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“I just want to say that I was blown away by the event. Bravo!” – Megan Smith, commissioner of Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing
Saturday’s Event in a Tent will feature many “firsts” – heck, the whole event is an outside-the-box, never-been-done-before happening.
One of the “firsts” will be the debut of The S’mirettes, a group of seven local young women in middle school and high school, who can sing like angels.
Comprised of vocal students of Samirah Evans and some close friends who love to sing, these seven young women are poised to charm audiences on “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” arranged by Maestro Hugh Keelan.
Saturday marks the debut of this group put together for The Event in a Tent. At a rehearsal earlier this week, Keelan billed them “a new generation of stars” and urged the young ladies to “give something big to everyone who is there.”
“The main thing is to have fun,” agreed Samirah Evans.
The seven girls are Lindsey Burnell, Iresha Fisher, Mugdha Gurram, Samantha Hammond, Helen Lindsey, Christol Long and Omei Marshall, and they all project great confidence and happiness at the thought singing for you all under the tent on Saturday.
“We all really love singing. It’s really fun for us to do this,” said Christol Long, whose warm smile seldom disappears. “I hope it’s going to be huge.”
Although their personal tastes in music may run to more contemporary styles, the girls really put their hearts into the old spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
“It’s a freedom song. … It’s peaceful, too,” said Long.
Her friend and musical mate Mugdha Gurram added, “It reminds you you’re not alone.”
A perfect sentiment heading into this very community-minded event.
The noted jazz and blues singer had to leave her hometown in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. She and her husband settled in his hometown of Brattleboro, where she quickly established herself in the region’s thriving music scene.
But she missed her hometown, and every time she heard the song “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” it touched deep emotional chords in her.
Less sad but equally sentimental, the song “Moonlight in Vermont” is the unofficial state song here, and one of the songs visitors to Vermont most often request of Evans.
“I’ve had to get very acquainted with ‘Moonlight in Vermont,’” she said earlier this week.
Audiences at Saturday’s Event in a Tent will get acquainted with Evans sweet, soulful, swinging and sultry vocal style and, perhaps, reacquainted with “Moonlight in Vermont” when she sings it.
“I think it perfectly depicts the beauty of Vermont,” said Evans. “It’s a song of swoons. … I like a song that touches the heart.”
Composed in 1943 by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, “Moonlight in Vermont,” like the state it extols, has become iconic despite, or perhaps because, it is different and sublimely unique. The lyrics don’t rhyme; in fact, each verse is a haiku. And Vermont boasts very few sycamores and meadowlarks, although they are crucial elements of the evocative lyrics. This kind of thing doesn’t bother Vermonters; we’re pretty laid back.
Its distinctive features haven’t stopped “Moonlight in Vermont” from becoming iconic. It has been sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Billie Holliday, Mel Torme, Rosemary Clooney, Kate Smith, Linda Ronstadt and many others.
Now you can hear Evans add her rendition to the list. It should be a memorable one.
” ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ gives me the same feeling as ‘Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?’ The whole purpose is for people to become more familiar with the beauty of Vermont,” Evans said.
Samirah will also be singing “Almost Like Being in Love” from the classic Broadway show “Brigadoon” by Lerner and Loewe. Judging from Tuesday’s rehearsal with Maestro Hugh Keelan, Evans has a gift for bringing out the beauty of that song, while making it swing.
She said that song, like “Moonlight in Vermont” is a perfect fit for The Event in a Tent, particularly when the lyrics say “All the music of life seems to be, like a bell that is ringing for me.”
“It’s perfect for what we’re doing,” she said.
Vermont Tent Company arrived to the Famolare Farm grounds Wednesday morning to set up the tent for The Event In A Tent on June 30. Here’s a stop-motion video of the 6 hour process. “Bogalusa Strut” performed by Bob French & the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band
Bo Foard of Hardy Foard Catering says he and his partner, Gretchen Hardy, have cooked up a special sandwich just for Saturday’s inaugural Event in a Tent. It’s a pot roast beef sandwich with sweet cherry peppers, and it’s just one of the many delicious things Hardy Foard Catering will be serving up on Saturday.
Founded a year and a half ago, Hardy Foard Catering is the brainchild of Bo Foard, a lifelong foodie and home chef, and Grethen Hardy, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America. They made their debut on a very big stage when they catered Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s Inaugural party at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, wowing more than 450 people with their food. Since then, they’ve catered events large and small, always with a commitment to local ingredients. They buy as much produce as they from Lilac Ridge Farm in West Brattleboro, and they get their bread from Vermont Country Deli.
For The Event in a Tent, Hardy Foard Catering is making three different salads, two with protein, and three selections of sandwiches. They are also sending out roving hawkers into the crowd gathered on Famolare Field, peddling mac and cheese, shrimp sliders and pulled pork sliders, among other tasty things.
They’re looking forward to being part of the inaugural Event in a Tent. “I think it’s a great idea, and it’s on a beautiful site,” said Foard.
For more information and photos like the ones included in this post, visit www.hardyfoardcatering.com.
Bob Bloom can make “Shortnin’ Bread” groove like “The Girl from Ipanema” and make your grandmother rock it like Ringo Starr.
What gives him these magical powers? The drum, or more specifically, a whole bunch of drums. For the past 15 years or so, Bloom has been a full-time teacher and leader of group drumming workshops in schools, nursing homes, hospitals and anywhere else that will have him. The results have been transformative – the power of the drum unleashed through people of all ages and abilities in groups noteworthy for their tapping toes and ear-to-ear smiles.
