Penguin Players Perform First Musical, It’s Christmas, Carol
by Lynne Ober
When Pelham’s Penguin Players put on a production, you don’t want to miss it. They have energy, enthusiasm, and great performance skills. This past weekend the Penguin Players performed their first-ever musical venture. It’s Christmas, Carol was the group’s fourth major production since the theatrical troupe’s official launch in summer of 2004.
It’s Christmas, Carol, was written by acclaimed music education composers John Jacobson and Roger Emerson and directed by Pelham’s Claudia Combs. “The cast was just wonderful. They did a terrific job. I can’t say enough positive things about their achievements and the growth that I saw from the first rehearsal to the last performance,” smiled Combs.
The production offered a comical twist on a holiday tradition, Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge was replaced by his elfin understudy, Carol (Nicole Smolko, 13, of Pelham), the grumpiest elf in the North Pole. The Cratchetts were replaced with a family of overworked elves (an elf chorus of 18 children from five area towns), and the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Breanna Bradley, 10, Dracut); Present (Joe Cabral, 15, Pelham); and Future (Amanda Braman, 13, Windham) reappeared to play their roles as reflectors of a grumpy person’s life.
“The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future were a hoot and a half,” said Combs. “At one point one of the ghosts is trying to make Caroline understand how her grumpiness affects others and orders her to see how things are. Caroline and the ghost put their heads side by side and peer into the audience. Caroline said, ‘I see the audience members.’ They do a slow look at each other and the ghost said ‘I knew that.’ The audience laughed with them. It was great.”
The energetic production was highlighted by a charming original musical score, bouncy show choir moves, dancing ghosts, and laced with humor that tickled the young at heart. Combs used a show CD to work with the cast. Half of the CD has the music being sung by a cast and half with just music. “We’d break the music down and then when we were ready to practice would sing to the half that was just music. I knew they were ready before the first performance began.”
When the curtain went up on Friday, everyone was a little nervous, but they performed like seasoned performers.
At intermission, Santa magically appeared. He sat in a chair and talked to the children who were in the audience.
“The cast was so disappointed that they couldn’t talk with Santa on Friday because we told them they had to stay behind the curtain during intermission,” said Combs, who turned out to be an elf helping Santa. “On Saturday, we sent Santa behind the stage curtain before he left. You could hear the excited cast.”
After the final performance cast, artisans and technical crew had a cast party. The Pelham Penguin Award, given to a cast member for dedication and service above and beyond their assigned role, was presented to the Ghost of Christmas Present, Joe Cabral, 15, of Pelham. “It was a well deserved honor for Joe,” said Combs, who admitted to being both drained from the excitement of the production and sorry that it was over. The cast had much the same reaction according to Combs. “They were happy and sad at the same time. One cast member had tears because the production was over.”
Combs may have been drained, but she was already planning the next production. She wants to put on The Wizard of Oz in the summer. “We’d run a summer camp and at the end put on the production.” So if anyone missed being a part of this cast and crew, look for audition announcements for the next production. “Everyone who auditioned and who made a commitment to the rehearsal schedule had a part,” beamed Combs. “It’s just a great way to have fun.”
Holiday Fills the Air at Flute Ensemble Concert
by Lynne Ober
Music, old and new, filled the air at Windham’s Nesmith Library Tuesday night. Nine members of Windham’s Flute Ensemble entertained the audience with beautiful music.
The ensemble is directed by David Howard, who also played a flute in some of the pieces. In total, there were 17 flutes ranging from the tiny piccolo to bass flutes and nine musicians, including the director.
The flute that most of us know is the C flute, but there are alto and bass flutes as well. “The ensemble can play four- to nine-part harmony by using the entire range of flutes,” said announcer Judith Howard.
The bass flute was developed in the 1920s as a substitute for the saxophone in jazz music and plays one full octave lower than the C flute. It has a full mellow tone that is easy on the ears.
The alto flute has been around for at least 100 years and plays a fourth lower than the concert flute.
The concert flute in C has a range of over three octaves and the tiny piccolo is pitched a full octave above the C flute.
