‘Music Under the Stars’ drive-in concerts on Aug. 28, 29

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Music Center and Retreat Farm present two live drive-in concerts Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, as part of their “Music Under the Stars” series.

The concerts are variations of last summer's “Music under the Stars” events, which were named one of Vermont's Top Ten Summer Events.

On Friday evening, the BMC Pops Orchestra 2020 with conductor Zon Eastes will perform, and on Saturday evening, Aug. 29, the VJC Seven will take the stage with jazz vocalist Wanda Houston.

The events will take place on the Concert Stage at Harris Hill on Cedar Street. “Bring lawn chairs and a picnic as you enjoy live music in a magical Vermont setting, safe and socially-distanced,” the concert organizers said in a news release. Gates open at 5 p.m. and concerts begin at 6 p.m.

The rain date for both events is Sunday, Aug 30, at 6 p.m.

Both concerts are free. A suggested donation of $20 per car is very much appreciated to defray costs.

Advance reservations are essential. You will be assigned a space for your vehicle as well as the adjacent space for outdoor seating.

BMC Pops Orchestra players are top-flight professional musicians from Brattleboro and the surrounding area. Audiences will recognize performers from Juno Orchestra, the Vermont Symphony, Springfield (Mass.) Symphony, the BMC faculty, and area college faculties.

The Aug. 28 program will include Mozart's Divertimento in D Major, K. 136; Britten's Simple Symphony; Starburst by Jessie Montgomery; and selected rags by Scott Joplin.

Music director Zon Eastes has conducted orchestras on both coasts and directed the Windham Orchestra for over 20 years. He has taught cello and coached chamber music at Amherst, Dartmouth, and Keene State colleges as well as at the Brattleboro Music Center.

Eastes has performed as chamber musician and festival participant across North America, in Europe, and in China. A committed arts and creativity advocate, he worked at the Vermont Arts Council for six years and also served as lead staffer for the Brattleboro Music Center and the Bainbridge Island (Wash.) Arts and Humanities Council.

The VJC 7, featuring Wanda Houston, is made up of members of the 17-piece Vermont Jazz Center Big Band. Using the “band within a band model” made popular by Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, the smaller subset focuses less on arrangements and more on improvisation.

The front line of the VJC 7 is comprised of Rob Freeberg (trumpet), Michael Zsoldos (tenor and alto saxophones), Sherm Fox (baritone saxophone), and John Wheeler (trombone). The rhythm section is by Eugene Uman (piano), David Picchi (bass), and Steve Rice (drums).

The featured vocalist is Wanda Houston, who has led an active career as an actress, performing on the grand stages of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Broadway.

She toured Europe as the wicked stepsister in Sisterella (for which the NAACP awarded her “Best Supporting Actress in a Musical”) and has held lead roles in Ain't Misbehavin', Hello Dolly, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

She has shared the stage with Oleta Adams, Patti Austin, Eartha Kitt, Liza Minnelli, Patti LaBelle, Joe Cocker, Celine Dion, and Barbra Streisand.

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