Guilford, Vt. – Now in its 52nd season, Friends of Music at Guilford (FOMAG) has a long history with “Stage Music Projects.” These have ranged from musical theater song revues to concerts of arias and art song presented by some of the region’s acclaimed operatic performers. Also in the mix were fully staged but less well-known Broadway or off-Broadway shows and premieres of one-act or full-length operas created by some of the organization’s musically gifted founders, among other composers.
This fall, FOMAG is teaming up with New Hampshire’s Raylynmor Opera for a concert at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 1, in the sanctuary of Guilford Community Church, a program of the singers’ favorite arias. Since its founding in 1995, Raylynmor has presented 38 full-length operas at various locations in our “twin state.” Raylynmor’s artistic director since 2014 is tenor Benjamin Robinson, who has performed in professional productions and concert settings from Alaska to the East Coast. He was featured in Pirates of Penzance for Raylynmor in 2011 and has helped diversify and expand the organization’s vision since taking the reins.
Robinson has been working with FOMAG to create this weekend’s special potpourri of operatic delights, “Viva la Voce!” Featured singers, who have all appeared in Raylynmor productions, include sopranos Molly McCoy and Julie Olsson, as well as bass-baritone Tom Cochran. This trio of performers will be working with pianist Ken Olsson, himself a seasoned singer and musical director, as accompanist and coach.
Featured arias, to be presented with a bit of theatrical flair, are from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and La Bohème, Menotti’s The Old Maid and The Thief, Verdi’s Aïda and La Forza del Destino, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, Wagner’s Tannhäuser, and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. This last offering, the Dew Fairy’s aria, is a preview for Raylynmor’s season, which includes Hoiby’s Bon Appétit, a Julia Child cooking episode set to music, which is being paired tongue-in-cheek with Hansel and Gretel in November. Puccini’s Madame Butterfly follows in March and Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe in June. Tickets for these upcoming shows will be available at the concert on October 1.
Molly McCoy is a senior performance major at Keene State College, where she has been a student in Opera Workshop for three years and received the Julia McHale Award for performance excellence last year. She has been featured as Juliet in Britten’s The Little Sweep and Annette in Hans Krasa’s Brundibar. Last season she appeared as an ensemble member in Verdi’s Macbeth for Raylynmor and is returning as the Dew Fairy in this fall’s production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.
Julie Olsson and husband Ken Olsson, residents of Jamaica, Vt., have been performing for FOMAG audiences over the past six years. Julie is often a featured soloist, while Ken has appeared as piano accompanist in a variety of settings, as featured soloist for Organ Barn recitals in fall or spring, and as conductor of the Guilford Festival Orchestra that launches each season during Labor Day weekend. Julie and Ken met as Vocal Performance majors at Ithaca College, and both had extensive performing experience while there and with opera companies in the Northeast and Kansas City before settling together in Vermont. They have performed with a number of regional opera companies in the years since, including Raylynmor, and have appeared in or helped produce several Main Street Arts musicals in Chester. In 2013, the Olssons founded the Southern Vermont Lyric Theatre, which features an annual “Verdi in Vermont” concert and this season includes productions of La Bohème and A Little Night Music.
Tom Cochran, a 31-year resident of New Hampshire, grew up in a musical family in Pennsylvania, studying piano and baritone horn, and singing in glee club or church choir. He took up vocal study in the late 1990s with the Monadnock Chorus, moving on to maestro Phillip Lauriat and then mezzo-soprano Pamela Stevens to hone his command of performance and recital skills. He has sung with Granite State Opera, the Monadnock Music Festival, New England Chamber Choir, Nashua Symphony, and Raylynmor Opera. He is particularly fond of singing works in German and anything by Mozart.
Guilford Community Church is at 38 Church Dr. in the Algiers village of Guilford, just over a mile from Exit 1 off Interstate 91. Take Rt. 5 south to Bee Barn Rd. on the left just past the Guilford Country Store; Church Dr. heads left in just a couple hundred feet and leads right to the church and its large parking area. The building is handicap-accessible with an elevator from the ground floor to the sanctuary.
Suggested donation for “Viva la Voce!” is $15 per person, which includes a teatime dessert reception. For additional information, contact the FOMAG office at (802) 254-3600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit online at www.fomag.org.