Music

The Pathways team celebrates another season at the Chilmark Tavern. – Photo courtesy Pathways

The latest season of Pathways Living Room Studios wrapped up this past Saturday night, with a celebration of artists, writers, musicians, and performers for their innovative projects in the arts across the Island. Throughout the fifth annual Honoraria awards evening, musicians, artists, and writers, including Mait Edey, George Davis, Claudia Taylor, David Stanwood, Roberta Kirn, Sian Williams, Annette Sandrock, Matt Stamas, and Nikki Patton presented selected original music, songwriting, and poetry, with celebratory community support. Tony Tobia introduced his new music compositions, performed by pianist Adele Dreyer, baritone saxophonist Steve Tully, and violinist Atzic Marquez.

The event also honored Island organizations for their innovation in the arts, including Featherstone for its work on poetry programming for the Pathways/Featherstone/Noepe Summer Festival of Poetry; The Yard’s David White, for choreography residencies, and Jesse Keller, for children’s dance; Noepe Literary Center for development of new writing programs; Film Truth Productions’ Liz Witham and Ken Wentworth for a new film project in the arts and climate regeneration; and Martha’s Vineyard Sound’s Phil DaRosa for designing the 2015 summer music festival.

Individual visual artists who were honored with creative time to develop new artworks include Walker T. Roman for painting; Heather Goff for digital drawings, Ronni Simon for sea-glass sculpture; Paul Lazes for his photography project, Powerful Women of MV; Valerie Sonnenthal for her oceans photography – both underwater and wilderness; Laura Roosevelt for arts writing and photography; and William Waterway for his oceans photography.

Performing artists honored with support for time to create new music and/or dance include Tony Tobia for performance of new music compositions; Phil DaRosa for music and songwriting; Joe Keenan for sea songs; Kim Hilliard for songwriting; and Martha Eddy for global water dances.

Writers honored with support for creative time for new poetry, writing, and spoken words include Susan Puciul for poetry; Sian Williams for novel writing; Holly Nadler for writing on the arts, performance, and culture on Martha’s Vineyard; Annette Sandrock for travel poetry; and Claudia Taylor for a new poetry manuscript, text, and design.

The event also honored a handful of off-Island or New York–based arts organizations that include Trisha Brown, with support for reconstruction and repertory; Godfrey Muwulya, with support for choreography and drumming classes for African children; and Elaine Summers Dance & Film Company, with support for dance and multimedia.

In her welcome talk for the awards presentation, Pathways artistic director and founder Marianne Goldberg shared her vision for the annual honoraria: “This year we have again invited over 25 artists, writers, and organizations to accept the challenge and encouragement of a Pathways honoraria — to forge time to conceive and build new work. Projects in poetry, spoken word, and writing; projects in visual arts, from painting to photography to digital forms; and projects in performing arts, from music composition to songwriting to dance, are each awarded for the potential for individuals or collaborative teams to reach beyond what we have accomplished before. To start again, with what we call a seed project, the very beginnings of the desire to build from perhaps tender or raw ideas in dream form, is to realize the as yet unknown. It is exactly this initial unknowing which I consider at the heart of forging creative time. For if we already know how a question of discovery or inquiry will turn out, then we will have missed the most important process — the artistic expedition, a rocky, and sometimes precarious, yet exhilarating journey and time of immersion and flow.”

Works created with Pathways project’s support will be shared with the community at Pathways Gathering Space next season, and across the Island year-round. Arts programs supported at sister organizations are presented through their home venues.

 

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Michael Eudenback’s new CD brings the waves to your bedroom.

It is universally acknowledged that everybody loves the sound of ocean waves. Well, almost everyone. Back in the ’70s I heard about an individual — she happened to be a celebrity — who was rattled by the boom of big waves outside and even underneath her newly purchased house built on pilings over the Pacific Ocean. Lying awake at night in the Malibu Colony, pop singer Linda Ronstadt worked herself into a state of nervous exhaustion from the jolting breakers, so much so that she built a bunker out back on terra firma, with soundproofing panels to enable her to sleep through both “surf’s up”-size waves and nuclear war.

But apart from Ms. Ronstadt, seemingly everyone in the world is soothed by the sound of waves. Which brings us to the latest project of photographer Michael Eudenback, formerly of West Tisbury and now in Newport, R.I. Mr. Eudenback loves to film our beaches, but a few years back he realized another dimension of the ocean beguiled him utterly.

He’d been stressed out and losing sleep. In a recent phone interview with The Times he said, “I was consulting doctors about insomnia. Nothing seemed to help.”

He had no interest in medicating himself silly (as some of us do). And then one afternoon on Lambert’s Cove Beach, after snapping a number of gorgeous shots, he stretched out on the warm sand and fell asleep. His last thought before a nice restorative snooze was, “Man, those waves are soporific.”

He returned to Lambert’s Cove with a recorder, and soon he was able to take the waves home with him: “It was transformational. Night after night the sounds from the shore lulled me to sleep.”

Pretty soon Mr. Eudenback was a man on a mission. He recorded the heavy surf of South Beach (where Linda Ronstadt should never buy a home), and the softer waves of West Chop, Lucy Vincent, and Gay Head. The quality of the sound of the CD Mr. Eudenback has produced from these recordings, Ocean Sounds of Martha’s Vineyard, is so clean and pure that at a first listen one might wonder, “How the heck did he bring the beaches into a studio?”

