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Sept. 2 & 3: FOMAG Season Opens at Organ Barn

Guilford, Vt. – As it has done for over a half-century, Friends of Music at Guilford (FOMAG) opens its annual music season with a concert in a rural barn on Saturday night of Labor Day Weekend. The famed Organ Barn is in an idyllic setting near the state line where Guilford meets Leyden, Massachusetts. The intimate Barn seats about a hundred concertgoers, and on Sunday afternoon, two hundred or more people flock to the lawn outside the Barn for picnics and an orchestra concert.

At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 2, guest organist Edwin Lawrence presents “A New England Organ Sampler,” including compositions by Dudley Buck, George Whitefield Chadwick, John Knowles Paine, and Horatio Parker, as well as original works; tenor soloist Thomas Gregg is featured on some of the program. Concentrating on music from late 19th and early 20th centuries, Lawrence explains that the composers on this program include the last generation to depend on European training and the first to be entirely “home-schooled.” More modern repertoire refers back in some ways to older New England times. This Organ Barn performance, as others in the past, includes enlightening commentary from the stage.

Edwin Lawrence, an active performer on piano, organ, and harpsichord since the 1970s, is Minister of Music at First Congregational Church in Williamstown, Mass.; an Artist Associate and instructor of music theory at Williams College; and has also taught at Bennington College. For thirty-eight seasons, he served as music director for the Bennington County Choral Society and has been music director for Bennington’s Oldcastle Theatre Company. A resident of Bennington, Lawrence is a founding member of the Consortium of Vermont Composers and has served as guest conductor of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. He recorded “Organ Music from Hildene” back in the era of LPs and has helped with more than twenty other recording projects as a producer for Dorian Recordings.

Tenor Thomas Gregg has lived in Putney, Vt. since 2011. He holds degrees in voice from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio (BM), the University of Michigan (MM), and Ohio State (DMA), and is a Professor of voice at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. Professional opera appearances have included productions in New Orleans, Memphis, and Columbus, and historical operas in Boston and Washington, D.C. He has appeared as tenor soloist with numerous orchestras and choral groups, and as a choral singer with a number of distinguished ensembles. He enjoys an active career in recitals and chamber music, especially with harpist Emily Laurance in the duo DoubleAction. Recent local appearances have been with the Bennington County Choral Society and the Windham Orchestra.

At 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 3, the 45-piece Guilford Festival Orchestra, hailing from Vermont, New Hampshire, and several Pioneer Valley towns in Massachusetts, performs a Lawn Concert under the baton of conductor Ken Olsson. Leading off with Edward Elgar’s Serenade for String Orchestra, No. 20, the program continues with the Sinfonietta for Woodwind Octet, Op. 48, by Rudolf Nováček. Mozart is represented by his Symphony #40 in G minor, K. 550, and an aria from his “Marriage of Figaro” features soprano soloist Julie Olsson, as do other works for orchestra and mezzo-soprano. The musical program ends with the afternoon’s traditional finale, a sing-in of Randall Thompson’s Alleluia. Members of the orchestra and audience are invited to gather for this a cappella work. Attendees are asked to bring the music if they own a copy to share, or can borrow one from FOMAG’s collection.

Ken Olsson, conductor, earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Ithaca College. He has appeared in many operatic leading roles in the Northeast and has served as artistic or music director, conductor, and rehearsal pianist for a variety of opera and musical theater production companies. He has also performed as organ soloist and piano accompanist for many concerts and recitals in the Northeast, including several for Friends of Music at Guilford. He directs the West River Valley Chorus, Nordic Harmoni, and the Springfield Community Chorus. He holds leadership roles with the American Union of Swedish Singers, and with wife Julie Olsson recently founded the Southern Vermont Lyric Theatre, which presented a full-length production of La Bohème in late August.

Soprano Julie Olsson began her professional career at age 17 in an American Musical Theater production of My Fair Lady and earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance at Ithaca College before beginning graduate studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She sang many leading roles in college productions as well as for the Kansas City Lyric Opera. Back on the East Coast, she embarked on a well-received career in jazz and blues/rock before joining the Salt Marsh Opera Company for productions of Butterfly and Tosca. Recent endeavors include performing in Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, directing The Mystery of Edwin Drood for Main Street Arts in Saxtons River, and appearing in Raylynmor Opera productions of Don Giovanni and The Mikado. She is a co-founder of the Southern Vermont Lyric Theatre.

Grounds open at 12 noon on Sunday for picnicking and lunch sales. A hearty vegetarian meal of assorted salads, eggs, Grafton cheddar cheese, Walker Farm tomatoes, Vermont-made artisan bread, a drink, and Scott Farm apples, is offered for $10/person; lemonade and warm chocolate chip cookies are also available at intermission. Children are welcome, with parental supervision, but dogs are asked to stay at home.

Both Labor Day Weekend concerts are admission-free, with generous donations encouraged to defray the considerable cost of this musical weekend in the country. Follow signs for 9 miles from the Guilford Country Store, on Rt. 5 just south of Exit 1, to the Organ Barn off Packer Corners Rd.; or, coming from Massachusetts on Rt. 5, follow signs from Keets Brook Rd. in Bernardston. The Saturday concert in the Barn is rain or shine. In case of threatening weather on Sunday, the lunch and lawn concert are moved to Broad Brook Grange, 3940 Guilford Center Rd., 4 miles from Rt. 5 at the Guilford Store.

For further information and a full 2017-18 Season Calendar, contact the FOMAG office at 802-254-3600 or; visit online at Friends of Music at Guilford’s 52nd Season enjoys partial media sponsorship by Vermont Public Radio and the Vermont Arts 2017 program of the Vermont Arts Council.