DCLA performed at Flatbread during last year's Skatepark Benefit. See them this time around at The Lampost. — David Welch

A group of prominent Island musicians will come together at The Lampost this Friday, June 13, in support of the Martha’s Vineyard Skatepark. The M.V. Skatepark Association will host the show in hopes of raising money to upgrade the park from plywood to cement.

The show will cater to listeners of varying genres, featuring appearances by Dukes County Love Affair (DCLA), Island Thunder, and The Hammerheads.

DCLA is the Island’s premier youth rock band with, as band members Adam Lipsky, John Stanwood, Jamie Green, Mike Parker, and Phil DaRosa call it, a “Gypsy Rock-hop” sound. Their repertoire includes both songs that have become Island nightlife anthems since the band formed in 2010 and those from their latest EP, High Sky.

Island Thunder will shift the tempo with classic and contemporary reggae. Their Vineyard following will likely appreciate the growth in their music; DJs Carter Hakala and Spencer Binney and the six-person band’s bases have spread from the Island to California and Jamaica, according to their website.

The Hammerheads will channel the 60s by bringing surf music with a contemporary edge to the stage. The group is made up of members from past Island staples The Kahoots and Master Exploder.

Thirteen years have passed since the skatepark, a nonprofit 501(c)3, was formed through a community effort by Island workers and volunteers. Since 2003, the association has aimed to improve its ramps, which sit on land donated by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and comprise an Oak Bluffs town park.

The show is 21+ and admission is $10.

Nicholas Cranston and Aubrey Holmes. — Lynn Christoffers

The first Annual All-Island Spring Orchestra Concert began with a guest appearance by the High School Orchestra. Conductor Mike Tinus explained that the young listeners would have to stretch their musical listening attention because the orchestra would be performing an adult concert piece that was about five minutes long. They played an excerpt from “Rosamunde.” Having been so challenged, even the youngest beginners were avid listeners. Although a long and difficult movement of music, it was a piece with dramatic flair and perfect for this elementary audience.

Finn Lewis (foreground) and Makenzie Luce.
Finn Lewis (foreground) and Makenzie Luce.

Next up — for “contrast” said teacher Nancy Jephcote — was the 61-member Beginning Orchestra. In their first performance as a large group, they rocked the house. Each beginning orchestra group had been rehearsing at their individual schools during the school day in small groups ranging from 5-15 students. The excitement was palpable as together they created a massive band sound accompanied by drum kit, electric bass, and piano. “Stop Gap Rock” was written for them by Ms. Jephcote. Fellow elementary instructor Chelsea Pennebaker conducted with style.

The Intermediate Orchestra raises its own bar every year, parents commented. A 31-member group that rehearses before school every week, they had been energized earlier this year by a field trip to Mashpee for the regional orchestral extravaganza, the String Jamboree, for which they had learned four pieces. They played three of these — “Can-Can,” “Mozart Serenade,” “We Will Rock You” — with zest, good intonation, and strong dynamics. They also premiered a Jephcote original entitled “Fair Winds” that they had mastered in three short weeks. The fourth Jamboree piece was held in reserve to be performed as a grand finale together with the Advanced Orchestra at the concert’s end.

Emily Hewson, left, and Robert Hanjian.
Emily Hewson, left, and Robert Hanjian.

The Advanced Orchestra offered seven short pieces, ranging from classical pieces such as “Landler” by Leopold Mozart;  Weber’s “Hunter’s Chorus,” “Concert in Vienna,”  “Summer Stomp,”  and on to “Under the Boardwalk,” played with a cha-cha rhythm section. Next they switched gears with “Fiddlers at Shady Gulch” for which Ms. Jephcote pulled out her own instrument and added a cajun fiddle improvisation over the top. Of particular note throughout their performance were their stellar intonation, multiple stylistic bow technique, and sheer pride in performance.

The concert came to a fitting conclusion as the Intermediate Orchestra joined the Advanced Orchestra for “America the Beautiful.” Fifty instrumentalists — one for each state —  performed the National Anthem.

Woody Pines plays at Flatbread Company this Thursday, June 5. — Ralph Stewart

Flatbread Pizza Company presents a night of pizza and American roots music this Thursday, June 5, from 5 to 7 pm. Performing will be the Nashville trio Woody Pines and Falmouth’s four-man band, Brother’s Rye.

Woody Pines is a self-proclaimed “Stripped Down American Roots” band whose music contains the lively beats of a street-corner jug band alongside smooth crooning of the likes of Bob Dylan, and lyrics brimming with folk staples: Mardi Gras, whiskey, and pretty women.

The group is fronted by singer/musician Woody Pines with his old-time Southern twang and accompanied by the plucks and strums of upright bassist Shawn Supra and guitarist Brad Tucker, who was born and raised in the musical Tucker family of West Tisbury.

The members of Brother’s Rye live, create, and perform in Woods Hole and their songs, which detail both warm summers and the sea and long winters and quiet evenings, are anthems for New England natives.

Led by singer Benjamin Lee Paterson, originally from Wales, along with upright bassist Josh Dayton, guitarist Randy Gummow, and Topher Maffei on percussion, the Brother’s Rye call themselves an “Outlaw jug,” and play everything from folk to rockabilly.

The upbeat, fresh-yet-familiar tunes from both groups will have the 21+ audience thumping and shuffling their feet for no cover charge. More information about the groups is available at their sites,, and More information about the show can be found at

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Jim Thomas and the Spirituals Choir at a past performance at the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. — Adrianne Ryan

Update: This article has been updated to reflect that Friday’s concert at the M.V. Public Charter School is not open to the public.

Jim Thomas has been singing the praises of America’s artful and once-secret slave communication system for 10 years.

Mr. Thomas formed his choral group, The U.S. Slave Song Project Spirituals Choir, on Martha’s Vineyard a decade ago at the behest of the Island chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The 33-voice choir has planned an 11-event schedule this season, including several appearances off Island.

All performances are open to the public and all but two of the choir’s events are free. Their annual fundraising performances ($15 admission) will be held on June 28 at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven and on July 19 at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs.

Other Island performances are at the Chilmark Community Church for the Sunday morning service on June 15, and an East Chop sunset performance on July 28. Off-Island performances will take the troupe to the Medford Royall House and Slave Quarters, to the Old North Church in Boston, and an appearance in western Vermont. Though not open to the public, the choir performs for students on Friday, May 30, at the M.V. Public Charter School in West Tisbury.

The ambitious tour has support from the Martha’s Vineyard Permanent Endowment Fund and advertising is being solicited from Island businesses for inclusion in a commemorative 10-year anniversary booklet to be published this season.

In an interview this week, Mr. Thomas told a riveting story of a slave culture that developed a coded means of communicating their struggle for freedom – through music. According to sources found through online research by The Times, history does not record a single new spiritual created after 1865, when the last slave was freed.

Mr. Thomas is a retired executive at the American Red Cross and a graduate of Fisk University, home of the renowned Jubilee Singers spiritual chorus, He became enthralled with the idea of spirituals as a means of communications through conversations with his great-grandmother, who was born a slave in western Tennessee. Mr. Thomas has researched the history trail of spirituals through the catacombs of the Library of Congress, a search that led to university libraries around the country.

“We don’t know anyone else who is doing the musical work we’re doing. We sing the songs exactly as we believe slaves sang them. There was likely no 12-part harmonies or changing keys in that environment. Just a high and a low. We always offer a short explanation of the meaning of the song before we sing it to provide insight to the audience,” he said.

Mr. Thomas noted that oppressed people have always found ways to communicate secretly with each other, most often in language dialect (such as Yiddish and the Irish Shelta dialects).

“But trouble can also be the mother of invention,” he said. “Slaves were not permitted to talk with each other as they worked. But slaves who would accompany their masters to church noted how the language of the church affected their slave-owning listeners, made them comfortable. So the slaves developed the spiritual, using that church language in musical form as a means of communication.

“Despite the stereotype, slaves were not stupid. They were just young. On average, slaves were 17.3 years old when they got here.”

The Slave Song Project choir has a diverse multi-racial and ethnic composition that works for Mr. Thomas. “We all share a mutual destiny,” he said. “We do have common background and a common future. We need common understanding. We all want the same things.

“Much of this information is not recorded in our African-American history and we have a distorted view of our legacy. So, one by one, we are helping our people to have a positive view of whence they’ve come.”

The U.S. Slave Song Project Spirituals Choir has evolved into its own nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization. Donations to the choir may be made by contacting Mr. Thomas at or by phone at 703-407-1207. Donations may also be sent to P.O. Box 3041, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.

Music: U.S. Slave Song Project Spirituals Choir, Friday, May 30, 1 pm, M.V. Public Charter School, West Tisbury. For more information, visit

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From left: oboist Gerard Reuter, pianist Delores Stevens, and French hornist Paul Stevens. — MVCMS

This Sunday afternoon, May 25, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) kicks off its 44th season with a couple of distinguished visiting artists presenting a mixed bag of classical and more contemporary compositions.

The annual spring concert will provide a prelude to the organization’s upcoming season and is an opportunity to get a taste of some of the stellar, internationally recognized talent that MVCMS recruits every year for their summer long festival. At a special discounted price of $20, the pre-season concert is a gift to the Island, according to board president David Rhoderick.

For the upcoming concert at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, acclaimed pianist and MVCMS artistic director Delores Stevens will be joined by her son, the accomplished French hornist Paul Stevens, and oboist Gerard Reuter. Mr. Reuter has enjoyed a distinguished solo career throughout four continents, has appeared with orchestras throughout the U.S., and has participated as a featured guest artist at many prestigious summer festivals. “His technique is just prodigious,” Ms. Stevens said.

“I dare say no one has heard any of the music,” she continued. “It’s all going to be music for oboe, french horn, and piano — a rather unique combination. The French horn and oboe are two of the most difficult instruments to play. They’re the big soloists in an orchestra. The horn is so mellow. The oboe is so virtuosic and soulful.”

The spring concert program includes work by an international lineup of composers with a leaning towards romantic music. As Ms. Stevens described the work, “Saint-Saëns is romantic French, Reinecke is German romantic, and Paul is playing an American romantic piece for the horn and piano — ‘Basler’s Canciones.’ We wanted to welcome spring and summer with just beautiful sound.”

The program concludes with a piece by Margaret Bonds, a 20th-century American pianist and composer. “She is one of the few black women composers to have risen to this level of popularity,” Ms. Stevens said. “I’ll be playing a solo piano piece called ‘Troubled Water,’ which is based on a negro spiritual.

“I think of this concert as a prelude to the big summer festival. We’ve got the really top-of-the-line musicians coming this year,” she said. The summer season starts off with a pair of concerts with the Los Angeles based Calder Quartet, a group that Ms. Stevens is particularly excited to be hosting. “They just got the Avery Fisher Award for outstanding string quartet,” said the artistic director. The program includes work by Mozart, Schubert, and 19th century Czech composer Leoš Janáček. “They’re just fantastic,” said Ms. Stevens of the quartet, which will perform on the Vineyard for the first time. “They do everything — the standard string quartet repertoire and modern music.”

For the second set of summer concerts, the Quartet San Francisco returns to the Vineyard for a program that includes both classical and jazz. An all-Beethoven program will be presented in August featuring two musicians whom Ms. Stevens has recruited a number of times — Timothy Fain and William DeRosa. Mr. Fain was featured as the violinist for the movie “Black Swan.” Mr. DeRosa is one of the leading American cellists of his generation.

New York State’s Music from Salem quartet will be featured in two shows in August. That group, along with Ms. Stevens, will premiere a new work by Boston based composer, Thomas Oboe Lee. World premieres have a been a part of many MVCMS festivals.

The final concerts of the season features cellist Jay Campbell and flutist Carol Wincenc. Of the latter, Ms. Stevens said, “She’s probably America’s foremost flute player. She plays all over the world. She’s coming with a new young cellist who has never been to the Vineyard before.”

As always, the summer festival features works both recognizable and those that will be new to many audience members. However, Ms. Stevens noted that there will not be anything approaching the avant garde or overly experimental.

“This season we’re keeping it within the boundaries of styles that will be appreciated by a broad range of audiences,” she concluded. “This will all be music that people will recognize as entertaining and beautiful. We’re not doing any electronic music or anything all that cutting edge. But stay tuned, maybe in the future we’ll have more far out music.”

Music: Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society Spring Concert, Sunday, May 25, 4 pm, M.V. Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven. $20. For more information, call 508-696-8055 or visit



The Junior High Band, pictured playing at the Great East Music Festival, plays on Thursday evening. — Ruth Chapman

The Martha’s Vineyard annual Spring Bands Concert, featuring more than 200 band students Island-wide in grades 4 through 8, is this Thursday, May 15, at 7 pm.