“There’s a spontaneity to it, and there’s an inclusion to it. People who’ve never done it before can jump right in,” said Bloom in a chat a few days ago.
If ever two words fit the Event in a Tent, the words “inclusion” and “spontaneity” do. Thus, Bloom jumped at the chance to lead one of his Drum Rides at the event this coming Saturday, June 30.
So Bloom will pack a van full of drums and percussive noisemakers, carve out a little but of room for his wife, and together they’ll make the journey from Storrs, Conn., to Brattleboro, where they will enjoy a weekend highlighted by Event in a Tent.
“I think it’s a phenomenal idea,” Bloom said of Event in a Tent. “The biggest part of it is they’re looking for that interactivity. … I’m not a come-watch-me performer.”
During pre-concert activities which begin when gates at Famolare Field open at noon, Bloom will lead one of his drum workshops, giving everyone a hands-on try at playing percussion culminating in a chance to perform “Shortnin’ Bread” during the main concert, which starts at 3 p.m., and features a diverse program of Beethoven, spirituals, blues, jazz standards, didgeridoo, circus-themed music, a group fiddle number and more.
Bloom encourages young and old, novices and veterans, the rhythmic hip and those with two left feet to all come out and start drumming. He can virtually guarantee what he’ll see when he looks out on all the people drumming.
“Smiles. When you look at people, they’re all in. There’s a chemistry to it, and it’s all ages,” said Bloom.
For more information about Bloom’s work, including audio of video samples, visit www.drumming-about-you.com.
What is the real deal? It’s experiencing something exactly the way it was meant to be. It’s seeing Balanchine dance or your grandmother cook or baseball at Fenway. Audiences at The Event in a Tent will get to experience The Real Deal, perhaps many times over, but certainly when they hear Moonlight Davis sing “Ol Man River.”
The iconic song from “Show Boat” has dignity at its core, and that’s just what Moonlight brings to it. “There should be some honoring of the authority of the song,” Davis told me during a break from rehearsing it with Maestro Hugh Keelan and brass musician Jacob Mashak. “Ol’ Man River” has been performed many times by many singers – Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, even the Beach Boys have tried their hands at it. But Paul Robeson, who performed the song in productions of “Show Boat,” in the film version, and countless times in concert, is the man to whom Moonlight turns for inspiration.
“Paul Robeson was a different type of pioneer in the world,” said Moonlight, reminding me that Robeson was ahead of his time as a civil rights activist and was made to pay a steep price for standing up for his beliefs. That experience showed in the way he sang the song. “He sang that song from his heart. … The song brings to me a sense of keeping that piece of history alive. I’m very proud that I can even attempt to sing the song,” he said. “My approach is a little bit softer. It has a little bit of today’s feeling.” A little, but it still retains its power when Moonlight sings it. In his voice, it remains The Real Deal.
Moonlight grew up singing gospel in the Pentecostal Church, and his sound retains a gospel feel, with overtones of jazz, blues and other influences. He has shared stages with Billy Preston and Evelyn Harris of Sweet Honey in the Rock, among others. On June 30, he will share the stage with all of you in the collaborative Event in a Tent.
Pitz Quattrone is a man on a mission … actually, two missions. The first is to turn as many people around the planet as he can to the music of the didgeridoo. The other is to put the didgeridoo into as many musical settings as he possibly can. Naturally, he’s a perfect fit for the Event in a Tent.
On June 30, Quattrone will journey from the Montpelier area to Brattleboro to add a splash of didgeridoo to an event which promises to be like no other before. During the pre-concert activities at Famolare Field from noon to 3 p.m., or so, Quattrone will lead two didgeridoo workshops. He’ll be selling inexpensive models of the instrument (for about $15) and teaching people to play. Why not try it? It just might rock your world.
“To me it sounds like it comes from the middle of the Earth up to the surface andgrabs you,” said Quattrone, an unabashed didgeridoo-ophile, player and teacher for more than 20 years. “As soon as I heard it, it grabbed me. I like weird sounds anyway … that was my first attraction.”
“Almost everyone agrees that it is the oldest musical instrument on the planet,” said Quattrone, who said images in caves painted 40,000 years ago show people and animals playing the didgeridoo.
In 20 years, Quattrone has played the didgeridoo everywhere “from the arctic circle to the Equator” and has wowed people wherever he’s gone.
“Kids love the instrument. Everyone loves the instrument. Everyone smiles, everyone laughs when they see it,” he said.
Although he’s still mastering the instrument, it is fairly easy to pick up and make some interesting sounds on right from the get-go.
“It basically starts with your lips flapping like a motorboat or a raspberry like kids do,” he said. “I just try to get people to make a lot of really nice sounds in one long breath.”
Later on, Quattrone will join the orchestra for part of the performance under the tent on June 30. But mostly he’s looking forward to just being part of the scene.
“It sounds like fun. … It sounds like a lot of fun,” he said.
For more on Quattrone, visit www.pitzondidge.com or just come see him for yourself.
Musical benches are the product of The Harmonic Forge, a a coming together of the talents of blacksmith/artist Erik Newquist and musical sculptor/instrument maker/musician Garry Jones. (Jones is also the composer of the Concertino.) Their first collaborative piece “Steel, Wood, Melody” combines the metal working art of Newquist with the musical sculpturing of Jones in creating a work of whimsical beauty that is simultaneously a serious musical instrument and functional garden bench seat. This video gives you a good idea how much fun they can be: