The year in music

Local and national acts took the stage all over the Island this year.

Last January we sat down with freelancer writer and musician Sean Della Croce while she was taking a break from her Nashville life. It was fun to talk to someone who’s usually on the other side of the laptop. Groups like Funktapuss and the Quinns, and Island favorite Crooked Coast, visited us this year, bringing their off-Island sound with them. 

We were able to dance the night away many, many times this year. We wrote about Auntie Em and the Bedspins, Mrs. Biskis, the Flying Elbows, the Cottage City Collective, and we welcomed back musician Don Groover, who managed to jump right into playing again after cancer treatment. We also saw some special events come together, as the community raised funds for Island songstress and Groover bandmate Sabrina Luening, who suffered a stroke in October. Willie Mason, Kate Taylor, and many others played into the night at the P.A. Club, and there was another event at the Cardboard Box featuring live music and an auction. M.A. Kent-Holmes wrote about guitarist Delanie Pickering and her new gig with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, and Amelia Smith wrote about the Island’s kids’ rock band, the Pinkletinks. 

Familiar folksingers Cindy Kallet and Grey Larsen played at Pathways in January, and the nonprofit continued to incorporate music throughout its off-season programming.

If you were looking for a little opera with your insalata, Italian restaurant La Soffitta in Vineyard Haven started Opera Nights with Jenny Friedman, soprano, David Behnke, baritone, and Molly Sturges, keyboard, last winter, and they’re still going strong. Pianist David Rhoderick performed with violinist Cesar Atzic Marquez at the First Congregational Church. The West Tisbury library hosted the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s presentation of the cello quartet Holes in the Floor in April. The Chamber Music Society also offered Island performances with four quartets: Quartet San Francisco, an All-Star Piano Quartet, the Harlem Quartet, and the Verona Quartet.

Molly Conole starred in her solo show, recounting the twists and turns of her life, in “Seaglass, Quilts & Song: LIfe in Pieces” in May. The brand-new M.V. Museum hosted music events all summer, including a show with the Flying Elbows in May, playing tunes from the book, “William Litten’s Fiddle Tunes, 1800–1802.”

Then summer came along, and we were swept off our feet by the M.V. Summer Concert Series, with Richard Thompson, Black Violin, Stephen Marley, Martin Sexton, and more. 

After what seemed like a year of anticipation, Beach Road Weekend went off without a hitch in Vineyard Haven, bringing John Fogerty, Phil Lesh and Friends, Dispatch, Alejandro Escovedo, North Mississippi Allstars, Mason Jennings, Super Diamond, Grace Potter, Galactic, Matisyahu, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and the Original Wailers. Local artists Siren Mayhew, Rose Guerin, the Dock Dance Band, Brothers McMahon Holy Rock ’n’ Roll Revival, the Outskirts, the Phil daRosa Project, and the Mike Benjamin Band, to mention a few, took to the stage during Beach Road Weekend.

When fall rolled around, we went out in droves to listen to all the musicians at Ladyfest, which seems to grow each year. In November, we put on our dancing shoes and filled the Ag Hall for the annual Barn Raisers Ball, where Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish played and we filled our plates with potluck desserts. The Chilmark Potluck Jam celebrated its 50th event in November in its usual laid-back style. We got to greet people we were too busy to wave to in August, and settled in for some terrific live music. Longtime Islander and former Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel dropped a new CD, “Out Into the Midnight,” and played at the Whaling Church in December. 

Last spring, the Island Community Chorus performed “In Heaven, Hereafter,” composed by Thomas LaVoy, with lyrics based on the works of Nancy Luce, at the Old Whaling Church. In December, just a few weeks ago, they gave us a holiday concert titled “Cold Hands, Warm Heart,” which did indeed warm the hearts of the listeners.