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The Arts

Brighter days ahead

Museum to usher in winter solstice with music and more

The BMAC Winter Celebration takes place Saturday, Dec. 21 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at the museum (10 Vernon St., Brattleboro). For information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.

BRATTLEBORO—The folks from the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) want to coax the sun back toward Earth with song, art, and light.

On Saturday, Dec. 21, the BMAC Winter Celebration will include live music, food, and a luminaria display outside the museum. This free event is appropriate for solstice celebrants of all ages.

The winter solstice occurs on the day in December with the shortest amount of daylight, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest. After this day, the amount of daylight will gradually increase, about 2 to 3 minutes per day, until the Summer Solstice in June.

Institutions marking this threshold might vary from culture to culture, and many festivals, gatherings, rituals, or other celebrations are tied to, or marked by, the winter solstice.

“We want to join cultures all around the globe celebrating the return of the sun,” says Margaret Shipman, BMAC exhibit and events coordinator, who credits BMAC Executive Director Danny Lichtenfeld with the idea for the museum’s celebration.

“I thought it was so terrific and full of potential for a lot of fun that I ran with it,” Shipman says.

Lichtenfeld explains that although BMAC is essentially a gallery with major exhibits throughout the year, “we also plan a few public events.”

Often, such events are tied in with the exhibits on display in the museum, such as last fall’s showing of a series of film noir movies in conjunction with Mallory Lake’s show “Between Dark and Night.”

“But often some events stand by themselves, like our annual Lego- and domino-toppling shows which have proven to be so popular,” Lichtenfeld adds.

Although such events are not precisely art, BMAC considers them a part of the museum’s mission.

“We use these events to connect with a community that may not have that much to do with the museum,” says Lichtenfeld. “We hope that through them they can see what the museum is like and find themselves welcome there.”

This event is inclusive as a secular way to bring the community together.

“What we are doing is not very Christmas-y, but rather seasonal, as we celebrate even older traditions relating to the season,” Lichtenfeld adds. “We want to have something where the whole community can participate and that is fun for both kids and adults.”

Shipman says, “We will be displaying luminaria on the lawn in front of the museum in the old train station in downtown Brattleboro. But there will be also many more things going on.

“We will be having lantern-making activities, a yule log, and live music of traditional solstice songs. In a community sing-a-long, we will be handing out lyrics so people can join in the musical celebrations.

Shipman credits BMAC intern Patricia Hartland with helping her plan and promote this event.

“She is working on getting staff, board, and volunteers to provide delectable goodies for our fellow sun-wishers based on traditional recipes from around the world,” Shipman says. “We are hopeful, but not certain, that these will all be available for visitors to sample during the event; the recipes will definitely be available in any case.”

‘We have a lot of fun’

The live music will be produced by percussionist Jeanushka Fishell and guitarist Rob Fletcher, who are billing themselves here as “Juju and Fletch.”

Fishell, originally from Hollywood, Calif., moved to New England to be with her boyfriend and is pleased with how progressive the area is.

“Where else can you find curbside recycling and your own urine reused to fertilize the fields?” she asks. “And the area is very rich in musical talents. If I knew what it was like here, I would have moved to southern Vermont years ago.”

Fishell has performed with Fletcher many times, and she has often also performed with Vermont Jazz Center Artistic Director Eugene Uman in weekly sessions there.

“We have a lot of fun,” she says. “Rob has the energy of a 7-year-old, that is not trapped in his body.”

Fishell says that at the solstice celebration, “we will be singing as if we are having a conversation. He will sing one line and then I will sing another, and we will join together on the choruses.”

She and Fletcher also plan “to have some guest artists join us on a few numbers, like Jim Kurty, a teacher in the area, who plays dozens of instruments, but with us will be performing on alto sax and clarinet.”

Juju and Fletch and friends will be performing jazz versions of songs from the Great American Songbook especially appropriate for winter solstice.

“You know, familiar pieces like ‘Canadian Sunset,’ ‘Let it Snow,’ ‘Moonlight in Vermont,’ and ‘Solstice,’ which is a lovely folk song,” Fishell says. “It is possible that we may even sneak in a holiday song or two like ‘White Christmas’ if it seem to speak to a solstice celebration.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #234 (Wednesday, December 25, 2013). This story appeared on page B1.

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