BELLOWS FALLS -- Sometimes one project leads to another.
Tim Stevenson, the founding director of Post Oil Solutions, a Townshend-based non-profit organization dedicated to building sustainable communities, became familiar with Lissa Schneckenburger and her musical talents through her appearances at Brattleboro's Winter Farmers' Market -- a project of Post Oil. One day Stevenson saw Schneckenburger sipping on a cup of tea at the market and asked her if she would care to provide her services at a concert to benefit the soon-expected community garden of the Immanuel Episcopal Church in Bellows Falls.
"She was immediately positive about it. She thought it was great," Stevenson recalled. And that is how the Food Security Collaborative Benefit Concert came to fruition. The Food Security Collaborative, formerly the Greater Falls Community Garden Collaborative, is another project of Post Oil, one aimed at helping people become more local food sufficient. Schneckenburger has also recruited the talent of friend Molly Gawler, who once studied ballet at the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance is now a student at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro. Gawler's new dance company, "Droplet Dance," uses performance art to celebrate water.
The benefit concert, sponsored by Post Oil and Stone Church Arts, is slated to be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 26 at the church's chapel at 20 Church St. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and senior citizens. They can be purchased at Village Square Booksellers, online at stonechurcharts.org or by calling 802-463-3100.
According to Stevenson, Schneckenburger is a fiddler and folk singer whose music "can be warm and comforting as a winter fire or potent and exhilarating as a summer thunderstorm." Schneckenburger's website states she was raised in a small town in Maine and now lives in Vermont. She was inspired by her mother's love of folk music and started playing the fiddle when she was 6 years old, soon studying with an influential Maine fiddler named Greg Boardman and sitting in the with the Maine Country Dance Orchestra. According to the website, Schneckenburger was performing concerts of her own by the time she was in high school and earned a bachelor's degree in contemporary improvisation from the New England Conservatory of Music in 2001. She has since recorded eight CDs, five as a soloist and three with a variety of musical groups.
"(Stevenson) was looking for a way to maybe make the concert a little bit more special and, obviously, it's a really great cause and I wanted to do it right away," Schneckenburger told the Reformer, after finishing a rehearsal at Gawler's house in Brattleboro. "It's a great cause and great non-profit organization. I'm really attracted to the idea of creating small, local community gardens for different neighborhoods and people of different resources."
Gawler said she and Schneckenburger grew up together in Maine and was thrilled her friend asked her to participate in the benefit concert.
"It's something that is right up both of our alley," she said, adding that her dance company's focus on the miracle of water ties in perfectly with the effort to establish a community garden. She also said she and Schneckenburger have planned several songs centered around gardening, farming and springtime for the concert.
"We are both really, really looking forward to it," she said.
Stevenson said all the proceeds from the concert will go directly toward the community garden expected to be started this summer at the Immanuel Episcopal Church. He told the Reformer soil testing has already been done and the garden will provide access to garden space to people who may not otherwise have any. He said produce will be grown by individuals for their personal use and some might be donated to organizations such as Our Place Drop-In Center in Bellows Falls.
As project manager of The Food Security Collaborative, Kari Gypson is spearheading the organization of the concert. She said she and Stevenson conceived the idea of a concert when the two were brainstorming ways to raise more public awareness. She told the Reformer she became involved with Post Oil Solutions as a volunteer in the fall of 2011 and her job turned into a paid position in 2012 when several grants and anonymous donations came in.
As the parish administrator and the director of Stone Church Arts, Robert "Beau" Bowler oversees all the activities at the church. He said the church is preparing for the benefit concert by getting tickets sold, advertising the event on stonechurcharts.org and sending out press releases. The chapel also will be set up to the musicians' request, he said.
Bowler said Stone Church Arts began as a concert series 10 years ago and now includes visual arts in the chapel and the Immanuel Retreat Center, which was opened less than a year ago. He said Stone Church Arts specializes in world music, but also dabbles in classical, folk and jazz.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.