GUILFORD -- Friends of Music at Guilford’s 48th annual Labor Day Weekend Festival presents French organ music in an intimate rural barn and orchestral works by composers from five countries on the expansive lawn just outside.
The Festival opens on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with "Vive la France!" on the Guilford Tracker Organ. Clark Anderson, who has performed recitals of solo and ensemble works by English and German composers on this instrument, has chosen a program of solo works by French composers from Pérotin le Grand (1180-1236) to Jean Langlais (1907-1991), including Couperin, Raison, Daquin, Boëly, Vierne and Gounod.
"The French have written more great music for the organ than any other culture," emphasizes Anderson. "Bach and the other German composers are so prominent today that the French masters often get overlooked. But we have more than 900 years of wonderful organ music from France, and this concert will feature some highlights."
A particular challenge, Anderson says, has been to choose music for the small tracker instrument in the Organ Barn.
"That organ is American in design and has no reed stops, such as trumpets and oboes, that feature prominently in French organs. So it’s been really fun to reimagine the music for the Organ Barn. I think people will be surprised at the range of sounds and colors that little instrument can produce in the French cause!"
As always, Anderson will set the stage for each work with brief comments and anecdotes about the music and composers.
On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Guilford Festival Orchestra will be heard outdoors on the lawn. Ken Olsson serves for a second season as conductor for this event, though he, too, is well known to Friends of Music concert audiences. He performed twice on the Guilford Tracker Organ, and in 2011 served as piano accompanist for his wife, soprano Julie Johnson Olsson, in a vocal recital of arias and art song.
This year’s orchestra program, titled "Grand Tour: Music of Five Nations" begins with seven Romanian Folk Dances by Bartók. Elgar’s Romance for Bassoon then features Tiffany Coolidge in an arrangement including strings, and three Wesendonck Songs by Wagner are performed by Ms. Olsson and the full orchestra.
After intermission, which ends with a little bit of auction entertainment, the concert continues with Intermezzo from "Cavalleria Rusticana" by Mascagni. Next is the premiere of an overture to "Les noces d’Hippoclide" by Nicholas Humez (b. 1948), a Friends of Music founder now living in Ohio, followed by Ms. Olsson singing "O patria mia" from Verdi’s "Aida."
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Symphony in E flat Major brings the orchestra performance to a close. 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 for the chorus.
The Labor Day Weekend Festival is held at the Organ Barn, off Packer Corners Road in Guilford; signs are posted along a nine-mile route from the Guilford Country Store on Route 5 and along a five-mile route from the Keets Brook Road turnoff on Rt. 5 in Bernardston, Mass.
Admission to both events is by donation. For the Sunday concert, the grounds open at noon to picnickers; children are welcome, with parental supervision, but dogs are asked to stay home.
A vegetarian lunch, warm chocolate chip cookies, and refreshing lemonade are for sale, as are Friends of Music items, including cards, CDs, T-shirts, sweatshirts and totes.
In case of rain, or serious threat thereof, the Sunday event is relocated to the Broad Brook Grange, four miles up the Guilford Center Rd. from the Country Store located on Rt. 5.
Both concerts are admission free, with donations welcome to support the considerable cost of this musical weekend in the rural countryside. For more information, visit www.fomag.org or call 802-254-3600.