The event will take place at the Millbrook Band Shell at 11AM, and is open to the public free of charge. It will celebrate the history of Millbrook in song.
October 4th is St. Francis Day. Before the songfest begins, three members of the village clergy will read a prayer long associated with St. Francis. Rev. Msgr. Gerardo J. Colacicco, Pastor, St. Joseph’s Church, will read “Una Preghiera Semplice”; Rev. Donna Frischknecht-Jackson, Pastor, Lyall Memorial Federated Church, and Rev. Dr. Matthew Calkins, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church, will share in the reading of the translation of the prayer in English, “A Simple Prayer.”
Following the prayer will be remarks by the Honorable David H. Thorne, senior advisor to the Secretary of State and former U.S. Ambassador to Italy. He is a distant relative of the Thorne family of Millbrook, who has lived in the area since the early 18th century.
The musical program, designed to mirror the walking-tour route in song, will feature many notable performers. Among them are:
-- Steve Ross, a celebrated cabaret artist, who grew up in Millbrook in the 1940s and went on to international fame, performing on six continents. He will accompany the singers and also demonstrate some of his own musical talents.
-- Tenor Robert White, a member of the voice faculty at Juilliard, who has sung before six U.S. Presidents, two royal families, and one Pope. To honor the Irish in Millbrook, he will sing “Danny Boy,” which he sang at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with President Clinton at the White House.
-- Tenor Joseph Freer, a Millbrook native, who is driving from Winston-Salem, NC, to sing Neapolitan songs learned from his mother, Theresa Fiore Freer, a former choral director at St. Joseph’s Church and the Millbrook High School. The grandson of an Italian stonemason, he returns to honor his family in song.
-- Tenor Buddy Marona, Freer’s musical inspiration, who worked in Marona’s Market for over 50 years and has sung at many public and religious ceremonies in Millbrook. Marona’s maternal grandparents, the Piacentinos, came from the mountainous area near Fondi.
-- Vocalist Barbara Rankin, a Rhinebeck resident, formerly of Millbrook, once part of the New Wave jazz quintet in New York City, who now performs regularly at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck and is currently a company member of Half Moon Theater in Poughkeepsie.
-- The Madrigals, an extracurricular choir at the Millbrook High School, selected by audition, who will sing the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King,” the words of which are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.
-- The Hudson Valley Brass Quartet, who will also accompany many of the songs of the sing-along.
Rosemary Sepe Neilson, a Poughkeepsie resident, formerly of Millbrook, a retired English teacher, will read a 1933 poem “Millbrook,” written by her father, Vincent Sepe. Born in 1892 in Fondi, Italy, Vincent Sepe emigrated to Millbrook in 1901.
At the end of the songfest and after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Professor Joseph Luzzi of Bard College will read from and sign copies of his new book, My Two Italies, a poignant story about being the first American-born child of Italian-immigrant parents. The book-reading and book-signing will be under the auspices of Merritt Bookstore.
COLAVITA USA is sponsoring the opening by providing bottles of San Benedetto water for the event.