Sounds Local: Watermelon Wednesdays celebrates 25 years of acoustic music series: Plus, Iron Horse announces initial lineup

Rachael & Vilray with Taylor Ashton (not pictured) will perform the opening show at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on May 15. 

Rachael & Vilray with Taylor Ashton (not pictured) will perform the opening show at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on May 15.  —Photo Credit/Jonno Rattman

The Wood Brothers will take the Summer Stage at the Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield on June 18.

The Wood Brothers will take the Summer Stage at the Tree House Brewing Co. in South Deerfield on June 18. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tim Kliphuis and Jimmy Grant will perform Feb. 28 at Whately Town Hall to kick off  Watermelon Wednesdays’ 25th anniversary year. 

Tim Kliphuis and Jimmy Grant will perform Feb. 28 at Whately Town Hall to kick off Watermelon Wednesdays’ 25th anniversary year.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO


For the Recorder

Published: 02-21-2024 2:05 PM

Watermelon Wednesdays, the acoustic music series that presents concerts and workshops at the historic West Whately Chapel and the Whately Town Hall, will celebrate its 25th year in 2024. Paul Newlin of Whately, a devout music fan, heads up the series, which embraces the motto, “Keeping Live Music Alive.”

Watermelon Wednesdays will host their first show of 2024 when they welcome violinist Tim Kliphuis and guitarist Jimmy Grant on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Whately Town Hall.

This talented pair of musicians is the perfect choice to launch what is sure to be a monumental year for the series, as they are both alums of Watermelon Wednesdays. In 2022, they played the West Whately Chapel together, and Kliphuis has played the venue with various other times with other accompaniments. Both musicians have also participated in the annual Django in June celebration that is held in Northampton every year.

Newlin described that pair as playing with “a virtuosity and excitement that is unrivaled.”

In case you are new to these artists, Kliphuis (pronounced ‘clip-house’) is a master of the violin and an award-winning musician, composer, and educator who resides in the Netherlands. He has been called the modern-day heir to gypsy jazz great and the Hot Club of Paris violinist Stephane Grappelli. Kliphuis is a genre-bending musician who blends gypsy jazz with classical and folk music. He regularly performs globally, has collaborated with many musical greats, and released numerous recordings.

In recent years, Kliphuis has made climate change and the need to create a better future for our children the focus of his work. For his latest piece, “Kosmos,” he spoke with five Dutch scientists to help find solutions to make our lives more sustainable. This work is a follow-up to “The Five Elements,” music he created during the pandemic that pays homage to the earth.

A rising star in the gypsy jazz world, guitarist and native Californian Jimmy Grant will join Kliphuis for this performance. Like Kliphuis, he is a performer, composer and educator. Grant grew up with bluegrass, folk, Celtic, and classical, but he was most drawn to the music of Django Reinhardt. In addition to playing gypsy jazz, he plays music from all over the world, as well as his own compositions. He is an in-demand session player.

Having welcomed Kliphuis to Whately numerous times, Newlin is confident that even listeners who are not familiar with his work will enjoy this concert.

“I’m positive his virtuosity would blow them away. He is also a great entertainer: smart, witty, and just a delightful person,” said Newlin. “My fiddle instructors are big fans of Tim; listeners will be as well as soon as they hear Tim’s first measure.”

Grant’s experience and diverse background further add to what promises to be a special night of music.

When the two take the stage together, you can expect they will celebrate the work of Grappelli and Reinhardt, but you’ll hear some classical and folk as well. Every show the pair plays together is different.

The duo’s stop in Whately is one of only 10 dates in their current U.S. tour. Fortunately, this show will be held at the Town Hall, giving more people a chance to attend. But you will still want to get those tickets in advance.

“This is joyful music at a time when we can use any and all the joy we can muster!” said Newlin of the show.

Next up for Watermelon Wednesdays on March 13, in time for St. Patrick’s Day, it’s Kalos, the trio of Ryan McKasson (fiddle, viola vocals), Eric McDonald (guitar, mandolin, vocals), and Jeremiah McLane (accordion, piano, vocals). Their music draws from Celtic, Breton, American and other musical traditions. Opening the show will be Natalie Padilla of Williamsburg on banjo, guitar and fiddle, and guitarist Yann Falqet of the Quebecois trio Genticorum.

On April 24, it’s the return of the fantastic Haas sisters, Brittany on violin and Natalie on cello. These virtuosic players are favorites of Watermelon Wednesdays and play everything from Bach to old-time, bluegrass to Celtic.

Tickets for all the about shows are

The Iron Horse announces grand opening and initial lineup

Last week, the Parlor Room Collective — the new owners of The Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton — announced the venue’s grand opening this spring and some of the shows booked so far.

The refurnished club purchased by the Parlor Room Collective last fall will open its doors on May 15 with a show by Rachael & Vilray with Taylor Ashton. Rachael Price is the powerhouse lead singer of Lake Street Dive, and Vilray is her singing partner whom she met back when they were students at the New England Conservatory of Music. They perform jazzy material that hankers back to the 1930s and ‘40s. Ashton is a singer-songwriter who records for the Signature Sounds label.

The schedule is stacked with some excellent local talent. On May 17: Spouse and Erin McKeown, who have worked together since Spouse backed McKeown on the 2021 tour for her album “Kiss Off Kiss.” May 18: one-time Valley resident singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg. May 25: Former Amherst resident sax player Mtali Banda with opener Kimaya Diggs. And on May 26: a special free show with world-renowned kids musician Mr. G (Ben Gundersheimer of Whately). June programming will include Winterpills on June 1 and one-man-band, The Suitcase Junket, on June 8.

To see a full listing of all the shows that are scheduled as well as ongoing updates, visit

Tickets will go on sale on March 5 for members and on March 15 for the general public. If you are not a member of the Parlor Room Collective, you may want to become one now. Being a member is the best way you can support the Parlor Room Collective and receive some great benefits that apply to both the Parlor Room and the Iron Horse. They include pre-sales on tickets, discounts and special member-only events. To learn about membership and to donate or learn more about the Parlor Room Collective’s ongoing fundraising efforts to support the Iron Horse, go to

The Wood Brothers at Tree House Brewing Company

The Wood Brothers, who were headliners at the 2023 Green River Festival, will play the summer stage at Tree House Brewing Company in South Deerfield on June 18 at 7 p.m. The Wood Brothers are an American roots band consisting of brothers Chris and Oliver Wood, as well as multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. Their music combines folk, gospel, blues and jazz. Tickets are on sale now at

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be reached at