Musical Mondays at Featherstone
Featherstone Center for the Art’s outdoor stage is nestled between large Oak and Beech trees at the bottom of a surrounding grassy hill that creates a natural ampitheater with well-amplified acoustics. It is a perfect stage on which to present an easy, breezy summer series of weekly musical performances. Popular Island singer-songwriter Jemima James, who makes frequent appearances at what’s been dubbed, “Musical Mondays,” puts it simply: “This is one of the best little venues of all time, don’t you think?”
Featherstone opens the venue to the public for performances that feature Island musicians in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. People spread across the hillside in self-arranged rows while children scramble around, or nestle against their parents, dotting the hillside with color. Families come equipped with picnic baskets and folding chairs, blankets, and bedrolls.
“The atmosphere is great,” Ms. James said. “People aren’t confined to their seats, and the kids don’t feel confined to anything.”
Martha’s Vineyard has a large number of talented musicians who spend their summers playing at weddings and bars and don’t get to perform for the general public. Past shows this summer featured Johnny Hoy & The Bluefish; Tristan Israel, Nancy Jephcote & Paul Thurlow; and Jon Zeeman. At Ms. James’s recent show she shared the stage with friends and family members. Musicians such as Mara Carlyle (who played “Amazing Grace” on a saw) and the mesmerizing Kate Taylor sang, and Ms. James’s son, Willy Mason, took a turn at the microphone.
At the end of the show, Ms. James brought in all of the musicians who had played over the course of the evening, and invited the audience to join in on the chorus of one of her original songs, “Waiter at the Station.”
“The music lends itself to a lot of people joining in,” Kate Taylor said. “Jemima also has a special way of making people feel comfortable together.”
Ms. James added, “We’ve been playing music together for years in the living room. The combinations are really natural. You hand the guitar around, and when someone feels like playing, they play. The best music is made that way.”
This Monday, July 27, Barking Daisy — featuring Christine McClean, Ray Frazio and Chris Seidel — will play an “eclectic mix of music from the ‘50s to today.”
The following week brings Kevin Keady to the stage, and the week after, Mike Benjamin. u
Musical Mondays, Featherstone Center for the Arts, Barnes Rd., Oak Bluffs, Monday, 6:30 pm to 8 pm. Bring a blanket, a folding chair, and a picnic. Donation $7 adults; children free.
Ben Williams, who lives in West Tisbury, is a frequent contributor to The Times.