Beethoven and Banjos in Vermont
Dear Scrag Mountain Music Friends,
I'm writing this in Michigan where I'm making some great music that I'm very excited about - it's a new festival called Beethoven and Banjos that I've started in the towns near where I grew up. The festival combines musical styles and celebrates the intersections of folk music and classical music. And in October we're bringing Beethoven and Banjos to ScragMountain Music!
Join us for these special concerts which will kick off Scrag's 2015-2016 season (we're just about ready to announce the entire exciting season):
Friday - October 23 - 7:30pm
Green Mountain Girls Farm -
923 Loop Road, Northfield
Saturday - October 24 - 7:30pm
Capital City Grange, Montpelier
6612 VT-12, Berlin, VT 05602
Sunday - October 25 - 4:00pm
Warren United Church
Main Street, Warren
One of the most exciting things for me about this program is to work with my sister Laurel Premo and her folk duo Red Tail Ring. The repertoire will include Beethoven minuets, American and Norwegian fiddle music, contemporary and traditional folk songs, and original music written by Laurel Premo and which I arranged for this ensemble.
Emily Popham Gillins, violin
Meena Bhasin, viola
Laurel Premo, fiddle/banjo (Red Tail Ring)
Michael Beauchamp, guitar/mandolin (Red Tail Ring)
Mary Bonhag, soprano
Evan Premo, double bass
Come as you are. Pay what you can.
I can't tell you how proud I am of this music we're creating here in Michigan and how excited I am to bring it home to Vermont.
Please mark your calendars and we'll see you at the concerts!
Following a successful season of concerts, Central Vermont’s growing non-profit presenter of innovative chamber music, “Scrag Mountain Music” offers a summer program on August 6 and 7. Entitled “Pig Dreams” these concerts will be presented in two Central Vermont barns: The Green Mountain Girls Farm (923 Loop Road, Northfield) on Wednesday, August 6 at 7pm and Phantom Theater (970 Dump Rd, Warren VT) on Thursday, August 7 at 8pm. Scrag Mountain Music’s motto is “Come as you are. Pay what you can.” No need to dress up for these concerts and admission is by free-will donation taken by passing a basket at intermission.
The program will feature the composition Pig Dreams: Scenes from the Life of Sylvia by Susan Botti for soprano, flute, and harp with poetry by Denise Levertov. This work features six charming and whimsical songs from the perspective of Sylvia, a pet Hampshire pig who lived with the artist Liebe Collidge in the Northeast Kingdom in the 70's. A brilliant animal, Sylvia was enfolded into her human household. Each song portrays Sylvia’s perspective on different parts of her life from sledding with “her humans” in the song “Winterpig” to being bred in the song “The Bride.”
Also on the program is Artistic Director, Evan Premo's Seasonal Song Cycle for double bass and soprano which consists of four songs, each celebrating a different season with poetry by E.E. Cummings, Elinor Wylie, Rose Fyleman, and Basho. “These songs were the first music I wrote for my wife Mary when we met at the University of Michigan,” says Evan, “She chose some of her favorite children’s poems and I set them to music for the two of us.”
Soprano and Artistic Director Mary Bonhag and Montpelier flutist Karen Kevra will perform John Corrigliano's unusual arrangements of three familiar Irish folk songs and Karen and Burlington Harpist Rebecca Kauffman will perform the evocative sonata for Flute and Harp by Lowell Liebermann.
On Wednesday August 6, the 7pm concert will be preceded by a farm dinner inspired by the “Pig Dreams” theme. The meal will include barbecued pork and turkey and summer salads and dessert. At $20 for adults and $5 for children this delicious meal prepared with the farm’s humanely and organically managed meats and veggies will be offered from 5:00 to 6:30pm. Please visit www.eatstayfarm.com to RSVP for dinner.
Dear Friends of Scrag Mountain Music,
As many of you know, Scrag Mountain Music is commissioning a new piece of vocal chamber music and we're working in collaboration with Opera Philladelphia. The new work is being written by our composer-in-residence, New York City based composer Lembit Beecher and will be premiered May 30-June 1, 2014 in Randolph, Montpelier, and Warren. The piece is scored for soprano, strings, and piano with text by Toronto librettist and director Liza Balkan. Balkan has drawn the libretto from interviews and gently crafted them into poetry. The composition will be a musical meditation on aging process.
