Posts Tagged ‘Quadricentennial’

it ain’t over

August 24, 2009
Violinist/Artistic Director Soovin Kim

Violinist/Artistic Director Soovin Kim

Summers here are all the sweeter for the outdoor music. Right? It starts with the big bang of the Discover Jazz Festival just after Memorial Day. From there on out every restaurant, park and tent-able space erupts in sound, happily for weeks on end.

Did I mention the berry patches? Those too. One of my favorite places to kick off the shoes and enjoy some live tunes is the Owl’s Head Blueberry Farm in Richmond. Tuesdays and Thursdays through July and August offer live musical accompaniment to pick a few quarts. It’s great. And hey – it’s almost over. This is the last week, check out the schedule and by all means get there if you can. July’s rain has made for some of the biggest, fattest, sweetest berries in years. The 8 brimming quarts in the freezer can back that one up. I’m hoping to go for 16 before the week’s over. It’s a long time before next summer.

This year we even had the extra bonus of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial events to keep things exciting through the end of June and start of July, before the “real” festival season fired up later in the month with the annual Vermont Mozart Festival, Marlboro, the Killington, Manchester, and Central Vermont’s Chamber Music Festivals, and … on.

So we come to late August and it feels a little empty. Like the day after Christmas, or that odd quietness in the house the morning after hosting a really great party.

Enter the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival. I first heard about the plans around a year ago when Soovin Kim visited us at Vermont Public Radio. He came that day to play violin, and he mentioned his role as Artistic Director in getting the first plans for this summer’s LCCMF off the ground. It all seemed so far away then. Now it’s here: a new music festival starting in late August just as so many others are wrapping up.

The events began today as artist-in-residence David Ludwig led the first of the week-long “Listening Club” sessions (today’s subject: Shostakovich’s Op. 127 songs on poems by Alexander Blok). Schubert’s lovely song cycle Liederkreis is tomorrow’s discussion subject, and then you can hear soprano Hyunah Yu singing the Blok song cycle in the first of the Festival concerts on Weds. night, at 7:30. Two more concerts follow on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Summer’s not over yet. It’s just rounding third now, fueled by the afterburn of an already very fine live music season.

Festival details (all concerts at the Elley-Long Music Center on the St. Michael’s campus):

the complete schedule, with the Listening Club workshop information

schedule information for concerts only

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don’t rain on my…oh, alright.

July 12, 2009

Burlington's Taiko drummers, rounding up the parade

Burlington's Taiko drummers, rounding up the parade

“How many people went to the parade today?” (audience cheers.)

“How many people were in the parade today?” (BIG audience cheers.)

“This will be the parade everyone remembers,” Jay Craven continued, as he introduced the night’s feature at the Flynn.

It was a wet one alright. The parade for the Quadricentennial had been scheduled to start at 5 and end around 7. By the time I came into downtown around 6 driving through a heavy downpour most of the way in, I knew it must be cancelled. The standing traffic barriers on all of the sidestreets said otherwise. Sure enough – it was on, in the pouring rain.

Bands, floats (no irony there), the Vermont French Antique Car Club, Bread and Puppet, they were all rolling along as normal down the parade route even as onlookers had to move closer to the middle of the street to avoid the small streams flowing down the gutters. Burlington’s Taiko drummers kept the beat at the end of the lineup, smiling and dancing in rain ponchos made luminous in with the backlighting from the following patrol cars.

Somehow fitting that a celebration of Lake Champlain should include so much water.

Taiko drummers: rain, no rain. No matter.

Taiko drummers: rain, no rain. No matter.

Tonight’s feature at the Flynn was the new collaboration commissioned for the Quad celebrations, From the New World, choreographed by the French/Algerian dancemaster Heddy Maalem. It’s a dance interpretation of Samuel de Champlain’s arrival at the Lake, set to Dvorak’s Symphony #9 (“From the New World”). At least mostly. Did I miss something? Like the last movement of the symphony, which was replaced for the final dance tableau by a movement from Dvorak’s “American” Quartet? No one ever promised a complete performance of the symphony for tonight’s show, true, but when the performance concluded without that last movement ever playing and the lights came up there seemed to be some brief confusion in the audience. For a moment everyone looked at each other, I heard a few “Is that it?” and “Is it over?” comments, and then the applause began.

