This weekend’s cultural highlights in the Berkshires include a double-bill of singer-songwriters at Club Helsinki Hudson featuring Jeffrey Foucault and Williams College alumna Kris Delmhorst, who has just released a fabulous recording reinterpreting the music of new-wave group The Cars; The Love Show, a blues, soul and politics revue at MASS MoCA; the final Downstreet Thursday arts festival in North Adams; the opening of a new reception of painting and sculpture at Harrison Gallery in Williamstown; and the reopening of a comedy by Williamstown playwright Chris Newbound at Berkshire Theatre Festival.
Known mostly for her rootsy, original Americana-flavored folk-pop songs, nothing in the music of Kris Delmhorst immediately suggests a deep affinity with proto-punk new-wave masters The Cars, and yet a dozen years into a career at the nexus of folk, indie-pop, and Americana, Delmhorst has taken a brief vacation from her own literate songwriting to bring us CARS, a collection of songs by the band that defined an era, on which Delmhorst uncovers an organic, moody rawness hidden beneath Ric Ocasek’s new-wave production values.
Balancing classic hits and deep cuts, Delmhorst has painstakingly deconstructed every hook-laden arrangement, every unforgettable line, creating a sonic palette inventively recast: Ric Ocasek’s herky-jerky bravado is replaced by the amber warmth of Delmhorst’s luminescent voice; the processed, synth-heavy aesthetic of the originals is reinvented with an array of organic instruments including fiddle, accordion, upright bass, suitcase drum kit, mandolin, clarinet, pennywhistle, and harmonica. But even with the rootsy re-arrangements, in her hands — and in her sultry vocals — a classic, well-worn radio hit like “Shake It Up” is a delectable bit of come-hither hippie-funk – think The Band or Little Feat if Shawn Colvin were the lead singer.
Music and More’s 2011 season concludes with a panel featuring four nationally prominent authors: Andrew Hacker, Claudia Dreifus, Bruce Murkoff and Tracy Kidder, hosted by Mitchel Levitas of the New York Times. The authors will discuss the rewards and frustrations of writing their recently published work and answer questions from the audience. The discussion and book signing takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 1, 2011, at the historic Meeting House in New Marlborough.
Sociologist Andrew Hacker, author of Two Nations, about America’s racial divide, and prize-winning New York Times journalist Claudia Dreifus will talk about their collaborative book, Higher Education? Tracy Kidder has written eight books and won many literary prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. His most recent work, Strength in What Remains, tells the amazing story of Deo, a young medical student from the African nation of Burundi who was forced onto a terrifying journey through both ethnic violence in his home country and genocide in Rwanda. Bruce Murkoff is the much-acclaimed author of the novels Waterborne and Red Rain, his latest. Both are set at transformative times in American history – Waterborne against the backdrop of the Great Depression and Red Rain in the mid-1800s during the American Civil War. Host of this special discussion is Mitchel Levitas, who has been at the New York Times for over 40 years in various senior editorial positions.
The final DownStreet Thursday of the season in North Adams, Mass., will feature seven new exhibition openings, including a milestone retrospective show by local artist Gregory Scheckler in MCLA Gallery 51 and a site-specific exhibition of ceramic objects, drawing, paint and video curated by Pittsfield’s Ferrin Gallery owner Leslie Ferrin in The Artery.
The evening also will feature special events, including an MCLA Presents! performance, as well as several music and performance happenings. DownStreet Thursday, which is free and open to the public, will take place on Thursday, Sept. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Live music will include songs by C. Ryder Cooley and spoken word with Sarah Falkner at XMALIA, 18 Holden St., at 7:30 p.m. This performance will offer a sneak preview of the 70-minute musical-theater event to happen on Jan. 25, 2012, as part of MCLA Presents!
Other music will happen throughout the event when three street musicians perform in front of Berkshire Bank, Mike Martin plays his ukulele in front of MCLA Gallery 51, and the Drury High School Jazz Band performs under the Mohawk Theatre marquee.
The Love Show digs its roots in Grace Lee Boggs’ declaration that “linking love and revolution is an idea whose time has come.” Five of New York’s most acclaimed soul vocalists — Carla Cook, Helga Davis, Marcelle Davies Lashley, James Staten Jr., and Jason Walker — will spread their love on Saturday, October 1, at 8 pm in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 in North Adams, Mass. The Love Show is more than a concert, joining music, performance pieces, and activism to rejoice in their mission of loving thy neighbor and loving thyself.
Grammy-nominated Carla Cook combines Motown, blues, rock, and European classical to create jazz unlike it has ever been heard before. Growing up in Detroit, she began singing in her church choir, developing her interest in gospel music. As she began composing and performing, she elected to pave a unique path by reinterpreting pop and rock songs through jazz, singing songs like Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” and Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues.” Cook has formed numerous jazz ensembles, the first based in Boston. Her debut album It’s All About Love received a Grammy Nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Performance; her following albums Dem Bones and Simply Natural also welcomed critical acclaim for her beautiful and textured voice.
The Harrison Gallery in Williamstown, Mass., will present a show of two gallery favorites: realist painter Nick Patten and bronze sculptor Susan Read Cronin. The artists will attend the opening reception on Saturday, October 1, 2011, from 5 until 7 pm.
Nick Patten paints the interiors of rooms in old houses with direct and reflected light that touches gently on the walls and floors, archways and sparse furnishings to create scenes that are hauntingly still, serene and calming. His works typically bring the eye on a journey through the portion of a room or a series of rooms that give the viewer the feeling of peeking in at a time when nobody else is in the house.
Susan Read Cronin is known for her humorous and ironic depictions of animals and people. She is a southern Vermont artist who was educated at the Madeira School and Williams College. She then studied sculpture with Jane B. Armstrong and Walter Matia.
Cronin’s sculptures mostly depict animals, but are almost always about the drama of life. The titles of the sculptures often include some kind of pun or trick. She writes: “I want to create art that makes people take a second look, for, just as in real life, all may not be as it appears at first glance. They’re about relationships…. They’re about love, conditional and unconditional….”
The Berkshire Theatre Festival reopens the comic drama Birthday Boy by Chris Newbound, of Williamstown, Mass., in its world premiere run in the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, Mass., beginning Thursday, September 29, 2011 and running through Sunday, October 16. The cast includes Nick Dillenburg, Tara Franklin, James Ludwig and Keira Naughton. The piece is directed by Wes Grantom.
As Matt nears his fortieth birthday, he finds himself at a crossroads in his life. His wife Arianne wants to take a mud season vacation to Vermont. His job is safe, though far from stimulating. When he begins a flirtation with a comely colleague he finds himself discovering just how absurd everyday life can be. This world premiere work provides a comic look at marriage, life and growing older.