Mr. Eudenback says he took every natural precaution to derive unsullied sound. “I recorded in the off-season, went out very early in the morning, and then I found tricks to deal with the wind” (which can, apparently, really ruin the track). He scanned weather reports. For thunderous surf recordings he raced to south-facing beaches in the aftermath of storms. For gentler tides, he strove to capture the wave action in one continuous track. Should a jet fly over, he sighed heavily, then started again. This is not an art form for the impatient.

Mr. Eudenback, who is also a sailboat captain, met his future wife, painter Jessica Pisano, when she worked a few years ago at her father and stepmother’s Belushi Pisano Gallery on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. Michael and Jessica married in 2009 at the Whaling Church, and while they reside in Middletown — near Newport — in Rhode Island, they’re often on the Island for visits with family. And of course beaches.

Also a photographer, Mr. Eudenback has exhibited his photographs at the Dragonfly and Belushi Pisano galleries, and currently in Cohasset and Chatham. Ms. Pisano has a show coming up of her paintings this August at the Field Gallery in West Tisbury.

Meanwhile, Mr. Eudenback’s CD of Ocean Sounds beckons to the impulse buyer with one of his photos of South Beach: It’s a lyrically blue, lacy white, and gold day: gold for the sand, lacy white for the frothy wavelets, pale turquoise for the close-in shallows, indigo blue for the Atlantic Ocean, and a flag-blue sky that informs all the colors below.

Mr. Eudenback said in a recent phone interview that the recordings are aimed at yoga practitioners who normally groove to the sounds of nature, as surround sound for surfers (“They turn it up high!”) when they’re trapped indoors, and as background feed for anyone far from this beloved Island who needs a tune-up from its wonders. But principally, it’s a tool for sleep.

The time had come for this reporter to test out the sleep dynamics of the Ocean Sounds CD. I happen to be an insomniac of epic proportions. Even as a small child, I often lay awake in bed watching the ruffling lights of far-away cars on my ceiling. When I complained to my mother that I rarely slept, she said, “Resting is just as healthful as sleeping.” OK, so I’ve spent my life resting.

I plugged in my CD player near the bed, turned Ocean Sounds on low (in case Linda Ronstadt dropped by for a late-night chat), put on my jammies and crawled under the covers with a book.

The sounds of the softly licking waves — the first 11-minute cut is from West Chop — includes ever-so-nuanced gurgles of water, almost like a fountain, only even sweeter. I read a few pages from the book, sinking deeply, hypnotically into a mound of pillows. I was out in no time, with no recollection of setting the novel aside or of turning out the light.

I slept through the night without waking up once: a new personal best. This works, my fellow and sister insomniacs. I intend to buy a few more copies of Mr. Eudenback’s CD before supplies run out. Look for them in the bookstores and assorted gift shops on the Island. The CD can also be purchased on eBay, Amazon and iTunes, and from theoceansounds.com.

And you know who else should stock them? Physicians, both allopathic and naturopathic, that’s who.

 

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Well-known banjo players Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck will perform at the Performing Arts Center on Wednesday night. — Photo by Jim McGuire

Béla Fleck, widely recognized as one of the world’s most proficient and technically skilled banjo players, will be performing with his wife, clawhammer banjo specialist, singer, and songwriter Abigail Washburn, at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center at the high school on Wednesday, April 15.

The Vineyard has hosted skilled banjo players in the past, like Richie Stearns, Jake Shepps, and the Old Crow Medicine Show, but this performance is a unique opportunity to see, here on the Island, a superb banjo picker, songwriter, and composer, and one of the world’s most celebrated musicians. The show is produced by Phil daRosa’s The Print Shop Presents (TPS), and was rescheduled from April 14 due to the annual town meetings.

In his mid-50s, Mr. Fleck has been experimenting with his musical sound since he was given his first banjo by his grandfather at the age of 15. He spent his childhood in New York and moved to Boston after high school, where he developed his skills playing the streets. After performing with several other bands he eventually joined the influential New Grass Revival, and later formed Béla Fleck and the Flecktones in 1988. The Flecktones was an instrumental group whose music was primarily a fusion of bluegrass, jazz, and rock.

Mr. Fleck is a master of many genres, from bluegrass and newgrass to rock, jazz, and classical, and he has recorded duets with notable musicians from each genre. He has played with musicians from across the world, in every continent, and in the process he’s won 15 Grammy awards and accumulated over 30 nominations. He has been nominated in more categories than any other musician — across country, pop, jazz, bluegrass, classical, folk, spoken word, composition, and arrangement. Mr. Fleck has shared Grammy wins with Asleep at the Wheel, Alison Brown, and Edgar Meyer.

His most recent album is a 2014 collaboration with his wife entitled Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn (Rounder Records). Prior to that he composed and recorded a classical concerto for banjo on an album titled The Imposter.

The multitalented Ms. Washburn, born in Illinois, is an accomplished banjo player and songwriter in her own right, and a singer who specializes in American roots tunes with a folksy voice that ranges from haunting to the sublime. She has drawn critical acclaim for her solo albums, and has worked in folk musical diplomacy in China, where she taught and toured. She speaks Mandarin, which she studied in college, and has recorded and written songs in Chinese.

