Berkshire Weekend Cultural Highlights Nov 16-18, 2011

SUPERSTARS of AFROBEAT and  FUNK PAY TRIBUTE to JAMES BROWN at the MAHAIWE

Cheikh Lô

Cheikh Lô

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) –  Former James Brown sidemen Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker team up with Afrobeat superstars Cheikh Lô and Vusi Mahlasela in Still Black, Still Proud, a musical exploration of the give-and-take between James Brown’s funk soul and African music, on Friday night at 8 at the Mahaiwe. A longtime project of Ellis’s, who played saxophone for Brown in the 1960s and wrote and arranged some of his seminal funk hits, including “Cold Sweat,” the tribute is as much about Brown’s influence on contemporary African music as vice-versa.

Funk was the renewal of the African in African-American soul music, making James Brown’s music immensely popular, deeply felt and vastly influential in Africa. Afrobeat, as contemporary African soul and pop has essentially come to be known outside of the continent, is basically unthinkable without the influence that Brown had on such pioneers as Fela Kuti, Youssou N’Dour, and King Sunny Ade.

Hailing from Senegal, Sufi singer-guitarist-percussionist Cheikh Lô recently released Jamm (World Circuit/Nonesuch Records), his fourth album in 15 years. South African singer-songwriter/activist Vusi Mahlasela is known simply as “The Voice” in his homeland. Maceo Parker, who returns to the Mahaiwe after a gig there in the early oughts, has gone on from the JBs to enjoy a thriving career as a funk-jazz bandleader and sideman to many others, including Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, and Ani DiFranco. Each is a star in his own right, and together, without exaggeration, they are, as the Boston Globe calls them, “a pancontinental funk-soul supergroup.”

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FOLK MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST SAM AMIDON to PLAY at MASS MOCA

Sam Amidon

Sam Amidon

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Musical storyteller and instrumental wizard Sam Amidon will perform at MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 on Saturday, November 19, 2011, at 8 pm as part of the Alt Cabaret series. Quickly developing a cult following, Amidon has re-invented traditional folk through his melding of age-old music with the sound of today. As an expert guitarist, banjoist, and fiddler, Amidon will exhibit his contemporary folk narratives, as well as videos, field recordings, and hand-drawn cartoons.

Amidon does not limit himself to traditional folk music. He is known to inject his folk and free jazz into mainstream songs which are seemingly unrelated to the folk genre, as revealed by covers like R. Kelly’s “Relief.” In his radical interpretations of gospel, ballads, and children’s singing games, Amidon continues to challenge original performances of music.

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THE GUTHRIE FAMILY RIDES AGAIN INTO THE COLONIAL THEATRE

The Guthrie Family

The Guthrie Family

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – In what has fast become a Pittsfield Thanksgiving tradition, Arlo Guthrie brings his “Guthrie Family Rides Again” tour to the Colonial Theatre on Saturday, November 19, 2011, at 8pm. Including songs by Arlo’s father, Woody Guthrie, the concert will span four generations of the Guthrie family performing songs they’ve written, learned together and come to love. The ensemble will also perform Woody Guthrie lyrics put to new music by the Guthries and other songwriters.

The Guthrie Family Rides Again brings his singular voice as both a singer-songwriter and social commentator to the stage alongside his children and grandchildren. This family concert includes Arlo’s son, Abe, who has contributed keyboards and backing vocals to his father’s live shows since the 1980s. His daughters Cathy, Annie and Sarah Lee Guthrie, and son-in-law Johnny Irion, all of whom have their own bustling music careers, will support by singing songs and accompanying on acoustic guitars. Even the youngest generation of Guthrie kids will join in the fun on select songs.

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PHILIP GLASS’S GANDHI OPERA ‘SATYAGRAHA’ at MAHAIWE and THE CLARK

Richard Croft as Gandhi in Philip Glass's 'Satyagraha' (photo Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Richard Croft as Gandhi in Philip Glass's 'Satyagraha' (photo Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., and GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Philip Glass’s opera Satyagraha, an inspirational retelling of Mohandas K. Gandhi’s formative philosophical experiences as a young man in South Africa considered a masterpiece of the late-20th-century operatic repertoire and one of Glass’s greatest creations, will be broadcast live in HD from the Metropolitan Opera at The Clark in Williamstown and the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington on Saturday, November 19, 2011, at 1 pm. An encore broadcast of the opera, which runs approximately four hours with two intermissions, takes place at the Mahaiwe on Wednesday, November 23, at 1pm.

Glass’s minimalist score, sung in Sanskrit, features lyrics drawn from the Bhagavad Gita. Phelim McDermott’s visually extravagant production uses large-scale puppetry, acrobatics, and supertitles to create a moving, life-affirming theatrical experience. Richard Croft portrays Gandhi, a role he first sang to critical acclaim in the 2008 Met premiere of the work. The cast also includes Rachelle Durkin as Miss Schlesen, Kim Josephson as Mr. Kallenbach, and Alfred Walker as Parsi Rustomji. Contemporary music specialist Dante Anzolini conducts; rising bass-baritone star Eric Owens hosts the transmission. Satyagraha has been hailed “a work of genius” (L.A. Times) and “a transcendent evening of theater” (Variety).

“Satyagraha” is the name given to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolent civil resistance. It is formed from two Sanskrit words, satya, meaning ‘truth,’ and agraha, meaning ‘insistence’ or ‘holding onto.’ The name was also applied to the movement for Indian independence from Great Britain led by Gandhi.

Glass’s opera was written in 1979 and premiered in the Netherlands in 1980, and is considered the second part of his “Portrait Trilogy” of operas about men who changed the world, which also includes Einstein on the Beach and Akhnaten.

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RISING SOUL-POP SINGER-SONGWRITER KRISTY LEE PERFORMS at CLUB HELSINKI HUDSON

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Rising soul-pop singer-songwriter sensation Kristy Lee, who just garnered the opening slot on Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend Leon Russell’s fall tour, performs at Club Helsinki on Friday, November 18, 2011, at 9 pm. The Alabama-bred singer-guitarist has a unique style of music that blends reggae jamming, classic rock, Southern rock, country, blues, soul, and even a cappella. With only one album under her belt, Kristy Lee is already being compared to British pop and soul chanteuse Adele. By the time Kristy Lee reached 18, she landed her first album nationwide, sold exclusively at Target stores across the U.S..

This has been the breakout year for Lee. She has toured incessantly, winning critical acclaim and new fans after performances at major music festivals including the Hangout Festival, the Verizon Music Festival, Rombello Music Cruise and her own annual three day Unleashed Festival. She has also shared stages and audiences with Zac Brown, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Dickey Betts, Little Feat, G Love & Special Sauce, Brett Dennen, and now, Leon Russell.

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BERKSHIRE LANDSCAPE ARTIST FEATURED in HARRISON GALLERY EXHIBITION

'Last Light' by John MacDonald

'Last Light' by John MacDonald

(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.) – Landscape paintings by John MacDonald – one of the region’s most popular, prolific and respected landscape artists – are featured in an exhibition currently running at The Harrison Gallery through November 30, 2011. McDonald has staked out the Berkshires as his favorite terrain, painting portraits of the area as it appears in all seasons.  Because he knows the area so well and has trained himself to paint only what he actually sees, emptying his mind of all preconceived images, his paintings speak with authority, distinctiveness and above all, great authenticity.

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