A concert by the people and for the people

BRATTLEBORO — One could say that the "By the People For the People — A Celebration of Song and Community" concert happening this Saturday has been a year in the making.

Another might say that it is actually two hundred and fifty years.

Over 12 months ago, when the Guilford Community Church's 250th Anniversary Committee started planning events to highlight their celebration, they loved Peter Amidon's idea of a big choral concert featuring a "choir of the community" built on the foundation of the GCC Choir.

In an email exchange, I asked Amidon — a renowned and versatile area musician — to explain his vision for this unique project.

"The idea was to have the concert be a celebration not only of the singing in our church, but of the extraordinary singing culture in the greater Brattleboro community. Co-choir director Andy Davis and our church accompanist/organist Patty Meyer agreed to help me organize, direct, and accompany the music. In addition to inviting everyone in the GCC Choir, I also invited singers from other area community and church choirs, and by the time we started rehearsing last March, we had our By the People Choir of more than 50 singers."

The original concept involved inviting the wealth of gifted second generation of singers from the Guilford Community Church. Unfortunately, many of these young musicians could not join due to their schedules of work and travel — including a couple of conflicting music tours. However, the committee was thrilled to know that Amidon's talented partner Mary Alice agreed to be involved as well as their son Sam Amidon — himself, a renowned international roots artist— who would be willing to fly in from London to join the celebration's ensemble.

Beyond the choir and Amidon family, there is an array of performers joining that ensemble. "High school tenors extraordinaire Rhys Glennon and Derrick Harnish not only sing in the choir, but also bring their legendary high school guy a cappella group 'Shoulder Narrows' to perform in the show," added Amidon. "Our daughter-in-law Zara Bode (Sweetback Sisters and the Starry Mountain Singers) will be a featured soloist. Three of our first generation Guilford Community Church choir members, Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, and co-choir director Andy Davis had been touring their popular and robust concert of midwinter carols for forty years as members of 'Nowell Sing We Clear.' We asked the fourth member, John Roberts, to travel here from Schenectady; the whole Nowell group will do a set as part of the concert. Some of the songs will be accompanied by saxophonist Ron Kelley and percussionist Steve Rice."

What kind of music can attendees expect from these eclectic artists? "18th and 19th century American folk hymns" said Amidon, "African-American spirituals and gospel, songs for social change, a song each from Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Doc Watson and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Israeli composer David Sehavi's setting of a powerful poem by Hannah Szenes."

Arranging a project of this size and scope without a doubt is a daunting task. But Amidon and all involved gladly overcame the logistical obstacles and scheduling complications. "It is true, there are seemingly endless logistics, but it helped that we started planning this almost a year ago, and started rehearsing in March. It helps that Andy and I have been friends and colleagues for over thirty years and we have a lot of respect and trust for each others work, and that Patty is a very gifted and sensitive accompanist and musician and a thoughtful and generous human being. Jon Potter of Latchis Arts has been supportive and very accommodating from the first moment I contacted him about this. I have a great church committee that is doing a lot of the leg work for the concert. The joyfulness of our rehearsals gives me a lot of fuel for much of the more mundane work of putting on a concert of this scale."

"By the People For the People — A Celebration of Song and Community" on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m., at the Latchis Theatre, 50 Main St., Brattleboro. Tickets are $22, available at latchisarts.org. For information, call 802-257-1006 or email amidonpeter@gmail.com.

Dave Madeloni may be reached at madeloni@aol.com


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