A birthday concert

‘By the People for the People’ marks Guilford Community Church’s 250th anniversary

BRATTLEBORO — The past, present, and future of music in Vermont will be highlighted at the Latchis Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m. The concert is called “By the People for the People: A Celebration of Love and Community” and features something for everyone.

It is the culmination of a series of 250th anniversary events which have taken place during the past year to benefit and celebrate the Guilford Community Church, United Church of Christ.

The “By the People, for the People Concert” features a 60-member Choir of the Community. Its core is the Guilford Community Church Choir, expanded by members of other area choirs and choruses, under the direction of Patty Meyer, Andy Davis, and Peter Amidon.

Featured guests include Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, John Roberts, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis), Sam Amidon, Brattleboro Union High School's a cappella group Shoulder Narrows led by Rhys Glennon, singer Zara Bode, and saxophonist Ron Kelley.

In 1767 the first Guilford Meeting House was built in Guilford Center and doubled as a congregational church. Three moves, one fire, and 250 years later, the church is alive and vibrant, best known for its Nine O'Clock Choir and versatile church repertoire.

The choir has developed a wide repertoire including traditional anthems, folk songs, and original compositions. Members of the choir and community can come any Sunday at 9 a.m. to learn the anthems for the day.

The selections of sacred and secular choral music for the concert will include songs from the Sacred Harp, African-American spirituals, gospel, songs for social change, and a song each from Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Doc Watson, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Many of the pieces are arranged and composed by Davis and Peter Amidon, who are founding members of New England Dancing Masters and nationally recognized leaders and publishers of traditional dance and singing games for children.

Davis teaches music in Brattleboro's elementary schools and leads the Oak Grove Intergenerational Chorus. He is also a member of the Nowell Sing We Clear quartet. Peter Amidon's choral arrangements are being sung on both sides of the Atlantic by church, community, college, high school and hospice choirs. He is a founding member of Hallowell: southeastern Vermont's hospice singers.

He leads, with his partner and wife Mary Alice Amidon, day-long, weekend, and week-long workshops with music teachers and choral singing leaders. Meyer is the organist for the Guilford Community Church. She was the Vocal Music Director of Brattleboro Union High School for 15 years.

Nowell Sing We Clear has filled the Latchis for 40 years each Christmas with its unusual songs, carols, stories, and customs. Drawn mostly from English-language folk traditions, their songs tell both a version of the events and characters involved in the Christmas story and detail the customs which make up the 12 magical days following the return of the light at the winter solstice.

While much of the singing is done in unaccompanied style, the pageant is also stamped with the energetic dance band sound of fiddle, button accordion, electric piano, drums, and concertina. Roberts and Barrand are widely known for their lively presentations of English folk songs, and Breunig and Davis are equally well-known in New England as dance callers and musicians.

Brattleboro native Sam Amidon is an internationally acclaimed interpreter of traditional American roots music, a superb instrumentalist (fiddle, banjo, guitar), and a gifted traditional singer-with-an-edge.

An indie-folk singer and multi-instrumentalist with a free jazz sensibility, Amidon has fast become one of the more intriguing artists on the modern singer-songwriter scene.

The a cappella group Shoulder Narrows was started in 2004 by male students at Brattleboro Union High School. They sing a mix of indie rock, pop, jazz, and a little bit of everything else in between. They all collaborate in the writing and arranging of songs and still just enjoy playing around with the music they make. Currently led by Rhys Glennon, the group is a great tradition that has been passed down for a number of years.

Bode, a founding member of the Sweetback Sisters and the Starry Mountain Singers, has performed everywhere from Prairie Home Companion to Mountain Stage. She is a powerful and gifted singer in a wide range of styles.

Kelley was choral music director at Leland & Gray Union High School for 20 years. He plays in the On the Lam Band, and for many years was the music director of the Bread & Puppet Circus Band.

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