Arts & Leisure

Teens bring new energy to traditional music

YOUNG TRADITION VERMONT typically travels the world each spring to showcase nine months worth of learning. This year the 20-member teen Touring Group has been prerecording and producing a series of videos to share with master artists and other youth organizations in Ireland, Cape Breton, Quebec, England, New Brunswick and beyond. The tour will start on Town Hall Theater’s YouTube and Facebook Live platforms on Saturday, April 3, at 7 p.m. Links to the premiere are at townhalltheater.org.

Around here, if you’re a teen interested in traditional music and dance chances are you are well aware of Young Tradition Vermont. Participants in YTV programs learn from and are supported by artist leaders, visiting and guest master musicians and dancers/dance leaders, in addition to musical exchanges with master artists, young musicians and dancers while on performance tours. Coming up on Saturday, April 3, at 7 p.m., the Young Tradition Touring Group will perform a 45-60 minute online concert via Town Hall Theater’s YouTube and Facebook Live platforms.
Featured will be the 20 teen members of the Touring Group, including Middlebury Union High School juniors Anya Hardy-Mittell of East Middlebury and Ben Munkres of Cornwall. Group members are mostly from Vermont, but also include musicians from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Ontario. An opening set will feature the 2020/2021 Youth Commission ensemble led by Maeve Fairfax and four other Touring Group members. Artist leaders Oliver Scanlon, Fern Tamagini-O’Donnell and Hilary Menegaz Weitzner will also be featured. 
Munkres, who’s big sister Romy was also part of the Touring Group, has been to Ireland, Cape Bretton, Scotland and New York/New Jersey. The group has also extended its tours to England and Japan. This year’s restrictions due to the pandemic pushed the tour online. The group will be traveling virtually in late April of this year, visiting with master artists and other youth organizations in Ireland, Cape Breton, Quebec, England, New Brunswick and more. 
“I don’t think it’s as fun as the in-person tours,” said Munkres, who will play piano in this, his seventh, tour. “But, they’re doing the best they can with the situation.”
Since the pandemic has closed borders, members have held rehearsals, participated in fundraising, and performed regionally in anticipation of the virtual April tour — all virtually. The group is preparing pre-recorded videos produced by Mark Zelis to share for the April tour.
“The videos have been fun to put together,” Munkres said. “Oliver puts together a base track that gets sent out to everybody… then we each record ourselves playing along with the base track and Mark Zelis puts them all together in a video.”
Munkres noted that they’re recording the sound separately now to ensure better quality.
“I’m most impressed by the dedication and commitment by these 20 group members, even with this re-inventing that we are doing as we have gone along,” said Young Tradition Vermont manager, founder and executive director Mark Sustic. “I’m so impressed they have stuck with it, and done it so well.”
Town Hall Theater stepped up to host the Young Tradition Touring Group’s premiere next Saturday and hopes to host a live performance on the steps of the Middlebury theater sometime in early May (more on that to come at a later date). 
“Through the pandemic, THT has proudly partnered with several youth groups in the visual and performing arts,” said Lisa Mitchell, executive director of THT. “Recently, the Jackson Gallery featured the stunning works of Addison Central Teens and the MUHS IB art program. While we wish we could host the 20-member Young Tradition Touring Group in our physical theater, we are delighted to share their musicianship on the virtual stage. Their talent and dedication to traditional music is inspiring, as is their artist-mentor program. It’s been a joy to see the creativity, resiliency, and fortitude of our young people through the pandemic. They are our future artists in the making.”
To learn more about Young Tradition Vermont visit youngtraditionvermont.org or Facebook.com/YoungTraditionVermont. To access the free live stream, visit townhalltheater.org and access their YouTube and Facebook Live options.

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