ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 13 * * All Arts News On the Web * * December 31-January 7, 2009


      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 various restaurants around Franklin County throughout the week, 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.

      Find links to these events and more in our Spotlight!

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      Happy New Year, everyone!

      I donít usually like to see a year end. I love sunsets because the sky colors light up my life at the end of the day but the end of 2008 just means Iím another year older and deeper in debt.
      Private contributions to the arts dropped this year. The Vermont Legislature has or will cut appropriation to the state arts council. Popular programs like the Summer Sounds series depend on municipal appropriations. And school art programs are funded by the property tax.
      My gut tells me--and our long look at the cultural economy numbers prove--that the Arts are one solution we can't afford to lose. The data shows that the Arts are an economic engine for the state. The Arts boost school test scores. The Arts improve our sense of community. And it doesn't hurt that a painting or photograph, an original song, a well-staged play, or a warm book on a cold winter day all bring light to our lives.
      The All Arts Council is the only all-volunteer Local Arts Service Organization in the state. A year-end gift to the AAC is both tax-deductible and will go entirely to programming. Your planned 2009 sponsorship will help us continue the programs and our support for other arts groups. Please email the All Arts Council for more information or to donate.


BURLINGTON--First Night tonight is Vermont's premier substance-free, New Year's Eve festival of the arts. The largest, single-day arts festival in the state is staged from noon until midnight today in 22 downtown sites. Franklin County performers are well represented with Electric Youth Dance Company in the YMCA Gym; Jim McGinniss & the Redeemers plus Starline Rhythm Boys on the Vermont Folk Music stage at Unitarian Universalist Church; Will Patton Ensemble at the Not Just Jazz site at Cathedral Church at St. Paul; and Vermont Youth Orchestra on the Main Stage at the Flynn. Look also for Summer Sounds favorites Banjo Dan & the Midnite Plowboys and Social Band at the Unitarian Universalist Church; Tammy Fletcher as "Mountain Girl" on the Main Stage at the Flynn; and Mark LeGrand at College St. Congregational.
      Admission to most events is by button available at Chittenden Bank, Hannaford, Key Bank, Merchants Bank, and Price Chopper. Click here for more info.


     I am completely blown away by both the quantity and quality of concerts, events, exhibits, and productions staged this year in and by Franklin County artists. The list is so extensive that, after I cut and trimmed and slashed and gouged, I still had a column more than twice as long as usual. This year, for the first time ever, I have divided the annual roundup into two columns. Last week, we looked at events around the county from the Artist In Residence cooperative to the West Swanton Methodist Church annual Lawn Supper. This week, we will look at the All Arts Council events, what Other Major Presenters have been doing, and the Five Franklin County Festivals.


     The All Arts Council serves northwestern Vermont as a presenter, an event producer, and as a technical resource for artists and other groups. As other organizations have grown, we have been able to produce fewer and support more events.
      Summer Sounds, Franklin County's popular, long running, outdoor series, returned to its roots for its 19th season with free concerts every summer Sunday evening in Highgate Center plus one in St. Albans Bay. There were no Summer Sounds concerts in St Albans City this season.
      The 2008 series offered a lineup of bluegrass, country, folk, gospel, pop, and classic rock-n-roll with Bob Degree and the Bluegrass Storm, Tammy Fletcher and Mountain Girl, Last Lyx, Mango Jam, Rumble Doll, Towne Meeting (and a CD release party), and Meg Willey and The Low Bones. This series is unique in presenting often nationally known performers who are not seen elsewhere in Franklin County.
      We survived a rainy summer--three of the outdoor concerts were indoors and finished the season on as nice a summer night as we had this year. Did you miss any of the concerts? Fortunately, Northwest Access TV and the All Arts Council produce Almost Live, a series of live concerts that airs each week on Comcast Channel 15. Videographer Mike Montanye produced a "front row seat" show of all the Summer Sounds concerts and many more besides. Click here for more info.