On a 2005 trip to China with cellist Ben Sollee, Mr. Fleck, and Grammy-nominated fiddler Casey Driessen, Ms. Washburn and friends called themselves the Sparrow Quartet, and the journey resulted in an EP, Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet. At the request of the U.S. government, the Sparrow Quartet toured Tibet in 2006 and performed in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.

Ms. Washburn also volunteered to help with Sichuan quake relief in China in 2008, and produced a benefit EP as a fundraiser the following year, with Shanghai Restoration Project’s David Liang, called Afterquake.

In 2013 Ms. Washburn debuted her first theatrical performance piece in New York, Post-American Girl, about an American girl coming of age in a swiftly changing global order. It featured folk arts of China and Appalachia in shadow puppetry, sacred harp song, and traditional music, as well as new musical compositions.

For their latest album, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, the couple recorded in their home and produced the record themselves, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Bluegrass charts. The pair, who were married in 2009, include several songs on the album that were no doubt influenced by their experiences as new parents to their son, Juno, who will be 2 next month. While appearing on PBS’s Tavis Smiley show last year, Mr. Fleck said his then 8-month-old had not taken up the banjo yet, but was learning to play keyboards.

Some proceeds from Wednesday’s concert will benefit the Island Collaborative, a nonprofit established to facilitate collaborations between Islanders and Island groups including businesses, schools, local government, and individuals. Additionally, the concert is sponsored by the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, which is offering a package-rate overnight special including tickets to the show.

Mr. daRosa said he hopes to produce more shows with well-known artists in the future. “I’m working heavily on MV Sound No. 2 right now. We are in fundraising mode, and I’m putting out feelers to bigger artists to participate.” The first Martha’s Vineyard Sound Festival, a two-day celebration of music, food, and culture at Waban Park in Oak Bluffs in July of last year, was a critical success, according to Mr. daRosa. “I’m hoping that this year will be two days full of fun. We have a lot of great ideas. We plan to incorporate yoga at the park, and are teaming up with The Yard on some dance ideas. It will again benefit the Island Collaborative.”

An Evening with Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Wednesday, April 15, 6 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $35 in advance, $45 day of show, and may be purchased online from the TBS website, tpspresents.com, or by calling 800-838-3006.

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Despite winter-weather challenges, Community Chorus is ready for spring concerts.

The Island Community Chorus rehearses with saxophonist Steve Tully and accompanist Garrett Brown on piano. — Photo by Nis Kildegaard

It’s been a bumpy semester of rehearsals for the Island Community Chorus: Three times director Peter Boak had to cancel a Monday practice because of winter storms. Gamely, the singers attended two make-up Saturday rehearsals in March, and this week, Mr. Boak declares himself confident that his chorus of more than 90 voices is ready to perform at the group’s spring concerts this weekend.

“We’ve had our challenges this year,” Mr. Boak admits. “But because this music is so accessible, we’ve been able to get over the notes quickly so we could spend most of the semester concentrating on making music, going after the nuances.”

The choir’s program for this Saturday and Sunday features four works by the contemporary Norwegian-American choral composer Ola Gjeilo — music that has never been performed by the chorus before. Garrett Brown, the choir’s longtime accompanist, first brought Mr. Gjeilo’s work to the director’s attention.

“I’m always skeptical at first when I hear about a contemporary composer,” says Mr. Boak. “I’m just afraid they’re going to write all this modern stuff that’s dissonant and strange. But to find a contemporary composer writing not only beautiful music, but also harmonious and accessible — this isn’t the sort of music where you spend the first weeks of rehearsals just getting your choristers to like it. It’s appealing music from the start, so that people want to learn it and work with it.”

Island Community Chorus saxophone soloist Steve Tully. — Photo by Nis Kildegaard
Island Community Chorus saxophone soloist Steve Tully. — Photo by Nis Kildegaard

Mr. Gjeilo’s music draws on his childhood recollections of the Norwegian landscape — one of the most haunting pieces is “Northern Lights,” which evokes what the composer calls “the terrible, powerful beauty” of the aurora borealis. Another is “Across the Vast, Eternal Sky,” a piece written collaboratively with the poet Charles A. Silvestri, its musical theme a rising line that echoes the ascendance of the morning sun.

Mr. Gjeilo is a composer who clearly loves the sound of human voices, and exploring their interplay with instrumental music. In addition to the piano accompaniment of Garrett Brown, this weekend’s concerts will feature saxophone improvisation by Steve Tully, and a string quartet which includes Island musicians Stephen and Susan McGhee.

Completing the concert program are works by Morten Lauridsen, Edvard Grieg, and Antonin Dvorak (the only non-Scandinavian in the lineup). Says Mr. Boak: “Everyone knows Dvorak’s ‘Going Home,’ but all of this music is so accessible that even if people haven’t heard it before, they’ll feel as if they know it.”

Three weeks ago, when the director announced that this spring concert will be performed not in the Performing Arts Center as originally planned, but in the Old Whaling Church, the members of the Island Chorus responded with applause. Peter Boak wasn’t surprised.

SONY DSC — Photo by Nis Kildegaard
Island Community Chorus director Peter Boak — Photo by Nis Kildegaard

“People just love that space. They like the sound of the space, and the physical beauty of it. And because the choir is smaller this term, as it generally is in the spring semester, I think we would have been swallowed up in the Performing Arts Center.”

