BRANDON — Those looking for locally sourced Christmas music and cheer can turn to Barn Opera.
This year was to be Barn Opera’s first in operation, hosting a number of operas in a fixed-up barn on Pearl Street, but those plans were scrapped as the coronavirus pandemic spread. It held two outdoor live events over the summer, one in Williston, the other at Estabrook Park.
Barn Opera Artistic Director Joshua Collier said Tuesday that his plans for Christmas shows also were thrown into disarray by the winter spike in COVID-19 infections, but the opera is far from beat.
Collier said that right now on barnopera.com is the Barn Opera Christmas Special. It’s two parts. The first is the American premiere of Canadian composer Andrew Ager’s version of “A Christmas Carol.” The second part is a carol sing recorded at Salisbury Congregational Church, led by Barn Opera Music Director Cailin Marcel Manson. Another video is a chat among the performers, while the third show is the archival footage of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” as it was performed by Barn Opera at Salisbury Congregational Church last year.
Collier said the Christmas special will air on PEG-TV Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The caroling section is shot so people can follow along, conducted by Manson.
“That’s the kind of Christmas card we wanted to send to Rutland County, a musical Christmas card,” said Collier.
The plan had been to record Amahl at the church the same way Barn Opera Under the Stars was done in Brandon and Williston, but the state of the pandemic has changed since September, said Collier. As they were planning for the shoot, one cast member was potentially exposed to COVID-19.
“We have been so safe, I’ve spent hours and hours trying to develop safe ways of existing in this paradigm and executing that, and so the idea of doing anything that would potentially compromise that was a no-go, but we had the rest of the principal cast available, it was scheduled for the time we were going to film, so we said let’s do something else,” said Collier.
He was going to pair Amahl and the Christmas special next year, but asked Ager whether he’d be up for moving on the Christmas special now.
“Had to learn it and film in three days,” said Collier. “But in three days, we filmed it, we got it together.”
He described the special as family friendly, charming and accessible. He hopes the caroling at the end will help alleviate some of the disappointment people who usually sing in church this time of year are feeling.
“Some people’s reaction to (the pandemic) has been to go inward and just kind of huddle under a blanket until this thing passes,” he said. “My reaction is to manically create. Both creating for the present, meaning this film of Christmas carols and the Christmas special and that stuff, but also creating for the future, that being the barn.”
While plans to have contractors finish up the barn renovations in the spring were felled, Collier and the others involved have done much of the work themselves.
“It’s been cold in there, but progress has been great,” said Barn Opera Technical Director Russ McColman. “We are probably 80% done. It looks like a work in progress right now, but a lot of that is because the stuff in there has to be put on the walls then cleaned up. We’re surprisingly far along for just the three of us.”
Nicholas Tocci, associate director of Barn Opera, is the third primary set of hands working in the barn.
According to Collier, if Gov. Phil Scott were to lift the emergency order right now, Barn Opera could open within a week.
“It wouldn’t be as fancy or as clean as we would like it to be, but sure, we could do that,” said McColman.