Post-parade libations at the Vermont Pub & Brewery

Post-parade libations at the Vermont Pub & Brewery

It did feel inconclusive, but then again this Quadricentennial celebration also is not the end of the story for the Lake region, it’s but a milemarker in the region’s history.

A lot of preparation and hard work went into these shows (tonight’s and the premiere, last night), which never could have been realized without the vision of Jay Craven and Heddy Maalem, the commission from Burlington City Arts, the nearly 40 dancers, and many contributing organizations and sponsors.

What will they do for the 500th? I can’t imagine, but I’ll have my umbrella ready for whatever it holds.

the keyboard-percussion-horn-mobiles

July 11, 2009

It’s been that kind of day, as all of Burlington gets ready for the anticipated Quadricentennial parade. Here are a couple of the ‘instruments’ that were wheeling into downtown around Noon. Is it drums, or horns? Is it cymbals, or a keyboard? —YES. Yes indeedy, it is.

music and then some

June 20, 2009

2009-Jun18-OnTheAirThe week started in downtown Burlington with the last sweet notes of this year’s Discover Jazz Festival, and it ended just as nicely: with Thursday evening’s recording session featuring music of Lake Champlain, and last night’s red-hot set of standards with Ray Vega’s new Quartet at the bakery in Richmond.

No doubt: I am very fortunate that both the professional and personal areas of my life are so frequently filled with music, and usually such different kinds. A day that starts with two hours on the air hosting beautiful classical music often continues in the afternoon as I listen to new world music in the barn while working in the Cumbancha/Putumayo database, and concludes later that same evening by catching live music somwehere: classical, jazz, world, or any variety of local performers. Very fortunate.

Both Thursday and Friday this week were days like that: hosting classical music on the air in the morning (commemorating “Juneteenth” on yesterday’s show); working at Cumbancha/Putumayo in the afternoon, and then enjoying live music in the evening.

On Thursday eve around 7,  the forces gathered in the VPR performance studio to record the last artist we’ll be including in the Champlain 400 music showcase. (The program is scheduled to air later this summer, as part of the station’s and the region’s wider Quadricentennial celebrations. You may remember my mentioning it here when the first showcase recording session took place over Memorial Day weekend, included the French Canadian fiddler/guitar duo of Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, and singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf. What a day that was!)

Robert & Deb recording in the VPR studio

Robert & Deb recording in the VPR studio

Singer, songwriter and historian Deb Flanders stopped by to share an intimate set of traditional and original songs largely reflecting the personal stories of the Lake’s Anglo settlers. Found and lost love, distant love, struggle and survival and despair and optimism…the 9,000+ songs and ballads that comprise the extensive collection of Deb’s great-Aunt, Helen Hartness Flanders represent a comprehensive narrative of  the collective and individual immigrant experiences. From the haunting ballad of The Butcher Boy to Deb’s original additions to the archive, Thursday evening’s music offered a quietly poignant, very personal cross-section of that vast experience.

Last night’s live music was a nothing short of a mainline into the other end of the intro/extroverted energy spectrum. Late in the week I found out that Ray Vega was going to be bringing his Quartet to Richmond’s On the Rise bakery. Having seen Ray just a couple of weeks ago with the new UVM Jazz Collective, I was ready for more and eager to hear him in a smaller ensemble setting.

The only complicating factor? I work on the Burlington side of the Richmond Bridge (where On the Rise is), but I live on “the other side” of it.

March, 2009: taking the backroads home

March, 2009 - at your own risk: taking the VT backroads home in mud season

A little history: in early March (yes, the start of ‘mud season’ here), the Bridge closed for structural repairs, necessitating any number of creative alternate routes around it on dirt roads for anyone living on ‘the other’ side. That is, anyone – like me – living at the southern end of Chittenden County and dependent on the Huntington Main Road (and the Richmond Bridge) to be connected to the rest of the county. Besides adding another 10 min. (minimum: that’s without school buses or heavy weather or excessive mud) to the daily commute to/from Burlington, the temporary closure effectively bifurcated the Richmond business district and severed the main route through town. The Bridge was scheduled to reopen in time for the annual 4th of July parade to pass through, but I read that the contractors  also had a tiered scale of financial incentives available to them to encourage an earlier completion.

