Posts Tagged ‘Montpelier’

how high’s the water, mama?

May 29, 2011

5/26 - storm over Richmond, VT

The heavy snows we had this winter were followed by epic melting and the wettest April and May in Vermont’s recorded history. The month isn’t over yet, and there is more rain predicted for the next few days.

On May 6th Lake Champlain also topped out at a record-breaking 103.2 – more than a foot above previously recorded highs. By the time the lake crested on that date, it had already been more than two feet above flood stage for a while and flooding all along the lakeshore had already been happening for several weeks.

I live on a large hill and have not personally been afflicted by flooding. The roads I travel have been washed out, crossed by spontaneous min-rivers, and littered with downed trees, branches, and loads of gravel and rocks washed down from nearby hills. Outside of a few hazardous driving experiences I can’t offer much new perspective on the situation that hasn’t already been explored – at least in words – but I can share with you my view of things via some of the photos I’ve taken in the last month or so.

My slideshow is below, I’ll continue to update it as I get around and get more shots.

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Keith Vance is a reporter with the Times-Argus, and he’s also put together a nice (to be clear: nice presentation, not subject matter) slideshow of the shots he took in the devastating wake of last Thursday’s storm and immediate flooding:

There is much suffering and loss due to flooding around the entire nation right now, including Vermont. There’s also much that’s unknown about the longer-term effects of the situation. It crossed my mind recently that the annual Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is scheduled to start in a week, and one of its most popular events is the annual Dixieland Jazz Cruise which leaves from the King Street ferry – except that the ferry dock (parking lot, and all surrounding buildings) has been under more than two feet of water for the last month. I wonder how the cruise can happen as planned – will some creative alternate solution be necessary this year?

So it’s hard to imagine today how recovery is going to begin in many of  the areas I’ve seen. Let’s see how things look later this summer, if/when the lake level begins to subside and the extent of the damage can start to be guaged.

Here’s Vermont Public Radio’s flood page, with stories, photos, videos, road closure information, and resources for flood victims.

2011: the year of the vermont composer

February 17, 2011

We gathered in the second floor office of the State House this afternoon to celebrate the Governor’s signing of the proclamation declaring 2011 the “Year of the Vermont Composer”.

I don’t write music myself, but the work I do in radio depends on the continued creativity and support of the talented folks who were in the room with me today. I would even extend that thought and say that their contributions inform the very quality of Vermont’s artistic culture as a whole.

“I didn’t know there were this many composers in Vermont!” – Governor Shumlin noted, surveying the dozen or so composers and media reps in his office as he opened the day’s ceremony. Brilliant sunlight beamed in between the heavy red floorlength drapes and streaked the red and blue patterned carpeting in the office, creating a halo effect around the desk. Expectation built as the Gov explained the many initiatives and issues his fledgling administration was undertaking. Then Northfield-area composer Dennis Báthory-Kitsz spoke on behalf of the Consortium of Vermont Composers to accept the honor:

…and Derrik Jordan read the decree with the Governor standing by.

After the ceremony I talked to Báthory-Kitsz about the meaning of the day’s events:

And, earlier today on the air, I talked with Steven Klimowski, the Artistic Director of the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, about today’s proclamation. What does it mean for local composers, and Vermont’s cultural landscape? His answer of “recognition” echoed the many similar responses I got with the same question this afternoon, which included “validation”, “affirmation”, and “appreciation”.

There are an estimated 150 or so composers living and working in Vermont today. Here’s hoping that today’s declaration goes a long way to do ALL of that for their work, and then some. Congratulations to everyone whose hard work made today possible!

2011 is still young. We have a lot to look forward to this year.

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poetry alive!

February 2, 2011

April is National Poetry Month.

Why am I talking about that now, on the snowiest Groundhog Day many folks have seen in decades (if ever)? The submission deadline for this year’s event was yesterday. I sent in three poems, and I know of several other friends who also did. It’s always a fun thing to do, as Montpelier Alive Association and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library create poetry installations that are displayed throughout the whole capital city. This year’s theme is: “Vermont: Past, Present, and Future”

Here’s the rundown of activities  for last year’s events. This year’s isn’t posted yet, when it is you can look for it here. Good luck to everyone who sent in poems!

ice on fire festival

February 2, 2011

One of the many things I look forward to every year in January (besides snow – really! – ) is the annual Ice On Fire winter festival at North Branch Nature Gallery in Montpelier. The event features an opening costume parade followed by an entire afternoon of songs, stories about winter, musical performances, and fire. Lots of fire. There are candles glowing in large icy candleholders made by using a 5-gallon bucket as a mold. There are torches in the ring around the central space, and there is an enormous bonfire at the very end of the event.