Held at the high school’s Performing Arts Center, the concert opens with the seventh- and eighth-grade jazz band, followed by the beginners band, and the fifth- and sixth-grade band. The show culminates with the seventh- and eighth-grade gold medal award-winning band that won the gold on May 2 at the Great East Band Festival. Admission is free.

From left: Chris Foley (guitar), Victor Jones (drums), Dana Edelman (guitar, vocals), Eric Johnson (bass). — Meg Higgins
Dana Edelman performed with his son, Jaiden.
Dana Edelman performed with his son, Jaiden.

Dana Edelman & His Slammin’ Band, featuring drummer Victor Jones, guitarist Chris Foley, bassist Eric Johnson, and special guest vocalist Jaiden Edelman, Dana’s 11-year-old son, played to a crowd of about 50 at the Katharine Cornell Theatre Saturday evening, April 26.

“It was a great time, a happy night,” Mr. Edelman said. “I am very happy with the band and how they perform my music.”

The band played a variety of his music, much of it what Mr. Edelman calls family music, some country, some blues, and some rock and roll. The crowd was composed of friends, friends with families, a lot of kids, and fans of the Youtube version of the song Dana and Jaiden performed at the concert called, “The Massachusetts Song (You Athol).”

Mr. Edelman, of West Tisbury, scores music for videos and advertising professionally. He said he expects to perform around the Island this summer although the only set date so far is in August when the band will play a fund raiser for the West Tisbury Library at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury.


Rosanne Cash will perform on Martha's Vineyard on July 1. — Clay Patrick McBride

Tickets are on sale for the July 1 concert with popular singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash at Flatbread Company to benefit the Gay Head Lighthouse fund.

Prior to the concert, Chilmark resident Tony Shalhoub, of “Monk” fame, will emcee a live auction that begins at 8:45 pm. Doors open at 8 pm, and tickets are $200.

To secure a ticket, send a check to Town of Aquinnah, 65 State Rd., Aquinnah, MA 02535, made payable to Town of Aquinnah with “Lighthouse Fund/Cash Concert” in the memo line.

The Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee was formed to raise funds to move the historic Gay Head Lighthouse, which is threatened by erosion of the nearby cliffs. “Ms. Cash was approached by members of the committee and is supportive of our worthy cause,” committee members said in a news release announcing the event in February.

The daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash, she was born in Memphis and has lived in New York City since 1991. She also has Massachusetts maritime roots. Some of her ancestors settled in Salem in the 17th century and some were among prominent whaling families on Nantucket.

For more information, visit

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Jemima James' newest album "Nothing New" features songs the singer-songwriter has performed live for years. — File photo by Susan Safford

Last year, West Tisbury musician and songwriter Jemima James fashioned a sweet collection of songs into a wonderful, well-balanced, easy listening album titled “Nothing New.” She assembled a stellar collection of musician friends and family to record the CD here on the Vineyard. Many of the songs Ms. James has performed for years. The only song on the CD she did not write is an upbeat group sing along, a rendition of the Hazel Dickens tune “Coal Miner’s Blues.”

Ms. James’s rich voice easily covers the range of songs on the album, which run the emotional gamut from plaintive to plain-old-good-time. The CD has a little country, a little folk, a little bluegrass, a little ragtime, a little rock — and a lot of good songwriting.

Ms. James has been creating songs for 40 years, recording with the likes of guitarist Michael Bloomfield, and Delta Blues singer George Higgs. She and her husband, Michael Mason, were employed as songwriters in New York City decades ago. Ms. James’s experience shows in the emotional depth of her lyrics.

Jemima-James-cd-cover.jpgThe album title, “Nothing New,” could be a reference to the collection of songs which evoke the music of an earlier time, or to the fact Ms. James has performed many of the songs for years. “Nothing New” is also the name of one of the best tracks on the CD, a touching tribute to the warmth and security of a lifetime love.

Other highlights include the country tune “I’d Rather Say Goodbye [right here than further down the road]” a song about a doubtful relationship that has all the marks of a top-forty country radio song. Other songs evoke the sounds of a vintage radio with a moody, old-timey feel.

The collection of Island friends and family who contributed to the album include Ms. James’s sons, Sam and Willy Mason, Kate Taylor, Brad Tucker, Geordie Gude, Lilah Larson, Mara Carlyle, Nina Violet, Wes Nagy, and Charlie Esposito.