     The Champlain Valley Fair emphasized Vermont music talent with top local performers daily. Those free concerts finished with Keeghan Nolan on Labor Day.
      Events for Tom has become a statewide presenter with more than a dozen major events each year. they showcased Alash, the winner of the 2007 Young Tradition concert, and held the 6th Annual Young Traditions Concert and several Young Tradition Showcases; plus Mehr and Sher Ali with Qawwali Music of Pakistan; an Avi and Celia CD Release Party; an afternoon of Appalachian and Irish fiddling with Matt Brown, Geordie Lynd and the Eavesdroppers; Brian Conway and Brendan Dolan; a Tony DeMarco CD release party with Jerry Holland; Genticorum as part of Festival La Moelle; Longing for Eliza; the Guy Mendilow Band; the Northeast Heritage Music Festival Concert in the air conditioned River Arts Center; the Northumberland Ranters with Fiddleheads; folk singer Bill Staines; and Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet with Bela Fleck.
      The Opera House at Enosburg Falls welcomed Suzanne Hull-Parent as Managing Director. They presented Mark Shelton in Concert in a tribute to the music of Elvis Presley; plus Arsenic and Old Lace; children's musician Rick Charette; Shout It Out; a Community Night at the Opera House; the 16th annual Talent Search. The Opera House hosted the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union annual District Art Gala and houses a permanent art exhibit.
      Summer Music at Grace started its season with the sixth annual Farewell Reunion concert (in conjunction with Events for Tom). They continued with the Michele Fay Band; Full Circle; the Adirondack Harper, Martha Gallagher; Hungrytown; the Saline Fiddlers; and Village Harmony.
      Vermont Youth Orchestra Association and the VYO Chorus annual school tour visited and performed at BFA-Fairfax and Fletcher Elementary School. The VYO Chorus and the Vermont Youth Concert Chorale returned for Turn the World Around, the winter concert, in Saint Maryís Church. The VYOA always has several Franklin County performers in the various groups.


     The Art in Bloom Festival brought a day of music, a gazillion exhibits, and plenty of food to Swanson's Farm and Nursery in Fairfax, all as a benefit for Fairfax community organizations.
      Franklin County Field Days had a lineup of music, arts and crafts, antique tractors, and of course cows. The musical lineup included Blue Bandana Band, Junior Barber and Bear Tracks, Country Classic, the Jim Daniels Band, the Green Mountain Cloggers, the Ivory Band, Maple Creek, Keeghan Nolan, and Yankee Wild performed and Joey the Clown wandered the grounds. Admission was just $6.
      The seventh annual Lake Champlain Bluegrass Festival featured three days with the Gibson Brothers, Banjo Dan and the Midnite Plowboys, and Big Spike Bluegrass, plus a major fiddler's contest, a juried craft fair, music workshops, a bonfire, barbeque, and jamming, all on a family farm in Alburg. The performers also included Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek, the Atkinson Family, the Del McCoury Band, the Dyer Switch Band, Grass Routes, IIIrd Tyme Out, and Yonder Hill.
      The popular Scholarship Pageant opened the Vermont Dairy Festival which followed up with almost unlimited entertainment and family activities and "a special effort in the Sunday schedule." The weekend lineup included Dan the Puppetman, the Enosburgh Town Band, Marko The Magician, Keeghan Nolan, Not Quite Right, the Parade, PJ and the Arrowhead Plowboys, the Nobby Reed Project, Stranded, Sylvia and the Magic Trunk, and Yankee Wild. The Northeast Fiddlers Association promoted old-time fiddling.
      The Vermont Maple Festival outdoor Main Street stage kicked off with the Oom Pah music of the Inseldudler-German Band, and continued with the Ballet School and Dance Arts, the Electric Youth Dance Company, Fiddleheads, the Joe Levesque Big Band, Keeghan Nolan Band, Prydein, Run for Cover, Bill Shontz, and the St. Albans City School Band, and closed on Sunday to the music of the Citizens Concert Band. Marko the Magician performed. The Youth Talent Show and Fiddler's Variety Show sold out.


     The Franklin County Regional Chamber of Commerce presented the Timothy J. Bovat Civic Involvement Person of the Year award to Mike Curtis of St Albans. Mr. Curtis has broad interests in the community. In the arts, he has driven the Creative Economy programs in St. Albans; some of his most visible efforts included laying the groundwork for an Art Center, co-chairing the World's Largest Palette, and serving as a founder and director of the St. Albans Artists' Guild.


      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 © 2008 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.