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Encores and Curtain Calls

Encores & Curtain Calls: One thing is certain about the multifaceted David Fersh: when he performs, you’re sure to get more than you bargained for

Come — those who dare — to this patchwork-quilt, potpourri of Song, Shtick and Stuff Fersh. Only one thing is certain: you’ll get more than you bargained for.
Recorder illustration/Adam Orth

Come — those who dare — to this patchwork-quilt, potpourri of Song, Shtick and Stuff Fersh. Only one thing is certain: you’ll get more than you bargained for. Recorder illustration/Adam Orth

“All the world’s a stage ... And one man in his time plays many parts.”

— Shakespeare, “As You Like”

It,”

Several years ago, a previously unknown entity by the name of David Fersh appeared on my radar screen. To the best of my memory, he’d sent me —– among other things — lyrics and music he’d created in response to a Pothole Picture screening of one of my very favorite films, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” yet another masterwork from the golden year of 1939 in which Charles Laughton arguably delivers his most heart-wrenching cinematic performance as Quasimodo. To this day, for some strange reason, I regret to say, I have yet to experience the music Fersh sent me, in spite of having heard many of his subsequent creations.

Yet his awareness of my love of this film still remains a mystery as I don’t recall ever having written about it. All I know is, Fersh happened and he happened all at once, out of the blue, as it were, as a fan, music-lover, singer-songwriter, film-buff, man-boy-adolescent, stranger-yet-neighbor, insightful commentator and borderline eccentric, in one fell swoop.

To his credit, despite my long-lapsed response to his generous and friendly outreach, he did not give up on me and he began peppering my in-box with his unique brand of communiques, “Fershisms” I would term them, all, without exception, the expressions of a human being deeply engaged in his world as well as the worlds of its denizens, with their many cultural aquifers and streams.

Subsequently I learned that Fersh freely volunteered to provide the music for Shelburne Falls’ River Day(s), and that — as covered in this column — he had choreographed a double album of both his own music as well as cover songs titled “Welcome to Western Massachusetts.” Clearly, here was a fellow who was not afraid to be out there, to hang his soul out in the wind of public opinion and who spontaneously experienced and expressed his experience of life and relationship through music.

Technicalities, training and skill-index aside, is this not the definition of a true “musician?”

In addition to which, Fersh is nothing if not an inclusionist someone who very much wants to invite everyone, with few exceptions, to the party, whether that party be a concert, a recording or life itself. Indeed, upon attending my own retrospective concert in April of last year, he immediately connected to invite me to create four new works for his forthcoming album, “Songs of Peace Protest and Spirit,” during which process I came to know him at much closer range.

What I found was not one David Fersh but many, rather like one of those Looney Tunes in which we see a dozen Bugs Bunnies or Daffy Ducks simultaneously filling the screen. Such a wide diversity, I thought, is surely worth a few dozen awful puns, questionable one-liners or run-on phone conversations; for these are merely the icing on a very rich, ultimately delight-delivering cake, perhaps a “Fersh Souffle.”

Which, in essence, is what’s in store for all those intrigued and courageous enough to betake themselves to Fersh’s upcoming “Sharing of Self” at the Great Falls Coffee House, March 14, from 7 to 9 p.m., for “An Evening with David Fersh.”

The official release informs us that Fersh “will play guitar and sing a wide variety of styles and songs, both original and by others. His repertoire ranges from folk and blues, to country and oldies rock and also includes jazzy standards, Broadway and movie tunes and others not easily categorized. He will perform selections from his album ‘Welcome to Western Massachusetts’ and from his upcoming album, ‘Songs of Peace, Protest & Spirit.’ John Miller will accompany on guitar, bass and possibly vocals.”

“I’m doing a, for me, a somewhat rare gig, one of the reasons being that I’ve been working very hard on finishing my second album, to be called ‘Songs of Peace, Protest and Spirit,’” said Fersh. “However, I do enjoying singing live very much. This came about through Michael Nix, who did some wonderful guitar transcriptions on my last album and is in charge of the wonderful series of musical offerings at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. It’s a good venue, the audience is actually attentive and listens and appreciates the musicians and singers.”

And, if experience is any guide, it assuredly will be an evening with Fersh in every sense, rather than a chaste and self-effacing rendition of the works of others. There will, for certain, be music — both of Fersh and others — but also “shtick.” which is Jewish for “ bits of business.” Indeed, to my mind, Fersh is western Massachusetts’ secret scion of New York Jewish humor in regional guise.

The coffeehouse is at the Great Falls Discovery Center, 2 Avenue A, Turners Falls. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Coffee and homemade baked goods are available. The museum and museum store are open during intermission. Suggested sliding scale donation of $6 to $12, free for children. Donations help the Friends of the Discovery Center provide free nature programming for the public. The Discovery Center is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call the Discovery Center at 413-863-3221

Hot tip of the week

The Greenfield Community College Chorus will present a Friday preview concert, “Songs of Nature,” from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. The ensemble will be under the direction of  Margery Heins, with Marilyn Berthelette, accompanist, and with soloists drawn from the chorus.

The Greenfield Community College Chorus will open its spring semester series with a nice sampling of works by Henry Purcell, Randall Thompson, Samuel Barber, Paul Hindemith and Eric Barnum, A full performance of “Songs of Nature,” will be given Sunday, April 6, at 4:15 p.m. in Sloan Theater, at Greenfield Community College. For more information, call  at 413-775-1171.

An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at josephmarcello@verizon.net.

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