Archive for January, 2010

what’s to love about winter in vt (…everything.)

January 31, 2010

Yesterday morning when I got up the thermometer on the deck read -19. Nineteen degrees below zero. Farenheit. I noticed a squirrel, wide-eyed and shivering as it cracked black oil sunflower seeds at the feeder.

Later in the day (after refilling the feeder), I mentioned to someone I’d gone for an afternoon walk and they asked what the temp was. I said, “there wasn’t one”. Yesterday’s high WAS zero.

It was noticeably warmer today, around 6 above at dawn and well into the teens by later in the day. So why not go to an outdoor festival, celebrating winter? As I said to another friend today, if you don’t embrace winter here with both arms and a big smile you’re going to spend quite a long time being miserable.

The Ice on Fire festival has been an annual tradition for fourteen years now at North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier, or nearby at Wrightsville Reservoir. (Legend has it the first festival included activities like sledding through rings of fire on the frozen reservoir – and apparently there are pictures somewhere to verify the story!) The festival is the original inspiration of local resident Tarin Chaplin and others in the community with a mind to honor this cold season – in the open, outside where winter happens.

This is the first year the event is carrying on without Tarin, who passed away shortly after last year’s festivities. Today her spirit was very much present in the songs that were sung, the poetry and stories that were shared, the imaginative puppets and costumes, and the event’s cohesive scope – which a friend of Tarin’s described as befitting her “fully choreographed” vision of things.

I did not know Tarin personally, but I feel like I may know her a little now after spending today with so many people who loved her and chose to honor her spirit by carrying on with this special festival. Here are some pictures from the day – you’ll see I took many of the snow geese puppets. They were especially captivating in the glow of low afternoon, deep winter light.

haiti – how to help

January 30, 2010

Another weekend, and a few more opportunities to help in the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti:

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is joining efforts to raise funds for Partners in Health. The VSO is joining with other groups around the country in Symphonic Relief for Haiti, a worldwide effort to support the health community in Haiti through musical performances. Audiences are being encouraged to contribute at the concerts this weekend: last night at the Bellows Falls Opera House; this evening at the Flynn Theater in Burlington; and tomorrow afternoon at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland. There’s more info here on the contribution site.

Also, coming up tonight, Big Heavy World and The Radiator are hosting a showcase of local groups like the Dirtminers, Blowtorch, and Lowell Thompson at Higher Ground in Burlington. The fun gets underway at 8 and runs until around 1am, and all of the proceeds from the $15 admission door donations will go to benefit Doctors Without Borders.

Tomorrow the Students at Dartmouth for Haiti Relief (SDHR) continue their efforts (over $100K raised so far!) with a concert honoring the national music of Haiti. Compàs: The Haiti Relief Benefit is a  concert of Haitian music and student performances starting at 1:30 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for students and $20 for community members with all proceeds benefiting Partners in Health.

And, for the music you can take with you, Vermont’s Cumbancha recording label and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars announced this week that they’re donating 100% of the proceeds of an early release of the song “Global Threat” from the forthcoming album Rise & Shine to the International Rescue Committee for their Haitian earthquake relief efforts. The IRC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict. “Global Threat” will be available for a minimum donation of $1.00, although people are encouraged to contribute as much as they can. People who donate $100 or more will receive a physical and digital copy of the full Rise & Shine album as soon as they are available, weeks before the album’s official release date on March 23rd, 2010.

Filmmaker and band co-manager Zach Niles is in Haiti now to support Haitian journalists in their efforts to tell the story of the earthquake from a local perspective. Niles’ award-winning 2006 documentary Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars captured the group’s journey from Guinean refugee camps to the recording of their first album.