They opened with a beautiful medley of two well known carols, We Three Kings and Carol of the Bells before playing an arrangement called Santa’s Symphony that is a medley of Christmas carols done in a classical style. Howard characterized Santa’s Symphony as the piece that immediately brings smiles to the audience’s face. “The ending is a combination of the 4th of July and Christmas.”
The audience was entranced.
Next the audience quickly recognized music from the Nutcracker. Using selections from the Overture, David Howard and Connie Page, played a duet. Then the entire ensemble joined together for lively renditions of March, Dance of the Suger-Plum Fairy, and Dance of the Reed-Flutes. Finally, they finished this section with Trepak, the Russian dance in the Nutcracker.
Cindy Winsor played a solo called Winter Spirits. The piece had its foundation in North American Indian music. “It reminds me of being on a snowy mountain enjoying the outdoors,” said Winsor.
When you think of The Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah, you would normally expect a chorus of opera singers to appear with the backing of a full orchestra. Instead the ensemble played a beautiful version that showed their full range of skills. From the bass flute to the piccolo, every flute was played beautifully, and the combination for the four different flutes produced at stunning rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus.
A Renaissance Noel combined four old Christmas carols [Good King Wenceslas, Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming, Pat A Pan and What Child is This?
Kaitlyn Geroski, whose mother, Barbara, also plays in the ensemble, and David Howard played Opus 10, #1,Allegro con espressione, a toe-tapping piece that entertained with its energy and happiness.
The ensemble ended the evening with four traditional Christmas carols, the last one being We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Judith Howard said it was the end, “because we do wish you a Merry Christmas.”
After the last note filled the air, the audience gave them an extended and warm round of applause.
If you missed this concert, they will play at both the Salem Library and the Derry Library during the holiday season.
Windham Selectmen Review Budgets; Overall Town Budget up 10%
by Lynn McNamara
At Monday’s non-televised workshop, selectmen reviewed proposed 2006 budgets for several town departments and committees. During the sometimes spirited meeting, selectmen aimed to trim budgets where possible, noting that the overall town budget has increased by 10 percent. Among the budgets discussed were elections, cemeteries, government buildings, library, and recreation.
During the review of the elections budget, selectmen discussed a recommendation to increase the pay of ballot clerks from the current $5 per hour to at least minimum wage. Despite the election officials’ concern that the low pay rate hindered filling the positions, the consensus of the board was that working at the elections was more of an honor than a job, and an increase was not warranted. It was further proposed that the board plan for at least two special elections next year and budget accordingly. The proposed 2006 budget is $18,445, up from $13,170 in 2005.
Selectman Alan Carpenter moved to save $1,000 from the cemetery budget by reducing the line item for grounds keeping from $30,000 to $29,000. Gail Webster, Cemetery Trustee, noted that there will be a 3 percent increase in this line item due to increased fuel costs. The lower amount is sufficient to cover this increase.
The library budget contained proposed increases in several line items. The property maintenance line item increased from $6,200 to $7,500, a 20.97 percent jump. Library Director Carl Heidenblad explained that the increase was due to two new necessary contracts, one for termite treatments and the other for window washing.
Other proposed increases in the library budget are:
It was noted that some of the increase in heat and electricity expenses can be attributed to the new Sunday hours. Selectman Galen Stearns suggested that the town join with the school district in purchasing fuel from a single vendor in order to benefit from a bulk discount. Selectmen intend to meet with the school board to further discuss this savings opportunity.
The library trustees were asked to return with a reworked budget to accommodate their requested $81,500 for books and periodicals. At early budget sessions, town administrators had reduced this request to $72,000, the same amount as the 2005 budget. Selectmen suggested that trustees look to reallocate funds from other areas of the library budget towards this line item, if possible. It was noted that a compromise could be reached, with half the requested amount coming from within their budget and the other half an increase in funding.
Heidenblad explained to the board that the increase in this line item is due to a surge in demand for the more popular items. He cited a recent example of a new James Patterson novel, for which there was a list of 17 people waiting to check out one of two copies of the book. He also noted that with a number of residents commuting into Boston, audio books have increased in popularity and the library would like to provide more of these. The last two years have seen a phenomenal increase in both circulation and visitation at the library, according to Heidenblad, and they would like to continue to meet the needs of the residents.
