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Classical music

November 11, 2013

Interview with ETHEL's Ralph Farris

ETHYL_Protraits2012-1255While it's not exactly incorrect to refer to the music of ETHEL as classical, it would surely miss much of the point. The genre-defying, restlessly inventive string quartet brings its new program, "Grace," to UVM's Lane Series on Friday, November 15.

Cofounding member and violist Ralph Farris spoke via phone to Seven Days about the band's creative process, different kinds of grace and the enduring greatness of Rush.

SEVEN DAYS: Why is your name in all caps, anyway?

RALPH FARRIS: Why not? I don’t have a good answer! It showed up in a graphic we did once, and it stuck. The name doesn’t stand for anything, and means nothing. There’s really no good reason, which is a terrible answer for you.

So you used to be the musical director for Roger Daltrey. What does that mean, exactly?

 It was a quick little run, in 1994. I was the guy who went to each city in advance of a touring concert with the Roger Daltrey Band, who were playing with orchestra, playing the music of Pete Townshend. I would train up the orchestra playing with him, but I really was the assistant conductor. The conductor would show up after me and conduct the show, and I would then be the fiddle soloist for the band. I would play “Baba O’Reilly” all summer. Really cool gig.

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June 24, 2013

National Organ Society Convention Pipes Up in Vermont

Erben-Highgate_FallsIt's a good week to be an organ lover in Vermont. I'm not talking organ meat — though there's plenty of that to be had these days as well.

No, I'm talking about the National Convention of the Organ Historical Society, which begins today in Burlington. It's attracted more than 300 enthusiasts from all over the U.S. and even abroad, according to convention chair Marilyn Polson of Chelsea, who plays a 119-year-old historic instrument at the Bethany Church. The OHS, she explained, was founded in 1956 by people who wanted to raise awareness of and protect/restore 19th-century pipe organs.

It seems that in the 1950s, a craze for playing Baroque music resulted in some of the instruments being altered in ways that I can't explain — something to do with high-pitched stops. In a phone conversation, Polson was indulgent of my organ ignorance, but was firm in her assertion that "19th-century pipe organs are so listener-friendly!"

In addition to intentional alterations, she said, many organs at churches have simply suffered from "benign neglect," as maintenance and repairs are likely not in the general budget.

The five-day convention will give participants plenty of opportunities to geek out ("We love to talk organ," Polson quipped), including day trips on tour buses to rural churches in 14 central and northern Vermont towns that have exceptional examples of said instruments. Those are Randolph, Williamsburg, Northfield, Montpelier, Stowe, Hardwick, Greensboro, Cabot, Plainfield, St. Albans, Highgate Falls, Vergennes, Richmond and Sheldon.

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June 05, 2013

Green Mountain Monteverdi Ensemble of Vermont Plays Doubles

GMMEVGood things come in threes, it's said. Bad things do, too, but never mind. The Green Mountain Monteverdi Ensemble of Vermont (pictured here) cheekily goes for triple redundancy in its name — can you spot them? — and for a trio of performances this week around the state. But in its program, GMMEV goes for pairs.

That is, pairs of composers of Baroque-era sacred choral and vocal music who set the same text to different music. "Double-Takes" includes in most cases one setting for a duet or other small ensemble and another for a larger group, director Stephen Falbel explains. He promises it will "make for a fascinating evening of juxtapositions of styles and ensembles."

On that program are three motets by Johann Sebastian Bach and works by Schütz, Schein, Scheidt, Franck and Johann Christoph Bach — cousin of the more famous Bach.

"Double-Takes" features eight singers, many of whom have performed with Vermont's esteemed professional vocal ensemble Counterpoint: sopranos Lindsey Warren and Cathleen Stadecker; altos Carolyn Dickinson and Linda Radtke; tenors Adam Hall and Paul Reynolds (replaced by Counterpoint director Nathaniel Lew in the Burlington concert); and basses Falbel and Brett Murphy.

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