Highlights: Handel Society sends conductor off with performance of the ‘Messiah’

  • The Handel Society of Dartmouth College, shown here performing Dvorak's "Stabat Mater" in May 2017, is the nation's oldest town-gown choral society. (Rob Strong photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Robert Duff would love to say that he planned all along to wrap up his 15 years of conducting the Handel Society of Dartmouth College with this weekend’s two performances of the Messiah at the Hopkins Center.

Rather, it’s serendipity that placed Handel’s signature oratorio on the program long before Duff accepted a job leading the music program at Boston’s St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church

“We perform it every four years,” Duff, 54, said last week. “That way, the undergraduates who stay with us all the way through get to experience it once during their career.”

Dartmouth political science professor Linda Fowler will experience singing the Messiah for the third time since she joined the ensemble as an alto in 2004 — the year Duff arrived in Hanover from California.

“Some of the less well-known movements are more challenging, with complicated fugues, fast passages and notes running up and down the scale,” Fowler said. “Bob does a wonderful job of making sure we don’t just sound like a bunch of humming bees. I feel like I’m getting into it at a different level after doing it several times.”

Fowler expects this performance to be the most poignant, as Duff prepares to shift his conducting focus to a job closer tp Brandeis University, where he joined the faculty in 2015.

“We all knew that it was just a matter of time before a major opportunity would come around for him, once he started teaching down there,” Fowler said this week. “As sad as we are to see him go, we think it’s wonderful he’s got this new challenge.”

Duff expects to miss not only his Dartmouth students but the members of the community who, like Fowler, audition year after year.

“I’m extremely proud of the society’s progress in my 15 years,” Duff said. “It’s been so rewarding to work with an intergenerational oratorio society. The scale and financing of big enterprises like this is an issue for many institutions, and Dartmouth has always been so supportive of us.”

All of which makes for a harmonic, if unintentional, convergence of the Messiah with Duff’s farewell, and his new beginning.

“Handel originally composed this for a premiere during the Easter season in 1742,” Duff said, pointing to the oratorio’s many references to the resurrection of Christ. “It was commandeered by the English in subsequent years for the Christmas oratorio. We’re restoring it to where it was originally placed.”

The Handel Society of Dartmouth College performs the composer’s Messiah on Saturday night at 8 and on Sunday afternoon at 2. For tickets ($10 to $25) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Best bets

Northern Stage is entering the homestretch of its production of Once, so hurry over to the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction, before this refreshing adaptation of the 2007 movie romance closes on Sunday. In addition to the fine work of lead performers Thom Miller, as the disillusioned Dublin busker known only as the middle-aged Guy, and Lily Talevski, as the young Czech Girl who revives the Guy’s musical mojo, the supporting cast of 12 infuses the show with comic relief as well as enriches the music. In particular, Eric Love, Northern Stage’s director of education by day, plays the cello with equal parts elegance and energy.

For tickets ($19 to $59) and more information, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

■Flutist Hilary Lynch and soprano Chiho Kaneko lead a roster of accomplished Upper Valley chamber musicians into the Norwich Congregational Church on Friday night at 7, to perform a concert on the theme of “Love and Connection.” Admission by donation to the WISE agency’s programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

■The cream of the Upper Valley’s crop of up-and-coming classical musicians perform the 11th annual Next Generation concert at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Friday night at 7:30. Highlights include Hanover pianist Liana Lansigan playing a composition by Lebanon teacher-performer Elizabeth Borowsky, and Hartford violinist Katja Mueller playing a solo work she wrote. For tickets ($10 to $16) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

■Fiddler-singer-live-looping artist Emma Back performs her multi-genre “Strife and Joy” show on Friday night at 7:30, at Open Door Integrative Wellness in White River Junction. Admission $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

■The Upper Valley Music Center in downtown Lebanon hosts its second annual Sing & Play Festival on Saturday afternoon 2 to 6, both at the center and at the neighboring First Congregational Church of Lebanon. Performance and listening opportunities include a fiddle showcase at 4 p.m., a traditional-music jam at 4:30 and sing-alongs throughout the afternoon event. Admission is free. To learn more, visit uvmusic.org.

Theater/Performance art

Stand-up comedian Bob Marley, Thursday night at 7 at Court Street Arts’ Alumni Hall in Haverhill. General admission $27.50.

