48th Community Messiah Sing on Dec 1: 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 1, with the 48th 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, conducting the Sing for a second season, 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 concerts since 2012 and in 2014 co-founded the Southern Vermont Lyric Theatre.

William McKim, who has served as Sing organist for thirty 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. Trumpet soloist Joyana Damon, in her 20th year as instrumental/classroom music teacher at Vernon Elementary School, has performed with many regional musical groups.

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.

Julie Olsson, a dramatic soprano whose impressive range allows her to perform the mezzo and alto repertoire, is appearing for the first time with the Sing. She has been a featured FOMAG soloist in two recitals of arias and art song and in several Labor Day Weekend Festival orchestra concerts.

Tenor Walter Cramer is Dean of Students at Western Connecticut State University but spends weekends at home in Marlboro. He sang professionally with the Washington National Opera and Austin Lyric Opera for three seasons, was a soloist for the Sing in 1993 and 2001-2003, and has performed with the Blanche Moyse Chorale and BMC Madrigal Singers.

Returning to perform the bass solos for a fifth consecutive season is baritone Cailin Marcel Manson, 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 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 $20,300, have been passed along to the Groundworks Collaborative (formerly Morningside Shelter and Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center) to support its programs serving our homeless and disadvantaged 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 service trades 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 53rd 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, and a selection of CDs. 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 office@fomag.org; visit online at www.fomag.org.

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