ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 8 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 18, 2004


      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 mostly once each month, 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.


      "What doesn't happen in a park?" asked Marianne Hall of Richford.
      The Richford Town hall hosts The Big Thaw, the 2004 edition of the annual Richford variety show, in Town Hall tomorrow and Saturday. Town Hall will be transformed into a park for variety acts, skits, musical numbers, and solos by Josh Adriance, "Sugarhouse" Laroche, Roger Lavallee, Ginger Morse and Ray Meunier, Sandra O'Connell Paquette, "Uncle Chet" Parsons, the Richford Legion Color Guard, The Wizard of Oz, Bob Zelazo, a large chorus, and many more. Lynn Raymond is choral director and Rod Sanborn is accompanist.
      Director Marianne Hall chose the setting of a Town Park for the show this year because "anything can happen there." She is putting the Variety back into the Show.
      Josh Adriance was graduated from RHS last year and is a freshman in Music Performance at UVM. He has performed at Carnegie Hall in the National Festival Orchestra conducted by Lukas Foss and has been invited to return for the National Orchestra concert of January, 2005. Recent surgery after a snowboarding accident sidelined him, but he is excited to play again.
"I've been playing through some gavottes, a baroque, happy dance sound, and some sonatas by Eccles and Corelli," he said.
      Today's variety shows have their roots in the minstrel show and vaudeville.
      The minstrel show: white performers, blackface, offbeat costumes. Some of the most famous American songs--Camptown Races, Dixie, Oh Susannah--and some of our hoariest jokes began in minstrel shows.
      When the Minstrel Show began in the 1830s, white men dressed as slaves to perform black musical and dance numbers. In a decade, the minstrel show had become a central event in Democratic party events and by the Civil War it was world famous and respectable. The first talking picture made, "The Jazz Singer" a film with Al Jolson in blackface, continued the tradition. Minstrel shows continued to be popular into the 1950s.
      Vaudeville did not last as long but colored the staging of the variety program. This popular light entertainment began in the 1890s and waned in the 1930s. A fully staged show included a dozen or more unrelated acrobats, comedians, dancers, magicians, jugglers, singers, and even trained animals.
      Phyllis Robarge donated some items that were used in the minstrel shows staged in Richford in the 1930s.
      "She gave me several pages of jokes," Ms. Hall said. "Most of them were not PC [as things were not 60 or 70 years ago]." The jokes and costume came from her father-in-law and she is giving an entire endman's outfit to the Historical Society.
      "I took a few of the jokes," she said. "We no longer have the end men and interlocutors, though."
      Like all minstrel shows, what goes around, comes around, and so it is with our definitions. The American Heritage Dictionary defines end man as "1. The person at the end of a line or row; or 2. The man in a minstrel show who sits at one end of the company and engages in banter with the interlocutor." The interlocutor (pronounced n-tr-LKY-tr) is "1. one who takes part in a conversation, often formally or officially; or 2. The performer in a minstrel show who is placed midway between the end men and engages in banter with them" or 3. a stage presence with no verbs.
      "I picked out a number of jokes that were told 70 years ago and I'm handing them out to some of the chorus so we can do some impromptu end men stuff. "
      The show will also do some P.R. for the Mr. Falcon contest. "I'll snag some of the candidates and embarrass them" on stage, Ms. Hall said.
      The Big Thaw will be held in the Richford Town Hall Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors. Children under 5 are free.
      "The show is a total benefit," Ms. Hall said. "It benefits the Senior Meal Site in Richford as well as the area Meals on Wheels." Not to mention the community need to get out of the house. "The winter has been long and it's time for spring."


DESIGN FOR GALLERY (Mar 24)--Catalyst Arts in Belfast wants design proposals for terrace exhibition space with a horticultural theme. No entry fee. E-mail or click here for more info.

ART ON PARADE (March 31)--Six sculptures, valued at no more than $25,000, will be selected for the Northglenn Arts & Humanities Foundation on-loan sculpture program. Each finalist will receive a $350 honorarium. $1,000 awarded for "People's Choice Award." Work must be for sale. Foundation hopes to purchase one piece for the city's permanent collection. All 303-450-8727 Click here for more info.

INTERNATIONAL SHOW FOR ARTISTS WITH DISABILITIES (April 9)--The California State University exhibit is open to all artists with disabilities. There are no entry fees. There is no specific theme. This show encourages a variety of conceptual, political and figurative projects in all media. E-mail for prospectus.

INTERNATIONAL FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION (April 15)--Professional and amateur photographers, for all forms of fine art photography created in black and white or color, using traditional or digital methods or elements of both processes. Total awards over $6,200. Click here for a prospectus.

SCULPTURE SALMAGUNDI VIII (April 19)--Indoor/Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition at Rocky Mounts Arts Center. $7,800 in prizes and honorariums. E-mail or click here (click on Artists Opportunities) for a prospectus.


      The double Met whammy: Chevron bought Texaco and bailed. Luciano Pavarotti retired.
      For the first time since 1940, the Metropolitan Opera must raise funds for its live radio broadcasts of Saturday afternoon performances. The Texaco sponsorship of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera was the longest-running commercial sponsorship in broadcast history.
      Tenor Luciano Pavarotti at 68 said that Puccini's Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday was his final night of staged opera anywhere. The performance was his 379th at the Met, far more than with any other company. His first Met performance, in Puccini's La Boheme came in 1968. He inaugurated the Met's broadcasts on PBS in "La Boheme" with soprano Renata Scotto in 1977.
      In reaching some 11 million listeners in 40 countries on five continents, Saturday Afternoons at the Met have brought the opera to singers like Benita Valente when she was growing up thousands of miles from New York, and to children like me when I was growing up just 100 miles away. I never saw Pavarotti live at the Met but I have heard him in some of his 33 radio broadcasts from there.


      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 © 2004 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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