Music : Coffeehouse reunites old friends
Musicians Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, and Michael Cicone first joined musical forces on the Vineyard in 1981, back in the days when folk music took the country by storm and the Island proved to be a stronghold for the rootsy genre. Three decades later, their paths have taken them on to diverse careers and locales, though all three still actively perform and teach music.
A few times each year, the trio reunites for a performance that proves both the enduring friendship and the magical vocal harmonizing that have withstood the test of time. This Friday, the three friends will revive the spirit of their early performances at The Vineyard Playhouse's Spoon in the Moon Coffeehouse, which begins at 7:30 pm.
Known mostly for their a cappella style, the trio have recorded three CDs (Heart Walk, Angels in Daring, Only Human) that have earned them respect among critics and an admiring fan base throughout New England. The group focuses on contemporary tunes with a traditional music
influence. They draw both from recognized songwriters such as Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Judy Collins, and Bruce Springsteen, as well as those who as Ms. Kallet says, "are less well known by the masses but extraordinary songwriters."
Cindy Kallet is well known in folk circles, has released three CDs, and travels extensively throughout the U.S. performing with her partner, Grey Larsen. She is now based in Indiana. Ms. Epstein and Mr. Cicone both live in the Boston area and work in therapeutic music and teaching music respectively.
The group learns and plays a broad mix of songs. "We follow the two out of three rule," Ms. Epstein says about brining new material to their repertoire. "If two of us are drawn to it we consider doing it."
Although the group's reputation rests primarily on their three-part a cappella harmonizing, some of their tunes are accompanied with their respective instruments - Mr. Cicone on hammered dulcimer, and the two women on guitar. Their choice of material includes from sweet lilting ballads in which the three singers' voices combine equally well, no matter the form. In every case, their unique harmonizing imparts an added depth to their material.
The trio also includes traditional sea shanties in their set, as well as music written about or inspired by the Vineyard. Ms. Kallet grew up sailing, and worked for a while on a boat. She says she has developed a strong love of the music of the sea.
Ms. Kallet and Ms. Epstein met here in the 70s. Ms. Kallet worked at a number of odd jobs - housecleaning, shucking scallops, and a stint at Felix Neck - while Ms. Epstein worked teaching at the Edgartown School. The two discovered a shared affinity for traditional music (regional tunes that have been passed along for generations) and started performing together. Ms. Kallet notes that their first gig was at "a clam shack in Gay Head." They became regulars at the original Wintertide Coffeehouse, which was then located in the Stone Church in Vineyard Haven, and eventually recruited Ms. Epstein's friend, Mr. Cicone, from Boston to complete the trio.
Ms. Epstein, who owns a home in West Tisbury and visits often from her home in the Boston area, read in The Times last fall about the Playhouse's launch of the Coffeehouse. She decided that the Playhouse, with its combination of excellent acoustics and intimate feel, would be the perfect venue for the trio to play a return concert on the Vineyard.
"We'd been sort of casting about for a way to do a concert on the Vineyard," Ms. Epstein says. She liked the idea of supporting the Playhouse's endeavor and also the fact that the location is directly across the street from the Stone Church.
Ms. Epstein comments that audiences tend to appreciate the harmony that the three present as more than just complementary voices but also as old friends.
"Our music is really a part of our friendship. We bring the whole 30 years - our personal and professional lives. It's clear that we love singing together. As a trio we've never made money. It's always been our pleasure, not so much our work."
Spoon in the Moon took a winter hiatus after two shows last fall, but according to MJ Bruder Munafo, Playhouse artistic director, they are happy to continue the musical series and will feature both local and off-Island talent throughout the rest of the spring and early summer.
Spoon in the Moon Coffeehouse featuring Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, Michael Cicone, 7:30 pm, Friday, April 2, The Vineyard Playhouse, Vineyard Haven. $15; $10 seniors/children. Refreshments. 508-693-6450; vineyardplayhouse.org.
Gwyn McAllister is a frequent contributor to The Times.