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47th Messiah Sing: A Benefit for the Homeless

Brattleboro, Vt. – Friends of Music at Guilford (FOMAG) invites singers and music lovers in the Tri-State region to start their holiday season at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 2, with the 47th annual Community Messiah Sing, a benefit for the homeless. Centre Congregational Church, at 193 Main Street in Brattleboro, has been home for the Sing since 1982 and for a few prior seasons as well.

Kenneth Olsson is conducting, and though new to this role at the Sing, is well known in the region as a performer in opera and musical theater productions as well as pianist, organist, and choral conductor. He has led FOMAG’s season-opening Guilford Festival Orchestra since 2012.

William McKim, who has served as Sing organist for twenty-nine past seasons, and officially “retired” twice from doing so, has performed on organ and piano in numerous church and concert settings here and in the Boston area for many years. Stepping up as trumpeter on this year’s team of performers is Melissa Griffin, who is not only a fine musician but a fifth-generation dairy farmer in Buckland, Mass.; she is principal trumpet for the Windham Orchestra.

Vocal soloists this year are all Sing veterans donating their time and talent for the cause. Soprano Junko Watanabe first sang at this event in 2014; an award-winning featured soloist for American and Japanese audiences, she is on the faculty of Amherst College, the Brattleboro Music Center, and the Rivers School Conservatory.

Justina Golden served as alto soloist in 2005-06 and 2013-15; she has sung, taught, and conducted through her Profound Sound Voice Studio in Florence, Mass., for 31 years and will perform with her Cantabile Vocal Ensemble at FOMAG’s A Cappella à la Carte program next June.

Tenor James Anderson performed for the Sing in 2005-06 and 2015-16; after a long career in Europe as an operatic leading man, he now teaches voice, performs in a variety of concert settings, and directs musical productions for New England Youth Theatre.

Returning to perform the bass solos for a fourth consecutive season is baritone Cailin Marcel Manson, who is director of music at The Putney School; he has toured as a performer and master teacher throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia and serves as music director of the Bennington County Choral Society and the Keene Chorale.

As many as 250 or more singers from the Tri-State region bring their copy of a Messiah vocal score, otherwise borrow or buy one at the door. A number of other folks come just to listen to Handel’s masterwork and enjoy the rich sound of such an enormous choir. Water is the only beverage allowed in the sanctuary; bottled water is available for purchase at the door.

All door donations at the Sing since 2007, a total of over $18,000, have been given to the Groundworks Collaborative (formerly Morningside Shelter and Brattleboro Area Drop In Center) to support its programs serving our homeless neighbors. Sing attendees are encouraged to bring donations of nonperishable food; winter clothing, outerwear, and blankets; and new, unwrapped toys for Groundworks to distribute this Christmas.

This year’s Sing sponsors, whose support in cash and services helps cover event expenses, include The Marina Restaurant, Richmond Auto Repair, Centre Congregational Church, Brattleboro Reformer, and C&S Wholesale Grocers, in addition to Friends of Music’s 52nd season media sponsors, Vermont Public Radio and the Vermont Arts Council.

FOMAG’s Miriam Adams Howland Memorial Fund is another source of support, continuing Miriam’s tradition of making annual donations since 1997 in memory of her husband, Dr. William S. Howland, who was a great fan of the Sing.

The Friends of Music Holiday Boutique is stocked with several series of Art Cards by local artists whose images have appeared on concert posters and season programs, a selection of CDs, and a few tote bags. Sales of these items support Friends of Music concert programs, many of which are offered on a donation basis to make them accessible to music lovers of modest means.

For further information, contact the Friends of Music office at (802) 254-3600 or email; visit online at