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Festival on the Green is coming up

MYRA FLYNN AND her band will perform next Thursday at Festival on the Green in Middlebury.

MIDDLEBURY — It’s almost time for music!

Middlebury’s Festival on the Green begins this coming Sunday, July 7. The perennial weeklong event, run entirely by volunteers, this year will bring 14 different performing groups to the tent on the town green, offering up a wide variety of musical genres and styles, as well of something for the kids at the noontime Brown Bag lunch performances.

Acts run the gamut from the poppy bluegrass of Twisted Pine, to the sultry smoking hot vocals of Samirah Evans & Her Handsome Devils to the harmony-driven acoustics of Bread & Bones and beyond. The sounds of Quebec and Haiti will also  be heard.

The Festival on the Green has a reputation among touring performers as one of the most enjoyable gigs to play during festival season. Aside from the obvious lure of Vermont and Middlebury, performers have found local audiences receptive to the wide range of music the festival has brought to shire town over the years. Groups from as far away as Africa and Australia have played here, along with many Vermont-based performers. Some, such as New Haven native Anais Mitchell, have become internationally known and have toured world-wide. 

Volunteers do their best to make the festival enjoyable for the performers and audiences alike. As a result many touring performers request to be on the schedule. This year’s groups come from Vermont, Quebec, Massachusetts and New York. 

According to Don Miller, the programming team director, there were some significant and unusual challenges this year. 

“We had the festival fully booked by April, or so we thought,” Miller said. “In late spring, several groups either cancelled or requested a change to their performance dates. It was quite nerve racking since not many performers of the caliber we present at the festival still had open dates for this summer. But I’m happy to say that we were able to accommodate all the changes and we are really excited about all the performers in this year’s schedule.”

This year’s festival opens Sunday evening with a two-set performance by Twisted Pine, a group with bluegrass roots that have evolved into a band that defies putting them into any single genre. They are a high energy group, playing mandolin, fiddle, bass and flute, who mix original material with innovative arrangements of traditional tunes. Twisted Pine has appeared at many festivals and concert halls in Europe and throughout the U.S. and have several albums to their credit.  

Monday evening is Samirah Evans & the Handsome Devils, a swinging, jazz-inspired quartet led by a New Orleans singer who moved to Brattleboro, Vt., after Hurricane Katrina devastated her hometown. Some may have seen Evans and her group perform last year at Town Hall Theater. They will be followed at 8:30 p.m. by Eureka Shoes, a brand-new ensemble of veteran musicians from the New York City area. One of its members, Jean Rohe, is a musician well-known to Vermont audiences. She has previously performed at Burnham Presents in Lincoln, the Ripton Community Coffeehouse, the “P.M. Sundays” concert series in Richmond and several other venues in the state. 

Tuesday the festival welcomes Bread and Bones. While it’s the first time the group has played on the Middlebury Festival stage, two members, Beth Duquette and Richard Ruane, volunteered with the festival for many years. Duquette and Ruane are responsible   for helping to make the Middlebury festival what it is today and bringing great music to Addison County over the years as founders of the Ripton Coffeehouse and Burnham Presents in Lincoln. The group also includes Mitch Baron on bass, another musician well-known for his work with a variety of Vermont bands. Le Winston Band, a Zydeco band from Canada perform the second set on Tuesday. The group is not your usual Quebecois sound. Zydeco is most often associated with Louisiana and the Cajun culture. Their high energy music will definitely get folks dancing in the aisles.

A few performers are returning to the festival stage, including Bon DeBarras, a highly entertaining Quebecois trio that was last here in 2019. Noontime Brown Bag family shows with magician Tom Verner, stunt man and juggler Stephen Grotto, No Strings Marionettes and troubadour Jon Gailmor are also repeats from previous years.

“We really love seeing families on vacation at our noontime shows,” Miller said. “We have entire daycare centers and summer camps pack up lunches and join us, too, which are clearly as entertaining for the adults in the audience as they are for the kids. 

Thursday evening features two Vermont-based groups. Matt Larocca & Friends will take their classical instruments in whole new direction. The group’s founder plays electric fiddle in the Freeway Clyde band with Michael Chorney of “Hadestown” fame. He’s also the special projects conductor for the VSO and musical director of the Champlain Philharmonic, along with several other musical endeavors. His fellow performers — Laura Markowitz, Ben Lively and John Dunlop — are equally talented musicians and multi-instrumentalists who play in a wide range of styles and genres. 

The second set presents Myra Flynn, a Vermont musician of Irish and African heritage, performing with her band. Flynn plays a mix of original material with “indie/soul” vibes. She was a headliner at Burlington’s Jazz Festival and has performed on both the east and west coasts. 

Tjovi Ginen presenting a special show Friday for kids and their families at noon and then returns to the stage for the 7 p.m. evening show. The group, whose members are split between Boston and New York, fuses Haitian and African roots music with a strong percussive beat, definitely designed to get folks moving. Their performance will be followed by the Krishna Guthrie Band. While Guthrie is Woody Guthrie’s great-grandson, the band’s music takes the family folk roots to a new rocking level. Scheduled to play last year’s festival, torrential rain led to cancellation of their set, so they will get the chance to play the green once again. 

Concert-goers are encouraged to check out the festival’s website at festivalonthegreen.org for downtown parking recommendations and to check if there are any last minute changes as well links to the performers websites and general information about the Festival.  

No Rain!

Until the summer of 2023, rain was never a big problem for Middlebury’s Festival on the Green. A generous stage, the sound system and lights as well as over 200 folding chairs fit comfortably under a large tent next to St. Stephen’s Church. In years when it rained, performances would be put on hold and people sitting on the lawn moved under the tent until the skies cleared and the concert resumed. Shows have even gone on with the entire audience packed under the tent, kids on laps and all available standing room occupied. 

Summer 2023 was different. 

A year ago, for the first time in 44 years, the festival had to cancel shows because torrential rains flooded the town green. Throughout Addison County rivers overflowed and many roads and downtowns were flooded. Hopefully this year the weather will not make a repeat performance, but just in case, the festival has arranged alternate performance spaces so the festival can truly take place rain or shine. Rain locations include the St. Stephen’s sanctuary and Town Hall Theater, among others. Concert-goers are urged to check the festival website, festivalonthegreen.org, before heading downtown to make sure they know when and where the shows will be held.

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