When I return to reality the next day, sitting at my desk at work, I can still smell the sweet fragrance of woodsmoke. I don’t know where it lingers but it’s always there the next day as a reminder. Nice.

Here are some of the photos I took at this year’s event, last Sunday. If you’re in the area in late January in the future – I hope you’ll come and join us at the Ice On Fire festival. Most of all it’s about community, coming together in the cold days marking the time just past the winter solstice and just before the halfway point of Imbolc. It’s about friends, and the warmth we find in each other’s company at this time of the year.

in autumn

October 10, 2010

Vermont autumns are a colorful symphony of overflowing farmer’s markets, busy roadside general stores (every little town seems to have one) and the last of the outdoor music before the season knuckles down for real and frigid winds drive even the most resolute folks inside.

It goes beyond the classically quaint red maple/white steeple charm of every New England calendar you’ve ever seen. It’s a feeling. It’s everywhere. And it’s joyous on the wholly visceral level of warm pumpkin pie, woodsmoke in the evening air, and waterfalls of golden leaves falling on your shoulders during a walk in the woods.

Recent roadtrips recently have included visits to the thriving Montpelier farmer’s market (Saturdays summer through October), the Stowe Farmer’s market (mid-May through mid-October), and the historic, always entertaining general store/café in Rochester (where Robert Frost famously frequented the soda fountain in the summer heat).

I’ve heard everything from Celtic harp and flute duets to edgy Americana bluegrass played by local groups whose livelihood is closely tied to the farmer’s market culture here. While the markets are certainly about fresh, locally-cultivated fruits and vegetables they’re also about local art and friends and neighbors getting together once a week just for fun.

Enjoy all that the season has to offer, and do tell me about your favorite fall places to visit.

walter cerf lifetime achievement awards

June 12, 2010

State House, Monplelier

On Thursday afternoon I headed to Montpelier in the afternoon for the annual Vermont Council on the Arts presentation of the Walter Cerf Lifetime Achievement awards. Three women were being honored this year, and over the years I’ve become friends with two of them. I couldn’t miss their big day. Jane Amrose (UVM Lane Series) and Andrea Rogers (Flynn Center) are both also retiring this year, as is the third Cerf honoree, Jean Olson (Governor’s Institutes), who I had not met until that day. During her acceptance speech, Olson remarked on the womens’ 100+ years of combined service in serving the community.

The ceremony started at 4, at the end of the Council’s annual meeting. It opened with the annual State of the Arts presentation by VAC director, Alex Aldrich. He warned that the state’s arts organizations ignore marketing and promotion at their own peril, even when declining ticket sales and donation revenue mandate reduced budgets. Aldrich also outlined the three broad initiatives the Council is focusing on now in its own effort to market, promote and grow the arts in Vermont:

  • The Breaking into Business workshops: provides tools and consultation to artists in intensive 2-day sessions to help them learn how to market their own art.
  • The Routes Initiative: starting on August 1st, makes $200 grants available to teachers and arts orgs for transportation purposes. The Council created this program in response to the increasing comments it had been receiving about how difficult and prohibitively expensive it was becoming to physically get people to the events being presented.
  • A new marketing and outreach campaign to promote Vermont’s arts and culture sectors in state, and beyond.

Then the awards presentation began, including an artist showcase of dancing (Tiffany Rhynard’s Disposable Goods: What Is/Who Is?) and a preview of Upper Valley Arts forthcoming film, Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie.

As for the award recipients themselves, Ambrose, Rogers and Olson all shared a bit of their personal history, thanks to their co-workers and partners, and, words of insight. Jane Ambrose summed it up when she talked about how she was able to fulfill her vision for adventurous programming over the years: “It’s a Vermont thing. You have to trust people and when people trust you, you can do anything.”

The house chamber at the State House held many familiar faces that afternoon, as reps from arts organizations all over the state turned out for the same reason I did. The afternoon was a luminous collage of memories, friends, inspiration, laughs and a few tears.

Things are changing with the retirement of these three influential, strong arts leaders.

