On August 23, 2023

Beats along the Otter Creek: Celebrating Vermont’s newest music festival

By Sarah Calvin

Josh Glassman had a dream. The Boston-based choral musician has long entertained the thought of producing a chamber music festival, but it wasn’t until a dear friend sought retirement that that dream became a reality. This summer, Glassman’s inaugural Otter Creek Music Festival premiered at the historic Salisbury Congregational Church and the Barn Opera in Brandon for two weekends, July 26-30 and Aug. 2-6.

“It was kind of fate, or coincidence, or it just worked out the way that it was supposed to,” said Glassman. “I had ambitions to run a chamber music festival, and the pandemic just made me realize that I’m the most happy when I’m producing concerts.”

Glassman grew up in Michigan, but came to Vermont as a teenager to work as a choral director at Point Counterpoint music camp on Lake Dunmore. Years later, when his in-laws purchased an apple orchard in Addison County, Glassman returned to the state, this time as a vocalist at a small music festival called The Salisbury Series. Its director, Glenn Andres, had invited Glassman to perform. Nearing retirement, Andres saw the enthusiasm, talent, and love for Vermont the younger man had, and proposed that Glassman take over the series.

The beauty of Vermont’s music scene lies in its intimacy. Concertgoers often are able to speak with musicians after their performance, and artists will return year after year to play the same venues. Although they have day jobs- teacher, doctor, sailor- the exuberance expressed by the performers is indication enough they have found their true calling.

A staple of local concert series is the Vergennes-based band Atlantic Crossing, a trio who have been playing together for more than 20 years. They play music that’s made its way “to and through New England,” singing rousing sea shanties, mournful ballads, and sharing Vermont’s rich history with all who listen.

“New England’s a real melting pot of cultures, and we play something from most of them,” said vocalist Peter Macfarlane.

A native of Great Britain, Macfarlane moved to Vermont to marry his bandmate, talented fiddle player Viveka Fox. Fox and vocalist/guitar player Rick Klein are also not Vermont natives, but none of them can imagine living anywhere else now that they’ve made Vermont their homes.

“My parents dragged me here to go skiing at Trapp Family Lodge when I was 6 and the hook was in,” said Klein. “Where else would I live [now]?”

Atlantic Crossing write many of their own songs, and use the area’s history and people as inspiration. They research local stories, and add fresh perspective to events that happened sometimes hundreds of years ago. Their songs convey a portrait of what it’s like to immigrate to Vermont and establish a life in its beautiful wilderness.

Josh Glassman’s festival will be a celebration of the local culture Atlantic Crossing sings about. He aims to attract local talent before searching regionally and nationally, and to shine a light on the rising stars of the music world; emphasizing his desire to retain the intimate setting of his series while still producing high-caliber concerts. Otter Creek Music Festival will be a community concert series, celebrating Vermont musicians playing for the people and home they love.

For more information, visit: ottercreekmusicfestival.com.

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