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Local Folk Orchestra Concert Benefits Cancer Network

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GREENSBORO – The Local Folk Orchestra gave a very generous concert April 6, at the Highland Center for the Arts, a benefit for and in gratitude to the Lamoille Area Cancer Network.

photo by Paul Fixx
Randy Bulpin singing and playing solo guitar on Bob Dylan’s “Shooting Star” at Local Folk Orchestra’s Highland Center for the Arts performance on April 6. Bandleader Roy MacNeil, with his back to the camera, accompanies Bulpin.

Roy MacNeil organized the group of 22 impressively-talented musicians and presented an intriguing selection of some 19 works, many with his own orchestral transcriptions in order to make them suitable to this particular ensemble.

The orchestra began with a piece by Terry Riley (b. 1935) entitled “ambient entrance music: in C,” which MacNeil, as head violinist and nominal conductor, described as “weird” and “minimalist.” It had the typical repetitions of an initial theme of this genre, but with some variations, which MacNeil elaborated on in his own improvisations.

From that, the musicians made a seamless transition to the beginning movement of the “Holberg Suite” by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), with its very beautiful melody.

Next was an initial sequence from the “Courante of the Partita No.1 in B minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1730), originally for solo violin, here in a jazz mode with an upbeat tempo.

Justin Lander on bass started off “Good-bye, Pork Pie Hat” by Charles Mingus (1922-1979), which had a really cool, laid back mood.

The two clarinets, played by Will Helms and Jeff Reinhardt, were featured in developing the tune, “Bucimis,” a traditional Bulgarian folk dance with vigorous rhythms. We could readily picture people celebrating a local wedding or festival to the tune. Reinhardt made the transcription with its unusual 15/16 timing.

Alice Perron of Greensboro, Roy and Mavis MacNeil’s mother, was the first special guest of the evening. She gave an enthusiastic performance in French of the classic children’s song,” Allouette,” which goes through the various parts of a bird in succession from head to legs, with hand motions and, during one verse, even clogging. She was accompanied by Mavis MacNeil on guitar and singing, and Roy MacNeil on violin, while the audience joined in on the familiar lyrics.

photo by Paul Fixx
The evening’s last performance by Local Folk Orchestra at Highland Center for the Arts on April 6 featured Kyle Woollard singing Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle”. Joining him are Mavis MacNeil on vocals and bandleader Roy MacNeil improvising on violin.

A second special guest was Kyle Woollard, who sang his own original work, “Green Mountain Sun.” He has a fine voice and a charismatic stage presence, fun to watch as he uses his whole body expressively coordinated with the music.

“The Barlow Knife” was a traditional North American fiddle piece, dedicated to the memory of Allen Church of Morrisville, who was an early violin teacher for Roy MacNeil. The engaging melody was given imaginative improvisation with a lot of feeling by MacNeil. Andrew Koehler provided appropriate piano accompaniment.

“Postponement” was a work by Roy MacNeil with a very personal note, written at the time of his treatment for cancer, when newer experimental therapies kept getting delayed, until he finally got the stem-cell treatment that cured his cancer. He is particularly thankful for the financial support the Lamoille Cancer Network gave him so that he could continue to share his deep love of music with others.

The first, and part of the second movements of “Symphony No 40” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), were next on the program, with their wonderful melodies and their astonishingly perfect scoring, in an effective transcription for which the diverse orchestra showed admirable discipline under MacNeil’s conducting. It morphed into a more jazz-like interlude with a different tempo and ambiance, with foot stomping beats by the players while the audience joined along clapping.

After the intermission, Mavis MacNeil sang “Moonlight in Vermont” with her glorious voice and

warm emotion, joined by Andrew Koehler on piano, Justin Lander on bass, and Harrison Martin-O’Brien on percussion in an intimate quartet. The ever delightful “Night and Day” by Cole Porter (1891-1964) added Roy MacNeil to this combination, again with Mavis MacNeil singing and excellent improvisations on both violin and piano.

A third guest artist, Jess O’Brien, gave her own original song, “Mary,” with an exquisite voice, full of color and clear annunciation of the well-crafted lyrics, accompanying herself on the guitar. A memorable performance!

“The Westphalia Waltz” by Cotton Collins began with Annie Rowell on bass, Randy Bulpin on guitar, Justin Lander on lap steel guitar, Harrison Martin O’Brien on percussion, and Andrew Koehler on piano in a very danceable tune.

That group continued with “The Mystery of You” by the Sweetback Sisters, adding Roy MacNeil and Jess O’Brien in a nice piece.

The full orchestra returned for two Klezmer works, “7:40 a.m.” and “In the Footsteps of Bratislav,” arranged by Jeff Reinhardt, which had high energy tempos with an insistent, driving beat, featuring both the clarinets and violin, the former giving powerful wails at times and the latter having a frenetic

gypsy intensity.

Randy Bulpin sang and played his guitar solo in a fine rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Shooting Star,” with its gentle melody and poetic lyrics about melancholy regrets remembering a past relationship.

The final offering of the evening was “The Middle,” by Jimmy Eat World, with Kyle Woollard singing, joined by Mavis MacNeil on vocals and Roy MacNeil improvising on his violin while the full orchestra supported the song line.

Other members of the Local Folk Orchestra that should be mentioned are Esteli Kitchen on alto saxophone, Max Demaine on French horn, Adam Lebow on tuba, violinists Fiona Bock, Eliza Bunten, Jo Lander and Jeanne Miller, violists Icarus Tyree and Tom Ziobrowski, cellists Libby Hillhouse and Annie Rowell.

Two future performances by the Local Folk Orchestra will be at the Plainfield Opera House on Saturday, April 13, at 7 p.m., (with Jess O’Brien) and at St. Norbert’s Church in Hardwick on Sunday, April 28, at 4 p.m., in conjunction with the Civic Standard in a “Concert for Peace.”

David K. Rodgers

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