Swallowed up not only physically, but also sonically: The acoustics in the PAC are not ideal. “Unfortunately,” says Mr. Boak, “we’re living in a time when the solution to everything is just to amplify it. The feeling is that if you get the mikes in the right place, you can fix anything. But there are those of us whose ears like acoustic sound — natural, unaltered sound.” And for that natural acoustic sound, he agrees, the Old Whaling Church is the gold standard on Martha’s Vineyard.

There’s an arc to a single musical phrase, and an arc to a semester of choral rehearsal — even a semester as punctuated by snowstorms as this one has been. And as every semester of rehearsal nears its end, if everyone works hard enough, there come those goosebump moments when the emotional force of great choral music first begins to emerge. It’s not about merely getting the notes right — that happens earlier on. It’s about allowing a crescendo to build as it should, and then falling back to a pianissimo that’s quiet, but every bit as intense. It’s about balancing voices to each other, and in the last weeks it’s about singing the whole program straight through as the director envisioned it, then waking in the morning with a favorite concert melody playing in the mind’s ear, and finally it’s the thrill of taking to the concert stage and sharing the fruits of three months’ work with your audience in the Island’s finest musical space.

The spring concerts of the Island Community Chorus will be presented at 7:30 pm Saturday, April 11, and at 3 pm on Sunday, April 12, at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown. Admission is a suggested donation of $15 at the door.

Nis Kildegaard is an occasional writer for the Times and a singer in the chorus since 2005.

 

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The popular Circuit Avenue bar hosts a reopening party on Friday night.

Crooked Coast, from left: Ben Elder, John McNamara, Luke Vose, and Charles Parker Walton. – Photo by Lilly Wolf

As the last remaining snow piles melt and we prepare to welcome the Easter bunny this weekend, another milestone reminds us the seasons are a-changin’ — the Lampost reopened on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

In keeping with annual tradition, the doors of the beloved bar opened Wednesday, April 1, but the kickoff party takes place this Friday, April 3, with the band that helped them shut their doors back in November — Crooked Coast. The Cape Cod–based band will help get the new season started along with DJ Black Bluto on Friday night.

The boys of Crooked Coast are no strangers to the Lampost, or the seasonal music scene on the Island. Back in November, Crooked Coast played the Lampost’s end-of-the-year party along with Electric Pie, and have played various other shows and music festivals on the Island over the past several years, including the Chill Billy Revue and Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week in 2013, along with sets at Dreamland and others.

This year they’ll be keeping the audience on their feet every other Thursday night at the Lampost starting Memorial Day weekend, along with performing shows at the Port Hunter and other popular Island venues. We caught up with band member Luke Vose in anticipation of their return to the Island.

Luke describes the band as “indie power pop,” a high-energy sound with infectious hooks, sweaty dancefloor rhythms, big guitars, and wordplay both gut-wrenching and wry. They count the Strokes as a big musical influence, along with the sounds of reggae, old school, hip-hop, punk rock, and old country.

“We use a lot of pop hooks. We cut our teeth at places where people just want to dance but they might not know your band.” Given that they’re often in front of a new audience, or tourists for the first time, they’ll pepper their sets with cover songs to keep the crowd engaged, from the likes of Sublime, the Clash or Kid Cutty.

“Being on the Cape and the Islands in the summer is a lot like touring, but we don’t have to go too far,” Luke said of the resort towns they play. And they always make sure they keep up with current music and the “anthems of the summer,” but “we’ll play them, but we put our fingerprints on them,” said Luke.

The band plays New York a couple of times a year, and the greater New England, tri-state area. “We go out on 3- to 5-day tours in the winter, as far as Maine, Vermont, D.C., and Philly,” said Luke. They’ve even brought their sounds as far as the Virgin Islands.

Crooked Coast was formed in the summer of 2012 by Cape Cod natives Luke Vose, John McNamara, Ben Elder, and Charles Walton. Charles and Luke had previously played in a band together, and Ben and John too. “We would go to each other’s shows, out of a mutual respect for one another’s music, and when needed we’d jump in on each other’s gigs,” said Luke. Eventually it just made sense to form their own band. “We’re lucky to have found each other. It’s hard to find people that play well together and that like playing together.”

As Falmouth and Woods Hole natives, the band got their start playing the Landfall restaurant and Quicks Hole Tavern in Woods Hole. They still often play Grumpy’s pub in Falmouth, which Luke describes as their “hometown headquarters.”

They first started playing the Island a few years back, and are enjoying being part of the local music scene here. “Our Island experience was precipitated by our relationship with DCLA and Phil DaRosa. They gave us a co-sign, and we started playing shows with them, like the Chill Billy Revue in 2013, which was a really special night. it made us realize, ‘OK, we’re in the club,’” said Luke.

The band distilled their celebratory summers and harsh winters into their first album, Thanks for the Memories, and their next one, tentatively titled Wildlife, is in the works. In the off-season they’ve been in the studio working on it. They are tracking it now, and preparing for a new music video to come out in May. The video to “Can’t Go Back” was filmed on Cape Cod, New York City, Rhode Island, and Plymouth.
To hear their music, or find out more about the band and upcoming shows, visit facebook.com/crookedcoast or crookedcoast.com.

