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Encores and Curtain Calls

Encores & Curtain Calls

“Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
— Henry James

Now’s the time to start circling summer music dates for July and August; having kicked off last week, the Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon concerts will be continuing apace, one per week, with the sole exception of July 28. Next in the offing is a return engagement by mezzo-soprano Lisa Woods, who will be joining forces with soprano Teri LaFleur and pianist Clifton “Jerry” Noble Jr.

The first half of the concert will include works by Offenbach, Straus, Mozart and Rossini, with the second half being a collection of recent show tunes.

As I take pains to mention at the outset of each season, the Old Deerfield series, which graces the area under the auspices of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, is a contender for one of the region’s most sympathetic stone’s-throw summer venues: taking place in the decidedly cozy, historic and garden-buffered Memorial Hall Museum on the fringe of Old Deerfield village, just off Route 5. The space has few rivals for musical intimacy.

Add to this its long and loyal affiliation with a core handful of top-notch performers and you have a calendar of balmy, yesteryear musicales guaranteed to please. A quick overview of this season’s guest artists:

July 14 — Valley pianist Ken Forfia, one of the series’ longest-returning veterans.

July 21 — the ever-popular Pioneer Consort, with Chris Devine on violin, Michael Nix on banjar (a guitar-banjo hybrid) and Greg Snedeker on cello.

Aug. 4 — Beth Welty, violinist and Carol Hutter, violist – a rarely come-by instrumental duo

Aug. 11 — Akal Dev Sharonne, flutist and Gregory Hayes, pianist

Aug. 18 — The Valtchev- chekoratova Duo, with Gregory Valtchev, violin and Lora Techekoratova, piano: a very dynamic husband-and-wife duo with a high emotional charge.

A ug. 25 — “The Lucy Terry Prince Concert” with Irwin Reese, tenor Judy Bady, piano; featuring African American art songs, spirituals, and the song cycle “The Letters” by Richard Pearson Thomas, based on the life of George Washington Carver.

Memorial Hall Museum is located at 8 Memorial St., Deerfield. Admission to the July 15 concert is $10; $5 for students and seniors. For further information, call Memorial Hall Museum at 413-774-3768, ext. 10.

Mohawk Trail
Concert Series

The Mohawk Trail Concerts series is launching its summer series with a free family Independence Day concert by John Clark’s Odd Couple Quintet performing “From Jazz to Rock” on the riverbank in Charlemont, July 4, at 4 p.m.

“The odd  couple in question, John Clark and Michael Rabinowitz play French horn and bassoon respectively, difficult instruments not generally associated with jazz,” read a press release, which quotes Clark saying, “we boldly set out on this perilous journey and we defy critics to call our instruments odd!”

The French horn is known — in and outside of classical circles — as a notoriously difficult instrument to play well. The bore, or mouthpiece depth, is deep and narrow and it requires a great deal of “lip-English” to produce accurate pitch and tone. In any given orchestral recording, there is greater likelihood of a French horn sound going astray than any other instrument and the higher the required tones are, the dicier a good rendering becomes.

Of course, jazz being what it is, it may be that any roughness or “bentness” of tone may be considered as an asset rather than a liability, a kind of “authenticity”; but, even so, a klinker is a klinker and it’s not very hard to tell when a classical or jazz horn player is “klinking.”

Which makes Clark’s courage all the more admirable

Meanwhile, the bassoon, while somewhat less perilous to play, has had a tough time being taken seriously in the jazz world. At least the horn has had some notable precursors in jazz, composer David Amram among them, but this is the first time I recall having heard of a jazz bassoonist.

The combination is curious because both instruments largely occupy the same range, with the horn able to go over the bassoon by a stretch. However, it’s a stretch that costs the horn player quite a bit of effort. The way these two pros are sure to deal with this parity is to agree to “stay out of each other’s way,” with one giving way and taking the low road while the other takes the high, then changing places.

Their press notes share the following on their repertoire and sidemen: “The group will play original compositions and jazz arrangements of classical works. Clark, who has a home in Heath, is an international jazz and freelance musician based in New York City. He has performed and/or recorded with Gil Evans, McCoy Tyner, the Mingus Orchestra, the Heath Brothers and Jaco Pastorius, among others. Rabinowitz has worked with such artists as Joe Lovano, Wynton Marsalis and Elvis Costello and is a founding member of the Charles Mingus Orchestra. Jerome Harris, guitar/bass guitar, an honors student in jazz guitar at New England Conservatory of Music, has recorded and/or toured with Sonny Rollins, Jack DeJohnette, Don Byron and Bill Frisell, Mark Egan, bass, is one of the most respected and in-demand electric bassists today, having recorded with Sting, Roger Daltry, Marianne Faithful, John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny, among others. Drummer Abe Fogle is currently working with Rob Thomas of “Matchbox Twenty” and has toured and/or performed with Kenny Garrett, George Coleman, Kool and the Gang, D’Angelo Kelis, to name just a few.”

The riverbank site is by the old railroad station at the bridge, just off Route 2 in Charlemont.  Folding chairs are suggested, or float in on a canoe. Dance on the sand. In the event of rain, the concert will move to the Federated Church on Route 2 in town.

Finally, the very next pair of evenings, Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6, heralds MTC’s first season outing in its (air-conditioned!) Federated Church venue, with music by Wagner-a-la-Liszt, Schoenberg and Hindemith, plus “contemporary music with a Middle Eastern flavor.” The performers are Marjorie Melnick, mezzo-soprano, Estela Olevsky, piano and duo Jalal, Kathryn Lockwood, viola and Yousif Sheronick, percussion

The Federated Church is on Route 2 in Charlemont. Performance times are Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m., tickets $15 to $20, call 413- 625-9511, toll free 888-MTC-MUSE; or www.mohawktrailconcerts.org.

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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