ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 8 * * All Arts News On the Web * * December 9, 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 an afternoon of Holiday Music and Song featuring the Enosburg Town Band and the Community Chorus on Sunday. This annual family event celebrates traditional music in Franklin County's historic theater. The program is part of the Community Treasures Series. The concert will include traditional and contemporary seasonal music.
      "The Community Chorus has about 35 members this year," said chorus director Jay Sheperd. "We're doing nine numbers, four of which are unaccompanied."
      The choral highlight is the a capella Mary Did You Know arranged by Jay Sheperd for this chorus. It's fun to do an arrangement because "you can hear what it sounds like" and write for the voices in the chorus instead of just writing the music.
      The concert will also include the hymn Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light by J. S. Bach, a different arrangement of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and a new carol, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem by Adger Boyce and Fisher Pace plus the traditional spiritual Shout for Joy and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Verne Colburn is the accompanist.
      The Town Band will play Christmas medleys, traditional music, "and a variety of secular and sacred music," director Alisa Martin said. The program includes White Christmas, O Come O Come Emanuel and Christmas Carillon, an arrangement of Ding Dong Merrily on High. "It's a really energetic arrangement," she said. The piece will feature Norm Lavallee on bells. They will close with Sleigh Ride by LeRoy Anderson, an Enosburg Town Band tradition.
      "The band is about 40 strong this year," Ms. Martin said. It has an interesting makeup with music teachers and students, farmers and entrepreneurs, and teachers and administrators. The Chorus also has "quite a few younger people, which is encouraging," Mr. Sheperd said.
      This Town Band is the oldest in Vermont. The volunteer musicians range in age from 11 to over 70. They have never missed a season. Director Alisa Martin is a music teacher in Enosburg schools.
      Both the Town Band and the Community Chorus recruit new members any time. "Music is a lifelong pursuit," Ms. Martin said.
      Admission is free but donations are gladly, indeed gleefully accepted. The Holiday Concert will begin at the Opera House on Sunday at 2 p.m.


      The Christmas season brings out some wonderful new CDs. I asked engineer/producer and "really good sound guy" Lyle Glidden of Split Rock Audio Productions to review some of them. Here is his first report:

HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS ALBUM--What was once thought dead is alive and healthy and has been nurtured and grown in the hills of Old Vermont!       Classic Pop, my favorite musical genre has been re-energized and re-invented by Ben Patton (son of Will and Debbie Patton i.e.: The Jazz Mandolin Project, Zephers and The Spiders) and residence of Bakersfield, VT, on his first commercial release Here's The Good News Album.
      Ben has taken the sum of his early musical influences, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Motown, Jazz and American Movie music to form a flawless amalgam. This CD ranks with Pop Classics by Todd Rundgren, The Rubinoos, The Hooters and The Bears and every 1960's British Invasion Band.
      Ben's lyrics are at times psycho-analytical, tongue-in-cheek and refreshingly honest. He wears his heart on his sleeve a good share of the disc's 41:00 playing time. Ben has an exciting and refreshing command of the English language ... check out Objectifying You.
      The CD is a vital pastiche of musical tributes to all of Ben's heros. One minute it's a Beatle hook or production technique, then a Motown bass line. 60's style back-up vocals abound and there's even a guitar solo that would make Brian May of Queen proud, and best of all, Ben played and sang about 90% of the CD.
      Being an engineer and producer myself, I must wax poetic about Ben's knowledge of the recording studio. Here's The Good News Album uses almost every production stratagem known to man since 1059 and the key is Ben USES them, never abusing. Hats off to an exciting young artist!
      Good News was mastered and recorded in part at West Street Digital, Fairfield by Andre Maquera.
      It's a crime some one of America's major labels hasn't snapped up this disc. It's better than 97% of the product that hits record store bins on a weekly basis. Run out and order a copy for every music lover on your holiday shopping list, and one for yourself, too!
      Every lover of 60's and early 70's pop should acquire a copy of this CD.
      Here's The Good News Album is available on for $15 plus s/h and will be in local music stores next week.

             --Lyle Glidden


BURLINGTON--Ben Patton and his band The Most will play in concert at Radio Bean Coffee House, 8 North Winooski Avenue, on Sunday at 9 p.m.

ESSEX CENTER--The Catalyst Theater Company continues The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! tomorrow through Sunday in Essex Memorial Hall.
      The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! is adapted from the popular book by Barbara Robinson. The play centers on a church community's annual Christmas pageant traditionally directed by the elderly Mrs. Armstrong. When she becomes incapacitated, Grace Bradley takes over and finds she must cast the six Herdman children, two girls and four boys, "the meanest, nastiest most inventively awful kids in the whole history of the wide world," Catalyst director Ronni Lopez said. "They're hooligans, they're free and unsupervised," and great fun to watch.
      The Catalyst production roles include "21 kiddos from 6 to 13 and 10 adults from their 20s to elders," Ms. Lopez said. This holiday tradition is returning for the eighth year.
      The play features Stage Manager/Light Designer Casey Covey and Assistant Stage Manager Cathy Covey, both from St. Albans; as well as actors and crew from Burlington, actors Cambridge, Charlotte, Colchester, Essex, Jericho, Shelburne, South Burlington, and Williston.
      The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! has evening performances Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. plus matinees Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m. General admission is $9 and $6.50 Tickets are available at the Flynn Box Office (863-5966). Essex Memorial Hall is on Tower Road at Route 15 in in Essex Center.


      The "voice of the new music renaissance," the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble (VCME) is directed by Steven Klimowski of Fairfax. The professional group tours with specific programs and gives a fall, winter and spring program each year, with masterpieces as well as premier performances of works by today's composers.


      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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