Concert series features high profile musicians (9/10/09)

Sept. 10, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

For its second act, the Brick Church Music Series will showcase higher-profile artists in addition to a genre-spanning array of local talent.


    Courtesy photo
Viola player Carlos Boltes (left) and guitarist Scott Hill, who make up Alturas Duo, will open the second Brick Church Music Series next month.


    Courtesy photo
Singer-songwriter Vance Gilbert, a former arts teacher, is slotted as the final performer in the Brick Church Music Series.

Tickets are now on sale for the monthly concerts, which start in October and run through April.

The series’ inaugural run featured local musicians and raised more than $4,000 for nonprofits. The sophomore season will also raise money for nonprofits, but organizers extended their reach beyond Vermont’s borders to book bigger-name musicians.

“The acts we had last year were certainly very high quality,” said David Yandell, one of the quartet of concert organizers. “This year, I think we are providing more professional musicians that have a national or international presence.”

Town Manager Rick McGuire, Williston resident Peter Engisch and Don Sheldon, who hosts the annual Valley Stage Music Festival in Huntington, also helped put together the series.

McGuire said a survey of last year’s concertgoers showed that people would be willing to pay a little extra to see bigger-name performers.

The higher-profile artists will bookend the series, with classical musicians Alturas Duo playing the opening concert and Boston-based singer-songwriter Vance Gilbert performing the final show.

Alturas Duo features viola player Carlos Boltes and guitarist Scott Hill. Boltes was born in Chile. He met Hill, who hails from Canada, at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where they still teach music classes.

The men have in recent months traveled the Western hemisphere to perform their unique blend of classical and South American folk music.

But in a telephone interview, the men said Williston’s tiny 150-seat Old Brick Church fits their music like an instrument in a velvet-lined case.

“Chamber pieces, especially, are best enjoyed in a small environment,” Hill said. “Venues that hold as few as 80 people and as many as 300 or 400 people are generally the kind of room we play.”

The duo features an unusual combination of guitar and viola. Boltes also plays the charango, a traditional South American stringed instrument that can be made of wood or even a dried armadillo shell.

Hill said they try to engage audiences with a dialogue about their music: “We go to great lengths” to explain in a conversational way each piece. “That way people leave being entertained and educated.”

The series’ closer, Vance Gilbert, has recorded several albums and toured the United States, at one point opening for platinum-selling artist Shawn Colvin. His most recent album is “Unfamiliar Moon.”

Gilbert first won notice in the early 1990s when word began to spread about his performances in Boston folk clubs. His debut recording “Edgewise” was released on the Rounder/Philo label.

Gilbert, whose mix of folk and pop has been likened to Tracy Chapman and Rickie Lee Jones, has won raves for his live performances.

“On stage, Gilbert is the quintessential singer-songwriter,” wrote the Montreal Gazette. “With a flexible voice that is expressive from a whisper to a scream, Gilbert is adept at covering all the bases.”

Yandell said that though he’s excited about attracting higher-profile acts, the Vermont musicians are also impressive. They will offer enough variety to appeal to most musical tastes.

Multi-instrumentalist Will Patton performs in November. In Accord, an a cappella group featuring a horn ensemble, plays a holiday concert just before Christmas. The Chris Peterman Quintet, a jazz group, appears in February. Folk musician Pete Sutherland plays in March.

The upgraded acts came with larger performance fees. They ran as high as $1,000, McGuire said, an increase from $600 for the most expensive act last year.

Yandell said generous sponsorships by local businesses make the series viable because ticket revenue does not cover costs.

Admission for most concerts remains the same as last year, $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and children ages 6-12. Tickets for Alturas Duo and Vance Gilbert are a little higher, $12.50 for adults, $10 for children and seniors. But Yandell said tickets are still a bargain for those acts, which usually command much higher admission prices.

Juggling all the goals of the series – attract high-quality artists, keep tickets affordable, foster a sense of community and make money for a nonprofit – was challenging but rewarding, Yandell said.

“It’s not like a bake sale,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure we have good performances at a reasonable price and also make sure we end up raising funds for a nonprofit.”

Concert lineup

Here are the concerts scheduled for the Brick Church Music Series. Each performance begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at Williston Town Hall and — if not sold out — at the door on the concert date.

Alturas Duo

Friday, Oct. 16

Alturas Duo plays chamber music with a Latin flavor. Opening act: New Boston Duo.

Will Patton

Friday, Nov. 20

This Vermont-based musician mixes folk, bluegrass and jazz. Opening act: They Might Be Gypsies.

In Accord

Friday, Dec. 18

This local a cappella group, featuring a brass ensemble, will play a holiday concert. Opening act: to be announced.

Coffee House

Friday, Jan. 15

Local performers will perform short sets of acoustic music in the more intimate downstairs space in the church.

Chris Peterman Quintet

Friday, Feb. 12

The jazz act headed by saxophonist Chris Peterman will perform a set perfect for romance just before Valentine’s Day. Opening act: to be announced.

Pete Sutherland and friends

Friday, March 19

The fiddler will perform traditional and folk music. Opening act: Linda Radtke will dress in period costume and, together with pianist John Lincoln will use song and commentary to take listeners through the state’s history.

Vance Gilbert

Friday, April 16

The singer-songwriter, a former arts teacher, performs original songs that have wowed audiences across the country. He has released several albums and toured the country. Opening act: to be announced.