Given the combined actual ages of the current 34 members on the "active roster," the Young@Heart Chorus would need close to 3,000 candles to celebrate its collective birthday in the traditional way. But the group of seasoned citizen singers is marking its 30th anniversary as a vocal troupe this weekend. Considering that the area elders have toured the globe several times over and been the focus of a major motion picture in those years, it's an accomplishment that apparently takes at least three evenings to celebrate.
"I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's been a long strange trip with never a dull moment," group director Bob Cilman notes of the experience as the group readies for a three-night "anniversary party" at the Academy of Music Theatre this weekend, Oct. 19-21.
Friday night's show will see Young@Heart with special guests Trailer Park, followed by collaborations with area singer/songwriter Heather Maloney on Saturday and scene staples the Lonesome Brothers on Sunday.
Coinciding with the event is a special month-long exhibit at the Hosmer Gallery in Northampton's Forbes Library. The exhibition is curated by none other than Cilman's daughter Stella, and features never-before-seen video, rare photos, theatre costumes, banners and more.
As if they needed another excuse to party, the Young@Heart-sters have also just released Now—a new 17-tune offering that includes chestnuts like Dandy Livingstone's "A Message To You, Rudy" and Stills-Young's "Long May You Run," with a couple of cool bonus live tracks tacked on for good measure. Tickets for all three shows are available at youngatheartchorus.com and range from $20 to $100 depending on the package selected. Options range from a simple seat to a ticket, CD and aftershow meet-and-greet reception.
Similarly celebrating new studio product is local songwriter/world-renowned Americana balladeer Tim Eriksen (timerikesenmusic.com). The disc is titled Josh Billings Voyage and is slated to drop Oct. 23. In hearing the Amherst native discuss some stories behind the project, however, it could have just as easily been dubbed Of Mice and Men.
"I found a mouse nest in my stereo speaker," he recalls. "Some time later I was dubbing a tape, forgot about it and eventually noticed a barely audible, high-pitched singing in the next room. Every hair stood on end, because I believed that the mice were singing. I was shocked at what I was capable of believing, even for three seconds. The song ('The Mice') speaks to those things... to the presences and beliefs and our attempts to understand what's going on."
Other tunes conjure images of deep West Africa ("Gabriel's Trumpet") and South India ("How Come The Blood"), all blending together to support the overarching narrative: Josh Billings Voyage is actually a look into the fictitious, Eriksen-created New England village of Pumpkintown. It's an audio excursion aimed at uniting the foothills of Western Massachusets with the shores of Madras and Zanzibar.
"It struck me early on that 'Yankee' culture has always been deeply multicultural," Eriksen points out. "It's the kind of multiculturalism that's invisible if you don't recognize the distinctions or sources of influence."
Speaking of invisible, those looking to shell out the bills to buy Billings may notice that physical copies of the CD are fairly scarce on the local landscape. According to Eriksen, Josh Billings Voyage will be purposely offered on a limited basis in an effort to benefit area residents. In fact, present plans call for it only to be available at the Amherst's A.J. Hastings stationery store, January Hills in Leverett, and live shows—including his CD release party at the Black Sheep in Amherst Friday, Oct. 26.
Last but not least, tickets are on sale now for the Dec. 19 Killswitch Engage/Shadows Fall show at Pearl Street (iheg). In addition to pairing for one evening two of the biggest metal names ever to come out of the Valley, the show also marks the return of original Killswitch frontman Jesse Leach.
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