Middlebury SongFest celebrates women composers

HELEN LYONS, MARY Bonhag, Ivy Walz, Ali Dawson Gibson, Francois Clemmons and Sarah Cullins, all singers in the second annual Middlebury Song Fest, celebrating women composers, Oct. 18-20.

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury Song Fest, in conjunction with Middlebury Community Music Center, presents the second annual festival and concert series celebrating art song, on Oct. 18-20. With three concerts over three days, Middlebury Song Fest brings together singers and pianists from the Northeast to not only sing and explore the classical song repertoire, but also to engage deeply with audiences and inspire creativity, reflection, participation and joy.

Ali Gibson, the festival’s director and co-founder, describes art song as “that perfect combination of music and words, balancing the intricacies between poet and composer, singer and pianist. In this marriage of art forms, performers and audiences bathe in a delicious combination of words, melodies and harmonies. It is the goal of Middlebury Song Fest to bring this music to life for a modern Vermont audience.”

For this year’s event Middlebury Song Fest is celebrating women composers. Styles throughout the weekend vary from Vermont’s Gwyneth Walker, to French composer Germaine Tailleferre, to Fanny Mendelssohn and Alma Mahler, along with others. The festival will also be the Vermont debut of Juliana Hall’s “Through the Guarded Gate,” a social justice piece being “marched across America.” 


The performance on Friday, Oct. 18, will be held at the Middlebury Community Music Center, 6 Main Street, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 online (available on Eventbrite.com, search “Middlebury Song Fest”) or $20 at the door.

Friday’s concert will feature three voice and piano duos.

Francois Clemmons, recipient of the 2019 Governor’s (Vermont) Award for Excellence in the Arts, and Cynthia Huard will perform Margaret Bond’s Three Dream Portraits, with poetry by Langston Hughes, and selected spirituals. 

Ali Dawson Gibson, festival director, and Sadie Brightman, Middlebury Community Music Center’s director, will perform Vermont native, Gwyneth Walker’s song cycle, “The Sun Is Love,” with poetry by Rumi.

Sarah Cullins of 8 Cuerdas will perform selected Colombian and Spanish songs. 


The performance on Saturday, Oct. 19 will be held the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, 2 Duane Court, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 online (available on Eventbrite.com, search “Middlebury Song Fest”) or $20 at the door.

Saturday’s featured performers include:

Helen Lyons and Elaine Greenfield will perform selected songs by Fanny Mendelssohn and Alma Mahler. 

Mary Bonhag and Marika Yasuda will perform selected songs by Germaine Tailleferre.

Ivy Walz and Diane Birr will perform Juliana Hall’s social justice song cycle, “Through the Guarded Gate.” 


On Sunday, Oct. 20 soprano Mary Bonhag will offer a master class to developing artists and students at 1 p.m., followed by a developing artists concert at 4 p.m.  Students interested in participating must submit an application online at middleburysongfest.org. Both of these events are free and will be held at Middlebury Community Music Center.

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Addison County Independent

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