Memorial Celebration of the Life and Work of David Budbill

by Will Kyle

BARRE — A memorial Celebration of the Life and Work of David Budbill, “the People’s Poet of Vermont,” will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 25 at the Barre Opera House.

William Parker, a longtime collaborator with David, and an influential and prominent avant-garde bassist and composer from New York City, and will be performing the world premiere of a musical piece titled “Requiem for Joy.” He has created the new work specifically for the celebration.

William Parker. Photo by Peter Gannushkin

On the other hand, it is possible that Parker will not have written anything at all for the event. “I wrote 25 different pieces for this,” said Parker, “but for each one I said ‘nice piece, but it’s not the one.’” None of them were able to capture both the pain of requiem and the joy of celebration, which Parker was trying to express for his old friend. So, instead of trying to write the piece down on paper, Parker will likely perform a tribute to Budbill in a spontaneous improvisation. Parker hopes that the song expresses “requiem, joy, sadness, tears and whatever else comes through us in that moment.” Fellow New York musicians Cooper-Moore and Rob Brown will join him to play the song.

David Budbill passed away at his home in Montpelier on September 25, 2016. In March, Montpelier residents voted to name Budbill “The People’s Poet of Vermont.”

Budbill, who made his home in Vermont for 47 years — 45 in a cabin he built himself in Wolcott — is the author of eight books of poems, seven plays, two novels, a collection of short stories, two novels, a collection of short stories, two picture books for children and the libretto for an opera. He also played musical instruments including the saxophone and the shakuhachi, and collaborated with musicians and composers.

“David’s poetry,” said Parker, “rang a bell from his words into my heart.”  Parker met Budbill in 1986, beginning decades of friendship and collaboration. Parker and Budbill performed together in many venues: around Vermont, in New York City and, just as Budbill was falling ill, in Milan, Italy.

Parker has very fond memories of his friend. Budbill, he said, opened up a whole other world to him. Parker is no homebody; he is a prominent musician who grew up in New York City and who has traveled the world to play his music. Yet even as Parker was traveling to Paris or elsewhere to perform his music, Budbill would be in one spot, in Vermont, writing, and in this sense he taught Parker an entirely beautiful and new way of thinking. Parker recalled a memory of watching the sunrise one morning and meditating on it, as he learned to do from Budbill. Parker came to the realization that there’s a whole world, and it’s different every time the sun rises. Having grown up in a bustling city, Parker had never thought that way before he met Budbill.

Budbill’s poetry was about nature, about things and about people. As Parker described it, Budbill’s poetry sang with the music of living. He loved human beings. Budbill wrote about things Parker could relate to, because, Parker said, “they were human things.” His poetry moved people, because it spoke with the insight that “we all cry in the same language, and we all laugh in the same language.” In other words, Budbill knew that everywhere you go, people are one and the same.

The celebration at the Barre Opera House will include performances by many friends.

Parker will begin and end the program with the ringing of bells. Erik Nielsen will give a performance of poems set to music. A scene from the opera “A Fleeting Animal” — for which Budbill wrote the libretto and Nielsen wrote the music — will be performed by cast members from the 2015 production. Rusty DeWees, the original Antoine in David’s play, “Judevine,” and well known in Vermont as “The Logger” will give a special original performance. Five cast members from Lost Nation Theater’s April 2017 production in Montpelier of “Judevine” will perform a scene from the play.

People attending the event will have opportunities to express themselves through painting, dancing and music. There will also be presentations, simple food and libations. 

For more information please visit: http://barreoperahouse.org/a-memorial-celebration-of-david-budbill.html

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