Arts & Leisure

Holiday Jukebox helps HOPE this season

THE BENGSONS, CLINT & Ty Bierman, The Middlebury Congregational Church Choir, and Francois Clemmons are on the Holiday Jukebox lineup this season. Town Hall Theater will stream local music live, Dec. 24-26. Tickets are $10 per household, with proceeds benefitting the Addison County Food Shelf at HOPE.

Christmas means music — choirs in churches, carolers on the street, performances in theaters. But due to the pandemic, we’re facing a season in which musicians, and their music, are stuck indoors and socially distant from one and other, as well as from appreciative audiences.
The people at Town Hall Theater have cooked up a solution. They’ve gathered together videos of the area’s most popular musicians under the title Holiday Jukebox, which will be streaming online beginning Dec. 24. The ticket price is $10 per household, with the proceeds benefitting the Addison County Food Shelf at the social service agency known as HOPE, or Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects.
“Everybody wins,” said Town Hall Theater Artistic Director Douglas Anderson. “The local musical community will come right into your living room, and the event will help stock the pantry at the food shelf. And, I think, we’ll regain some of that sense of community we always feel so strongly during the holidays.”
“This extraordinary year, Town Hall Theater is happy to bring holiday cheer, while helping those in need,” said the Middlebury theater’s executive director, Lisa Mitchell. “We’re grateful to Holiday Jukebox’s artists for generously donating their talent, and to our community, who continue to rally in support of families and businesses that are hurting. This is the true spirit of the holidays.”
Anderson has put together an all-star line-up that will offer a wide range of musical styles. On the bill: The Clint Bierman Family, François Clemmons, The Middlebury Congregational Church Choir, The Bengsons, Dayve Huckett and Molly McEachen, Maiden Vermont, Josh Panda and Ashley Betton, Honey in the Hive – The Bolton/Munkres Family Band, Nate Gusakov, and Mindy Hinsdale Bickford.
Lincoln songwriter and banjoist Gusakov decided to forego a traditional Christmas-themed song and instead shares an ode to local logger Charlie Lee. 
“Charlie has told me such great stories about his years in the woods, including one cold winter day that he almost didn’t make it out,” Gusakov said. “This year has put a lot of folks into situations that might seem hopeless, so I thought an inspiring story about a neighbor who kept going against all odds could be a good thing.
“I kept it simple,” he added. “Just me and my plunky old outdoor banjo in the snowy yard with chickadees all around me.”
Another musician in the lineup is Ashley Betton — a singer and creative entrepreneur from Bridport — who is singing with Josh Panda. 
“HOPE is a beacon of… well, hope for so many in the more ‘normal’ of difficult times,” Betton said. “This year has been abnormally difficult. HOPE and its amazing staff rose to the occasion. Josh and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been included in this group of fantastic musicians, performing for such a trusted and reliable organization.”
“This year is very different,” said Jeanne Montross, executive director of HOPE. “People cannot come into our building — we take food orders over the phone, pack them and then people pick them up outside. We’re also doing a lot of delivery, particularly to elderly and frail people. We are seeing growing numbers of people requesting assistance. Once the expanded unemployment benefits end, as well as other COVID relief programs, the numbers will be even higher.”
Montross said that HOPE is going through food rapidly, so the funds from the Holiday Jukebox event will primarily be used to restock food supplies.
“We are tremendously grateful to everyone at Town Hall Theater and to all the musicians who are making this possible,” Montross said.
The Holiday Jukebox will be available from noon on Dec. 24 through midnight on Dec. 26. 
“For the $10 fee you can watch it as much as you like,” Anderson said. “I can imagine families watching it, and then tuning in again to listen while they’re preparing Christmas dinner.”
Tickets are on sale at townhalltheater.org. Donations may also be made directly to HOPE. at hope-vt.org.
 

Musicians playing the Holiday Jukebox
The Clint Bierman Family
François Clemmons
The Middlebury Congregational Church Choir
The Bengsons
Dayve Huckett & Molly McEachen
Maiden Vermont
Josh Panda and Ashley Betton
Honey in the Hive – The Bolton/Munkres Family Band
Nate Gusakov
Mindy Hinsdale Bickford

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