Concert series finishing successful run (4/16/09)

Atlantic Crossing to perform Friday

April 16, 2009

By Greg Elias

Observer staff

For Williston resident Jude Hersey, a highlight of the Brick Church Music Series was sitting so close she could watch performers’ fingers fly over their instruments.


    Courtesy photo by David Yandell
Scott McAllister performs during one of the first Brick Church Music concerts last year. The series wraps up its inaugural season with a concert Friday night.


    Courtesy photo by David Yandell
Vermont Youth Orchestra member Samantha Bottom-Tanzer plays at a Brick Church concert on March 20.

“It really has been marvelous,” said Hersey, who has attended all but one of the concerts. “Every single one of the concerts brought in a class act and allowed us to get up close and personal.”

Organizers of the series, which concludes Friday evening with a performance by the Celtic music group Atlantic Crossing, deemed it a success. The concerts were generally well attended and raised thousands of dollars for charitable causes, said Town Manager Rick McGuire, who along with resident David Yandell dreamed up the idea of a music series in the offbeat location.

“I would say it exceeded expectations,” McGuire said. “We were afraid we’d be losing money if we didn’t get good turnouts. It’s just come together really nicely.”

The concerts also fostered a sense of community, said Yandell. Residents sat shoulder-to-shoulder with their neighbors in pews while watching performances on a temporary stage in the tiny church, which seats only 150 people.

“It kind of brought groups of people together that may not otherwise meet,” Yandell said, noting that most concerts tend to attract only people interested in the type of music being performed.

The idea for a concert series at the Old Brick Church almost literally rose out of the ashes of a blaze that could have destroyed the building. In 2007, lightning struck the steeple, igniting a fire that caused about $200,000 in damage. Yandell and his son Duncan played at a dedication ceremony held after the church was restored.

McGuire and Yandell got to talking about how well the concert had gone and wondered if other musical events in the 176-year-old structure would be successful. They decided to hold monthly concerts during cold weather season, when there is little or no other live entertainment in Williston.

They enlisted other volunteers: Williston resident Peter Engisch, a professional sound engineer who donated both equipment and expertise; and Don Sheldon, a Huntington resident who hosts the annual Valley Stage festival and helped promote the church concerts.

Diverse performers were recruited to appeal to varying tastes. They included Busted Brix (rock and ska), Don Skea Trio (jazz) and Social Band (classical and folk).

With proceeds for the final concert still to come, McGuire said the series has raised $4,394 for charitable and nonprofit groups ranging from Vermont Youth Orchestra, which played at one of the concerts, to Catamount Outdoor Family Center to the Williston/Richmond Rotary.

Sponsorships helped cover expenses and payments to musical groups, permitting more money to go to charitable groups, McGuire said.

Plans are already being made for next year’s concerts, which he said would again likely run during cold-weather months starting in September or October.

Hersey said the concerts were an enjoyable diversion in a little-used landmark.

“Our little Old Brick Church doesn’t get much use, other than people taking pictures of it,” she said. “This has really has been quite a gift to the community.”

Atlantic Crossing will perform at the Old Brick Church at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 17. The Heather Morris School of Celtic Dance will be the opening act. Doors open at 6 p.m., and those who show up early can view paintings by St. George artist Sean Dye.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and children under age 12. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at the Williston Town Clerk’s Office.