SAXTONS RIVER >> On Saturday, Nov. 7 and Sunday, Nov. 8, Main Street Arts hosts the World Premiere of the Saxtons River Suite composed by Carol Wood and performed by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Ensemble and the Counterpoint Chorus. The Saxtons River Suite and the art curtains it inspired will be the center of a musical and visual tribute celebrating this 500-person village, its seasons and the beauty of the region throughout the year.
The Nov. 7 premiere performance will be part of a fundraising Gala at 7 p.m. with community matinee performances on Nov. 8 at 2 and 4:30 p.m.
While the Saxtons River may be small it includes a number of nationally significant artists, designers, poets and composers. Much of that talent will be on display at Main Street Arts in a long-anticipated multimedia celebration centered on the first public performance of composer Carol Wood's "Saxtons River Suite." That original musical work for chorus and orchestral will be accompanied by the art it has already inspired – a series of large scale "art curtain" paintings by area artists with national reputations.
Members of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and Counterpoint Chorus will perform "The Suite" in the Heptebo Theater at Main Street Arts' newly renovated headquarters, the village's historic Odd Fellows Hall.
The Saxtons River Suite is a work for harp, flute, violin, cello and voices and is set to five poems by Vermont poets; one for each season of the Vermont year (including mud season!). While the work was in development, Wood's composition caught the attention of Main Street Arts Board members including international landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. Messervy, another Rockingham resident, had created Toronto's Music Garden, a design inspired by and developed in collaboration with noted cellist Yo-Yo Ma. She and the MSA Board agreed that Wood's work both deserved their support and that it could inspire additional creative work celebrating the region and its artistic community.
MSA has become known for the world's largest collection of historic painted theater curtains by Charles Henry, the preeminent scenic artist in pre – WWI New England. Popular with audiences and performers alike, these curtains have remained in regular use even today. Wood's composition gave MSA board members an idea. They contacted five of the country's best artists all with Saxtons River roots. Then they commissioned another round of new works asking Donald Saaf, Eric Aho, Charlie Hunter, Julia Zanes and Michele Ratté to step out of their comfort zones. Each artist would paint an eighteen foot long original art work that could be used just like the original theater curtains. Each painting was inspired by a different one of The Saxtons River Suite's "Seasons."
The last time a small arts organization asked composers and artists to work together on a project like this it was an itinerant theater company based in Paris. It was called the Ballets Russe. Their leadership decided to support music by a number of emerging composers named Eric Satie and Igor Stravinsky. They commissioned sets and theater curtains by some artists in the neighborhood they knew who had local but growing reputations. Their names? Pablo Picasso, Léon Bakst, Henri Matisse.
Tickets for these performances will be $10, and whole family tickets available at $25. Both the theater curtains and other representative works by Saaf, Aho, Hunter, Zanes and Ratté will be available for viewing until Nov. 9.