ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 7 * * All Arts News On the Web * * October 16, 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 1 p.m., at ChowBella in St Albans 8-10 p.m. most Wednesday evenings, 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.


      The Friends of the Opera House at Enosburg Falls present the Eleventh Annual Talent Search on Saturday, October 18, at the Opera House. One of the premiere talent events in Vermont, this show is an evening of entertainment, celebration, and the arts with the most talented performers in the area.
      2002 First Place Winner Alyssa Bouthillier will host; 2002 Junior Winner Molly Renning and 1995 First Place Winner and former Miss Vermont Sarah Jo Willey will co-host the event.
      "We're starting our second decade of providing a showcase for talented performers," said producer Harry Benoit. The 2003 show will feature a jazz band, classical violinists, fiddlers, piano soloists, modern dance, flutists, and more. The Opera House awards cash prizes in two performance divisions, Junior (youth up to 14) and Adult (15 and up) in the amount of $150/First Place, $100/Second Place $75/Third Place and $25/Honorable Mention in both divisions. "We do not charge any entry fee whatsoever," said producer Harry Benoit.
      With such a broad array of musical styles and abilities, judging a talent show can be as difficult as entering one. Each contestant competes only against him or herself. "You don't compare one to another," Mr. Benoit said. The judges "take into consideration the contestant's age level only." The criteria are originality or interpretation which is weighted at 25% of the total, technical ability, 30%, performance and presentation, 30%, costumes or props, 15%, and accompanist, 0%. Although this "isn't an audition for Julliard," Mr. Benoit said, contestants from years past have gone on to the Miss America pageant, the Crane School of Music, the Country Music Showdown, and to professional careers in entertainment. "The whole philosophy behind the talent search is to give that opportunity, to build self esteem, and to get stage experience."
      Judges Karen Giffendanner, a supervisor of the Agency on Aging, has a background in music and theater; Corey Mercer is an Occupational Therapist and connoisseur of the arts; Joan Stepensky, is the director of the Vermont Opera Company; Chad Tsounis, Executive Director of the Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce, is an extreme opera lover.
      Once a contestant wins first place they are no longer eligible to compete in their division but are invited to host and perform in the future events. Past winners include Jill Cummings, 1993) Miss Vermont, 1997; Johanna Roddy (1994), Sarah Jo & Jared Willey (1995), Armand Messier (1996), Brian Sheih (1997), David Bish (1998), Meg Willey (1999), Riley Kempton (2000), "The Sticky Wickets" Teen Barbershop Quartet (2001), and Alyssa Bouthillier (2002). The Junior division was added in 1995 for contestants under 14. Past winners include Emily Cseh (1995), Amy Robinson (1996), Shayna Sherwood (1997), Sarah Watson (1998), Jennifer Roach (1999), Emily Burbank (2000), Lindsay Larivee (2001) and Molly Renning (2002).
      The Talent Search is a community event. Drell Hunter, Miss Vermont 2003, will present the Community Service Award and talk about domestic violence education. The Community Service Recognition Award was inaugurated two years ago to recognize individuals who serve Enosburg and the Opera House. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
      Tickets are available at the All Arts ticket centers, the Enosburg Pharmacy and Merchants Bank in Enosburg Falls, Better Planet in St. Albans, and Swanton Rexall. Buying in advance can still save two bucks off the general admission of $12/adult, $10/seniors and students. Children under 12 are free. Call 802-933-6171 or click here for more info.


      Fiddleheads are a middle school and high school students interested in learning and performing fiddling and the dancing traditions of northern Vermont.
      Mark Sustic is organizing the Fiddleheads who will participate in a group to learn fiddle tunes and dances. The music is based in the French Acadian, Irish, Scottish and other cultural heritages of northern Vermont. "We will learn to value these cultures, and use traditional music and dances to celebrate the contributions of different cultural groups who have settled in the region as well as living representatives of those cultures," Mr. Sustic said.
      He plans about two rehearsals each month during the school year. "The primary goal will be the enjoyment of traditional music played on the fiddle and other acoustic instruments, the dances associated with the music, and playing together in a group." There will be no individual instruction.
      Participants must supply their own fiddle, banjo, guitar, or other traditional stringed instrument and should already be able to play at least a few fiddle tunes or songs. Every member of the group will be encouraged to participate equally.
      Call 802-849-6968 or E-mail for more info.


      The Northeast Fiddlers Association has recently rdesigned its site. This work in progress is supported by volunteers and includes animation as well as info about membership, monthly meets, and the national traditional Old-Time Fiddling Contest and Festival. They recommend a high speed connection, but the site defaults to "low tech" if you desire (a very nice touch).


      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).
      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.