I’m looking forward to finding out – and being part of – wherever we go next.

all species day

May 2, 2010

On Wednesday this week (four days ago) the front yard was buried under 17″ of wet, heavy snow. It was nearly gone by Friday. Today was 80 degrees and – despite the heavy humidity (hello, summer) – a perfect day to celebrate the new season and the diversity of the world with the annual All Species Day in Montpelier. There were bats, cats, bugs, crustaceans, and representatives of just about every other kind snaking their way along the parade route from Hubbard Park to the State House. Then the traditional ‘birth of spring’ pageant with Mother Earth herself appearing at the top of the capitol steps, and the all-play maypole dance on the lawn.  Spectacular.

2010 governor’s award for arts excellence

February 13, 2010

Ines Bass of Sandglass Theatre

Thu. Feb. 11th – Montpelier, VT

“Art is the cement that holds the individual and the society together.”

Puppet artist Finn Campman’s words summarized the life work of this year’s Governor’s Award for Artistic Excellence recipients, Eric and Ines Zeller Bass of the Sandglass Theatre (Putney, VT).

Why puppet theatre? Because “puppets are not stuck in realism, not stuck in naturalism – they’re free to move across the whole spectrum of artistic expression”, according to former Sandglass guest director Richard Edelman.

The evening’s celebration opened with a warm address by Vermont Arts Council director Alex Aldrich, who acknowledged the Award’s 42-year history in recognizing those artists whose skills have contributed both their their respective art, and to their community. Then last year’s Award winner, Rob Mermin performed a whimsical tribute to the Sandglass Theatre (in bubbles and smoke!) by re-enacting a few scenes from their past time performing and touring together.

Further remarks by Aldrich were humorously issued with decreasing visibility from behind the frame of a large puppet theatre being being set up in front of the podium by the Crabgrass Puppet Theatre. Their Buster Keaton-worthy vignette “Up On The Roof” illustrated the futlity of a puppet’s effort to get “up on the roof” and clear off a blanket of snow with a mischievous mind of its own.

The  next performance was no less enchanting, as Larry Hunt’s silent character “Backward Boy” gracefully danced and moved in visually illusionistic ways uniquely enabled by his condition of bodily reversal.

The evening closed with a performance by the evening’s honorees. Sandglass Theatre (Eric, Ines, and an unidentified accordian player) enacted “Mud” from their newest piece, All Weather Ballads. With his red pickup half submerged in the muck and a pesky, steering-wheel eating goat unhelpfully standing by – what’s a poor guy to do? Exasperation sets in and before you know it, getting himSELF unstuck from the mud becomes the first task: funny, charming, and then some. (And who can’t relate?) What magic to see great puppet mastery at work.

Eric and Ines Bass have worked in theater as directors, playwrights, performers, and mask and puppet makers for more than 30 years.  They founded Sandglass Theater in Munich, Germany in 1982 and relocated to Putney in 1986. A decade later they opened their 60-seat theater in the heart of Putney Village.

Sandglass Theater has become an internationally respected theater company specializing in the use of the puppet and visual imagery. Their productions have toured 25 countries, performing in theaters, festivals and cultural institutions, and garnering many international prizes.

Congratulations to Sandglass Theatre for the Governor’s award, and for more than three decades of imaginative  artistry!

Here’s the upcoming calendar for Sandglass Theatre performances.

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.

what to do?

January 13, 2010

It’s another week of hard choices. Two cool events in two different towns, on one night. The same night.

Pick either one, you can’t go wrong this Friday night:

If it was a movie pitch, it would be something like “Serbia meets Turkey meets Transylvania meets wacky virtuosic cool  in the must-see Gypsy show of the year!” But it’s not a movie, it’s the Fishtank Ensemble, and they’re coming to shake the rafters at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theatre. The Ensemble’s new recording is out soon, but even if they just stick with the  funky mix on their previous Samurai Over Serbia release I’ll be happy. Ohhhh yeah, there will be some dancing going on.

Montpelier’s Black Door Bar & Bistro hosts the PoJazz (poetry + jazz) CD release party project, bringing together some of Vermont’s top poets and jazz musicians in spontaneous explorations of words and music. The project comes full circle with the release party, since the Black Door’s upstairs lounge is where the 2-CD set (“Last Days: Live at the Black Door”) was recorded in live performances over the last year and a half or so. This Friday night’s party features pianist Tom Cleary along with many other musicians and poets including Tony Whedon, Geof Hewitt, Dave Cavanaugh, and David Budbill. PoJazz is a very hip project, in the spirit of the classic Kerouac or Mingus/Langston Hughes collaborations. If you can’t get to the release party I do recommend finding a copy of PoJazz for (repeated) home listening, it’s a real joy to hear such creative inspiration realized in these fun and funky partnerships.

Two irresistable events, one night – where will you be?


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