News from the Lampost

The 21-plus party with Crooked Coast and DJ Black Bluto starts at 10 pm on Friday, April 3, with a $5 cover. Get ready for a host of other special events coming there this summer, including the band the Zoo and a new set of rotating DJs. Co-owner of the Lampost Adam Cummings said, “Our house DJ for the past 11 years has retired, and he was great, but this opens opportunities for new folks.”

“We’re also excited to have a full season with the new porch,” said Adam, about the outdoor patio that was added last year and overlooks Circuit Avenue.

The Lampost plans to host weekly beer tastings starting in mid-April. Their food offerings will be changing too, and their new menu will be available starting Memorial Day, along with a new bar and restaurant downstairs where the Dive Bar used to be.

In the meantime, get down to the Lampost to meet familiar faces, play a game, or grab a drink on the outdoor patio and wish for summer to arrive already.

For now the Lampost will be open 4 pm to 1 am on weekdays and noon to 1 am on the weekends, with hours extending in May. To stay up to date on special events, visit their Facebook page.

The new Collaborative Concert Series with Project Next and The Print Shop provides a welcomed retreat for young adults on Island.

Singer Rose Guerin performs an original song and plays guitar. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Over the past few weeks Alex’s Place at the YMCA has hosted a Collaborative Concert Series with Project Next and The Print Shop (TPS), designed to promote social opportunities for older teens and young adults.

Project Next is an initiative of the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force aimed at providing support and drug- and alcohol-free events and opportunities to the Island’s 18- to 26-year-olds. Along with TPS, a new pro recording studio on the Island that is owned and operated by Phil DaRosa, and the resource of the teen center at Alex’s Place, the concerts are proving a refreshing new nightlife option for younger people on the Island.

As an 18-year-old myself, I was the perfect candidate for attending the event, and I’m glad I did. Honestly, despite being the target demographic for the night’s performance, I wouldn’t have thought to attend on my own, but after the suggestion from my editor, and the addition of a couple of friends to keep me company, I was pleased to be a part of it.

Photo by Sophie Petkus
A young guest helps artist Darcie Lee Hanaway with her live painting. – Photo by Sophie Petkus

Upon entering Alex’s Place I was expecting a typical night of music, someone on stage and spectators watching, but it was much more than that. First, I noticed the giant artwork hanging against the wall in the right corner, where artist Darcie Lee Hanaway was painting on a canvas as tall as she was. This observation, and several other elements, made me realize just how collaborative the entire evening was — this was not just a music show.

At one point during the night, a little girl walked up to Darcie while she was painting, and she handed the girl a brush and allowed her to contribute to the live painting. Another great visual addition to the show was the captivating video projections that appeared across the backdrop of the stage, courtesy of Graham Smith, which danced to the music of the talented Island musicians that graced the stage.

Musicians for the night included Jemima James, Geordie Gude, Shawn Barber, Ivy Bassett, Rose Guerin, and Phil DaRosa. Rose Guerin was especially captivating, and at one point all musicians took to the stage together for an impressive group performance. I was glad I chose to spend my Saturday night appreciating these Island artists, and I would definitely recommend attending the next event. Typically, there isn’t much to do on a snowy Saturday weekend here, especially for people in my age group, but these collaborative concerts are a great excuse to get out of the house, have fun, and get inspired.

Musician Shawn Barber performs while video projections play behind him. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Musician Shawn Barber performs while video projections play behind him. – Photo by Michael Cummo

The next and third event in the four-part series takes place this Saturday, April 4, from 7 to 10 pm at Alex’s Place. This week’s musical lineup features Adam Howell, Alex Karalekas, Alyssa Cimeno, and Rob Myers. All concerts are free of charge and open to all ages.

In a press release for the series, Tony Lombardi, Alex’s Place Teen Center director, said, “For years the Vineyard has been known for its unique and eclectic entertainment options, one of which has always been the Open Mic/Open Stage idea. Many amazing artists have cut their performance teeth on stages such as ours, and Alex’s Place will continue to offer opportunities such as these that serve not only our young adult community, but also our teens.”

In an email to The Times Mr. DaRosa also added “I think it’s one of the best small venues on the island where we can take advantage of great sound, lighting, and amazing people at the helm to create an alcohol-free environment for people to come out and enjoy music and art.”

Hallie MacCormack is a work-study intern with The Times. She will be reporting occasionally throughout the semester.

Students of the Oak Bluffs School impress at their annual talent show.

The exciting 17th annual Oak Bluffs School talent show took place last Friday and Saturday, featuring students ranging from kindergarten through eighth grade, and even a few teachers and parents. This year’s show featured singers, dancers, harpers, cellists, violinists, guitarists, and more.

Highlights over the two evenings included Hayleigh LeCoq belting out a rocking version of “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” Aiden Weiland playing his haunting original fiddle composition “Distant Rain,” the always eagerly anticipated tae kwon do demonstration from Team Blitz, and Ali Dyke performing a fantastically impressive gymnastics routine. Several student singers demonstrated further talent by accompanying themselves on guitar, including Robert Hanjian with his rendition of “Fade Away,” Leah Hairston wowing the crowd with her powerful vocals on “House of the Rising Sun,” Victoria Searle duetting with Sarah Lytle on “Viva la Vida,” and Skylar Hall with his reggae-inflected “I’m Yours.” Others sang while accompanying themselves on piano, including Ruby and Klara Reimann with their dramatic and beautiful rendition of “Oceans.” It was also a family affair for many acts, such as Kaya Seiman’s inspiring rendition of “No One’s Stopping Me” accompanied by her father Rob Oslyn on the guitar, Emily Mello singing “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” to the sounds of her father Rick Mello on guitar, and Owen Atkins’ spirited “Crossroad Blues” with his father Neil Atkins also on guitar. At one point the entire Weiland family was onstage together, playing the traditional Celtic tune “Aranee Ghelbee,” featuring Avalon on harp, Liam on cello, Brian on guitar and flute, and Aiden and Jennifer on violin.

