GUILFORD -- Friends of Music at Guilford’s 47th annual Labor Day Weekend Festival highlights music by Handel, Haydn, Delius and Debussy, among other composers, in an organ concert set in an intimate rural barn and an orchestra concert on the expansive lawn just outside.
The Festival opens on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with "The Magnificent Mr. Handel!" on the Guilford Tracker Organ. Clark Anderson plays keyboard versions of Handel’s overture to "Semele," Voluntary #2 in C, the Pastorale from "Il Pastor Fido," the aria "Dank sei dir, Herr" (formerly attributed to Handel, now considered spurious), and the Passacaglia from Sonata #4 (originally for two violins and continuo).
He will be joined by members of the Guilford Chamber Players in a suite from the "Royal Fireworks Music" and Organ Concerto #13 ("The Cuckoo and the Nightingale"). This will be Anderson’s second appearance at the Organ Barn; in May 2011 he performed a program of music from the German and English baroque era, which also included several works by Handel. In addition to his role as organist, Anderson conducted last December’s Messiah Sing for Friends of Music at Centre Church in Brattleboro, and will conduct this coming December’s Sing as well.
On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Guilford Festival Orchestra will be heard outdoors on the lawn. Ken Olsson makes his debut as conductor for this event, though he’s hardly new to Friends of
This year’s orchestra program begins with the "Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" from Handel’s oratorio "Solomon" (continuing the Handel thread from the previous evening). Then, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of English composer Frederick Delius, the orchestra plays his two evocative sketches "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" and "Summer Night on the River."
Next, soprano Kristen Carmichael-Bowers sings two lilting Mozart arias, Susanna’s "Deh vieni non tardar" from "The Marriage of Figaro" and Zerlina’s "Batti, batti" from "Don Giovanni." Carmichael-Bowers, a graduate of Smith College and the New England Conservatory, teaches voice at the Brattleboro Music Center, The Putney School and Northern Stage; she has been active as a recitalist as well as a performer in opera and oratorio.
The first half of the program closes in celebration of another 150th birth anniversary, that of Claude Debussy, with three rarely heard piano pieces from the earliest to last stages of his career, in chamber orchestra arrangements made for this occasion by Zeke Hecker: "Hommage à Haydn," "Berceuse héroïque" and "Danse bohémienne."
After intermission, the concert continues with the premiere of a work by Hecker for soprano and string orchestra, "Property," set to a poem by Sandra Adams. The text treats the relationship between the new human owners of a piece of country real estate and the animals who already inhabit it. Carmichael-Bowers again serves as soloist.
For the final orchestra work on the program, Debussy having paid homage, it’s only fitting that we turn to Haydn for Symphony No. 83, nicknamed "La Poule" ("the hen") because of a clucking figure heard in the woodwinds in the first movement. The festival’s traditional finale is a sing-in of Randall Thompson’s "Alleluia," for which audience members are invited up front to join the orchestra players in forming the chorus.
The Labor Day Weekend Festival is held at the Organ Barn, Kopkind Road, Guilford; signs are posted along a nine-mile route from the Guilford Country Store on Route 5, just south of Exit 1 off I-91, and along a five-mile route from the Keets Brook Road turnoff along Route 5 in Bernardston, Mass.
Admission to both events is by donation. For the Sunday concert, the grounds open at noon to picnickers. A vegetarian lunch, warm chocolate chip cookies and fresh lemonade are for sale. This year a 2013 calendar featuring scenic views of Guilford has been added to Friends of Music’s retail sales offerings.
In case of rain, or serious threat thereof, the Sunday event will relocate to the Guilford Central School at 374 School Road, four miles up the Guilford Center Road from the Country Store. For information, visit www.fomag.org or call 802-254-3600.