The album was produced by Ms. James and Bob Brown, mixed by Mr. Brown and Phil DaRosa, and made possible in part by a grant from the Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council.

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The chorus rehearsed earlier this week for the two upcoming shows. — Photo by Nis Kildegaard

This Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6, director Peter Boak and the Island Community Chorus will be at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Performing Arts Center with a full orchestra to present the St. Paul Oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn. Each member of the choir, which will number 98 for this weekend’s performance, has been toting around a 207-page copy of Mendelssohn’s choral score for the past 13 weeks, but Mr. Boak’s burden has been far heavier, because it includes the orchestral score as well.

Mendelssohn’s two great oratorios are like bookends of the great composer’s career: his St. Paul Oratorio, written in 1836, and his Elijah, 10 years later. When Mr. Boak led the chorus in a performance of the Elijah Oratorio in the spring of 2008, it was the most ambitious musical project he and the chorus had ever undertaken. This year, he and the chorus are revisiting that challenge.

“When I first got my score for St. Paul,” recalled Mr. Boak, “I thought, oh my goodness, I’m

Director Peter Boak will lead the chorus in the St. Paul Oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn.
Director Peter Boak will lead the chorus in the St. Paul Oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn.

never going to be able to learn this thing. It’s a massive piece of music — but it’s actually not quite as scary this time, because I can remember the Elijah experience, how we prepared for it and how we performed it successfully, and I’ve been using some of the same strategies to get this performance ready.”

For the chorus, preparing for this weekend has meant practices every Monday night (with only occasional interruptions by winter storms) since early January. Mr. Boak’s preparation has involved a discipline of three hours’ study, every day, to master a program that will last just over two hours, with an intermission.

Mendelssohn’s oratorios are like opera in almost every respect, but with more emphasis on the choir and without staging or costumes. The St. Paul Oratorio is based on both New Testament and Old Testament texts, treating the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, the conversion of Saint Paul, and the apostle’s subsequent career. The work is punctuated by four chorales, lush settings of hymns straight from the traditional Lutheran hymnody and harmonized in the manner of Bach. “But they’re more romantic than the chorales of Bach,” Mr. Boak said, “with more chromaticism, more emotion and drama than you get in the music of Bach.”

For members of the Island Community Chorus, a project like the St. Paul Oratorio is an opportunity to build new musical muscles by tackling a piece from the very heart of the classical repertoire. The semester of rehearsal, when it goes well, follows a wonderful arc from being overwhelmed at the outset to hearing the emergence of real musicality as the concert dates approach.

Said Mr. Boak: “I had one chorus member come up to me after our rehearsal last Monday and say, ‘You know, I can remember thinking in January that I’m not sure we can do this. But we’ve really pulled this together. It’s not like we’re just managing to sing the right notes at the right time — we’re making music.’”

Joining the chorus at the Performing Arts Center this weekend will be four solo singers. The women are two of the Island’s great soprano voices, Abigail Southard Chandler and Molly Conole. The men, both from Boston, are tenor Ray Bauwens and baritone Michael Pritchard. The orchestra of violins, viola, cello, flutes, oboes, clarinet, bassoons, French horns, trombones, timpani, and organ comprises professional musicians from Martha’s Vineyard, New York, Boston, New Bedford, and Rhode Island.

Chorus and orchestra will rehearse together for only one night, on Friday before the concert performances, but this doesn’t worry Mr. Boak. “These musicians in the orchestra are top-notch players and this is their business — this is what they do,” he said. “The choir will be ready to go, and I’ve met with our concertmistress, Susan McGhee, and Abigail to go over the recitatives, so we’re all on the same channel.”

Mr. Boak took heart from the chorus’s rehearsal on March 24 when the group’s stalwart accompanist, Garrett Brown, was ill and couldn’t attend. Making the best of the situation, Mr. Boak conducted from the piano, suggesting that this would be a perfect night for singers to point out spots where they were struggling with an entrance or an interval.

“That was so much fun — people were polishing up these little places they were having trouble with,” he said. “It was a really great rehearsal, and I was actually surprised there wasn’t more of an onslaught of requests. People are feeling pretty much in control of this music, I think.”

The Island Community Chorus, directed by Peter Boak, with accompanist Garrett Brown and orchestra, presents the St. Paul Oratorio at 7:30 pm on Saturday, April 5, and 3 pm on Sunday, April 6, at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center, in Oak Bluffs. A $15 donation at the door is suggested. For more information, visit