MMF to help usher out the old year

MANCHESTER - Christmas may have come and gone, but Manchester Merriment isn't over yet.

The final act in the more than month-long holiday season celebration will take place Tuesday, Dec. 31, when the Manchester Music Festival performs its now annual New Year's Eve concerts at the First Congregational Church.

Concerts isn't a typo. There are two of them - one a "family" concert that starts at 4 p.m. and a second, and somewhat longer evening performance, that begins at 6 p.m. There are separate tickets and different prices for each event.

The music festival has long offered a holiday season concert, but over the years it bounced around throughout the month. Four years ago, the festival settled on New Year's Eve for a date for the show, and it's worked out well, said Ariel Rudiakov, the artistic director of the music festival.

"For some reason we were always averse to New Year's Eve," he said. "Who would want to go out to a concert? At some point we decided that since people are always here at New Year's Eve, why not try it and see what happens?"

To accommodate the plans of would-be concert-goers, the evening performance was tightened up from a full-blown, 2 hour-long concert with an intermission to a shorter, one hour or so one. A family concert designed to be user-friendly to parents, grandparents and children was added as well; it will last about 45 minutes and allow them to get back home for the evening.

"The concert enjoyed good attendance the first three years we tried it so now it's almost a tradition," Rudiakov added.

New Year's Day and its eve lend themselves well to music that is suggestive of the passage of time, so the concert's program typically offers selections of music that reflect that. One of the highlights of last year's show was baritone Keith Kibler, a music instructor at Williams College, singing The Beatles' "Yesterday," for example.

This year's show will also flirt with the way time goes by, and in fact, that song, made famous in the movie "Casablanca," will be performed during the concert. But first, the audience will hear the music festival's ensemble kick off the evening with performance of Bach's Double Violin concerto, played by Joana Genova and Heather Braun. That will be followed by mezzo-soprano Margaret Telscher - who is also a member of the music festival's board of directors - singing selections of music written by Cole Porter and Herman Hupfeld, which will include a rendition of "As Time Goes By." From there, the concert will take a Latin turn as the ensemble - which features not only Genova and Braun, a former student of the Rudiakov Music Academy run by the music festival who now performs with the Arneis Quartet of Boston while returning frequently to perform with the music festival as a guest artist, but also Elizabeth Wright on piano, Telscher on vocals and Rudiakov on viola - shifts to Astor Piazzola's tango-flavored "The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires." Written between 1965 and 1970, they trace a year in the Argentinian capital city; interestingly the first piece written was summer, then fall, spring and winter.

Following that, Telscher will return to sing a selection from Bach's "Der Fledermaus," The concert ends will one of the up-tempo pieces of the classical music canon - Straus's "Radetsky March." The piece celebrates a victory won by the forces of the former Austro-Hungarian empire in 1848 under the command of Field Marshall Joseph Radetsky von Radetz and was written by Johann Strauss Sr.

All told, there will be 13 musicians performing during the evening concert, including several "Young Artists" alumni. Lauren Cauley, a former student of Genova's and a graduate of Burr and Burton Academy, and Deanna Baasch, a violinist from Wallingford and now a member of the faculty at the Rudiakov Academy, will be among them.

The earlier family concert will offer the same program although some of the selections will be condensed. What will be special about it is the role of the academy's students, who will be playing alongside the professional musicians; they'll be playing the same music as that planned for the evening concert, Rudiakov said.

There will also be a special composition performed that was written by Katianna Nardone, that will be sung by Ms. Telscher, he said.

"It's a song - a bit like Simon and Garfunkle meets Charles Ives," he said. "It has a free form about it that's lyrical and structured but unexpected in its harmonies. It's a very original style."

Following the evening concert there will be a reception with chocolates and a New Year's toast with non-alcoholic bubbly beverages.

Tickets for the 6 p.m. evening concert will be $30 for adults and $13 for those 18 years-old and younger. The 4 p.m. afternoon concert tickets will be free of charge for those 18 years and under, and $13 for adults. For more information, call the music festival at 802-362-1956, or visit their Web site at

"What you have is kind of a collage, that recounts fond memories and hopes for the future," Rudiakov said, summing up the show.


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