ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 9 * * All Arts News On the Web * * February 10, 2005


      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 or at the Overtime Saloon in St Albans 8-10 p.m. most Wednesday 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 AAC Concerts for Grumpy Grownups series will indeed present the Green Mountain Wind Ensemble at the Congregational Church in St. Albans but it won't be tonight. The forecast calls for 12" of snow on the Congregational Church sidewalk so we have to reschedule the concert for a later date. Watch this space for the new plan.
      The AAC Concerts for Grumpy Grownups series presents the Green Mountain Wind Ensemble at the Congregational Church in St. Albans tonight at 7 p.m. The program will include Hoppin' John by Vermont composer Erik Nielsen as well as the March to the Scaffold from the Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, Hoedown by Aaron Copland, Toccata by Girolamo Frescobaldi, and I'm Seventeen Come Sunday by Percy Grainger.
      The Wind Ensemble will perform the Vermont premiere of Hoppin' John, a short work by modernist/post-modernist composer Erik Nielsen of Brookfield. The first work for concert band he has written, it was commissioned by four Connecticut High Schools and played for the first time in May.
      Hoppin' John "was inspired by a concert I saw as a college student," Mr. Nielsen said of a Taj Mahal event at the Fillmore East. Howard Johnson's Substructure all played different horns as sidemen "but they all played tuba. You ain't heard nothing until you have heard four tubas playing this stomping Taj Mahal stuff. It was electrifying. There was something about that sound that stuck with me over the years. When I had the opportunity to write the piece there was something in the back of my mind about the inspiration I had gotten years ago. It showed up in the middle of" Hoppin' John.
      The opening is very lyrical, then in the middle it segues into something that sounds to Nielsen "like it could have come out of an Otis Redding tune." It cooks and has a strong bass line, then returns to the lyricism of the opening.
      The folk forms of music such as rock and country songs, as well as works like Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz are written around a story.
      "There's always an idea," Mr. Nielsen said of his own work. "I try to take people on a journey. Now the journey may only be from the beginning of the piece of music to the end and it may be a completely instrumental piece without any overt or even unconscious references to anything outside music. It may not have any of those points which you can say, 'OK this is inspired by The Odyssey.'
      "At the same time, music really is a language that speaks to people on a level that they would not ordinarily get. What I have tried to do, particularly the last ten years or so, is to reach directly to people and try to make my language as direct as possible so that [listeners] will be moved by what I have to say."
      The audience needs to put aside its prejudice and just listen actively.
      Erik Nielsen completed his undergraduate studies at Bennington College and earned a Masters in Composition from the Hartt School of Music. He studied composition with Henry Brandt as well as Vermont composer and Copland protege Vivian Fine. Mr. Brandt won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002 at age 88. "That's pretty inspiring," Mr. Nielsen said.
      He has received ASCAP Standard Panel Awards for the last ten years and won a contest sponsored by the National Symphony orchestra. His work was premiered last March at the Kennedy Center. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra performed October Dream and his Ndakina was produced with a project grant from the Vermont Council on the Arts for an exhibit celebrating Abenaki life and culture. He has been an active singer, conductor, and teacher, and was a director of the Consortium of Vermont Composers.
      Hector Berlioz brought his literary leanings to his composition; he began with a deliberately constructed story and shaped the music to the story rather than letting it suggest a plot to the listener. The garish March to the Scaffold reflects the March of the Guards from his unfinished and abandoned opera, Les Francs-Juges. As the March begins, the Symphonie Fantastique has already shown us the protagonist's conviction for murder and forewarned us of the horror to come.
      American composer Aaron Copland adapts folk melodies, hymns, and dances to evoke images of the frontier prairies and mountains. His wild west ballet Rodeo tells the story of a young cowgirl (Agnes de Mille) who works on a Texas ranch. It concludes with the rip-roaring Hoedown. Although Rodeo was written for an orchestra, this arrangement stresses the wind instruments with the string parts.
      Girolamo Frescobaldi, now one of the most important composers of the early Italian Baroque, was known in his lifetime as a performer. His compositions include the important keyboard music of the era; his First Book of Toccatas was his most popular book and is the central work of his oeuvre. The Toccata uses kaleidoscopic melodic twists taken from the madrigals of the period to show and evoke emotion.
      Australian-born and eccentric, Percy Grainger is best known for his lighter works often based on traditional tunes, folksong arrangements, and experimentation. I'm Seventeen Come Sunday is a choral and vocal composition that works well for a wind ensemble.
      The 32 players of the Green Mountain Wind Ensemble range from sophomores to seniors at B.F.A.-St. Albans under the direction of Eric Bushey.
      The concert is a benefit for the Franklin-Grand Isle Emergency Food Shelf. "There is no admission charge," Mr. Bushey said, "but we are asking people to bring a non-perishable food item.


ST. ALBANS--The National Honor Society presents the Faculty Frolic, tomorrow night on the BFA-St. Albans Main Stage at 7 p.m.
      "The frolics were a tradition at BFA," said Tammy Kempton. "As part of our 75th Anniversary celebration of BFA, we wanted to delve into the history. It's all for fun."
      The Frolic will be a full evening. The faculty band will perform. The Math Department will do the South Park Pythagorean Episode. The Science Department will take off Who's Line Is This called Who's Class Is This and much more. There will even be a food sale.
      All proceeds go to the NHS Scholarship Fund. Tickets are just $2 for students and $4 for big people, available at the door.

BURLINGTON--Events for Tom presents Jerry Holland from Cape Breton and Kevin Burke from Ireland in concert in the Flynnspace on Sunday at 7 p.m.
      Organizer Mark Sustic called them "Two of the best traditional fiddlers in the world." Kevin Burke has been fiddling at the forefront of traditional music for over 30 years. He has worked with Arlo Guthrie, Christy Moore, and the Bothy Band. Jerry Holland is a fiddler strongly rooted in traditional Cape Breton, Scottish and Irish dance music. Many of this active performer and recording artist's tunes have entered the traditional repertoire around the world.
      The concert is presented by the Events for Tom Series with support from the Burlington Violin Shop and Vermont Violins, the Champlain Valley Festival, Messenger Print and Design, Parent to Parent of Vermont, Kinko's, the Vermont Folklife Center, and others. Admission is $23 the day of the concert and $20 in advance through the FlynnTix Regional Box Office (863-5966 or FlynnTix). E-mail Mark Sustic for more info about the concert series and the Tom Sustic Fund.

      Jerry Holland and Kevin Burke will also hold a pair of fiddle workshops this weekend on Saturday from 1:30 to 3pm. at the Seven Stars center in Sharon and on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Burlington Violin Shop in Burlington. A reception will immediately follow the workshop at the violin shop. All levels and all instruments are welcome.
      The cost is $35. To register, send a check (made out to 'Vermont Independent School of the Arts') to: Beth Telford, 1060 Bent Hill Rd, Braintree, VT 05060. Don't forget your tape recorders (battery operated, please)!


      Vermont sculptor Jerry Geier creates a cast of delightful terra cotta characters posed in almost daily life. His site includes a digital photo gallery of his bronze and his terra cotta pieces as well as woodcut prints. His work is available at the Blue Heron Gallery in South Burlington.


      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 © 2005 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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