ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 8 * * All Arts News On the Web * * July 15, 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.


      The Vermont Maple Festival/Summer Sounds series continues the July at the Bay concerts in St. Albans Bay Park as Merchant's Bank presents Social Band on Sunday evening.
      Social Band is a group of twenty singers with strong voices and joyful performances.
      Their performances draw from the idea that folk and classical are parts of a musical continuum. The event on Sunday will feature music from American shape-note and Appalachian music, British Isle folk songs, Balkan and Georgian music, European medieval and renaissance music, and new pieces composed by Social Band members.
      "We have a fairly broad repertoire of newly composed pieces," Social Band manager Ann Pearce said. "I have two notebooks of Social Band music. One is original music and the other is other stuff. The folders are about equally thick. Our concerts are at least a third newly composed pieces and mostly in the shape note tradition."
      Most of their music is polyphonic and much of it is modal. The shape note tradition brings rich and engaging harmonies in music originally developed in 18th-Century America. It is a living folk-hymn tradition with tunes are written in a notation invented to help untrained singers learn to read music. It is a capella music in four-part harmony with a sound both rich and stark.
      Their newly released CD, Florona, will be available at the concert.
      Summer Sounds concerts in St. Albans Bay are presented by the Vermont Maple Festival, the Town of St. Albans, and the All Arts Council of Franklin County, and sponsored by Ben & Jerry's Homemade, the Handy Group of new car dealers, Key Bank, Merchant's Bank, Northwestern Medical Center, and St. Albans for the Future, the Downtown St. Albans group.
      The community based All Arts Council brings the performing arts to northwestern Vermont. The concerts are always on Sunday evenings at 7 p.m., always in a town park, and always free. Bring a blanket or a lawn chair as you settle in to enjoy outdoor family music and and the root beer float social. The rain site (if needed) is the St. Albans Bay Bathhouse Pavilion.


      The Opera House at Enosburg Falls hosts a night of amazing music and unbelievable skits on Saturday, all as a benefit concert for the Bill MacLeay Foundation and Scholarship Fund.
      "We hope to have a sold out crowd," organizer Heather McKeowan said. "We have an All Star cast."
      The emcees, Peter Clavelle, Mayor of Burlington, Dr. Mark Silverstein, and local musician extraordinaire Jesse Potts, will rotate the duty because they are all in different skits. "I'm singing with the good mayor," she said.
      Opera singer Catherine Silverstein will open the show with the Canadian National Anthem. The other headliners include Linley Bingham, Jim Branca, Burlington recording artist Kevin Brislin, Betty Curboy-Hoff accompanied by Kevin Brady, Bob Gesser, belly dancer Nancy Hartung-Brady, Jonas Salzman whose new CD is out, Tyrone Shaw, professor at JSC and editor of Basement Medicine newspaper, Shayna Sherwood, comedian Sugarhouse will fiddle with his accompanist Merrill Corbier, comedian and singer Elyse Wadsworth, Cindy Weed and the Missisquoi River Band, Pat Willey singing from Cats, and Nat Worman playing Abe Lincoln. Meg Willey will accompany the show on piano and sing from the modern Aida.
      "The mayor is a good sport," Ms. McKeowan said. "He and I will do a little bluegrass together." Other skits include Placibo Domingo, as well as Harry Benoit and Maria from West Side Story to I Feel Pretty. Harry will dance with the roller blading Maria.
      There will be an art auction of paintings on wood because "Bill was very much into the preservation of forests" along with other donated items.
      Teacher, mentor, and friend, Bill MacLeay was a director of the All Arts Council and had begun to build an AAC runout program for artists and performers at Johnson State when he died.
      The event has already raised over $3,000 for the Bill MacLeay Foundation and Scholarship Fund, all on the program alone. The scholarship will be awarded annually to an adult in northern Vermont who wants to continue with a college education. "It's a great way to project Bill into the future," Ms. McKeowan said. "The qualifications for getting one of these scholarships are attuned to what he looked for in an individual." The Foundation Board includes David Thompson of St. Albans, Jean Burnor, and Maggie MacLeay.
      The Bill MacLeay Foundation Variety Show Saturday, July 17, at 7 p.m. at the Opera House. Admission is $6 at the door. "There are no advance tickets. Just get there early and hope you get a seat," Ms. McKeowan said. "It will run like the Ed Sullivan Show. It's a very tight show."


      The Fairfax Community Theater Company production of The Scarlet Pimpernel began last night at BFA Fairfax High School. The musical offers an evening of adventure, romance, and rescue.
      "This play has always one of [director] Kim Ward's favorites." Margie Cain said. Stage manager "Terry Kneen, Kim, and I went to Philadelphia to see it produced and decided we had to do it here. It really is a fun show. The characters are wonderful, and the music is rich and divine.
      "The one word that best describes the production is passion, from the story, from the cast and the crew."
      Bob Martin of Burlington plays Percy Blakeney, the Scarlet Pimpernel. FCTC founding member Margie Cain plays Percy's French wife, Marguerite. Jerry Starks plays Chauvelin, the French officer and antagonist. Former Fairfax resident Kim Ward of Montpelier directs. The production has a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Norm Lavallee, over 20 cast members and a functional Guillotine. The cast is drawn from Franklin and Chittenden Counties.
      FCTC has performed musicals, drama, and comic theater since 1991. The Scarlet Pimpernel, with music by Frank Wildhorn, book and lyrics by Nan Knighton, continues tonight through Saturday, July 14-17, All performances are at 8 p.m. Admission is $10/adults and $7/seniors and children under 12.
      After the FCTC triumph with 1776 last year and the French overthrow now, we should ask them for more revolutionary theater.


      Village Harmony returns for its seventh year in the Summer at Grace series at Grace Church on Sunday. This popular youth ensemble will present an eclectic mixture of Italian traditional and renaissance music, shape-note singing, Balkan music and African drumming, and new works. Village Harmony's 25 young singers and instrumentalists are drawn from throughout New England and as far away as North Carolina and Virginia, and are directed by Larry Gordon, Carlo Pozzoli Marytha Paffrath.
      This is the seventh season of the Summer Music at Grace series. Sunday at 7 p.m. at Grace Church, 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon Creek. A community potluck dinner will precede the concert at 5:30 p.m. The suggested admission to the concerts is $8/$5 for students. Village Harmony's recordings and songbooks will be available for sale. Call 326-4603 or for info.


ST. ALBANS BAY--8084 returns home to play The Bayside live tomorrow evening at 9:30 p.m. then travels the short distance to Springfield, VT, for Summerfest on Saturday at 6 p.m.

TEEVEE--Adelphia Channel 15 and the All Arts Council produce Almost Live, a series of live concerts that air each week on Channel 15. This week, the first set of Vermont singer-songwriter Jon Gailmor Almost Live at Bay Day airs tonight at 9:30 on Channel 15. The concert will repeat at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow and next Thursday morning at 2 a.m.


      Sacred Harp singing is the largest surviving branch of traditional American Shape Note Singing. The nomenclature, taken from the Sacred Harp, a hymnal first published with no harp music. The Fasola site is dedicated to Sacred Harp music. Some historical background of Shape Note is available here.


      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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