The Gathering Place to get boost from jazz concert in Wilmington


WILMINGTON >> The Gathering Place's desire to launch a satellite location in the Deerfield Valley is no secret.

And the Brattleboro-based adult-day service provider will get a shot in the arm with a jazz concert at Historic Memorial Hall in Wilmington.

"What's nice about this is musicians come far and wide to participate. There guys coming from western Massachusetts as well as further up north in Vermont," said Chris Bakriges, who plays piano and helps organize the Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Jazz Concert Series. "The musicians who play this music are so giving, you know, in terms of their time and preparation."

Bakriges may look familiar to people who stopped by Mo Jazz Cafe, which was in the basement of the Wilmington Pub from the late 1990s to the summer of 2007. He performed there on weekends.

On Saturday at 8 p.m., Memorial Hall will welcome Bakriges on piano, Bidi Dworkin on vocals, John Kozinski on guitar, Mark Dunlap on bass and Denny Ray Pelletier on drums. Food and drinks will be sold. The concerts are aimed at raising awareness and money for local organizations.

Memorial Hall is located at 14 West Main St. in Wilmington. Recently renovated, the space has become a popular place for events.

The Gathering Place provides adult day and home care services to residents in Windham County. The proceeds from the concert will go to the organization's Deerfield Valley Fund, which already contains money from the Wilmington Rotary, the town of Wilmington, Whitingham and Halifax Lions Club, Vermont State Lions Club and United Way of Windham County.

The hope is to use the fund to establish another site in the valley. Previously, a section of the former Twin Valley High School was eyed as a potential location when Wilmington high school students started attending classes at a facility in Whitingham after the two schools merged.

Some Wilmington residents are hoping to turn the old school into a community center. The Gathering Place is part of their vision.

"Three years ago, The Gathering Place was asked to consider a site in the Deerfield Valley and the commitment of the community coupled with the passion and excitement was contagious and captured our hearts," said Mary Fredette, executive director of The Gathering Place. "We couldn't do what we do without the incredible support from the community."

Sponsors of the show include Dot's of Dover and Twice Blessed Community Thrift Store, also located in Dover.

Betsey Reagan, owner of Dot's of Dover, used the services of The Gathering Place for her late father, Joe Reagan. Fredette said from that experience, Reagan became an active supporter and is now serving on the board of directors. Reagan accepts donations all year and holds an annual fundraiser at the restaurant in February to honor her father's birthday.

Mary Jane Finnegan, who runs Twice Blessed, is "very passionate about her community" and is a close friend of Reagan's, said Fredette. Finnegan is considered an ardent supporter of The Gathering Place after she added it to the list of beneficiaries of the concert series two years ago.

The Gathering Place, Bakriges said, is "really a wonderful example of an organization that's fulfilling a need in the community."

"That alignment between the artists' intentions with their music and the mission of organizations like The Gathering Place is a real beautiful one-two punch in terms of serving the community," said Bakriges, who has been running the concerts for seven years now.

He estimates altogether $30,000 to $40,000 has gone to area organizations since he started putting on the shows. He said the figure could be higher.

Attendees are asked to donate any amount they can. Some come for the music, some come for the support of an organization or the Deerfield Valley.

"The great thing about all this is the fact that this music we play has a market share that's actually at its lowest point in the history of jazz in the United States," said Bakriges. "I think the statistic is less than 1.5 percent of all music that's consumed in the U.S. in any given year as opposed to pop music, which is like 92 percent in the U.S. To get the kind of response we're getting, raising the kind of money and the kind of awareness and being able to play this kind of music which is America's first contribution to world culture, is really nice."

Not many shows in the valley offer audiences the opportunity to hear jazz. So, the Memorial Hall gig plus the good cause were looked at as a double win.

The musicians have been rehearsing a repertoire of songs for Saturday's performance. Bakriges said a song template is used but plenty of surprises are in store.

"People are doing their homework, coming up with creative arrangements in the American popular song form," he said. "It's kind of cool, where we can get together and put together a compelling show and actually have some sense of rehearsal as well as do the program, and rely on the spontaneity, which of course is what jazz is about."

The freewill donation format finds the concert series bringing in more generous contributions, according to Bakriges.

The concerts started in May. The next show is scheduled for Sept. 24 and will feature Vermont trumpeter Dave Ellis and Connecticut bassist Jim Daggs with Bakriges. The series concludes on Oct. 8 with Bakriges' regular trio, featuring drummer Billy Arnold and bassist Avery Sharpe.

Contact Chris Mays at or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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