Women in Jeopardy, mystery/comedy, Shaker Bridge Theatre production at Whitney Hall in Enfield. Performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday afternoons through May 26. Admission $16 to $35.

■Comedies Bob’s Date and 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, Friday and Saturday nights at 7 and Sunday afternoon at 3 at Old Church Theater in Bradford. Admission $6 to $12.

■West Newbury (Vt.) Variety Show, with singers, instrumentalists, dancers, standup comedians, jugglers, poets and magicians from around greater Bradford, Saturday night at 7 at West Newbury Hall. Admission by donation.


Pamela Z, world music/electronica, Thursday night at 8 at Hopkins Center’s Faulkner Recital Hall. While admission is free, reserving tickets is recommended.

■Singer-songwriter Evelyn Cormier, Friday night at 6:30 at second-anniversary party of REMIX Coffee Bar & Social Club in downtown Claremont. Proceeds from coffee sales, and from donations, go to help Cormier cover expenses of producing her first full-length album since competing on American Idol.

■Shannon and Matt Heaton, Irish-inspired folk, Friday night at 7 at Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse in Sunapee Harbor. Admission by donation.

■ Camerata New England, cellist Linda Galvan, violinist Omar Chen Guey and pianist Hannah Shields play chamber works of Rachmaninoff and Dvorak on Saturday night at 7 at Norwich Congregational Church, and on Sunday afternoon at 2 at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon. Admission $28.

■Full Circle Chorus, 28th annual spring concert, Friday night at 7 at United Church of Christ in Bradford, and Sunday night at 7:30 at Lyme Congregational Church. Admission by donation.

■Paul Asbell Jazz Quintet, Friday night at 7:30 at ArtisTree Community Arts Center; Althea Sullycole, Americana/roots, Sunday afternoon at 4. Admission $20 to each show.

■Haverhill singer Lydia Gray and Thetford guitarist Ed Eastridge, American and Brazilian jazz, Saturday night at 7 at The Skinny Pancake in Hanover.

■The Tricksters, danceable rock, Pentangle Arts’ anniversary fundraiser on Saturday night from 7 to 10 in Barnard Inn’s barn. To reserve tickets ($49) and learn more, visit pentanglearts.org or call 802-457-3981.

■Pianist John Read, “Hymns and Hops” gathering for singers of all ages and abilities, Sunday afternoon at 4 at Mickey’s Roadside Cafe in Enfield. Admission by donation.

Bar and club circuit

Gabby Martin, folk-rock, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place in Orford; The Dinosaurs, roots/Americana, Sunday night at 6.

■ Trifolium, folk/Americana, Thursday night at 7 at Windsor Station; Mother Ton, rock, Friday night at 9:30; Rear Defrosters, honky-tonk/roots, Saturday night at 9:30; singer-songwriter Carl Goulet, Tuesday night at 6.

■Jason Cann Band, rock, Friday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland.

■Saxophonist Michael Parker with singer Josh Hall, soul and jazz, Friday night at 8:30 at Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton; and with guitarist Norm Wolfe, jazz, Wednesday night at 6:30 at Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm.

■ Baldilocks, rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon.

■Singer-songwriter Jim Hollis, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover; The Occasional Jug Band, Americana/roots, 9 p.m. Saturday.

■ Marko the Magician, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon; Tad Dreis, acoustic rock, Saturday afternoon at 4.

■Alec Currier, rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Newport; Jester Jigs, rock, Saturday night at 9.

■Jim Yeager, rock/funk, Monday night at 7 at Woodstock Inn’s Richardson Tavern.

Open mics

Alec Currier’s weekly open-mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, Thursday night at 8.

■Corinth Coffeehouse, Saturday night at 7 at 1387 Cookeville Road in Corinth.

■Monthly All-Comers Jam, Celtic, French-Canadian, Scandinavian and old-timey music, Sunday evening 4 to 9 at Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon.

■Joe Stallsmith’s weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass, Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach’s weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music, Tuesday night at 7 at Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Jim Yeager hosts open mics at The Public House Pub in Quechee on Tuesday night at 6; at Skunk Hollow Tavern on Wednesday night.

■Tom Masterson’s weekly open mic, Tuesday night at 7 at Colatina Exit.

Looking ahead

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, auditions on Saturday afternoon at 2 at Old Church Theater in Bradford. Adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories scheduled for first two weekends of August. To learn more, visit oldchurchtheater.org or call 802-222-3322.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Send entertainment news to highlights@vnews.com.