Encores & Curtain Calls: Spring sweetens the deal
... in just spring, when the world is mud-luscious ... and puddle wonderful ...”— ee cummings
As they say, “Getting there is half the fun.”In New York City, concert-going involves enduring the often-less-than-refreshing, not infrequently stressful transit to one’s destination. In my case, as an undergraduate at Queens College in the late 1960s living in a $60-a-month garret in Forest Hills and sustained by little more than bread and water, a jaunt to the city meant a seemingly endless subway crucible. I use the word advisedly because, at least in my own case, noise — the scrape and screech of steel upon steel — proved an almost unbearable trial each and every time I was required to undergo it. Alas, earplugs were not yet in my defensive lexicon, as they now are.
It’s still relatively little known that vibrations don’t merely enter our nervous systems through the ears, but also through an extensive array of nodal points throughout our skeletal framework that act much like a human tuning fork. Even with ears plugged and imagining all is well, we are being substantially stressed by invasive decibel levels.
Such is the mixed bliss and stress of the intra-urban arts experience, ultimately redeemed, to be sure, by the eventual entry into the hallowed resplendence of places like Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, which offer artistic occasions whose memories often endure for the remainder of one’s life.
This “endure-hell-to-get-to-heaven” scenario need not necessarily be the case, however, for us in western Massachusetts, where endless beauties and delights await to ease and cushion every moment of travel, especially in the spring.Which is all by way of saying that, rather than shun a distant arts venue, one should actively invite it precisely so that one can take in the miracle of a burgeoning new world of colors, textures, sounds, scents while en route to one’s preferred dose of art, theater, music.
There’s little if any pain from such a journey, one that will bring us through rushing-river valleys, groves of weeping willow, cloudscape after metamorphosing cloudscape, and a colorful array of relatively easily negotiated outposts of civilization, no matter which direction one chooses.
So, let’s take a broad brush stroke across the possibilities:
You might, as often I am tempted to do, want to flee the Pioneer Valley and take refuge up the Mohawk Trail to Williamstown to take in the consistently intriguing offerings laid out by the college in both its musical and theater departments. Here is a smattering of the upcoming calendar:
April 25 and 27, 4 p.m., in the Rotunda: Chamber Choir in the Rotunda; under the direction of Brad Wells will perform William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices. Byrd wrote during the Renaissance in England when Catholicism existed underground. The mass was originally composed with a small group and place in mind. The Chamber Choir will also perform shorter works of Byrd in English and Latin and a piece by Brad Wells titled “Render,” which was written originally for Roomful of Teeth, Wells’s Grammy award-winning vocal ensemble.
April 25 and 26, 8 p.m., in the ’62 Center for Theater & Dance. The annual Kusika/Zambezi Spring Concert. The groups perform dance, music and storytelling from the African continent and the diaspora. Founded in 1992, Zambezi was originally inspired by traditional Zimbabwean marimba bands.
April 25, the final performance of the Berkshire Symphony, featuring student soloists performing Concertpiece for Viola and Orchestra by George Enescu, Leonard Bernstein’s “Glitter and be Gay” from “Candide,” the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, op. 18 by Sergei Rachmaninoff, the world premiere of a work by Sato Matsui ’14, titled “Memorabilia,” and finally, a performance of Symphony No. 7 in D minor, op. 70, B. 141, by Antonín Dvorak.
April 26, 7 p.m., in Chapin Hall, The Williams Gospel Choir.
Nearer at hand, in Puntey, Vt., Seth Knopp, artistic director of Yellow Barn, and Michael Kannen, founding member of Brentano String Quartet, will perform a special benefit concert for Next Stage Arts Project, Saturday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. The program includes sonatas by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms; Next Stage, 15 Kimball Hill, Putney, Vt. Tickets are $22; nextstagearts.org. Reservations: 802-387-0102.
If you’ve never heard the sound and, as is sometimes the case with The Happy Valley Guitar Orchestra, the fury of many plucked and amplified strings (bring your earplugs!), now’s your chance: at Sweeney Hall, Smith College on Friday, May 9, at 7:30 pm. The HVGO’s annual spring concert features music by Philip Glass and Arvo Part, 18th century-Scottish dance music of Nathaniel Gow, Wilco and The Smiths. Tickets: Adults, $15; students and children, $12; available in advance at www.nohoarts.org and at the door from 6 p.m. on the evening of the performance. Door sales are cash or check only.
“Prairie Home Companion” listeners and devotees of Robin and Linda Williams can catch the duo as its tour passes through Shelburne Falls for a performance at Memorial Hall, Friday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m., in a concert to benefit the Connecticut River Watershed Council and the 18th annual Source to Sea Cleanup. Local singer-songwriters Pat and Tex LaMountain will open. Advance tickets are $15 and available at: www.ctriver.org/news-events/concert/
Avant garde, anyone?
On Saturday, April 26, at 8 p.m., at the Pushkin in Greenfield, you can hear cellist Astrid Schween performing “Rhapsody for Electric Cello and Electronics,” with composer Gordon Green mocking up the “phantom orchestra” on various digital and electronic modalities. There will be a set of 15 segments featuring the electrified cello against a backdrop of synthesized orchestrations.
Tickets are $10 and $7; http://theartsblock.com/pushkin
It’s spring; get out there, get down and dirty or, as Margaret Atwood put it, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt!”
An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at email@example.com.