Berkshire Cultural Preview, December 7-11, 2011

FAMED CELLIST, CHOREOGRAPHER TEAM UP for MULTIMEDIA OPERA at MASS MOCA

(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) – Artists from the classical music and dance avant-garde will join forces when, after a 10-day residency, contemporary cellist Maya Beiser, the founding cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, teams with radical choreographer Karole Armitage to perform the psychological cello opera Elsewhere on Saturday, December 10, 2011, at 8 p.m. in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center as part of MASS MoCA’s series of work-in-progress showings. Beiser, who has been christened the “cello goddess” by the New Yorker, will be accompanied by Armitage and four dancers and the work will feature video from Peter Nigrini and environments by Riccardo Hernandez.

In two acts, Elsewhere tells the tale of two heroic women who are fighting to survive the apocalypse, each attempting to come to terms with their existence as calamity and puzzlement engulf their lives. The first act takes inspiration from “I am Writing to You from a Far Off Country” by surrealist poet Henri Michaux, while the second act interprets the biblical story of Lot’s wife. The collaborators will only be working on and presenting the first act (called “Far Off Country”) during their residency.

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JAZZ FUSION LEGENDS  SPYRO GYRA TO PLAY CHRISTMAS CONCERT AT MAHAIWE

Spyro Gyra

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Jazz fusion legends Spyro Gyra bring a smooth-jazz twist to the holidays with A Night Before Christmas on Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 7 p.m., at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. The eight-time Grammy Award nominated outfit, founded in Buffalo, N.Y., in the mid-1970s, is one of the longest-running and most commercially successfully jazz groups, combining pop, jazz, world beat, rock and Latin influences into its unique fusion.

Spyro Gyra’s breakthrough success was with the calypso-inspired hit “Morning Dance,” followed by the Grammy Award-nominated “Wrapped in a Dream” that spent 64 weeks on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart, where they still command a presence to this day.

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JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE HEADLINES HELSINKI HUDSON

Justin Townes Earle

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Americana singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, son of famed alt-country legend Steve Earle, performs at Club Helsinki Hudson on Friday, December 9, 2011, at 9 p.m. Nashville songstress Tristen warms up the crowd for Earle.

Justin Townes Earle won the Best New and Emerging Artist at the 2009 Americana Music Awards. His record, Midnight at the Movies, was named one of the best records of last year by Amazon and received four stars in Rolling Stone. GQ Magazine named him one of the 25 best dressed men in the world in 2010. He also appeared on HBO’s Treme with his dad, troubadour Steve Earle, on whose Grammy Award-winning Townes record Justin – named after Earle’s friend, the late Texas singer-songwriter Townes van Zant — also guests. (Papa Earle will perform at Club Helsinki on January 8, 2012.)

Justin Townes Earle’s latest recording is Harlem River Blues. Compared to the much-lauded Midnight at the Movies, Harlem River Blues is more mature, straddling not only the Mason-Dixon line but time itself. As versed in Mance Lipscomb as he is in M. Ward and sporting Marc Jacobs suspenders, Justin Townes Earle is a man beyond eras. With Harlem River Blues, Justin’s found yet another way to be a timeless original.

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JAZZ PIANIST ARMEN DONELIAN LEADS TRIO at CASTLE STREET CAFE

Armen Donelian (photo by Stephen Donelian)

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Pianist Armen Donelian leads his trio in performance at Castle Street Cafe on Saturday, December 10, 2011, at 7:30 pm. Accompanying Donelian, who has performed and recorded since 1975 as a featured solo pianist, leader of his own quintet and trio, and with jazz legends including Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, Paquito D’Rivera, Mongo Santamaria and Billy Harper, will be bassist David Clark and drummer Jeff Hirshfield.

Donelian is composer of more than 90 works and has produced eleven critically acclaimed recordings for the Sunnyside, Playscape, Odin and Atlas labels. His most recent CD release, Oasis (Sunnyside), is a trio date with bassist David Clark and drummer George Schuller, his musicians of choice for over four years, recorded in 2007.

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BERKSHIRE LYRIC CHORUS: NOEL SING THEY

The Berkshire Lyric Chorus performing its Xmas concert in Stockbridge in 2009

(PITTSFIELD, Mass.) – The Berkshire Lyric Chorus presents its annual holiday concert, Noel Sing We, Music of the Season, on Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 3 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on Park Square in downtown Pittsfield. The concert will include performances by the 60-person Berkshire Lyric Chorus, as well as the Blafield Children’s Chorus and special guests the Taconic High School Chorus under the direction of Jessica Passetto,

Conducted by Berkshire Lyric artistic director Jack Brown of Stockbridge and accompanied by Joseph Rose of West Stockbridge, the performance will feature Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on Christmas Carols” with baritone soloist Tim Passetto of Dalton, a range of contemporary and ancient carols, and popular Christmas selections.

The combined choirs will also lead an audience sing-a-long of several well-known carols and songs, closing with a traditional encore of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.”

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