So: back to last night. In considering whether or not I  would go to the bakery to see Ray Vega’s Quartet for their 8pm set, I also had to think seriously about driving home afterward – without the benefit of the Bridge – tired, through the winding (deer, fox, beaver and moose-filled) backroads to get home. It’s funny, I admit it. But a little less so when dodging the wildlife very late at night in the pitch dark. I decided to do it anyway and just be extra vigilant and careful on the drive home afterward. This is just something I never had to think about when I lived in LA, where heading home meant leaving the wild life behind.

I arrived in Richmond yesterday evening around 6 for a pre-concert pizza at the Bridge Street Café, and noticed right away the unusual amount of traffic at the top of the Street. Was the Quartet drawing all the traffic? Or the Friday afternoon Farmer’s Market? Or…?

Turns out the Bridge had just reopened! Two weeks early! I learned when I got to the bakery that when the day’s construction ended (at 6pm), there had been a brief ceremony and the Bridge reopened for business. Great news.

Then the music began. I was just thinking as the Quartet launched into their opener, Cedar Walton’s hard-driving Bolivia, that even if I had the longer (dark, beaverous) drive home to look forward to afterward, it would have been worth it.  They play for keeps, whether straight-ahead grooving or lingering over the delicious notes of a ballad like Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat? (the tune Ray dedicated to his wife, sitting at a table right in front: “This one’s for you honey.” And then, as an aside to the rest of the room: “Now I’ll really play the blues! ”  Love his humor. And his fluglehorn sound.)

Ray Vega Quartet at On the Rise bakery

The Quartet: Ray Vega (trumpet & fluglehorn), Tom Cleary (piano), John Rivers (bass) and Jeff Salisbury (drums)

They ended the set with a tribute to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, in its 50th anniversary year: All Blues.

My week ended with smiles, friends, great coffee and a sunset-lit table in the corner, enjoying the Quartet. And a short, quick drive home thanks to the reopened Bridge.

In other words: anything but the blues.

BDJ Festival, day 2: rock, paper, scissors

June 8, 2009
a Firehouse floor socket, only one in the whole place that was empty!

a Firehouse floor socket, only one in the whole place that was empty!

Yesterday evening’s performance at Burlington’s Firehouse Gallery was just the kind of thing I usually try to seek out at the Discover Jazz festival: the unusual performances that define the edges of the art, as much as the headliners aim squarely for the populist center. A complete festival needs (and attracts) both kinds of experiences.

A few days ago I found out banjo legend Paul Metzger was coming to town. While not technically an event sponsored by the Discover Jazz Festival, his appearance in Burlington was timed perfectly to offer that alternative musical performance perspective. He’s touring with with Elaine Evans (amplified violin and pocket trumpet), Amen Dunes (guitar/vocals), the Paper Hats (self-described “experimentalists”) and Eric Carbonara, who plays fine flamenco-style acoustic guitar and an unusual guitar/sitar hybrid called a “Chaturangui”.  They each played an individual set, and the order of performances was decided in the back of the room just before the music started. It was a very involved process: a heated bout of rock/paper/scissors. (Those crazy experimental musicians!)

Paul doesn’t have the high profile of other banjo greats – folks like Bela Fleck and Earl Scruggs – though it’s a safe bet they sure know who he is. He doesn’t seem to be too bothered with all of that. I talked with him a little before the show and I got the feeling that the mainstream isn’t where an artist like him can operate, and still have the latitude they need to to develop their vision. Paul’s career has been defined by breaking every banjo rule and rediscovering the instrument from the ground up, including how it’s played, and expectations of how it “should” sound.

Paul tuning his modified banjo

Paul tuning his modified banjo

While Paul is reinventing an established instrument, guitarist Eric Carbonara is exploring new realms with a recently invented one. He helped design the instrument with his teacher, Indian slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya. The “Chaturangui” fuses an acoustic guitar and a sitar onto a single body and sounds like an entire metallic orchestra of guitars and sitars all playing simultaneously. The sound is big, and impressive. On the way home last night I listened to one of Eric’s CDs I had picked up at the show. It contains two tracks: each is over 10 min. long, unfolding and developing patiently, building in complexity, much like ragas in their form and feel. Loved it.

Eric and the Chaturangui

Eric and the Chaturanguia

The concert reminded me of something I read recently in Kyle Gann’s excellent collection of essays on contemporary music, Music Downtown: “Music is a language to the extent that it has syntax, rules that govern its continuation, a level of predictability with which events happen. But that’s the formulaic, ‘yang’ side of music. Rules don’t govern everything, and some passages take even the composer by surprise. In the hullaballoo about language, music’s less describable side – image – has suffered neglect, in both composition and discourse.”