As usual, the live house band accompanied all of the acts, which included Paul Thurlow on bass, Island string teacher Nancy Jephcote on violin, and Liam Weiland on cello, drums, and guitar.
The purpose of this event is to help students discover and participate in the joy and excitement of real old-fashioned live music performance and that joy was apparent on the faces of both the performers and the audience members last weekend.

 

International Women’s Day is celebrated at Chilmark Tavern.

The Yard's Jesse Keller spun and leaped to the music of Phil DaRosa. – Photo by Michael Cummo

International Women’s Day is one of those holidays that slips right past us without anyone much noticing (and it has slipped: It took place last Sunday, overshadowed by Daylight Savings, an event that leaves us dazed and grateful). But it was celebrated to a fare-thee-well at the Chilmark Tavern on Saturday night.

Anyone who lives here year-round, and who pursues the arts — either as artist or audience member or both — is aware that up in the dark and winter-icy reaches of Chilmark, the lights are on at the tavern. Two or three evenings a week, one may shuffle in from the cold, grab a glass of wine or a cup of tea, a plate of cheese and crackers, sit at one of the linen-draped tables, and be thoroughly entertained by a winter program of the arts — mixed and shaken and stirred — called Pathways.

The host and modern-day Gertrude Stein, Marianne Goldberg, chose last Saturday to celebrate International Women’s Day with the call-to-arms of “Making Art/Enacting Change.” Under the stunning high rafters of the tavern, the emcee of the event, Brit-born Natasha Taylor, read an essay that answered once and for all — or so she hoped — the question that constantly confronts her: “How Did You End Up Here?”

Ms. Taylor’s humor is of the ribald, smashing, hilarious variety, and she started off her musings with tales of her early single-mom days in London, wondering when her infants would “bugger off to college” so she could pack a suitcase and take a trip.

Next up appeared Pathways regular, the young, blithe dancer and choreographer Jesse Keller, with a short bristle mop of red hair, red leggings, and tank top, accompanied by singer and composer Phil DaRosa on acoustic guitar. Mr. DaRosa sang of lost love while Ms. Keller spun and leaped in the concise space ringed by tavern tables.

Elegant dancer Christina Montoya, her work compromised by scoliosis, produced a video of her extraordinary back — bare, feminine, muscled, embellished with a hennaed snake — as the dancer moved sinuous and slow, the camera caught between the figure and changing rays of light, with words of the artist invoking what Ms. Montoya describes as “Snake Medicine.”

Pathways founder Marianne Goldberg hosted the event, titled "Making Art/Enacting Change.” – Photo by Michael Cummo
Pathways founder Marianne Goldberg hosted the event, titled “Making Art/Enacting Change.” – Photo by Michael Cummo

Ms. Goldberg rose from her seat and invited revelers to look up — way up — to the human-length portraits hung on high and snapped by photographer Paul Lazes of half-a-dozen women artists in our midst, including Nancy Aronie of the Chilmark Writing Workshop, clad in jeans, her fists braced in benevolent attitude on her hips, and director Wendy Taucher, recognizable even covered in a heavy down jacket, cap, and dark shades.

Next up came Caroline Curry, sharing three short poems, the last about “princes” who are anything but. Susan Puicil of Cleveland House Poets shared three of her own aperçus, the most striking about childbirth: “All seams burst and you will never be the same.”

Gwyn McAllister also decanted three poems, brash and hilarious, including one about adopting a cat, as she admits outright, “I hate him,” until at last she confides, “He hates me.” Next came Sian Williams with two poems, one titled “Canned Heat,” the other, “Year-Round Island Girl,” so sharp and searing and forthright that one could hear, as she finished, a collective groan of recognition.

Singers and composers Rose Guerin and Jemima James changed up the energy as they each sang a song, swapping a single guitar. Ms. James provided a verbal prologue to her offering: A few months back she noticed a full moon which she learned had the unusual nomenclature “Beaver Moon.” She then proceeded to compose a song about it. She sings with a wise-woman voice, and her flair for words reminds those who happen to know this about her: she’s a descendant of the James family, as in William and Henry. Together Ms. James and Ms. Guerin, with a high and low vocal range, gave voice to that old mountain folksong and stern warning to young girls, to spurn that married man who offers to carry them “across the blue mountains to the Allegheny.”

Teen poet of great precociousness, Claudia Taylor read new work in which she plays with a construct of reverse words, so that girlhood changes to hood girl, shockwaves to wave shock, fireworks to work fire, and so on. As always, she impresses mightily, and we look forward to the time when we’ll be able to say we were part of the village that raised her (as did her mom, Ms. Taylor, whose other daughter, Paige, is also an emergent poet).

