Friends of Music at Guilford launches season at Organ Barn on Labor Day weekend

GUILFORD — Friends of Music at Guilford’s 47th annual Labor Day Weekend Festival highlights music by Handel, Haydn, Delius, and Debussy, among other composers, in an organ concert set in an intimate rural barn and an orchestra concert on the expansive lawn just outside.

The Festival opens on Saturday evening, Sept. 1, at 7:30 with “The Magnificent Mr. Handel!” on the Guilford Tracker Organ. Clark Anderson plays keyboard versions of Handel’s overture to Semele, Voluntary #2 in C, the pastorale from Il Pastor Fido, the aria Dank sei dir, Herr (formerly attributed to Handel, now considered spurious), and the passacaglia from Sonata #4 (originally for two violins and continuo). He will be joined by members of the Guilford Chamber Players in a suite from the Royal Fireworks Music and Organ Concerto #13 (The Cuckoo and the Nightingale).

This will be Anderson’s second appearance at the Organ Barn; in May 2011 he performed a program of music from the German and English baroque era, which also included several works by Handel. In addition to his role as organist, Anderson conducted last December’s Messiah Sing for Friends of Music at Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro, and will conduct next December’s Sing as well.

The following day, Sunday, Sept. 2, at 2 p.m., the Guilford Festival Orchestra will be heard outdoors on the lawn. Ken Olsson makes his debut as conductor for this event, though he’s not new to Friends of Music. He presided at the keyboard at last Labor Day Weekend’s organ recital in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, which left his house in Jamaica cut off from the rest of the world for a week, and last February, he served as piano accompanist for his wife, soprano Julie Johnson Olsson, in a vocal recital at Guilford Community Church.

This year’s orchestra program begins with the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s oratorio Solomon (continuing the Handel thread from the previous evening). Then, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of English composer Frederick Delius, the orchestra plays his two evocative sketches On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and Summer Night on the River.

Next, soprano Kristen Carmichael-Bowers sings two Mozart arias, Susanna’s Deh vieni non tardar from The Marriage of Figaro and Zerlina’s Batti, batti from Don Giovanni. Carmichael-Bowers, a graduate of Smith College and the New England Conservatory, teaches voice at the Brattleboro Music Center, The Putney School, and Northern Stage; she has been active as a recitalist as well as a performer in opera and oratorio.

The first half of the program closes in celebration of another 150th birth anniversary, that of Claude Debussy, with three rarely heard piano pieces from the earliest to last stages of his career, in chamber orchestra arrangements made for this occasion by Zeke Hecker: Hommage à Haydn, Berceuse héroïque, and Danse bohémienne.

After intermission, the concert continues with the premiere of a work by Hecker for soprano and string orchestra, Property, set to a poem by Sandra Adams. The text treats the relationship between the new human owners of a piece of country real estate and the animals who already inhabit it. Carmichael-Bowers again solos.

The final orchestra work on the program is by Haydn: Symphony No. 83, nicknamed La Poule (the hen) because of a clucking figure heard in the woodwinds in the first movement. The festival’s traditional finale is a sing-in of Randall Thompson’s Alleluia, for which audience members are invited to join the orchestra players in forming the chorus.

The Labor Day Weekend Festival is held at the Organ Barn on Kopkind Road, Guilford; signs are posted along a nine-mile route from the Guilford Country Store on Route 5, just south of Exit 1 off Interstate 91, and along a five-mile route from the Keets Brook Rd. turnoff along Route 5 north from Bernardston, Mass.

Admission to both events is by donation. For the Sunday concert, the grounds open at noon to picnickers. A hearty vegetarian lunch, warm chocolate chip cookies, and fresh lemonade are available for sale.

In case of rain, or serious threat thereof, the Sunday event — both lunch and concert — will be held at the Guilford Central School at 374 School Rd., four miles up the Guilford Center Road from the Country Store.

For more information, go to or call 802-254-3600.

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