Voices for the voiceless


BRATTLEBORO >> Three area a cappella groups, House Blend, Big Woods Voices, and Singcrony Trio are lending their voices in concert for "Gimme Shelter," benefiting Groundworks Collaborative that provides the second largest food shelf in Vermont, a 30-bed shelter, a seasonal shelter from November through April, a day shelter, and a youth shelter in Bellows Falls. It is set to take place on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hooker Dunham Theatre,

This is the second year a "Gimme Shelter" concert has been promoted and organized by Singcrony and its member Carrie Walker. Concerned about the uncertain future of the Baptist Church's Overflow Shelter last year, Singcrony organized a huge lineup to help fund the church's efforts, but an ice storm dampened the evening. Maintaining their endeavors to benefit organizations that help the homeless, the Groundworks Collaborative – a recent merger of Brattleboro Area Drop In Center and Morningside Shelter – is this year's beneficiary. Hopefully an April concert will avoid uncooperative weather.

The three vocal groups vary in their musical styles.

Walker's a cappella ensemble of three women singers, Singcrony Trio (usually the Singcrony Quartet, but minus one temporarily) includes Beth Kiendl and Andrea Matthews. They have been singing together for six years focusing on their favorite music, swing, jazz, jazz standards, and classic pop from the era of the '20s through the '60s. Quirky tunes by talented local arranger Anna Patton are always in their repertoire along with music in the style of the Andrews Sisters, the Boswell Sisters, and other close-harmony groups.

Walker said, "To me, a cappella is an appropriate musical form for what we are benefiting. Without instruments, a cappella singers rely on each other for pitch and rhythm and harmony. Our neighbors in need of basic necessities count on our good will at times. We're all in this together. I hope people will come out to support a good, local cause and be entertained with some unique and well-crafted songs."

The veteran members of House Blend include Helen Anglos, Vicky Arthur, Dan Axtell, Mary Barron, Alan Blood, Charlotte Gifford, Thomas Hartigan, Jack Hoffman, Bonnie Kraft, Alicia LaCour, Cathy MacDonald, Betsy Rybeck Lynd, Lee Lynd, Susan Rugg, Harriet Tepfer, Burt Tepfer, Gill Truslow, Laurie Rabut. They explore many styles of a cappella songs from many lands through-out musical history in many different languages. Based in Saxtons River, they have been together since 2006. Their members come from as far away as Rutland to Plainfield, N.H., each bringing their own favorite songs to the table. Member Burt Tepfer explained that their group is very unique in that it is democratically run, it is a shared leadership group. They choose whatever they have a notation for doing, whatever they are enamored with at the time, providing a very diverse and eclectic repertoire. In 2008 they joined their sister chorus Chorale Cantoria in the Loire Valley region of France in concert. They are hoping Cantoria will come here next year for another joint concert. Tepfer said the group enjoys doing benefit performances, it's about having fun and doing good. Be sure to look for their CDs that will be on sale at the event.

The newest a cappella group is Big Woods Voices that was formed this year. It is a quartet of experienced singers Amanda Witman, Becky Graber, Will Danforth, and Alan Blood that celebrate their common passion for a cappella harmony. Their music is largely Danforth's lyrical settings of poetry by David Whyte, Mary Oliver, W.B Yeats; his arrangements of American roots music; and his original compositions; and also includes pieces by musicians such as Pete Sutherland, The Finest Kind, and Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Big Woods member and composer Danforth has a strong a cappella background with influences in American folk tradition and shape note singing. He uses these influences as a starting point to arrange pieces that are interesting to the audience and not something they have heard before. They will be presenting a new set for the concert to introduce their new soprano, Amanda Witman. Danforth said, "I love supporting worthy causes. I don't know a lot about Groundworks Collaborative, but have supported the food shelf in the past. It is a valuable service and we are happy to be asked."

Groundwork's Development Director Libby Bennett said they are grateful when the community comes forward to help them raise funds. It is always a challenge to keep services going. The merger last June of Morningside Shelter and the Brattleboro Area Drop in Center creating Groundworks Collaborative was initiated to eliminate the overlapping of services and competition for grant money serving the same folks. Its programs provide food and shelter to families and individuals who are facing insecurities in the greater Brattleboro area. Bennett said they have made great progress in unifying efforts to provide these programs. Board member Scott Sharland will speak briefly at the event on what Groundworks does.

She added, "This fundraiser is a great fit for us. We are incredibly thankful for these groups volunteering their time and talents for such a great cause."

"Gimme Shelter" will be at the Hooker Dunham Theatre, 139 Main Street, Brattleboro. Tickets are only at the door, with a $10-$20 and up donation suggested. All proceeds will go to Groundworks Collaborative.

Contact Cicely M. Eastman at 802-254-2311 ext. 261.


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