Good stuff, all the way around.

playlist #99 (1/25/2010)-gypsy jazz swingin’

January 26, 2010
World of Music
Pgm #99 – Happy birthday, Django! Celebrating the guitar master’s life, music, and lasting legacy
Listen Mondays 3-5pm EDT  – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Django Reinhardt & Coleman Hawkins: Nuages / Nuages / Arkadia Jazz 71431 – (FRANCE)
Zotran Predin & Mar Django Quartet: Our Planet is a Dancer / Amant à Toutes Fins Utiles (All-Purpose Lover) / Levi Breg 2005 – (SERBIA)
Will Patton Ensemble: Valse 29 / 6th Street Runaround / King’s Hill Music 2008 – (MADE IN VT)
John Jorgenson: La Journée des Tziganes / Ultraspontane /  JJ 7050 – (USA)
Swing Noire: Tchavolo Swing / Hot Jazz in the Tradition of Django Reinhardt & The Quintette of the Hot Club of France / 2009 – (MADE IN VT) *NEW*
Paname Dandies: Les Chips / Le Swing de L’Escargot / Volvox Music 703 – (FRANCE)
Romane: Passion / Impair & Valse / Arco Iris 3001 821 – (FRANCE)
Benoît Charest & Béatrice Bonifsassi: Belleville Rendez-Vous / The Triplets of Belleville soundtrack / Higher Octave Music 96811 – (FRANCE)
Kruno: Spiderman / Gypsy Jazz Guitar / GJD 2006002 – (CROATIA)
Orchestre Tropical d’Haïtï featuring Ti Joe Zenny: Gason Total / 40 ème Anniversaire Vol. 1 / SOCD 6 – (HAITI)
Cedric Watson: Cochon de Lait / Cedric Watson / Valcour Records 4 – (N’AWLINS)
Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars: Watching All Your Ways / Rise & Shine / Cumbancha 18 – (SIERRA LEONE) *NEW – to be released on 3/23/2010*
Frank Vignola: Swing Gitane / 100 Years of Django / Azica 72244 – (USA)
Twobadou: An Chime / en Folie / Antilles Mizik 9107 – (HAITI)
Lhasa: I’m Going In / Lhasa / Nettwerk 30844 – (CANADA) *Remembering Lhasa, d. 1/1/2010*
Hot Club of Detroit & Dave Bennett, clarinet: J’Attendrai / Night Town / Mack Avenue 1041 – (DETROIT, MI)
Rebati Kay-La: Rebuild the House / Konbit: Burning Rhythms of Haiti / A&M 5281 – (HAITI)
Hot Club of Cowtown: Orange Blossom Special / Continental Stomp /  Hightone Records 8163 – (AUSTIN, TX)
Hot Club of San Francisco: La Gitane / Postcards from Gypsyland / Lost Wax Records 501 – (SAN FRANCISCO, CA) *At the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre 2/6: “Silent Surrealism” (1920s silent Surrealist films with live music) – *
Hot Club of Detroit: Stompin’ at Decca / Hot Club of Detroit / Mack Avenue 1030 – (DETROIT, MI)
Biréli Lagrène: Swing 49 / Django Reinhardt NY Festival 2000 Live at Birdland / Division One 83498 – (FRANCE)
Ti-Loca & Wanga Nègès: An Tan Mango / Haïti-Colibri / Accordes-Croisés 127 – (HAITI)
Big Joe Burrell & Sandra Wright: I Love Him So/Three Times / Vermont Blues & Jazz Festival 1999 / The Creation Foundation 1999 – (MADE IN VT) *Remembering Sanda Wright, d. 1/11/2010*
Tchavolo Schmitt: Antsela / French Essentials / Burex Jazz 5 – (FRANCE)
Django Reinhardt & the Quintette de Hot Club de France: When Day Is Done / Classic 1936-1937 Recordings / Naxos 8.120686 – (FRANCE)

le jazz hot

January 24, 2010

Gypsy jazz, gypsy swing, le jazz hot – whatever you want to call it, you know the sound even if the description is elusive.

