ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 8 * * All Arts News On the Web * * September 23, 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 Opera House at Enosburg Falls presents Mac McHale and The Old Time Radio Gang in the ongoing Mentors Series on Saturday at 8 p.m. The concert will feature a rich selection of spirited fiddle tunes, gospel songs, ballads of the sad tales of the depression, prison and train songs, and ballads of love and heartbreak.
      "We've been at it for a long, long time," Mac McHale, 72, said. "All of us. The band itself has been together for seventeen years." The radio gang is Mr. McHale, guitar and lead vocals; Dick Monroe, accordion and vocals; John Roc, stand-up bass, mandolin & vocals; Sally Roc, stand-up bass and tenor vocals; and Smokey Valley; fiddle, dobro and vocals. These veteran musicians play and sing the classic melodies to recapture the mood of the period in American history when popular music told "the stories from our hearts."
      The Radio Gang may be the last touring band in America doing 30s and 40s roots country music, for the preservation and presentation of country music from that era. "Many of the songs that we do are the mother and father of bluegrass music," Mr. McHale said, "because that didn't come into effect until 1946. Many of the songs that people think, 'Oh boy that's a bluegrass song' in truth were traditional country music songs."
      Mr. McHale grew up with old time music in Bangor, Maine. Three radio stations there broadcast The RFD Dinner Bell, the Country Jamboree and similar live shows. His mother, originally from the Maritime Provinces, was a fountain of information about old time country music. She "would tell the story that even as a ten-year-old kid playing out in the yard I would know when noontime came and come up to the house to listen to that music," he said. "As I became a little older I used to go down and watch the guys come out of the studio and load their cars. I'd stand across the street and gawk at them. Then I found out I could go up and actually watch the broadcasts."
      The Old Time Radio Show is the radio Mr. McHale grew up with.
      "Everything we do in our stage show is the same thing that was done on country radio and/or country stage shows performed by the radio guys in that time. The jokes, the verbiage, the gospels, the hymn songs, ballads, train songs, everything that they did is part of our show."
      The Radio Gang has eleven old-time country music CDs and is recording their twelfth CD now.  They have traveled from Colorado to Canada, and from Maine to Florida. They have not played Enosburg before but they played the Vergennes Opera House in June. They will appear at the Cumberland Fair on Tuesday, their third trip to Green Mountain College on October 2, and Lincoln Center in November.
      "I've lived my dream. I've played with the guys, I've recorded, there's the radio shows, the stage shows, did everything I dreamed about as a young boy. My love, especially for the Radio Gang, is to go out where this music was born. The Grange Halls and the Opera Houses. The people who come to these shows come for the music."
      Tickets are on sale now. Admission is $12 for adults (who can still save two bucks on advance purchases), $10 for seniors, and $5 for children under 12. Tickets are available at the All Arts ticket centers: Enosburg Pharmacy and Merchants Bank in Enosburg Falls, at Swanton Rexall, and at Better Planet and at the Kept Writer in St Albans.


SHELDON--Grace Church presents Michele Choiniere and Deb Flanders in More Music at Grace on Sunday at 3 p.m.
      Vermont's Native Daughters, Michele Choiniere et Deb Flanders will perform a bi-lingual musical program uniting the Franco-American and Anglo-American music traditions in Vermont. Their source material comes from the female folk music collectors of Ms. Choiniere's family, Ms. Flanders' great-aunt Helen Hartness Flanders, and the late Martha Pellerin.
      Michele Choiniere has performed traditional music since the age of 12. She has composed and performed traditional songs in New England, Quebec and France and is featured on the Smithsonian Folkways CD.
      Native Vermonter Deborah Flanders began her project with the 1997 recording of her CD "Mother Make My Bed," a tribute to life-long Helen Hartness Flanders work. She sings rock with Mixed Company, classical music with the Burlington Choral Society and now focuses on ballad singing. She has performed in the Champlain Folk Festival, First Night Burlington and concerts throughout Vermont and New England.
      The suggested donation is $10. Refreshments will be served. Grace Church is located at 215 Pleasant Street in Sheldon Creek. E-mail or click here for info.

WATERVILLE--Cambridge Arts Council presents a series of community dances beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Waterville Town Hall. Contras, squares, circles, play parties and singing games will be featured, and all dances will be taught. Bring a partner, the entire family, or come alone. Caller Mark Sustic offers dance instruction. Franklin Heyburn and Michele Lajoie play and guest musicians with acoustic instruments are welcome to join the band. Admission is $5 per person and $10 for families at the door.

ENOSBURG FALLS--The Opera House at Enosburg Falls will present the Some Kind of Wonderful New England Tour gospel concert featuring Mark Shelton and Lori Jo Gardner with special guest Unknown Hour next Saturday, October 2.
      Tickets are on sale now. General admission is $10 or just $5 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the All Arts ticket centers: Enosburg Pharmacy and Merchants Bank in Enosburg Falls, at Swanton Rexall, and at Better Planet and at the Kept Writer in St Albans.


WRITING ABOUT LATIN AMERICA (September 30)--Americas, published by the Organization of American States, has a bimonthly circulation of 65,000 and covers Latin American and Caribbean topics in 2500-word max articles. Requires queries. Call 202.458.6846, e-mail or click here for more info.

TWO-HEADED CHALLENGE (October 1)--The Guthrie Theater's Playwrights' Center asks "Who do you admire . . outside the theater? Propose a new play in collaboration with that person, and to win a $2500 commission, up to $3500 in development funds, and an invitation to participate in the 2005 PlayLabs Festival." No entry fee. Click here for info.
      Don't pick George W. Bush or John Kerry; the challenge requires written confirmation of your hero's intent to participate.

DIGITAL CONCENTRATE (October 29)--Art and Technology exhibition is open to international artists over the age of 18. Entries may include web-based art, works for monitor display, digital video, digital prints, sensor-based and/or interactive work, and robotics. Work will be selected by a contemporary art historian and a digital artist from Purdue University. The resolution restrictions for jpeg images sent via e-mail are a maximum dimension of eight inches in image size and maximum resolution of 300 dpi. Entry fee. Click here for info.


      The Computer Music Journal is a quarterly printed and electronic magazine It concentrates on the skills, technologies, and promises of digital sound and all musical applications of computers.
      Web addresses can be long and difficult to show on a single line in a newspaper column. Free sites such as SnipURL and TinyURL allow me to shorten the long URLs I find into small, friendly links. Click for the Computer Music Journal.


      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).
      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.