Memorial Hall season salutes the legends
WILMINGTON — West Main Street is about to see an influx of entertainers and stagehands as a long run of shows at the town's beloved Memorial Hall kicks off this week.
"I think we have a great season coming up," Joe Levy, board chairman of the nonprofit Friends of Historic Memorial Hall, told the Reformer.
Theatreworks USA will put on "Junie B. Jones the Musical" on Saturday, May5, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.
Then, tribute rock bands are the unifying theme to this year's programming booked by Levy's group.
The Sugar Mountain Band is "Celebrating the Genius of Neil Young" on May 12 and Moondance's "The Ultimate Van Morrison Tribute Concert" comes on July 14.
The Stellaria Trio from Burlington will return on Sept. 15 with "a compelling pairing of standard and contemporary repertoire," according to a brochure. The Deerfield Valley Players, a local community theater group, will perform a cabaret of songs from Broadway musicals, on Aug. 4.
Sam Cooke's youngest daughter Carla Cooke will perform a tribute to her father with her band Agape Nation on Oct. 20.
Steal Your Peach will perform three different sets, each inspired by the performances of The Allman Brothers Band, The Grateful Dead and The Band at the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, N.Y., in 1973. The Lizards, a tribute to Phish, will play on Nov. 17. Deadgrass, a string band interpretation the music of Jerry Garcia, is scheduled for Dec. 1 with The Jerry Garcia Foundation donating art to auction off to benefit the Brattleboro-based Youth Services.
Author Jon Clinch will talk about "Animating the Unsaid" at a fundraiser for Pettee Memorial Library on Oct. 27. The discussion will explore the impulse to look behind the scenes of novels such as Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
A benefit last year with the band Twiddle's community fundraising arm White Light Foundation raised $1,400 for Deerfield Valley Community Cares, which provides heating oil for local residents.
Other shows — not booked by the Friends of Memorial Hall — will include Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Jazz Concerts, Wings Performing Arts, New York City's Village Light Opera Group and a jam session hosted by the Historical Society of Wilmington. The annual Bright Lights Crafts Fair will conclude the season on Dec. 8.
Memorial Hall stays closed during the winter due to the high cost to heat the old building. Improvements have been made to the town-owned venue in recent years.
Town Manager Scott Tucker said Memorial Hall opened a couple of weeks ago for a blood drive hosted by Red Cross with more events coming.
"The schedule has been heating up and looks really good for the season," he told the Reformer, noting that Memorial Hall is a replica of a building in Boston. "So it's a pretty amazing place in terms of sound you get in there. We're pretty proud of it but we have not gotten to the point where it's open year round."
The town asked the Preservation Trust of Vermont for a grant to hire an architect to come up with a strategic plan for repairs and replacements at its historic buildings, Memorial Hall and Town Hall.
Tucker knows the basement doors are the last doors in Memorial Hall that will need replacing for some time and believes the project will cost less than $10,000. He went through the building with engineer Bob Stevens, of Brattleboro, and they are waiting on a price from a contractor to address flood-proofing and venting in the basement. Some energy-efficiency measures have already been taken during earlier renovations.
Over the last few years, Levy has noticed an uptick in attendance.
"I think last year, we brought over 2,000 through the doors," he said. "We are getting more organized. More volunteers are joining and helping out."
His group said goodbye to its treasurer Jeanne MacDougall, who died in December at the age of 75.
"So now we're doing some reorganization," Levy said. "We're running strong."
Vermont Television Network will be filming all the live concerts. Previous performances can be viewed at youtube.com, search for Memorial Hall.
Levy said his group is always looking for volunteers, sponsorships and underwriters for events. He hopes to secure grants to help with operations.
"Funding is always a challenge," he said. "But we've managed to make it into our fourth season. So we're doing something right."
To get tickets or more information on shows, visit historicmemorialhall.com.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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