Last night’s show was all about that side: music’s capacity to evoke images, expressed vividly through the unique language of experimentalism.

Earlier in the day, for some non-jazz festival music, I had stopped by the Fleming Museum to hear organist David Neiweem’s recital on UVM’s 4-stop portative organ in the Museum’s interior Marble Courtyard. It’s a 2001 model, by Dutch builder Henk Klop. The performance was part of the Museum’s new exhibit “A Beckoning Country“, a celebration of art from the Champlain Valley to coincide with the region’s Quadricentennial celebrations this year.

David’s program featured music from the time of Samuel de Champlain, the French explorer who arrived in the area from Québec City and mapped the Lake region in 1609. Who was writing music around that time? Girolamo Frescobaldi and John Blow were. So were Samuel Scheidt, Michele Corrette, and, J.S. Bach. What an interesting idea for a program.

David Neiweem at the Fleming

David Neiweem at the Fleming

Scheidt’s partita on Martin Luther’s Easter chorale Christ lag in Todesbanden was especially lovely, as the light voice of the portative spoke in airy contrast to the weightiness of the chorale.

What a great day of diverse music!

in the studio

May 24, 2009

2009-May24-Champlain400 085[small]

Reel des nouveaux mariés (the 'newlyweds reel')

Staffers know it, so do many listeners. Local musicians definitely know it. The performance space in the heart of Vermont Public Radio’s Colchester offices is one of the acoustically finest recording studios in the state.

I spent today in there, interviewing and hosting several musicians for a showcase we’re producing. It’s part of the station-wide project celebrating this year’s Lake Champlain Quadricentennial anniversary. Not sure when today’s session will air. Possibly in early July. Keep an eye here, I’ll let you know.

The day started off on the right foot (and the left, and the left-right-left!) with Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, the French-Canadian fiddler and guitarist/singer duo. They’re in town for a concert this evening at UVM but took a little time to stop by and share some of their wide repertoire of chansons, dances, reels and other traditional tunes. They’re great. Lisa has a longstanding connection to this area, as a protégée of the legendary fiddler Louis Beaudoin. Among André’s credits is several years with Quebec’s Juno-winning La Bouttine Souriante. We all got a laugh from Lisa describing her move from Canada back to the family home, after graduating: “It was in Maine. Northern Maine. So far North in fact that when I moved back there I had to go NORTH from Québec City to get there!”

Marty, Robert and me in the studio (ace audio engineer Chris Albertine in the background)

Marty, Robert and me in the studio (ace audio engineer Chris Albertine in the background)

Next up was one of my favorite local acts, the Burlington-based duo of Robert Resnik and Marty Morrissey. With more than 30 instruments and 50 years of experience between them (25 of those years playing together), these two really know how to share some learning, have a great time, and get everyone else involved in the fun too. And why not? There’s a lot to keep a songwriter entertained here: a rich maritime and military history, wildly unpredictable weather, breathtaking natural beauty (every season!), Champ (Lake Champlain’s elusive answer to the Loch Ness monster), farming culture, and…yep, even rock snot. And other invasive species.

After a short break we were joined by singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf. A farmer himself, fittingly, he had spent the earlier part of the day playing at the opening weekend of a local farmer’s market. He offered a final set of original songs ranging from the whimsical to the poignant, covering everything from the flood of 1927 to the austere landscape of our northern winters, and that hallowed Vermont summertime tradition, the Strolling of the Heifers. Really. Greenleaf likes to describe this as the rare parade that’s not about wars.

This was just one of those days where I feel lucky. Blessed to live where I do, fortunate to be involved in special gatherings like this, and grateful to have the ears and eyes to be able to take it all in.

Thanks to everyone who was part of today’s recording session.

The final words for the day come from Mr. Greenleaf: “I never get tired of looking out the window. This is a beautiful place we live in, Vermont. It’s worth a lot of songs.”

For further exploration:

Robert Resnik & Marty Morrissey’s Old and New Songs of Lake Champlain

Alan Greenleaf: Singer/Songwriter/Farmer

(Lisa Ornstein’s website is currently in development. I’ll add the link here when it’s ready.)




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