Musician Phil DaRosa performed throughout the evening on acoustic guitar. – Photo by Michael Cummo
Musician Phil DaRosa performed throughout the evening on acoustic guitar. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Gabriella Grecco, with a Broadway background and a passion for the music of Judy Garland, introduced her video-in-progress tracking the album, also in progress, of her singing Garland standards. Next on deck was Ellie Bates with another trio of poems, one a new take on Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” Ms. Bates contradicts the belle of Amherst with “hope is not that thing with feathers,” but we’d like to think both poets make a strong case.

Last up was musician Kim Hilliard, who led with a song that beautifully summed up the evening, “When I Was a Boy” by Dar Williams, a meditation of that time in childhood when we’re not one gender or another but simply pure being, pure awareness, a bicycle-riding, fastball-pitching child of nature.

Perhaps the most special part of the evening — even above and beyond the striking talent on display — was the fact that men made up nearly half the audience of 82 people (headcount provided by the indefatigable production manager Scott Crawford). And these weren’t poor sad sacks dragged to the event by the females on stage, but rather many of the usual suspects who turn up at Pathways on cold winter nights, sometimes themselves reading, performing, and sharing videos.

These days, with law schools and med schools packed with more girls than boys, surely all the arts draw similar demographics. The day will come when there’ll be no more need for an International Women’s Day, because all the other 364 days of the year bring men and women in equal proportions to our attention, as each in turn takes the stage.

Next at Pathways: Thursday, March 12, at 6:30 pm, “Digital Visions/Creating Realities,” and on Tuesday, March 17, at 6:30 pm, “Playwrights Read.” All events free and open to the public.

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Just who are those guys bringing a new age of blues to the Island?

The Chandler Blues Band plays the Ritz on Friday. From left: Kyle Higley, Michael "Icey" Baird, Lance Fullin, Kevin “Skip” Medeiros and Mike Chandler. – Photo by Michael Cummo

You might have seen them perform at The Ritz recently, or at the Seafood Shanty or the Port Hunter last summer. Maybe you heard one of their jam sessions at a Chilmark Potluck last winter, when they were still honing their skills, or maybe you’ve seen their iconic band poster around the Island — the one with the rustic-looking photo featuring a distressed cocktail napkin that says “Chandler Blues Band.”

If you’re lucky enough to have caught one of their sets, you know they bring a refreshingly new, harder, louder blues sound that keeps the crowd moving, and they’ve become a fixture on the local music scene. If you haven’t seen them yet, you’ll have another chance tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 27, when they take the stage again at The Ritz.

The five-member Chandler Blues Band is made up of Kyle Higley on guitar and vocals, Kevin “Skip” Medeiros on drums and vocals, Mike Chandler on guitar, Michael “Icey” Baird on harmonica, and Lance Fullin on bass.

Last week we took some time to get to know the boys behind the band over a round of drinks at The Ritz. (They all drink beer, except Mr. Fullin, who’s a Scotch kind of guy, three fingers of Johnny Walker Black to be exact.)

The Chandler Blues Band's iconic poster features items representing each of the band members. – Photo courtesy Facebook
The Chandler Blues Band’s iconic poster features items representing each of the band members. – Photo courtesy Facebook

Mr. Higley and Mr. Medeiros played in a band together years ago, and through mutual friends, an ex-girlfriend and her mother, the rest of the band was formed by late 2013. Mr. Baird was initially recruited to play harmonica when the band decided they wanted the sound of one but didn’t have a harmonicist. He picked up the versatile instrument, and has been playing ever since.

Mr. Chandler moved to the Island a few years ago, and had gone 10 years without playing in a band. “I had wanted to be in a blues band. Then I met these guys. It was a lucky, happy accident,” said Mr. Chandler.

When the group first started jamming weekly in Mr. Medeiros’ tiny studio apartment in West Tisbury a year ago last December, they didn’t have a name and were still feeling out one another’s talents. Their first gig was at a Chilmark Potluck Jam last February. They embraced the “cool, local vibe” of the show, and took the opportunity to jam onstage together. They were the last band to play that first night, and most of the attendees had already filtered out, but a dozen friends remained, and they kept them on their feet. They continued to play the Potluck Jams through last winter, and expressed appreciation for the events and what they do to foster talent and camaraderie among local musicians in the off-season, in addition to giving them gigging experience as a band. The Potlucks also forced the group to develop a band name. After a few failed suggestions playing off one another’s last names via a group text, the guys settled on Chandler Blues Band, after Mr. Chandler, as Mr. Medeiros said, “because he’s the tallest. It just rolled off the tongue.”

The band played their first benefit show in May of last year, thanks to local blues musician Gordon Healy, who billed the band for a fundraiser to benefit the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard at the Seafood Shanty. Mr. Medeiros knew Mr. Healy, and had played with him before. “It was our first official gig in a bar. We were on a poster. It was the moment we felt legitimized,” said Mr. Chandler.

The benefit helped the band secure weekly gigs at the Seafood Shanty, where they played every Wednesday last summer, and some Sundays too. From there, opportunities snowballed, and they stayed busy, playing as many as two or three times a week, including sessions at the Dive Bar and P.A. Club in Oak Bluffs and the Port Hunter in Edgartown.

While the band welcomed their busy summer schedule, it took its toll. “By the end of the summer, it was getting weary,” said Mr. Baird. Like most artists on the Island, the band members all work full-time day jobs on top of their musical schedule. Mr. Medeiros juggles his job as drummer along with his job as barista at Mocha Motts, and there were many summer nights with the band that turned into long days at the coffee counter. “We’d get out of some shows around 2 am, and then I’d need to wind down, but only had a few hours until work. It was often a question of whether I should sleep or not,” said Mr. Medeiros.

