Thursday December 6, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- It’s a scene right out of Norman Rockwell or Currier & Ives: dear friends gathered together at holiday time, sharing good times and basking in the warmth of each other’s company.

Only there’s a catch.

These folks are doing this on a stage with a few hundred people watching. And they don’t mind.

On Sunday, the Brattleboro Music Center’s Chamber Music Series presents Jaime Laredo, violin, Steven Tenenbom, viola, Sharon Robinson, cello, and Benjamin Hochman, piano, playing music of Beethoven, Faure and Stravinsky at 3 p.m., at Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St.

For Laredo and Robinson, who serve as artistic advisors to the BMC, the concert represents another chance to gather with dear friends and do what they love to do the most -- play music.

"Let’s put it this way: It’s the best. As I get older and older, I rely more and more on my friends," said Laredo. "It just makes everything better. It makes the music better. ... I believe it makes for a great concert."

Sunday’s concert kicks off a festive whirl for the BMC and for Laredo and Robinson. Following the concert, everyone is invited to mosey over to the Robert H. Gibson River Garden, where the BMC is holding a Holiday Celebration, starting at 5 p.m. Festivities include live and silent auctions for holiday gift-giving, hors d’oeuvres and seasonal libations. Proceeds will benefit student financial aid and other BMC outreach and education programs.

The celebration is a chance to people to gather, enjoy friendly banter and support the BMC in the process.

"The BMC has done so much for the community. We just want to ensure that it has a great future. It’s really the heart of the community," said Robinson. "It’s just remarkable for a town of our size to have such a great resource."

The next day, it’s time for the community -- the whole state, actually -- to say "back at you," to Robinson.

On Monday, she will be one of four Windham County artists to be honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts at a special ceremony at 8 p.m., at the Latchis Theatre.

"I feel very honored, of course, proud to be recognized," said Robinson. "Vermont has given me so much. It’s my chosen home. ... What makes Vermont so special is the people."

Which brings us back to Sunday’s 3 p.m. concert, which features Robinson, Laredo and two old, dear friends in Tenenbom and Hochman.

The program includes the Beethoven Sonata for Cello and Piano, which Robinson calls Beethoven’s "most beloved and well-known" pieces. "It takes a sensitive collaborator to play it with," she said. Robinson has that in Hochman. Also on the program is Fauré’s Piano Quartet in C Minor, which Laredo says is full of "beautiful colors, impressionistic colors."

Finally, there’s Stravinsky’s "Suite Italienne." Laredo says listeners can leave their fear of Stravinsky at home and just enjoy it.

"It’s probably one of the happiest, most joyous, most fun pieces ever written," Laredo said. "I like to call it a Baroque piece, with some wrong notes thrown in."

Tickets to Sunday’s concert are $30, $20 and $10. This concert is sponsored by Against the Grain Gourmet.

Reservations for the BMC’s Holiday Celebration, at 5 p.m., at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden are $25, with support from Park Place Financial Advisors and the Windham Foundation.

Tickets are available by calling the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523 or visiting www.bmcvt.org.