Friends of Music launches 49th Season at Guilford Organ Barn


GUILFORD - Friends of Music at Guilford’s 49th annual Labor Day Weekend Festival presents organ music in an intimate rural barn and orchestral works on the lawn just outside by composers from five countries who span four centuries.

The Festival opens on Saturday evening, Aug. 30, at 7:30 p.m. with "Bs of the Baroque & More" on the Guilford Tracker Organ by William McKim, who has performed a number of past recitals of solo and ensemble works on this instrument. McKim retired in December 2013 from a remarkable 28-year stint as organist for Friends of Music’s annual Community Messiah Sing in Brattleboro. He has also performed as featured pianist or piano accompanist for several other Friends programs.

Repertoire for this recital includes two choral preludes by J. S. Bach, featuring soprano soloist Lesley Cotter. Other works include Preludes and Fugues in E minor and G minor by Nicolaus Bruhns and the Toccata and Fugue in F, as well as a Ricercare, by Dietrich Buxtehude. A Prelude and Fugue by Johannes Brahms, characterized by McKim as "rather dramatic," is among more recent works to be performed.

The following day, Sunday, Aug. 31, at 2 p.m., the Guilford Festival Orchestra, comprised of players from the Tri-State area and further afield, will be heard outdoors on the lawn. Ken Olsson serves for a third season as conductor for this event, though he, too, is well known to Friends of Music concert audiences. To date he has performed three recitals 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 opens a lesser-known Mozart symphony (No. 33 in B flat) and continues with an even lesser-known piece by the 20th-century Bohemian composer Leo Janáãek, his early Suite for Strings. After intermission, which ends with a little bit of auction entertainment, the concert continues with Charles Gounod’s light-hearted Petite Symphonie for Nine Winds, followed by the premiere of Three Ballads by Guilford composer Zeke Hecker, with mezzo-soprano soloist Jessica Gelter. The concert concludes on a gentle note with Rachmaninoff’s beloved Vocalise in the composer’s own orchestration.

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. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own copies of the music, otherwise are welcome to borrow or share one of FOMAG’s supply.

For the Sunday concert, the grounds open at noon to picnickers; children are welcome, with parental supervision, but dogs are asked to remain at home. A hearty vegetarian lunch, warm chocolate chip cookies, and refreshing lemonade are available for sale, as are a variety of Friends of Music retail items from cards and CDs to T-shirts, sweatshirts, and totes.

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 Rte. 5, just south of Exit 1 off I-91, and along a five-mile route from the Keets Brook Rd. turnoff along Rte. 5 in Bernardston, Mass.

In case of rain, or serious threat thereof, the Sunday event -- both lunch and concert -- is moved to the Broad Brook Grange, four miles up the Guilford Center Rd. from the Country Store located on Rte. 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 or contact the office by phone at 802-254-3600 or by e-mail at


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