Al Barlow, head of the Maintenance Department, was present to discuss changes in the general government buildings budget. This year’s budget reflects an overall increase of 3.73 percent, from $379,500 last year to $393,710. In the line items for grounds keeping, $45,000 is slated for town parks other than Griffin, with $45,806 dedicated to grounds keeping at Griffin.
Town Administrator David Sullivan noted that there were items needing attention not included in this maintenance budget. One of these is the expense associated with bringing Griffin Park into compliance with ADA accessibility requirements. It is anticipated that this could cost approximately $20,000. Also, a new pump is needed for the irrigation well at Griffin, the current one having been damaged by lightening. The cost of this could range between $2,000 and $4,000. Sullivan suggested that funding for these items could come from the property trust account.
The liveliest conversations took place during discussion of the recreation budget. The budget submitted by the Recreation Committee saw several drastic increases in funding, specifically in the line items for recreation sports fields and recreational activities. Recreation requested the following increases:
The sports fields’ line item was divided into two categories, $11,800 for field maintenance and $53,800 for special projects. The list of special projects included $10,000 for repairs to the Wonderland Playground, $14,000 for repairs to Tokanel field, $6,800 for new bleachers and roughly $18,000 to have engineering designs compiled for Griffin, Tokanel and Nashua Road fields.
Selectman Bruce Breton made a plea to have all maintenance responsibilities moved out from under the Recreation Committee and into the town’s maintenance department. He argued that the responsibility for maintenance of the town’s fields and facilities was more logically placed with full-time town maintenance employees. Recreation Chairman Dennis Senibaldi countered that the new recreation coordinator was in constant contact with the Maintenance Department and was able to handle maintenance issues as they arose. Selectmen did not make a move to support Breton’s recommendation. It was noted that with this being the first full year of having a town recreation coordinator, it was reasonable to give the current arrangement more time.
Town administrators had recommended a $15,000 budget for the sports fields’ line item. Selectmen moved 3 - 2 to increase it to $40,000, with Hohenberger and Stearns opposed. Selectman Carpenter noted that the list provided by the committee included areas that the town needed to finally pay attention to as they have been neglected for some time. Recreation Committee members were advised to prioritize the list of special projects in terms of the $40,000 allotted.
The Recreation Committee also provided a detailed list for the recreational activities’ line item. These included $14,000 for Town Day, $2,000 for the Christmas tree lighting, $1,200 for the Easter Egg Hunt, $500 for the Harvest Festival, $1,200 for special performances, $400 for the band bus, among others.
It was noted that roughly $2,300 was spent for Town Day this year. The proposed increase to $14,000 included $12,000 for fireworks, which was not recommended by administrators or selectmen. Administrators recommended $10,100 for the activities’ line item, which was supported by selectmen. The recreation budget did see savings of nearly $2,000 in the line item for chemical toilets.
Selectmen have several meetings scheduled to review other town budgets, with the goal of having the process completed by December 19.
Santa and the Missus Arrive at Pelham Fire Station
by Karen Plumley
The Firefighters Association of Pelham held their free annual yuletide celebration on Sunday, December 4 at 4:00 p.m. According to Pelham Firefighter Rich Hanegan, the yuletide event enjoys a 20-year history.
Residents arrived in droves for the occasion that began with beautiful holiday music sung by the Young Levites, a choir from the New England Pentecostal Church of Pelham. There wasn’t an unoccupied seat in the station as the children sang versions of Silent Night and other popular holiday tunes. The singing talents of members from the Crossroads Baptist Church were also showcased at the event. The association provided baked goods, popcorn, and refreshments, and they also cooked hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill.
For the first time this year, the Firefighters Association was collecting for Toys for Tots. Attendees donated an abundance of toys for the program. “We more than filled up our donation box, and had several bags full of toys also,” described Hanegan.
Members of junior Girl Scout Troop 319 were on hand to do face painting and give away wonderful hand crafted holiday pins. “This year we are accepting donations for the Good Neighbor Fund,” described volunteer Amy Brandin.
In an exciting climax to the celebration, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, escorted by the Pelham Memorial and High School bands, arrived in style in the North Pole fire engine at 6:00 p.m. Although the line to see the Clauses wound around the station garage, eager children waited patiently, clinging to their Christmas wish lists.