Guilford, Vt. – Friends of Music at Guilford’s (FOMAG) 54th Labor Day Weekend Festival begins, by tradition, with a 7:30 concert on Saturday night, August 31, in The Organ Barn at Tree Frog Farm in idyllic rural Guilford. Organist Robert Barney, who is related to several Guilford families, performs a program entitled “Bach: Friends & Family” with assistance from Boston soprano Janna Maria Fröhlich and Vermont flutist Amara Cunningham. Then, at 2:00 on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 1, the Guilford Festival Orchestra performs “European Tour,” a program of works by French and German composers, some with an Italian flair. Kenneth Olsson conducts over forty instrumentalists from the region and beyond, as well as soprano soloist Julie Olsson.
SATURDAY IN THE BARN
Saturday’s organ recital includes solo works by four Baroque masters. The Ciacona in e minor by Dietrich Buxtehude is followed by a choral prelude and the Saint Anne prelude and fugue by J. S. Bach, who studied for a time with Buxtehude. Two German arias by George Frideric Handel feature soprano Janna Maria Fröhlich, a Boston colleague of Barney’s in the 1980s, and Vermont flutist Amara Cunningham. Next is the Sonata in D Major by Johann’s son C. P. E. Bach. Also on the program is a piece by Vermonter Samuel B. Whitney (1842-1914), regarded as the greatest interpreter of J. S. Bach in the U.S, and the Sonata II Op. 65, no. 5 by Felix Mendelssohn, who “rediscovered” Bach in the 19th century.
Robert Barney traces his roots to the Barney, Bullock, Cutting, and Weatherhead families of Guilford, and visits his parents’ and grandparents’ graves in West Brattleboro. He is the last Barney in the 1961 official history of the town. Raised in Mamaroneck, N.Y., he moved to Boston in 1979 to attend the New England Conservatory of Music after earning an undergraduate degree at Concordia College in Bronxville. He has served as Director of Music for Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord, Mass., since 1994 and maintains an active career as choral director, performer, and teacher of voice, piano, and organ. In September 2009, he was appointed Artistic Director for Youth pro Musica, Boston’s oldest choral program for young singers. Mr. Barney performs organ recitals in the United States, Canada, and Europe, focusing his attention especially on historic instruments. He has played for several conventions of the Organ Historical Society and the American Guild of Organists, the Boston Chapter of which he served as Dean in 2014-18.
Janna Maria Fröhlich earned a BA in Art and Music from Wheaton College, an MFA in Early Music Performance from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MA in Expressive Arts Therapy from Lesley University. She was vocal soloist for many years at First Church UU in Jamaica Plain (Boston), where she runs a performance series and a monthly drum circle. She has performed with a number of Boston-area early music groups on voice and harp for three decades and currently appears as a solo artist and in the HeartSoulVoice duo, which FOMAG hosted in 2017. A board-certified music therapist and mental health counselor, Janna is also developing her skills as a songwriter. In addition to her musical collaboration with Mr. Barney in the 1980s, she is sister to FOMAG administrator Joy Wallens-Penford.
Amara Cunningham, who studied flute with Alison Hale and Julie Armstrong, is a member of the Putney Community Orchestra, Keene Chorale, Flootissimo, and Monadnock Flutes, among other regional ensembles. She has recently been featured as a member of the Guilford Chamber Players and in other FOMAG settings. When she is not playing music, Amara works in the Admission Office at The Putney School.
SUNDAY ON THE LAWN
The Labor Day Weekend Festival continues at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 1, on the lawn outside The Organ Barn. Performing under the baton of Kenneth Olsson, the Guilford Festival Orchestra is a gathering of amateur and professional musicians from nearly twenty towns in Massachusetts, eight in Vermont, four in New Hampshire, two in New York, and one in Pennsylvania. Their “European Tour” repertoire includes Chaconne ou Passacaille from “Les Nations” by Couperin, arranged for strings, and six arias from Les nuits d’été by Berlioz, featuring soprano soloist Julie Olsson. The second half of the program includes Pastorella and Sehnsucht nach Italien by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, arranged for winds; and Symphony #1 in C minor by Felix Mendelssohn. Sunday’s traditional finale is a sing-in of Randall Thompson’s Alleluia, popular with orchestra and audience members; bring the score if you have it, or borrow a FOMAG copy.
Kenneth 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 founded the Southern Vermont Lyric Theatre, which has presented full-length productions of La Bohème (2017) and La Traviata (2018).
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.
The Organ Barn is at Tree Frog Farm, 158 Kopkind Rd., off Packer Corners Rd. in rural Guilford; follow signs from Rt. 5 by the Guilford Country Store, near Exit 1 off I-91, or, coming from Massachusetts on Rt. 5, follow signs from Keets Brook Rd. in Bernardston. Grounds open on Sunday at 12 noon 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.
In case of serious threat of rain on Sunday, the lunch and orchestra concert are moved to the Broad Brook Community Center at 3940 Guilford Center Rd., four miles from the Guilford Country Store on Rt. 5 near Exit 1 of I-91; check website and Facebook after 9:00 a.m.
Both Festival events are admission-free with donations welcome. For further information and a 2019-20 Season Calendar, contact the Friends of Music office at (802) 254-3600 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit online at www.fomag.org and Facebook.