Times Argus Article Applauds Chandler’s Sense of Community

Jim Lowe’s Aug 24, 2014 editorial, Lowe Down: Why can’t we be more like Randolph talks about Chandler’s success coming from community.

Times Argus Article Applauds Chandler’s Sense of Community

At the opening concert of Randolph’s Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival, the usual attendance of 150 to 200 people had diminished to about 100. Anywhere else, that would be the mark of doom.

But not in this community — Randolph wants its chamber music and it will have it.

In a state awash with high – quality arts, one tiny community stands as a beacon. Randolph, with a population nearing just 5,000 with no significant suburbs to augment it, has an extravagance of arts activities — even when not considered on a per – capita basis.

Attendance w on’t be a problem next weekend when more than 1,500 are expected to attend Randolph’s New World Festival on Sunday. The Celtic and Quebecois traditional music festival and the chamber music festival are both celebrating their 22nd year in Randolph.

They have another thing in common — Chandler Music Hall.

The New World Festival is under the auspices of the Chandler Center for the Arts, the parent organization of the music hall. And while the chamber music festival has its own board, it is hosted by the Chandler and receives its support from largely the same people.

For, in Randolph, when it comes to the arts, the attitude is, “We’re all in this together.”

That’s because Chandler is all – inclusive. Not only did “Fiddler on the Roof,” its annual large – scale summer musical, draw its 100 – plus, high school – age cast and technicians from throughout the region, its annual Vermont Pride Summer Theater Festival presented three different productions celebrating the state’s gay and lesbian communities.

Chandler is also one of the state’s biggest supporters of classical music. Not only was it one of the first concert halls to install its own Steinway 9 – foot concert grand piano, it maintains a high performance level, attracting the likes of violinist Midori and pianist Simone Dinnerstein, with whom the Chandler has forged a special relationship.

More unusually, Janet Watton, Chandler’s president, has created the annual “Next Generation,” inspired by National Pubic Radio’s “From the Top.” Each year, Vermont high school classical musicians — selected by audition — strut their stuff before an appreciative audience.

It’s not just classical music. The coming season not only promises traditional stars like fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and husband Donnell Leahy, among othe rs, it offers intimate concerts in its upper gallery.

Visual arts are also important at the Chandler. It hosts exhibits by a variety of artists, largely Vermont and Vermont – based, in a main gallery and a downstairs gallery.

Chandler’s success comes from its community — Randolph.

Chandler Music Hall itself was a donation of summer resident Albert P. Chandler. After about 25 years as an arts hub, it lay fallow until the 1980s, when Martha Ostland and the Friends of Chandler Music Hall initiated substantial new activity.

Today, Chandler Music Hall is one of the most attractive and acoustically reverberant theaters in Vermont. Thanks to the recent $3.7 million renovation — paid in full by the community — the building has all the latest professio nal amenities.

Chandler is currently mourning the death last December of its first professional executive director, Laura Morris, and now the departure of Becky McMeekin, its longtime second one. Kurt Thoma, her lucky successor, takes over the reins in September.

“It was precisely the type of town we were looking for,” Thoma told M.D. Drysdale of the Herald of Randolph.

He became even more excited when, traveling here and there around town, he found that “everybody I talked to had some association with Chandler.”