The Beat Goes On: Early Baroque music and instrumental guitar in Florence, an a cappella fundraiser in Amherst, and more

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 03-31-2023 8:32 PM

Day-night doubleheaders have been the standard for Major League Baseball for some time now: the same two teams facing off in two games played before successive crowds.

This weekend the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence is offering its own version of a doubleheader, with separate shows April 2 in the afternoon and evening. But these two performances will be a study in contrasts.

The day begins at 4 p.m. with a concert by Arcadia Players, the Valley chamber ensemble and chorus that specializes in playing Baroque and early classical music in what’s known as historically informed performances: music designed to match the tone and style of the era in which a composition was written.

According to Jon Solins, head of Arcadia’s board of directors, the group will give the first-ever performance in western New England of Johann Theile’s “St. Matthew Passion,” including guest performances by tenor William Hite and organist Larry Schipull.

Theile, a prominent German composer of the second half of the 17th century, wrote his “passion” 54 years before Johann Sebastian Bach created his own, more noted musical setting for this biblical chapter of the last days of Jesus Christ.

The production has been delayed for three years because of the pandemic, Solins notes. But the conductor for the Arcadia show, Gregory Hayes, has used that time well, Solins adds, as he’s created a new “performing edition” of the Theile work by transcribing the original score with more consistent and readable musical notation.

Then at 7:30 p.m., Yasmin Williams takes the Bombyx stage, bringing her unique take on solo acoustic guitar. The fingerstyle player has won raves not just for the melodicism of her instrumentals but for her innovative techniques, like tapping out a steady rhythm with her feet on a wooden board.

Using a variety of open tunings, she’ll also lay her guitar flat across her lap and use her left hand to tap notes on the fingerboard, while with her right hand she taps on the strings near the guitar’s bridge with a tiny hammer, like someone playing a hammered dulcimer.

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Williams, who’s made a few previous trips to the Valley, also defies convention simply by playing instrumental guitar, a genre long dominated by white men. As one critic says, she’s “young, female, Black, digitally native, unabashed by tradition … she’s a fresh breeze blowing through a sometimes musty corner of music.”

 

Over 15 years ago, a group of Valley singers organized the Local Vocal Chord Bowl, an a cappella concert modeled on the Silver Chord Bowl, the long-running collegiate a cappella showcase hosted by the Northampton Arts Council.

The singers, who called themselves Green Street Brew, designed their Chord Bowl as a fundraiser for local causes, and they included vocal groups of different ages, all from this region.

After a three-year layoff, the show is back: Nine groups, with singers ranging from high school students to older adults, will take the stage April 1 at 7 p.m. at Amherst Regional High School, in a benefit for music programs in Amherst and Northampton schools.

Admission to the concert is free, though donations are encouraged: “Pay what you can or what you want” is the watchword.

 

Now that it’s become a nonprofit organization, The Parlor Room in Northampton has really ramped up its schedule, with more live music than ever as well as regular music classes.

Two shows in early April offer a back-to-back exploration of roots music. On April 7 at 7:30 p.m., Valley multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist Tim Eriksen brings his themed performance “Pumpkintown” to the stage, a set of songs built around the history of an imaginary New England town.

And on April 8 at 7:30 p.m., The Parlor Room welcomes folk singer-songwriter Kaia Kater, who’s combined her Canadian-Grenadian background with an exploration of Appalachian music to come up with a sound all her own.

More music on tap

It’s an indie rock/indie folk triple header tonight (Friday, March 31) at The Drake in Amherst with Moxie, Lux Deluxe and Cloudbelly.

Local rockers Recent History will be at Progression Brewery Co. in Northampton April 1 at 7 p.m., where the ’90’s alt-rock band will play their new single, “What I Need.”

The Valley folk-pop band Eavesdrop and Providence-based bluesy rockers The Silks come to the Marigold Theater in Easthampton April 1 at 7 p.m.

Art rockers Deerhoof will play cuts from their new album, “Miracle-Level,” April 2 at 8 p.m. at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. Also on the bill are Sound of Ceres and Zannie.

The Drake hosts warm-up events this week for the UMass Bach Festival & Symposium, April 21-23. “Bach in the Subways,” a free show April 2 at 4 p.m., and a prelude concert April 5 at 7:30 p.m., will both feature professional and student musicians playing the Baroque master’s compositions.

The Curtis Brothers — Luques Curtis on bass, Zaccai Curtis on piano — will be joined by Richie Barshay on drums and Evan Amtzen on clarinet for a night of jazz at Easthampton’s Blue Room, in Old Town Hall, on April 5 at 7:30 p.m.

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