This year’s Winter Solstice will be rocking

  • Mark Schwaber will play a solo set and a set with Revenant Sea on Friday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. at 10 Forward in Greenfield. Contributed photo

  • Low Lily Contributed photo

Published: 12/12/2019 12:28:13 PM
Modified: 12/12/2019 12:28:03 PM

When I think of music for a winter solstice celebration, I think soft and quiet — the kind of music you’d listen to when snuggled up by a fire drinking a cup of tea. This year, however, I’ll need to rethink that idea because that won’t be the case when Americana band Low Lily teams up with mandolin player Matt Flinner for a Winter Solstice MiniFest at the Parlor Room, 22 Masonic St. in Northampton next Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. This will be a lively celebration of the winter solstice complete with a banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and plenty of harmonies.

Low Lily is a trio from Brattleboro that features Liz Simmons on guitar, her husband, Flynn Cohen on mandolin and guitar and Lissa Schneckenburger on the fiddle. All three of them share vocals. They are occasionally joined by bass player Corey DiMario, who is one of the founding members of the bluegrass band Crooked Still, which, incidentally, played at the Shea Theater this past Tuesday night. Fortunately, he will be on hand for this show.

Although Low Lily is a relatively young band, having formed about five years ago, they are a group of seasoned musicians who have been honing their craft for many years.

“Low Lily evolved out of another band called Annalivia, which was started by me and my husband, Flynn Cohen,” wrote Liz Simmons in a recent email. “We already knew Lissa well and had worked with her in other projects, so it was a natural fit to involve her in the next musical chapter.”

Low Lily released a full-length debut album, “10,000 Days Like These,” in 2018. Multi-instrumentalist Flinner, who is also from Vermont, got his start on the banjo and was playing at bluegrass festivals before he was in his teens. He later picked up the mandolin and was equally adept at that instrument. He has since gone on to become an award-winning musician who is considered one of the premiere mandolin players and a leading composer in the roots music world.

“Matt’s reputation in the bluegrass and string-band circles precedes him. We’ve known about him for a while and are looking forward to playing with him,” said Simmons, who in addition to her work with Low Lily is also in the process of recording a solo album.

This will be the group’s first-ever Winter Solstice MiniFest.

“We had produced another holiday show for the last few years and were ready to try something new, specifically celebrating the weekend of the winter solstice,” said Simmons, adding that the show will be a mix of seasonal material and some of the band’s original songs. “It’s such a wacky time of year, with so little daylight. I think we really need celebrations and music.”

Tickets are $12 in advance, available at, or $15 at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Seasonal performances

The Winter Solstice Mini Fest is only one of many seasonal shows that are happening in the weeks ahead. One of the area’s biggest and longest-running holiday celebrations, “Welcome Yule: A Midwinter Celebration,” will be held at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls this weekend.

“Welcome Yule” will have multiple performances beginning Friday night and running through Sunday afternoon. You can find information and purchase tickets at

Another seasonal tradition is the Sweetback Sisters’ Annual Country Christmas Sing-along Spectacular. The Sweetback Sisters sing-along, which was held at the Rendezvous in Turners Falls before it grew into an annual tour, has become a holiday favorite. There’s nothing like getting together with a group and loudly singing some of your holiday favorites (and some lesser-known tunes). Don’t worry about remembering the words because lyric sheets will be provided.

The Sweetback Sisters sing-along will touch down at the Stone Church in Brattleboro next Wednesday, Dec 18, at 7 p.m. There will also be two shows at the Academy of Music in Northampton on Dec. 22. The first one will be an hour-long afternoon show that begins at 3 p.m. and is geared toward kids.

A full-length evening show will be held at 7 p.m. Information and tickets can be found at or

The Shutesbury Athletic Club will host a holiday party this Saturday night, Dec. 14, with music provided by roots band Appalachian Still. The music, which begins at 8 p.m., will be preceded by a dinner at 6:30 p.m. with a choice of steak or lobster. For tickets to this party contact the Shutesbury Athletic Club at 282 Wendell Road.

Also taking the stage Saturday night, Johnny Memphis will host the annual Flo-Ho-Ho at the Florence VFW. The lineup this year includes the Big Bad Bollocks, Free Range Cats, Jerks on the Loose and others. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., admission is $10.

Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield will host “Light the Night: A Chanukah Celebration” on Sunday, Dec. 29 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. There will be stories, a candle-lighting ceremony and music provided by the Wholesale Klezmer Band. This event is presented by Hawks and Reed and the Roots & Branches Family Education program of Temple Israel Greenfield. Tickets are $10 in advance and available at

Mark Schwaber and Revenant Sea at 10 Forward in Greenfield

Mark Schwaber has a long history on the Western Massachusetts music scene beginning with hardcore bands in the late 80s and leading up to his current solo career that includes six albums. A recent transplant to Greenfield, Schwaber has toured internationally and performed with such acts as Lloyd Cole, Matthew Sweet, Mary Lou Lord, Shadows Fall and fellow Greenfield resident Lou Barlow. His honest, often melancholic music has drawn comparisons to artist like Elliot Smith.

The past year has been a busy one for Schwaber as he has completed his most recent solo album, an ambitious work called “Everything Around Me,” which will be released in early 2020.

Schwaber also has another musical project that he started about a year ago when he teamed up with his friend Sheri Hupfer to form Revenant Sea. In addition to being a musician, Hupfer is an accomplished artist and world traveler. The music they create together draws from various genres and is marked by striking poetic lyrics and Hupfer’s beautiful vocals.

You can enjoy a solo set by Schwaber and a performance by Revenant Sea at 10 Forward, 10 Fiske Ave. in Greenfield, tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Also note the venue has a new website: Admission is by sliding scale of $7-$15. This is an all-ages show.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at


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