Shea Away concert series at Great Falls Farmers Market

  • Singer/songwriter Hannah Rose will take the stage at the Great Falls farmers market, Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 5 p.m. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 10/14/2020 2:22:45 PM

The Great Falls Farmers Market, which is held at Peskeomskut Park (200 Avenue A) in Turners Falls, is a wonderful place to purchase some locally grown vegetables — and now it’s also a great place to hear some locally made music. The farmers market has teamed up with the Garlic & Arts Festival and the Shea Theater Arts Center to present the concert series “Shea Away” that will be held at the farmers market every Wednesday in October at 5 p.m.

“We received a generous donation from the Garlic & Arts Festival,” said Emma Ayres, the program coordinator and marketing director for the Shea Theater. “They are creatively trying to navigate this time as well and thanks to their donation we were able to set up this series while compensating local musicians and sort of bringing the Shea outdoors.”

“It’s definitely a community effort between the Shea, the farmers market and the Garlic & Arts festival. This is only possible because of their support which is amazing,” Ayres said.

Ayres booked the series and put together a diverse lineup that includes some major talents on the local scene. The series’ first show was on Wednesday with singer-songwriter Izzy Heitai, who we should mention has an excellent new album called “Father” coming out tomorrow. Upcoming performances will feature Hannah Rose as well as Ruby Mack and Eavesdrop.

“I put this lineup together, and for me I’m always prioritizing LGBTQIA voices and women in music, and so that’s my main commitment,” said Ayres about the artists she booked for the series. “For everyone, this is either their first gig in months or like second or third, which is remarkable because the people I have booked for this are usually pretty busy.”

Ayres added that she is excited to have live music again and thinks this series is extra special because it is occurring at a time when outdoor events are fast coming to an end.

Singer-songwriter Hannah Rose, who is the leader of the art-rock band Sodada and synth-player in the group Old Flame, will take the stage Oct. 14. As a solo artist Rose plays folk-rock music in a vein similar to that of singer-songwriter of Ani DiFranco.

Then on Oct. 21 it will be Ayres’ own band, a folk quartet called Ruby Mack. The group was formerly called The Emma June Band, but Ayres said they switched the name to reflect the more collaborative nature the group is heading. There’s a strong message to their music, which they call Feminist Folk. The band has a new album, “Devil Told Me,” which is due to come out Oct. 23 and you’ll be able to hear some tunes off that album at this show.

The series will wind down Oct. 28 with Eavesdrop. The music of Eavesdrop is defined by the delightful harmonies generated by the trio of Kara Rose Wolf, Kerrie T. Bowden, and Laura Marie Picchi. Whether performing with their full backing band or singing as the trio, their contagious melodies and soulful voices always win over audiences. Eavesdrop has been together for six years and released their album “Tides” in 2017. They are currently working on their next release.

Ayres will be present at all the performances to say hello and answer any questions. The event organizers ask that everyone wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Quarantunes

While we are on the subject of the Shea Theater, we should mention that it continues to be involved with “Quarantunes,” a monthly virtual concert series. Next up is Lea Chiara on Oct. 17, at 8 p.m., a folk singer from Northampton who writes powerful emotionally-charged story songs and sings them in a strong, clear voice. “Quarantunes” can be viewed at www.facebook.com/qurantunesfor you.

“We are doing about one Quarantunes a month,” said Ayres. “Initially, when we first started, the online format hadn’t gotten overpopulated with live events, and I think people are kind of screened out at this point, so we aren’t putting too much into that. I think the main questions that we are working toward is how in the new year to integrate live performance back into our programming and do it in a safe and conscientious way. So we are trying to figure that out right now — how do we move forward and how do we keep our doors open.”

Recently, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that beginning Oct. 5 the state would begin the next phase of its reopening plans, and this would allow Massachusetts performance venues, such as concert halls, to reopen with up to 50 percent capacity or 250 in attendance, whichever was lowest. So how does this impact our local music venues?

Well, it takes much more than the go-ahead from the governor to make promoters and venue owners comfortable enough to open their doors. The Recorder’s sister paper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, recently spoke to some of the major concert promoters in the area, including the Iron Horse Entertainment Group, Signature Sounds Presents and Academy of Music. They all said they have no plans to open soon and said that there is a shared consensus among all of those that the Gazette spoke to that there are many factors to consider before they can reopen, with the safety of all involved being first and foremost. There are also concerns over the uncertainty of the pandemic in terms of its duration and intensity and how that would impact the scheduling of events.

Ayres said that the Shea Theater is in the same situation as it works hard to navigate this uncharted territory and figure out how to best move forward.

“We don’t have any formal plan to open our doors until the new year,” Ayres said. “We are still trying to navigate everything and I think everyone is in the same boat. We are trying to figure out what is sustainable moving forward, what protects our employees and what protects and takes care of our audience and performers.”

Before the pandemic, the Shea had made some great strides in its growth, launching the Shea Presents main stage and lobby series and hosting a successful inaugural Last Night festival on New Year’s Eve.

“I don’t think all is lost,” Ayres said. “We can continue to build on that momentum. We are just going to have to lean into our arsenal of creativity. But in the arts, that’s what we have.”

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magaz ines. You can contact her at soundslocal@yahoo.com.



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