Next week, the composer, librettist, and musicians will be in residency in Vermont for five days to workshop the piece-in-progress. During that time the librettist will conduct interviews with Vermonters around the theme of aging and the composer will work to set these ideas to music with the aid of the musicians who will be premiering the piece. At the end of this residency – on Tuesday April 8 – Scrag Mountain Music will hold a “very open composing session” where the audience can witness the early stages of the composition and ask questions of the composer, librettist, and performers. The evening will also include a time for the public to react to the emotional content of the work and share their own experiences and observations on the aging process. The workshop is co-sponsored by the Warren Public Library and the Warren United Church and will take place from 7-8:30pm on Tuesday April 8 in the Emma Ford Room of the Warren United Church, Main Street, Warren, VT.
In addition to being Scrag Mountain Music’s Composer-in-residence in fall 2011, Lembit was appointed to a three-year term as the first Composer-In-Residence of Opera Philadelphia and his recently premiered opera has received critical acclaim from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Opera Philadelphia and Scrag Mountain Music are partnering on this commission and we are honored to be collaborating with such esteemed institution and hope that this partnership will ensure the future success of this music born here in Vermont.
artistic director, Scrag Mountain Music
Spektral Quartet was a huge hit!
Thanks so much to the Spektral gang for taking Vermont by storm! Here is a fun photo blog post by Austin Wulliman, violinist with the Spektral Quartet:
Posted by Austin in Travels
The folks at Scrag Mountain Music have set the bar high for hospitality. Our week in Vermont wasn’t just full of scenic beauty and wonderful people, but some of the best and freshest food we’ve ever had. Bacon and eggs from around the bend on the mountain never tasted better before a marathon rehearsal day! Mary Bonhag and Evan Premo, directors of the series, were extraordinarily gracious…especially since we had a third host, their two-month-old, Glen!
Here’s the story of our week in photos.
Our second day there, we rehearsed all day…and then had another public session in the evening. Rehearsing in front of people really makes things more productive in an urgent way if you choose something early in the learning process! Stay tuned for more of these, Mary and Evan’s idea of the “Very Open Rehearsal” is a great one.
Our run of three shows began Friday, we played a piece by Evan with him sitting in and Mary sang a piece by Earl Kim with us. The quartet played Ades’ “Arcadiana”, the Verdi Quartet and Chris Fisher-Lochhead‘s version of James Blake’s “I Never Learnt to Share”. The greeting party didn’t bother to clean up for us. (Did you catch the theme of the week yet, as well?)
Our final concert was in Montpelier, in a local theater. An incredibly open-minded crowd laughed with us as we gave a ten minute presentation and conversation about Carter’s Second Quartet, as well as playing Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” and repeating Chris’ “I Never Learnt to Share” adaptation. Doyle had an intimate moment with his phone before the audience arrived.
Thanks for everything, Scrag Mountain folk and Vermont in general! One thing I won’t miss: discussions of the pronunciation of “Montpelier” with Aurelien. It’s really embarrassing for all of us when we start trying to pronounce French words.
Last week was a great fun. Our friends Owen, Meena, and Claire were here and we lived together for a week making music almost non-stop punctuated by meals, sleeping, conversation, sauna, and snowshoeing. I can't imagine a better combination of activities. On Tuesday, we lead a "Very Open Rehearsal" giving some Northfielders a chance to get in on the early stages of a rehearsal. On Thursday we gave two interactive performances for Northfield elementary and middle schools, sponsored by the Paine Mountain Arts Council. Click here to see video clips from the Interactive Performance.
All three concerts over the weekend had a fantastic turnout and went really well. Friday was at the Green Mountain Girls' farm (preceded by a spectacular soup supper). Saturday afternoon we enjoyed trying out another new venue for classical music - a movie theater - The Savoy in Montpelier. We welcomed many families and had a full house. We enjoyed some popcorn during intermission and after the concert we stuck around and watched a movie! Sunday afternoon we were blessed to perform in the beautiful Warren United Church, a fantastic ending to our week.
Personally, I would just like to say what a joy it was making music with Owen, Meena, Claire, and Mary - such fine musicians - and SUCH DEDICATED artists.
With fond memories,
Our "Music for Farms" weekend was a big success thanks to our fantastic musicians and generous audiences. On Saturday Nov 12 we packed the barn at the Green Mountain Girls farm with children sitting on the floor in the front row. Emanuel (violinist from Montreal), John (pianist from the Hudson Valley), and Julia (cellist from NYC) joined Mary and me for a program of very eclectic music ranging from a french-canadian fiddle tune to Indian classical music. Following the concert, the Green Mountain Girls hosted a scrumptious ham dinner for the entire audience.
