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Giving thanks for an abundance of art, music and theatre

It's about this time of year that I take the opportunity to render thanks to the arts community in Vermont, New Hampshire, and some of the many arts communities in Montr_. Why? Because I am amazed at the amount and the diversity of the entertainment that is available live in the areas that I mentioned; because I'm amazed at the many kindnesses that have been shown me by a whole raft of presenters and press agents that I couldn't even begin to list in this column; and because they are willing to consider me the loyal opposition when we have disagreements over productions that they bring to viewers. When I arrived in Vermont in 1991, the first thing I became aware of was the sheer number of presentations that vied for audiences, both homegrown and imported. As I began to go to the various presentations of theater, dance and music performance, I became aware that there were vastly different audiences available to attend these various live performances, and that each had its own character. Having answered an advertisement to write for a weekly paper in March or April of 1992, I have been reviewing the local scene steadily ever since. I have been sorry to see some companies disappear; I have been encouraged to see established groups survive through some very tough financial times and spells of the wrong kind of weather, but thanks to the support of individual donors and the patronage of you, the ticket buyers, they have survived; I have welcomed new arrivals and hoped for their prosperity. The Vermont Symphony Orchestra has grown abundantly over the time that I've been in Burlington. The Vermont Youth Orchestra Association has grown to the point that they have had two splendid outside-Vermont events, beginning with their Carnegie Hall concert and more recently the two-week tour of China. The Lane series at UVM has brought to our community not only the world's best in terms of Baroque music especially, they have brought a rich diversity of musical styles. The Vermont Mozart Festival not only provides us with a splendid location for music outdoors in the summer, it never fails to bring us an exciting holiday concert. Starting with Vermont Stage Company, we can enjoy theater from Lost Nation Theaters beneficial presence in Montpelier or, in the summer, theater at Weston Playhouse, Dorset Playhouse, St. Michael's Playhouse, and any number of community theater is in such places as Essex, Shelburne, Fairfax and Stowe -- plus the most community-oriented theater company I know, Unadilla Theater. Opera companies, while not a dime a dozen, have some strong footholds in Middlebury and in Warren/Waitsfield-Barre. In addition to the orchestra's mentioned at the top of this piece, there is a new Burlington Chamber Orchestra, which recently had an auspicious debut, the Symphony Orchestra at UVM, together with their fine choruses and other musical combos, the Burlington Choral Society, and the Oriana Singers, Counterpoint, Bella Voce and Social Band. No listing of music in Vermont will be complete without the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, nor would it be complete if I did not mention one of the newer organizations, the Green Mountain Chamber Festival, which has brought incredible string players to Burlington along with some 150 students. That list is incomplete ... I know it -- and that doesn't speak to Opera North, to Montr_'s resident Opera Company, to the Montr_ Symphony Orchestra and to the Orchestra Of Greater Montr_, and to the two major English-language theatres, the Centaur and especially the Alvin and Leonor Segal Theatre at the Saidye Bronfman. I am also very, very thankful to Rosalyn Graham, who has spent a lot of hours helping me to improve my writing, and to the various editors with whom I have recently worked as well as the ownership of this paper. I am also graced with other reviewers with whom I work, especially recently Bill Wargo, who have the same love of performance that I do. When I give thanks on Thanksgiving Day, all of those things will be in my mind, because they have made my life fuller and richer -- and I am truthfully grateful for the generosity of spirit on both sides of the proscenium arch. May it grow and prosper!

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