ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 9 * * All Arts News On the Web * * March 3, 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.


      Art For All Ages and the St. Albans Recreation Department begin a new class, Introduction to Chinese Brush Painting, starting today. Instructor Mark Montalban will teach the materials and techniques needed to understand and develop this painting style. This class will also introduce basic calligraphy and the Chinese philosophy of perspective. The class will meet every Thursday, 10-12 noon, through April 28 at the Barlow Street Community Center. All ages, especially older adults, are welcome.
      The All Arts Council and Art For All Ages will exhibit student work in a St. Albans area art show and opening in May.
      The fee of $120 covers all materials including those needed for an exhibit.
      Art For All Ages works through local senior centers, arts organizations, schools, social agencies, recreation departments, and libraries to provide art and materials in supporting transition in our lives. Email or call Mark Montalban (802.343.6293) or click here for more info.


      The AAC Concerts for Grumpy Grownups series presents the Green Mountain Wind Ensemble at the Congregational Church in St. Albans Monday, March 7, 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.


      Regular readers may have noticed that this column sometimes reports on events well outside of Franklin County. The All Arts Council mission is to bring all the arts to Franklin County and to showcase and develop Franklin County artists wherever they may perform.

LENNOXVILLE (QUEBEC)--Northern Routes, the folk group of Mark Sustic, Tom MacKenzie, David Carpenter, and Tom Hodgson, will perform at the Church Street Cafe in the Gertrude Scott Hall on Friday.

BURLINGTON--The Peace and Justice Center of Burlington present a Family Concert with Common Thread (Karen Sutherland, Shari McMahon, Dan Berggren and Mark Sustic), Pete Sutherland, Jeremiah McLane, Sharon Gouveia, and the Lake Champlain Waldorf School Contra Dance Band all on the dance floor at 2 p.m. at the College Street Congregational Church in Burlington on Sunday. The concert is hosted by Steve Faust and Mary Alice Favro.
      Ticket sales and a silent auction will benefit the Common Thread Cultural Connections concert tour of Transylvanian hospitals, schools, and orphanages in the spring of 2005.


FAIRFAX--The regular Music Session continues Saturday with acoustic instrumentalists playing traditional songs at the Foothills Bakery, 1-4:30 p.m. Admission is free by donation.

WATERVILLE--Cambridge Arts Council presents community dances on Saturdays at 7 p.m. in the Waterville Town Hall. The evening will feature contras, squares, circles, play parties and singing games and all dances will be taught. Bring a partner, the entire family, or come alone. Caller Mark Sustic offers dance instruction. Frank Heyburn and Michele Lajoie play. Guest musicians with acoustic instruments are welcome. Admission is $5 per person and $10 for families at the door.

ST. ALBANS--The Overtime Saloon offers Open Mic with Abby Jenne and Friends every Wednesday at 8 p.m. Abby encourages performers of all kinds to attend. If you need instrumental accompaniment, e-mail Abby with the title/artist of song you wish to perform. click here for more info.

BURLINGTON--Michael Hopkins will give a Meet the Composer lecture on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center. Call 86-FLYNN (802.863.5966) for info.

MONTPELIER--The Northeast Fiddlers Association will hold its monthly jam session at 12 p.m. and Fiddle Meeting from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Montpelier Elks Club. With the Vermont Maple Festival and other major events looming, now is a good time to get reacquainted. Call Martin Davis (802.244.1448) for info.


      The Northeast Heritage Music Camp will inaugurate a program to celebrate the acoustic music and folk dance traditions of New England and eastern Canada. The program covers a week of music instruction by world class players from these great traditions in June on the Johnson State College Campus in Johnson. The program includes nightly contras, concerts, and jam sessions plus five daily classes with world class players.
      The staff includes Cape Breton fiddler Sandy MacIntyre, Cape Breton pianist Mary MacIntyre, Quebecois fiddler Daniel Lemieux, Quebecois accordion Normand Miron, Appalachian Fiddler Alan Jabbour, New England and Appalachian fiddler, Pete Sutherland, contra-dance caller and New England fiddler, David Kaynor, flute, tin whistle, and contradance pianist Grey Larsen, DADGAD guitar and bodhran expert Paddy League, flatpick specialist Peter Langston, and clawhammer-style 5-string banjo player Ken Perlman. Mr. Perlman is co-director of the American Banjo Camp. Mr. Langston has been a director of the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop for over ten years and co-directs the American Banjo Camp. They have served on staff at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, the California Coast Music Camp, Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp, Alta Sierra Dance Camp, Common Ground on the Hill, the Tennessee Banjo Institute, Sierra Swing Dance Camp, the Santa Barbara Harvest Festival, and Lark in the Morning Music Camp.
      Attendees must preregister for the Northeast Heritage Music Camp; space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Vermont residents may forego lodging costs and commute to the event. Click here for more info.


      Jocelyn Woods is a gifted young pianist/composer from Cambridge. Her debut album, A River's Journey, is a collection of her own intimate compositions plus selections from the romantic repertoire. The site includes her quest, music, concert schedule, reviews, and musings.


      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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