On Sunday Nov 12 we brought the show to the Mad River Valley where we performed at the Big Picture Theater and Cafe where an incredibly enthusiastic audience welcomed us warmly. The concert was followed by a pie potluck with delicious pies (I tried them all!) At intermission Jillian Abraham of Small Step Farm filled us in on what life is like for local farmers post-Irene. She painted a grim yet hopeful and incredibly touching picture for us. All donations accepted as admission for both concerts went towards local farms. The Vermont Community fund was gracious to allocate our donations to farms in need. The $821 raised in Waitsfield is allocated to farms affected by Irene in the Mad River Valley. The $836 raised in Northfield divided between farms in Northfield, Montpelier, and the Winoosky Valley affected by Irene and a new subsidized farm share program at the Green Mountain Girls Farm which will help more people afford great food.
A couple of weeks ago Mary and I hiked up Scrag Mountain for the first time - what a beautiful little mountain! On the way up we lost our trail and so had to do some bush-whacking and rock scrambling. The views from the top are spectacular: the Mad river valley to the west and Northfield and the Paine Mt. to the east.
It's hard to believe that it's already June and our first season of Scrag Mountain Music has come to a close. What a season it has been! Thanks to the encouraging and generous Vermont audiences and volunteers we are to invigorated be moving forward. We are busy planning for next season and we have some really exciting programs and events in mind. Because of the generous help of John Donaldson of Warren, VT, we are now recognized as a non-profit organization by the State of Vermont and we're working on the federal status.
In August, we are excited to be presenting a concert as part of the Vermont Festival of the Arts. We will be presenting an Encore of first program with Karen Kevra, flute and Julia MacLaine, cello. In conjunction with this concert we will present a free workshop entitled “The Very Open Rehearsal." This is an exciting opportunity to truly be part of the rehearsal process. Come with curious minds and get a glimpse of the decisions musicians make during rehearsals. Interrupt us at any moment with any question and add your feedback. We hope to see you at both of these events!
Though it was already a few weeks ago, Evan and I are still flying high from our first Scrag Mountain Music concerts Jan. 21-23. We were so pleased with how the concerts went, as well as turn-out and response to our series and our approach to classical music concerts. One of the most delightful things about the weekend was feeling how distinctly different each venue felt, and how the audiences responded in different ways. Every performance is a new experience, of course, but some people don't realize how much the audience and venue play into that. Being at a farm, a cafe/bar, and a familiar home-y church made the concerts feel fun, intimate, and approachable both for us and for the audience.
The week leading up the concerts was busy, not only with rehearsing with Julia and Karen, but also in planning the interaction, which emerged only as we got to know the pieces well and decided what we felt we wanted to emphasize about each piece. One of the most popular and fun interactions came before a piece by Libby Larsen for cello and bass called "Up where the air gets thin." Evan and Julia led the audience in creating a "soundscape" of what it would feel and sound like on top of Mt. Everest. There was wind, crunching snow, panting breath of an exhausted hiker, the bright piercing sunlight, the sound of your own heartbeat in your head, and more. We had very creative and imaginative audiences. The best thing for us was feeling the sense of attentiveness and open ears that each audience had going into Evan and Julia's performance of the Larsen! And afterwards, we heard from loads of people that "Up where the air gets thin" was their favorite piece on the program!
We were sad to say goodbye to Julia and her husband Issac as they flew back to NYC, but we know we'll be seeing them soon. I'm so glad Karen lives close enough that we can collaborate again easily! We're cooking up some musical plans for this summer, which is really exciting.
So from both Evan and me, many thanks to all who came, supported, and volunteered to make our first weekend of concerts a great success! Keep your ears and eyes open for Scrag Mountain Music concerts later this month, and then again in April!
This evening Mary and I presented our vision for Scrag Mountain Music to the board of the Riverrun Chamber Players in the Madriver Valley. We found our mission is very in line with that of the organization and were overwhelmed by a generous offer of a matching grant. If we can raise $3000 this season, Riverrun Chamber Players will double it! If we can accomplish this, it will cover our minimum budget for the season. Thank you Riverrun for your challenge and your generous donation!
Please see our other sponsors thus far.
Scrag Mountain Kick-off Party!
Scrag Mountain Music had its first event last night—a joyous and delicious kick-off party hosted at the Green Mountain Girls’ Farm in Northfield, also one of our venues for the series. We were pleased and encouraged by the turnout—the response to both our music and our vision continues to give us energy. We took the opportunity to try out an interactive element to the music in this event by discussing four seasonal poems that Evan and I were going to later perform. Then, the whole group shared memories that were evoked by these poems. When it was time to sing the songs, people were delighted to recognize the poetry and discovered personal connections to the music in ways that surprised them and us!
Last night was also a great opportunity to discuss our goals for the first season, including:
See you all at our first weekend of concerts—January 21-23. Bring your friends!
- Mary and Evan
Evan Premo and Mary Bonhag, artistic directors