Despite all of their own hard work, they’re eternally grateful to their friends and families, local business owners, and other musicians for helping to spread the word about their music while cultivating such an inviting local music scene.

“[Gordon Healy and Don Groover], those old blues guys have really helped us out,” said Mr. Baird. “Johnny Hoy, [the late] Maynard Silva … we wouldn’t be a band without those guys. We get props from the older generation [of musicians] and the younger kids too. Everyone seems to get a kick out of us. We’re cross-genre.”

And they’re still in the process of evolving their sound. To date, the band’s sets have been a combination of blues standards and originals. “We want to get out of basic blues, and develop our own style of blues. We want the focus to be on us as a band, not just what we’re playing,” said Mr. Higley. Mr. Medeiros added, “We’re working on an EP. We’re moving away from standards. Kyle is working on more originals, doing the writing and the lyrics. Then he’ll bring them to us. He’s our own Paul Simon.”

The band has been working with fellow local band Electric Pie at their recording studio. “They hooked us up big-time, and we’re very grateful for them,” echoed the bandmates.

While the band has limited their shows to the Island so far, they’re definitely open to venturing off the rock in the future. “The first phase was just us getting comfortable playing together, but we want to see new venues and new people. We want our voice to be heard, and we want to spread it around,” said Mr. Chandler. “We’ll play anywhere, anytime. There’s no such thing as a bad gig.”

For a relatively new band, the Island has proved to be a great launch pad. “The Island has a great music scene; it’s very opportunistic,” said Mr. Baird. “The Vineyard really gives us an audience. I used to live in Boston, and it was spread thin. In bigger cities people become numb to live music. There’s a real draw for live music on the Island,” said Mr. Chandler. “It’s a tight-knit community, and we can really vibe off each other.”

While the band entertained all summer, their winter sets are especially welcome. “After working a hard day, people want to go out and have a beer and listen to music,” said Mr. Medeiros. “And the owners are all really great. They make money, we make money, we get more opportunities to play, and people leave happy.”

You can catch the Chandler Blues Band at The Ritz this Friday, Feb. 27, at 10 pm. Admission is $5. They are also currently booking dates for the summer, and can be reached at thechandlerbluesband@gmail.com or on their Facebook page, facebook.com/TheChandlerBluesBand. You can listen to the band here: soundcloud.com/the-chandler-blues-band.

A Wicked Good Winter Cabaret returns to the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse.

From left, Paul Munafo, Shelagh Hackett, Molly Conole and Ken Romero entertain the audience during their latest Wicked Good Winter Cabaret performance last Saturday. – Photo by Michael Cummo

Islanders packed the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse last Saturday night for “Love and Valentines,” the latest installment in their Wicked Good Winter Cabaret series, which had been rescheduled from Valentine’s Day due to weather conditions. Accompanied by pianist Peter Boak, Shelagh Hackett, Paul Munafo, Ken Romero, and musical director Molly Conole sang 18 love-themed show tunes from the Patricia Neal Stage, and in return, received 18 delighted rounds of applause from the audience.

“The nature of cabaret is relaxed, and that is one of the reasons I love to do it,” Ms. Hackett said in an email to The Times. “There is such a loving and warm audience every time.”

The songs performed included Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s “Get Me to the Church on Time” from My Fair Lady, Stephen Sondheim’s “The Little Things You Do Together” from Company, and Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s “Matchmaker” from Fiddler on the Roof.

Picking favorites wasn’t easy for the performers.

“I liked them all,” Ken Romero said in an email to The Times, “but if I had to pick one it would be the one Shelagh Hackett sang, ‘Someone’s Been Sending Me Flowers’; that woman can sell a song!”

Ms. Hackett also found that song topped her list.

“My favorite song that I sang [was] probably ‘Someone’s Been Sending Me Flowers,’ she said, “but I also loved singing the duet, ‘Do You Love Me’ with Paul [Munafo]. Paul and I have been singing together for almost 30 years, so I feel very comfortable with him.”

MJ Bruder Munafo, artistic and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, had no small amount of praise for Ms. Conole’s musical direction.

“She’s the real talent behind the cabaret,” she said in an email to The Times. Ms. Munafo added “The turnout was really good, especially for a wintry night! There were new folks in the audience and returning fans of the cabaret. I love how strong the ensemble has grown and Molly’s brilliant selection of songs.”

Ms. Conole, who was a MVRHS Minnesinger, admitted she loves listening to her friends sing as much as she loves singing herself.

“Not only do I love singing all the songs I get to sing, in their range from the sublime to the ridiculous,” she said in an email to The Times, “but I so thoroughly enjoy watching and listening to my wonderfully talented friends bring their songs to life, too. Such fun! If I had to choose a unique highpoint of last night, it was the moving experience performing ‘Unlikely Lovers,’ with its beautiful 4-part harmonies, and beautiful message of the special and deep love of friends, which is very real for us.”

The Wicked Good Winter Cabaret series continues at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse on March 21 at 7:30 pm and again on April 18. Tickets are $23 in advance; proceeds benefit the Playhouse. For additional information and reserved tickets, visit vineyardplayhouse.org.