Monday, May 25, 2009

Music for the Quadricentennial

Staffers know it, so do many listeners. And word has gotten around, so local musicians definitely know it. At VPR we're very fortunate in the fact that the performance space in the heart of our Colchester building is one of the acoustically finest recording studios in the state.

I spent yesterday in there, interviewing and hosting several musicians for a showcase we’re producing for the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial anniversary. Not sure when it will air, but if you keep an eye on the website we'll let you know as soon as possible.

The day started off on the right foot (and the left, and the left-right-left!) with Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, the French-Canadian fiddler and guitarist/singer duo. They were in town for an evening concert at UVM, but they took a little time to stop by and share some of their wide repertoire of chansons, dances, reels and other traditional tunes. They’re great. Lisa has a longstanding connection to this area, as a protégée of the legendary fiddler Louis Beaudoin. Among André’s credits is several years with Quebec’s Juno-winning La Bouttine Souriante. We all got a laugh from Lisa describing her move from Canada back to the family home, after graduating: “It was in Maine. Northern Maine. So far North in fact that when I moved back I had to go NORTH from Québec City to get there!”

Next up was one of my favorite local acts, Marty Morrissey and VPR's own Robert Resnik. With more than 30 instruments and 50 years of experience between them (25 of those years playing together), these two really know how to share some learning, have a great time, and get everyone else involved in the fun too. And why not? There’s a lot to keep a songwriter entertained here: a rich maritime and military history, wildly unpredictable weather, breathtaking natural beauty (every season!), Champ, farming culture, and…yep, even rock snot. And other invasive species.

After a short break we were joined by singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf. A farmer himself, fittingly, he had spent the earlier part of the day playing at the opening weekend of a local farmer’s market. He offered a final set of songs ranging from the whimsical to the poignant, covering everything from the flood of 1927 to the austere landscape of our northern winters, and that hallowed Vermont summertime tradition, the Strolling of the Heifers.

This was just one of those days where I felt lucky. Blessed to live where I do, fortunate to be involved in special gatherings like this, and grateful to have the ears and eyes to be able to take it all in.

Thanks to Robert, Nora, Chris, and everyone else who made the recording session possible.

The final words for the day come from Mr. Greenleaf: “I never get tired of looking out the window. This is a beautiful place we live in, Vermont. It’s worth a lot of songs.”

Look for a complete overview of our Quadricentennial programming on the Champlain 400 page at VPR.NET.

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Cheryl Willoughby

VPR Dir. of Music Programming

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