This week’s World of Music celebrates the 100th birthday (1/23/1910) of the legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. We’ll pay homage to the master with his own recordings, with like-minded successors Biréli Lagrène and Romane, and with an international selection of gypsy jazz guitarists.

We’ll check out some of the diverse “Hot Club” groups that carry on the gypsy swing legacy in cities like Detroit, Philly, San Francisco, and Austin, TX. On the homefront, we’ll hear how gypsy jazz is alive and well in the nimble hands of folks like Will Patton, and Swing Noire (with their brand new recording!).

World of Music is a plucky, swinging mix of blues, jazz, poetry, and world music every Monday from 3-5pm ET on the Radiator.  Online, or at 105.9FM if you’re listening in Burlington, VT.

vyo winter concert

January 24, 2010

This afternoon’s winter concert with the Vermont Youth Orchestra featured a melodic mix of an overture, a concerto, a symphony, and a concertpiece…the performance beginning and ending with the dancing Bohemian sounds of Smetana and Dvořák, respectively.

I’m always impressed with the VYO’s exceedingly high level of musicianship, from the delicate viola pizzicatti and lovely flute and clarinet passages at the start of 8th symphony to the heroic timpani, cellos, low brass and third violins in the last movement.

I’m very much looking forward to hearing how the VYO’s relationship continues to unfold with Music Alive composer-in-residence Robert Paterson. While I didn’t personally love today’s Paterson original, Enlightened City, that doesn’t mean there was anything “wrong” with it. Music is like that: it hits you or it doesn’t. And I can honestly say I don’t think Paterson would find much to enjoy about my composing either. (I don’t write music. I admire the talent of those who do.)

Next event in the VYO’s busy calendar is coming up on Friday, Feb. 12th. That evening they’re hosting a live recording session with From the Top, the nationally-broadcast radio program featuring young musicians. (Ticket info at

dinnerstein and bach

January 24, 2010

There can be considerable challenges in a live performance that the audience never knows about. That’s just as it should be.

At the start of last night’s concert with Simone Dinnerstein and ACME (American Chamber Music Ensemble), Chandler Center for the Arts Board President Janet Watton announced the successful completion of the center’s two year, 3.2 million-dollar capital campaign. Great news, coming in a pretty inauspicious time to be holding a capital campaign. Good news, too, that the construction is already underway to renovate the 1907 building as they work toward the official rededication ceremonies this coming fall.

In the meantime, this season staff and musicians alike are ‘pardoning the dust’ with determined good cheer (for the most part) and making the best of the occasional less-than-ideal circumstances inevitable in this omelette-making process…like the building losing heat overnight (in subzero Vermont winter temps) and the house piano putting a few of its keys on tuning strike in protest. It happens. Unfortunately it happened on the night before a visit from the world-class pianist Simone Dinnerstein, with no time to make things completely right with the sulking piano before showtime.

The situation was handled with grace and understanding from Dinnerstein and ACME. I have to remember, as professional touring musicians these folks deal with TSA all the time. This kind of intensive training can provide remarkable perspective to wash away the nuisance of everyday setbacks like temperamental pianos. (Not that this is a recommended method for stress management.)

So, despite the stage’s temporary scaffold lighting and the cool 61°F ambient temperature in the hall, the inspired spark and warmth of Bach’s d-minor and f-minor concertos and highlights from the Well-Tempered Klavier (book II) and Art of the Fugue quickly energized the audience and rightfully restored the focus to the music. Very fine playing all the way around.

Is there anything lovelier than the second movement of the f-minor?? (Here’s a version played on harpsichord.)

requiem for Haiti

January 24, 2010

Brahms’ sublime Requiem rose into the rafters high above as late-afternoon light filtered into yesterday’s gathering of hundreds at St. Michael’s College Chapel. Members of the Green Mountain Mahler Festival Orchestra and Chorus came together with volunteer musicians from all over the community and artists from the Bread and Puppet troupe to share in the special experience.

