through a first draft, then go back and rewrite. Mr. Gibbons imagines the song as he goes until he can write down a finished piece.
      "There is some time when I'll sit down and write on paper but a lot of times I'll get an idea or a seed for a song and just keep it in my head, maybe work on it on the guitar a little bit, and get the music down. Then I have the idea and I have the tune in my head and I kind of have an idea of what I want to say, so I keep picking at it whenever I have five minutes driving in the truck into work. I'll come up with another line or rearrange something."
      The lyrics and music coalesce together.
      "The words will come out and for me there seems to be a natural way to attach that to a melody. Or in conjunction with having the guitar in my hands, fiddling around, and finding something that sounds like an interesting melody and that melody will spark a thought or a mood for a song and the words follow automatically."
      "I like a lot of Doc Watson and Norman Blake," he said. He was also influenced by the more modern folksingers, particularly John Prine, Tom Paxton, and Richard Shindell.
      Those performers are not well known here although Tom Paxton may be fairly close to mainstream. An expatriate New Yorker in Argentina, Richard Shindell is a passionate musical story teller with tales of the downtrodden and the disaffected. His list includes political skewering, lighthearted ballads, and adulterous love songs. He has toured with Joan Baez and the acoustic trio, Cry Cry Cry. John Prine's family had Appalachian heritage but he joined the Chicago folk scene of the late 1960s. Although Kris Kristofferson helped him land his first record contract with Atlantic, his albums have been publicly praised by performers and folk critics, but have not been commercially successful. He won a Grammy for 199l's The Missing Years which featured Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.
      "During my days at St Mike's a friend had a John Prine album," he said. "Most of the music I like and I play I enjoy the lyrics and I enjoy the meaning of the lyrics. I think it's important to say something in a song, to be able to understand the words, and be able to get the meaning out of a song while you're listening to it."
      Mr. Gibbons is an equipment technician at IBM. He earned an AS-EE from Vermont Technical College and BA-Business from St Michaels. "I use my VTC degree at IBM," he said. He and his wife Judy have a daughter Jennifer, a son, Jeremy, a one-year old grandson and a second on the way.
      "I play a Martin [guitar] now but some day I'll play an Anderson."


      The annual Franklin Central Supervisory Union District Art Show features the work of students from City School, Town School, Fairfield, and BFA next week in St. Albans City Hall. The exhibit features two and three dimensional works including graveyard drawings from Greenwood Cementary, masks from the Iliad, comic strip postcard booklets, self-portraits done in tempera paint and embellished with jewels, a portrayal of the wind based on Colors of the Wind from the movie Pocohontas, collographs (prints made from collage), value paintings with silhouettes, painted paper collages, three-dimensional "underwater" paintings, clay castles, dragons, clocks, and other clay characters, locally inspired work such as clay buildings of Main Street in St.Albans, sports sculptures and stories, flowing form sculptures, and work from the new BFA-St. Albans sculpture class.
      The show will be open Tuesday, March 25, 1 - 3 p.m., plus Wednesday and Thursday, March 26-7, 12 noon 5 p.m. There will be an opening reception on Tuesday, 5:30 - 7 p.m.


6th L'OREAL ART AND SCIENCE OF COLOR PRIZE (March 31)--The 2003 theme is "the meeting of science and art in color." Major prizes, no commission. Winners will be invited to the awards ceremony in Tokyo or Paris. Click here or e-mail for more info.

CRAFTS AT THE CASTLE 18TH ANNUAL EXHIBITION (April 4)--Juried Family Service of Greater Boston show at Park Plaza Castle. Booth Sizes 8x8-10x20. Application fee. Click here for more info.

SKY, BLUE, HEAVENS (April 5)--In celebration of the Centennial of Flight, the Purdue University Galleries national exhibition will show artists' response to the achievement of manned flight. All media. No entry fee; artists will be responsible for shipping. Send up to 10 slides or JPEGs. Click here or e-mail for a prospectus and info.

SCULPTURE AT NOBLE HORIZONS (April 12)--Fifth annual outdoor group exhibit in Salisbury, CT. Large scale, all media, prizes, low commissions, no entrance fee. Click here for a prospectus

THE HALPERT BIENNIAL 2003 (April 14)--A national juried visual art competition and exhibition open to two-dimensional U.S. visual artists, excluding photographers. Cash awards total $5000. The Halpert Biennial is a part of An Appalachian Summer Festival, a multi-arts festival featuring music, dance, theater, and visual arts. Click here for a prospectus

BULWER-LYTTON FICTION CONTEST (April 15) Welcomes wretched writers. Compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. E-entry okay, no entry fee, and the Grand Prize is a mere pittance coupled with worldwide glory and fame. Entries should be submitted on index cards. Click here for info and a look at prior winners


      There may be a thousand links to Samuel Pepys' diary online, but this one includes Phil Gyford's daily entries from the diary. He began with Sunday, January 1, 1659/60:
Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain, but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe Yard having my wife, and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife . . . gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year . . . [the hope was belied.]
      The entries are footnoted and linked to information about the people, places, food and other references within the diaries. The site has extensive background information, an introduction, searchable archives by date, and readers' annotations.


      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 © 2003 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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