Whately’s Watermelon Wednesdays returning to in-person shows in August

  • In August, Watermelon Wednesdays is returning to in-person performances at the West Whately Chapel at the intersection of Conway and Williamsburg roads. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 6/28/2021 2:57:31 PM

WHATELY — After a year of music reaching audiences through computer speakers, Watermelon Wednesdays is returning to in-person performances at the West Whately Chapel at the intersection of Conway and Williamsburg roads.

This is the 22nd year Watermelon Wednesdays will be bringing musical talent from all over the country to the Pioneer Valley. Paul Newlin, founder and organizer of the concert series, expects shows to start Aug. 4, beginning with American jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson.

Newlin said he is hard at work putting the season’s program together and plans are a “work in progress.” One thing he said he knows for certain, however, is live music will be returning to Whately.

“I’ve got some irons in the fire,” Newlin said in a phone interview. “I’m very excited about it, it’s been so long.”

Watermelon Wednesdays shifted to virtual concerts streamed on YouTube last year as a way to support artists through the pandemic, but Newlin said it can’t compare to a live performance.

“I have been doing this for 22 years and I have just come to realize the power of live music,” Newlin said. “Watching anything on screen pales to a live performance, and that’s just been made more apparent.”

Newlin said both performers and audiences have been anxious to reunite.

“For a musician to be able to play in front of an audience of real people, it’s a very emotional experience for them and the audience,” he said. “I expect that’s going to be the case. This year is all of these groups coming out of hiding, as we all come out of hiding.”

The integral part of Watermelon Wednesdays returning to in-person shows is “re-establishing community,” which is something Newlin said was missed when musicians were on a screen because of the “palpable sense of joy” when music connects to a live crowd.

“It’s just a thrill to be able to sit in the back of a full house, and not just listen to the music but enjoy the interaction between the audience and the musicians,” Newlin said. “To bring experiences like that to people is something I’m very thankful I can do, and I feel really good about it.”

There is now WiFi in the chapel and Newlin plans to continue streaming shows for people who may still be hesitant about gathering indoors. There’s no air conditioning and it can get hot in the chapel, but Newlin said the historic, rural feeling creates a charm that cannot be found anywhere other than Whately.

“It’s a great experience because it’s a lovely setting,” Newlin said. “And of course the music, I try to get as good as there is to come to a small venue like this, in the middle of the universe as far as I’m concerned, but most people don’t share my appraisal.”

Selectboard member Joyce Palmer-Fortune said she was glad to see Newlin continue to work toward an in-person return despite his plans being shot down earlier in the year.

“Earlier in the year, we had to say no,” Palmer-Fortune said. “We just weren’t ready to open town buildings for that kind of thing.”

Like Newlin, Palmer-Fortune is happy to see the concert series return.

“I think Watermelon Wednesdays are great,” Palmer-Fortune said. “I’ve been going to Watermelon Wednesdays for years.”

The schedule of concerts, listed at watermelonwednesdays.com, is as follows:

■Aug. 4: Karrin Allyson

■Aug. 18: A.J. Lee and Blue Summit

■Aug. 25: The Dara Tucker Band

■Sept. 1: Maeve Gilchrist with Kyle Sanna and the Rasa String Quartet

■Sept. 8: Jeremy Kittle and Co.

■Sept. 12 (Sunday): Sam Reider and the Human Hands

■Sept. 22: Darol Anger and Mister Sun

■Oct. 13: Mike Block, Balla Kouyaté and friends

■Oct. 27: Mile Twelve

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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