Musicians, puppeteers, and audience members congregated to show support for the people of Haiti and take some solace in the incredible beauty and power of Brahms’ choral masterpiece. The work has been called the German Requiem, but Brahms (ever the populist) said he preferred to think of it instead as the “Human” Requiem. With that thought in mind, the trandscendently beautiful opening chorus Selig sind, die da Leid tragen (“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted”) was the perfect message for the day.

The $10,000+ that was raised at the benefit will be donated to Partners in Health and Catholic Relief Services.

on django’s 100th

January 23, 2010

Quote of the day from NPR’s tribute to Django Reinhardt this morning: “Django was music made into a man.”

This is sweet:

happy birthday, django!

January 21, 2010

Queen City Hot Club at the 2009 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival

Don’t we love those nice round anniversaries that end in “0”? Well, sure. And this weekend marks a big one, Saturday is the 100th birth anniversary of one of the greatest guitarists ever.

Jean “Django” Reinhardt was born to a Belgian Gypsy family on January 23rd, 1910. He played violin and banjo (his earliest known recordings made at around age 18 are with the banjo) but he’s best known as the guitar-playing pioneer of the Gypsy jazz or Gypsy “swing” style.

This music is crazy-great, whether it’s Django’s “Djangology” solos or later collaborations with violinst Stéphane Grappelli and the Hot Club de France, or the occasional partnerships with other jazz folks like Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins.

Django’s legacy is multifaceted. His original tunes like Nuages and Swing 42 are beloved standards, while the gypsy jazz style he created has influenced every successive generation of performers. And then there’s the “hot club” heritage, with towns as disparate as Detroit, Austin, Montreal, San Francisco, and – yes, Paris too – all claiming a Hot Club of their own to perpetuate the picking, strumming, hard-swinging, good times Django sound.

Burlington is the home of the newly formed Queen City Hot Club, and I’m happy to say they live up to every bit of their name in carrying out the considerable ‘hot club’ legacy. Ready to celebrate Django’s 100th? You can catch Jim Stout, Jim McCuen & Jared Volpe of the Queen City Hot Club at the downtown Bluebird Tavern in a set tomorrow (Friday) night, 9-11pm.

Happy birthday, Django!

press release: Haiti benefit concert

January 21, 2010

Vermont Arts Organizations Join in Song for Haiti Relief Concert

January, 2010 – Colchester, VT – In a rapid response to the escalating humanitarian crisis in Haiti, a widespread collaborative effort among regional artists is organizing to perform the Brahms Requiem with full chorus, orchestra and vocal soloists, combined with puppets from the Bread and Puppet Theatre. The Haiti Relief Benefit Concert will take place at the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester on Saturday, January 23rd at 2pm, co-hosted by Live From the Core and The Green Mountain Mahler Festival. Associate professor of music at Saint Michael’s College Nathaniel Lew will conduct the Requiem.

The inspiration for the concert came to Shyla Nelson, event organizer and founder of Live From the Core, this past weekend. “Music and the human voice unite and uplift people in ways that nothing else can,” said Nelson. “The spirit of cooperation among all of the organizations and people involved has been truly inspiring. It speaks not only to our responsiveness to the acute needs in Haiti, but to our community’s capacity to come together to mourn, to mark this tragedy, and to be inspired through music to work together toward a solution.”

Saint Michael’s College shares a long-standing connection to Haiti. College President John Neuhauser wrote in an address to the school’s community on Friday: “This week’s disaster in Haiti has affected many members of the Saint Michael’s community in a personal and profound manner…tragedy once again reminds us that in small things, we may differ, but in the large things, we are all much the same.”

The Haiti benefit concert is this Saturday, Jan. 23rd – 2pm at the St. Michael’s College Chapel. The concert is free and open to the public with donations being accepted at the door to benefit Partners in Health and Catholic Relief Services.

Click here for more information about the concert

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