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Taylor 'Spruces' Up Vermont Venue

STOWE, VT (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The brand new 422-seat Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont capped its grand-opening week with James Taylor’s fundraising concert for the Arts Center Foundation’s education programs.

The tickets for the benefit concert went for as much as $1,000, and while the shows on the venue’s upcoming schedule offer tickets ranging upwards from $30, the big test of the venue’s long-lasting success will be whether it remains within financial reach of the northern Vermont community at large and not just well-off out-of-towners staying at Stowe Mountain Resort.

The arts center has that simple elegance one might expect from an upscale ski resort in otherwise laid-back Vermont. The cedar-sided exterior leads to an airy but snug lobby and an unpretentious wood-paneled theater that ascends from the broad stage like a dressed-up college lecture hall according to the Burlington Free Press.

Taylor spoke to the crowd in a moment that must have made the Stowe Mountain Resort marketing department very happy. “A great place to ski,” said Taylor, who lives in western Massachusetts, “and now a great place to play. Nice room," he said according to the Burlington Free Press.

Taylor’s wife, Caroline, who sang backup on a couple of songs Friday night, told the crowd she learned to ski at Stowe and that the couple’s twin 9-year-old sons, Henry and Rufus, have done the same.

Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Owen Young joined Taylor during “Fire and Rain,” and Young drew one of the night’s loudest ovations when he ripped into a snippet from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

Taylor introduced his songs by sharing their origins with fans.

“Carolina In My Mind” stemmed from a homesick night stranded on an island off the coat of Spain with a woman named Karen whose name shows up in the song; he thought up “Sweet Baby James” while driving from Massachusetts to North Carolina to see the nephew who was named for him, and wanted it to be a cowboy lullaby with a “lights out in the bunkhouse” vibe; he first heard “You’ve Got a Friend” sung by its author, Carole King, in a club in Los Angeles, never envisioning he’d go on to sing it himself 1,000 times, according to the Burlington Free Press.

Taylor also mentioned that three of his crew members — John Prince, Ralph Perkins and Tony Bader — have lived in Burlington.

Taylor’s encore was “Auld Lang Syne,” the New Year’s Eve anthem that closes his 2006 Christmas album. He introduced it by sending off 2010 with “so long, goodbye and good riddance” and welcoming 2011 by deeming it “a nice lookin’ year” with a “glint in its eye,” according to the Burlington Free Press.

— Crystal Lynn Huntoon