Arts & Leisure

Arts Beat: Join in Middlebury’s Messiah Sing

JOIN IN MIDDLEBURY’s annual Messiah Sing on Sunday, Dec. 22, at 2 p.m. at the Congregational Church of Middlebury.

The Middlebury Congregational Church once again hosts the area’s annual “Messiah Sing” that each year attracts hundreds of singers and players from throughout Addison County and beyond beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22. Jeff Rehbach, conductor of the Middlebury College Community Chorus, leads the sing-along of this famous work by George Frederic Handel for choir and orchestra.
Come join friends and neighbors for the afternoon of community music-making at the Congregational Church of Middlebury, located at 2 Main Street. Singers, instrumentalists and all who enjoy music are warmly welcomed to sing and play, or simply to watch and listen.
Thirty-five years ago, in December 1984, Middlebury’s first Messiah Sing took place. Nearly every year since then, the Messiah Sing has become a joyous community event, attracting singers and orchestra players to make music together on the Sunday afternoon before Christmas.
This year’s reading continues the tradition of featuring soloists drawn from Middlebury and other communities throughout Vermont, with Leila McVeigh, Jessica Allen, Erin Grainger, Adam Hall, Jack DesBois and Jim Wright. Solo numbers will be accompanied by a string quartet from our nearby towns, villages and family members, including Emily Sunderman, Molly Bidwell, Hilary Hatch and Robert Battey. Middlebury College Choir director Jeff Buettner will be at the keyboard. A listing of chorus works may be found on the community chorus web page at
Chorus music and orchestra parts (for strings and oboe/flute) are provided. If you have your own copy of the Messiah, bring it along. If you plan to play in the orchestra, bring a music stand and arrive 15 minutes early. The Middlebury Community Chorus provides refreshments for all to enjoy during intermission.
A $5-10 contribution ($10-20/family) is requested at the door. For more information, email [email protected] or leave a message at 989-7355.

On Saturday, Dec. 21, at 7:30 p.m., the very popular local group Swing Noire, a firm favorite with Brandon Music audiences and performed at this year’s first concert at the Barn in January 2019, will close the year with their inimitable gypsy jazz style.
Over the last decade, Swing Noire has become Vermont’s premier Gypsy Jazz ensemble. Some call it Gypsy Jazz, some Hot Swing; in either case it’s acoustic jazz in the spirit of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Swing Noire invokes the energy of a swingin’ jazz club, transporting audiences back to the early days of jazz with their unique take on Hot Swing, making music that “will entrance and surprise you.” Great energy, soul, sophistication, and improvisation are the hallmarks of a Swing Noire performance.
Violinist David Gusakov (Last Train to Zinkov, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Pine Island), guitarist Rob McCuen (Bloodroot Gap, The Good Parts), and Jim McCuen (Bloodroot Gap, Bessette Quartet) on double bass, make up Vermont’s hottest Hot Club style ensemble. Swing Noire has performed at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, Burlington’s First Night Celebration, The Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, and countless other venues throughout Vermont and New England.
“In a time when good jazz groups are hard to find, Swing Noire rises to the top as one of the best jazz groups playing around Burlington. Swing Noire brings you into those smoky clubs of days past, makes you feel jazz the way it was meant to be felt, full of emotion and energy,” says Jennifer Crowell, First Night Burlington.
Over the past ten years, Brandon Music has been home to a host of highly talented singers, songwriters and musicians from all over the state of Vermont, the U.S., Canada and other regions of the world. Several performers launched their careers at Brandon Music and many now return to perform each year.
Many notable performers have appeared — including Ian Ethan Case (12 string guitar), Sean Ashby, John Funkhouser Jazz Trio, Chelsea Berry, Andreas Boyde (from Germany), Ali Ryerson and Joe Carter, Cecelia Zabala (from Argentina), Dan Evans (U.K.), Peter Seivewright (U.K.), Diana Fanning and Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma from Crete — just a few of the American and international performers amongst the 400 individuals and groups that have delighted Brandon Music audiences with their musical talents. 
Brandon Music is already booking performers for 2020 and promises another very musical and high-energy year.
Concert tickets are $20. A pre-concert dinner is available for $25. Reservations are required for dinner and recommended for the show. Venue is BYOB. Call 802-247-4295 or e-mail [email protected] for reservations or for more information. Brandon Music is located at 62 Country Club Road in Brandon.

For mature elves only, “The Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris, featuring Jason Lorber and directed by Margo Whitcomb, is an irreverent anti-holiday attraction coming to Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater on Friday, Dec. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Strapped for cash, a struggling actor takes a job as Crumpet the Elf at Macy’s Santaland — and his hilarious observations are more naughty than nice. Brimming with Sedaris’ wicked humor and observations, this snarky holiday tale is perfect for those who prefer their eggnog spiked.
“A theatrical holiday tradition on par with A Christmas Carol for theatergoers looking for a different, spicier shot of holiday cheer. Or holiday bashing, depending on who you ask,” says the Denver Post.
Tickets are $22 including all fees, and may be purchased by calling 802-382-9222, at the box office located at 68 South Pleasant Street in Middlebury, Monday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., or online at

Middlebury-based English bluesman Tom Caswell will be hosting a Blues Jam in Bristol at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Hatch 31, located at 31 Main Street.
The jam will feature both local and statewide blues musicians and is open to anyone wanting to hear great music. This is a monthly event on the third Wednesday of the month.
If you are a musician or singer planning to take part in the jam, there will be a sign-up sheet located near the stage. The host band, The Tom Caswell Blues Band, will begin the proceedings at 8 p.m. before people are called up from the sign-up sheet to form bands and play the blues.
Although the music begins at 8 p.m., an earlier arrival is advised. Admission to the jam is free.

As part of the 2019 Music Series at Otter Creek Brewing, Kai Stanley & Friends will be providing the music for an Ugly Sweater Party from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20, in OCB’s pub space. They’ll be singing all the holiday classics you want to hear — plus some you probably despise.
Dig out that horrible sweater and bring it to the Otter Creek Pub Space for some great BBQ and live music.
Otter Creek Pub Space is located at 793 Exchange Street in Middlebury. For more information, call 802-388-0727.

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