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Back to Bach

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For years, Blanche Honegger Moyse seemed unstoppable. In 1969, she and her then-husband, Louis Moyse, founded The New England Bach Festival, which lured music lovers to southern Vermont for two weeks of world-class concerts and classes amidst the fall foliage. A highlight was a major work performed by the Blanche Moyse Chorale; in 1985, the year of Bach's tricentennial, The New York Times proclaimed Moyse's St. Matthew Passion the "best Bach performance of the year." She was then 76.

In 2003, when Moyse was 94, she announced that her Christmas Oratorio was "the last large Bach choral masterpiece" she would conduct. She said she would keep making music, though, and in 2004 she and the NEBF were back, with concertos, arias and a cantata. "We had a reception on stage after each performance," reports Beth-Ann Betz, Moyse's former assistant and a coordinator of the NEBF. "It wasn't a farewell. It was just a quiet way of performing for her."

This year, Moyse has put down her baton. Instead of the NEBF, a handful of Brattleboro arts organizations is hosting Festival 05301, a monthlong series of music, performance, literary and visual-arts events.

That hasn't stopped the Bach, though. To honor Moyse, and satisfy audience appetite for the Baroque, Capital City Concerts is expanding its own popular all-Bach concert into a two-day affair, says flautist Karen Kevra, who launched the Montpelier classical music series in 2000. Filling the niche is a natural, suggests Kevra, because "there is so much cross-pollination" between the Montpelier and Marlboro music scenes. Many Capital City musicians played under Blanche Moyse, and Montpelier's musical director is Louis Moyse.

Are you scared yet? Between the avian-flu threat, FEMA incompetence and any number of controversial scientific advances, medical and governmental malevolence are troubling people's sleep. Equinox Theatre is tapping those terrors with Champlain Valley Nightmare, an original, "full-contact" theatrical event timed for Halloween. The Burlington company debuted last March with Dangerous Liaisons.

The production enters an already active local fright-fest field. The Haunted Forest has been selling out its all-ages, outdoor event for 25 years. Three years ago the Jericho-Underhill Lions began an edgier, adults-only alternative at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Essex Junction.

Nightmare director Jana Beagley, 28, takes it a step further. And she knows what she's up against. Beagley worked with the Haunted Forest for 13 years. Last year she wrote and directed a skit for the Lions. "Tooth and Nail" was a Romeo and Juliet-type story about forbidden love between a vampire and a werewolf.

Drawing on talent from that production, Nightmare promises plenty of gore -- about what you'd expect from a PG-13 film, suggests Beagley. And unlike other events, it tells one integrated story. Memorial Auditorium Annex is transformed into the plague-infested Champlain Valley Memorial Hospital, and the guides who lead visitors through it also play the part of a patient who's trying to escape. "He's constantly interacting with other actors, being tortured and tormented," Beagley says. "The show climaxes with a major stage combat battle between zombies and a very small, ragtag band of humans using makeshift weapons."

Seven weeks of rehearsal promise high production values, and the walk-through set will bring the audience into the action. "The situations are intense, and they're right up in your faces," says Beagley. "We have a black maze that plays upon every sensory fear we could come up with. It's pitch-black, there's a great deal of misdirection, things keep jumping out at you, you no have idea what's on those walls you're touching, and you're not sure what's coming or what's coming up behind you."

Any resemblance to actual health-care facilities is purely coincidental, avows Beagley. Her day job, incidentally, is working in the office of the president at the Visiting Nurses Association.

Those who prefer a do-it-yourself Halloween can get dressed at Dartmouth College. On Saturday, October 15, the Theater Department is offloading 35 percent of its costume inventory. Prices range from 25 cents for shoes to $80 for a replica, bustle-era gown from Molière's Tartuffe. Authentic attire includes vintage Victorian wear and 1960s cloth coats à la Pat Nixon. There's no extra charge for Costume Shop Manager Carla Richters' suggestions, such as embellishing the sealskin coat with the hole in the back with a sign saying, "Club me here." Hard-core shoppers are expected to snap up the best stuff when the doors open at 8 a.m. Prices drop at 2, and whatever's left at 4 goes to a local thrift store.

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