BRATTLEBORO -- In a field of clover, Hugh Keelan and Mark Burke stretch their arms out underneath the peaks of a massive tent that represents everything and anything.
Although they have some idea of what will take place under the tent this Saturday, ultimately what happens will be up to you.
Event in a Tent is a chance for people of all ages to be part of a three-ring musical circus that fuses an orchestra, performing artists, strolling musicians, gospel singers, acrobats, picnicking and hands-on creative activities, all within and around the mystical setting of a tent.
But as Keelan and Burke stood in the empty Famolare Field with their crew Monday, staking out what goes where, the tent still a figment of their imaginations, each could only imagine what Saturday’s big leap of faith will look like.
"We wanted something different, something with spectacle, participation and that promoted community," Keelan said. "We’ve never done this before and we’ll never do it again, except for many other times."
He said they didn’t want to just dish out entertainment like they were handing out slop. They also wanted something that moved, could be shaped by the community and never be the same thing twice.
"A tent is a place of magic and wonder," Keelan said. "It’s a place of safety but it’s also a place of impermanence. It’s a place of inspiration, anything can happen in a tent. We are
The tent also represents an opportunity to all who enter it, to add what they will to the experience, Burke said.
"I’m interested in creation and success," he said. "What better place for that than a tent?"
When the gates open at noon to the grounds of Famolare Farm on Old Fairground Road in Brattleboro on Saturday, audience members will be able to experience something uniquely specific to Windham County and also community-centric, Keelan said.
"We want people to walk away feeling they didn’t just see something put on, that they were a part of it as well," he said.
Prior to the Main Event at 3 p.m., hands-on activities will be available to all. These include circus moves by Nimble Arts, didgeridoo lessons from Pitz Quattrone and a showcase of musical park benches from Garry Jones and Erik Newquist of The Harmonic Forge who will also show people how to play them.
In addition, anyone is eligible to join the Drum Ride workshop conducted by Bob Bloom, of Drumming About You, and violinists and fiddlers of all ages and abilities are encouraged to bring their instruments to play along with the orchestra during a mass performance of Vittorio Monti’s "Czardas," a gypsy-influenced composition.
The scene moves under the giant tent for a 3 p.m. performance that combinates several elements from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to "Ol’ Man River" and "Moonlight in Vermont" performed by Moonlight Davis and Samirah Evans, accompanied by an orchestra, while also featuring a fusion of circus and sound with excerpts from the opera "Pagliacci" and other musical selections.
Under the baton of Keelan, the professional orchestra will perform numerous selections and throughout, each of the participants of the workshops will play along, adding their own sweet styles to the music.
Davis, a gospel singer, said when Keelan approached him about performing it was an easy decision.
"Hugh doesn’t have to do much to get me to sing," Davis said. "Vermont is a place where I sing a lot, and I’m honored to sing with a professional orchestra."
Davis said as he began listening to the arrangement for "Ol’ Man River," he was able to "see" the performance.
"I imagined each of the notes as different colored lights, some soft, some strong, both expressive," he said. "It’s why Hugh’s and my styles work so well together."
The idea for Event in a Tent began in January 2011 when Keelan and Burke began exchanging e-mails constructing the ideas of what they wanted to do and how. The initial plan was hold the first of many events in August 2011, but Tropical Storm Irene quickly altered those plans.
Irene wasn’t the only setback for Keelan and Burke, as plans to host the event at various ski resorts were stalled because of the lack of snow and uncompromising weather in Vermont, so they decided to push the initial event back to June 30.
"This is just a taste of what we have planned," Burke said.
The duo plans to recreate the essential elements of Event in a Tent at various sites in Vermont throughout the year. But Brattleboro was the ideal choice for the initial event.
"We want to make Brattleboro and Vernon the gateway to Vermont," Keelan said.
Tickets can be purchased in advance at www.musicnewengland.org or at the gate the day of Event in a Tent. Admission is $18 and children ages 5 and younger are free.
Seating in the tent is first-come, first-serve with a capacity of 800 people. There’s also the option to enjoy the concert from blankets or lawn chairs outside of the tent.
Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available from Hardy Foard catering of West Chesterfield, N.H., while wine and beer will be provided by Nesbitt’s Portside Tavern of Vernon.
Main sponsors of The Event in A Tent include the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, the Vermont Tent Company, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro Savings & Loan and Entergy-Vermont Yankee. Community Sponsors include the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, Burton Car Wash & Detailing Services, Casey Storage Solutions, Holton Home, Latchis Hotel and Theatre, Through the Music Gallery & Studio and Vermont Artisan Designs.
For more information contact Music New England at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-451-0436.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.