Popular Music Scene Awakens in the Berkshires
Please allow me to introduce myself: My name is Grace and I will be your guide each week this summer to the best in pop concerts, jazz and musical theater throughout the Berkshires.
I'm a lover and student of all genres of music and a Berkshires regular. My background is as a news and feature reporter for The New York Times. I've written and/or collaborated on six books and my work has appeared in numerous magazines. Most importantly, in recent years I have specialized in writing about music, books and culture.
You can look forward to this column as a tip sheet about upcoming shows. I won't review them; I will preview them, and I'll try to persuade you to attend a concert or show that is either in your musical comfort zone or that expands your musical horizons. I might add exceptional dance programs as well as very occasional forays into contemporary classical music (i.e. "new music") where I think a crossover event is worth your attention.
Barrington Stage Company
It is still early in the summer season, of course. Nevertheless, already under way at the Barrington Stage Company's Boyd-Quinson Mainstage in downtown Pittsfield is a world premiere musical comedy called "The Royal Family of Broadway," with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin. The two previously collaborated on "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," and Tony Award-winner Finn, who is artistic producer of BSC's Musical Theatre Lab, was responsible for "Falsettos."
The show is based on the 1927 original play "The Royal Family" by George S. Kaufman & Edna Ferber and an original adaptation by Richard Greenberg. With such starry credentials, "Royal Family of Broadway" looks like a surefire hit. It's a love letter to the Great White Way, set in the 1920s. It is loosely based on the legendary Barrymores.
Performances run through July 7 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. Tickets and more information can be found online.
Tanglewood Music Festival
The popular early-season concerts at Tanglewood kicks off with a series of superstars from the 1960s and 1970s in several interesting combinations.
First, let's talk legends: Roger Daltrey appears with the Boston Pops on Friday, June 15, at 8 p.m. in the Shed performing The Who’s rock opera "Tommy" (1969). Daltrey’s trademark curls are grey now, but the lead singer of The Who is still going strong. So if you want to see him, feel him, touch him (well, maybe just see him and hear him), get your Tanglewood tickets now. If it's been awhile since you heard "Tommy" — about the pinball wizard who is deaf, dumb and blind — delivered by a big band like the Boston Pops, the evening is bound to be a revelation.
Saturday, June 16, at Tanglewood brings the former CSN star David Crosby. The folk rock icon performs with singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter ("Passionate Kisses" and "He Thinks He'll Keep Her”) and Americana duo Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen take the stage together. The concert is at 7 p.m.
Want more of CSN? On Sunday, June 17, at 2:30 p.m., Stephen Stills takes the Shed stage in concert with Judy Collins, for whom he wrote "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" almost a half-century ago. The two made an album together last year, and their appearance is guaranteed to contain many harmonies and much nostalgia.
On Tuesday, June 19, Tanglewood welcomes wonderful crossover artist Alison Krauss with special guest singer-songwriter Steve Delopoulos. For the past three decades, Krauss has brought bluegrass into the mainstream of country and blended it with rock and roots too.
For more information on any of these performances, check out the Tanglewood website.
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Ani DiFranco brings her guitar and voice to Great Barrington on Sunday, June 17, at 7 p.m. This wonderful singer of numerous styles has been a treat to hear over the years and offers songs from her latest album "Binary," accompanied by Todd Sickafoose on bass and Terence Higgins on drums. Check out the website for more information.
Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend
Finally, it's an exciting start to the seventh annual Berkshire Gateway Jazz Weekend in Lee. The Frank Vignola Trio kicks it all off on Friday, June 15, at the Lee Meeting House at the Lee Congregational church. No less a figure than Les Paul named Frank to his "Five Most Admired Guitarists List."
Marking his first date at the Lee festival, Vignola recently resumed performing and touring after a near-fatal ATV accident. His band mates are co-guitarist Vinny Raniolo and bassist Elias Bailey. Coming Saturday, June 16, the Jeff Holmes Big Band, featuring vocalist Dawning Holmes, completes this weekend. The band's repertoire includes big-band standards, originals, and a tribute to Leonard Bernstein. (In case you've been on Mars, both Earth and especially the Berkshires are celebrating Lenny's centennial this year.)
Shows are at 7:30 p.m. The weekend activities also feature a jazz brunch Saturday and Sunday, food vendors and vintage automobiles. More information can be found online.
Mass MoCA on Friday, June 15, spotlights the Portland, Ore.-based band The Decemberists. The veteran act has just released a new album, its eighth studio album in 17 years. It is headed by lead vocalist and guitarist Meloy, with guitarist Chris Funk, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query, and drummer John Moen. Marissa Nadler opens the show at the Hunter Center. Go online for more information.
And there’s more…
Next Wednesday, June 20, Jacob's Pillow in Becket, Mass., presents the Oyu Oro Afro Cuban Dance Ensemble in the Pillow’s Inside/Out outdoor program. The folkloric performances represent Cuba’s unique history and cultural landscape, including African. Traditional cultural work, Haitian influences and the rumba, conga, chancletas and son of Cuba itself. It’s free and begins at 6:15 p.m.
And Monday at 8 pm, the new Songwriter Cabaret offers composer Benji Goldsmith & lyricist Stefan Melnyk with "Lies We Tell Ourselves," an evening of original songs at the Barrington Stage's Mr. Finn's Cabaret, located on the lower level of the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden S., Pittsfield.
For tips on upcoming music, please contact Grace Lichtenstein by email.
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