Music

James Maddock comes to the LIM on Sept. 18. Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews

Americana and folk

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will welcome singer/songwriter James Maddock in concert on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. as part of the museum’s Sunday Street Series.

British born James Maddock was first recognized in the U.S as leader of the band Wood whose song “Stay You” was included in the first Dawson’s Creek compilation. After taking an extended break from record making, Maddock moved to New York City and returned to the scene in late 2009 with the exquisite collection of songs, Sunrise On Avenue C. Maddock followed “Sunrise” in 2011 with Wake Up and Dream and his last album, Another Life, was was frequently mentioned on “Best of the Year” lists for 2013. WFUV and Sirius XM host Vin Scelsa says “Maddock’s talent has a timeless quality he shares with the great songwriters. His music touches the soul.” His live performances show Maddock to be one of the most engaging and exciting artists on the acoustic music scene. Chris J. Connolly will open the show.

Advance sale tickets may be purchased at www.sundaystreet.org for $25 through Sept. 16 with remaining tickets at the door, if available, for $30 (cash only). The concert will take place in the Gillespie Room located in the Carriage Museum. The Sunday Street Series is a not-for-profit series sponsored by the collaboration of WUSB-FM, The Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and The Long Island Museum. For more information, visit www.sundaystreet.org or call 631-632-1093.

Above, the Eastbound Freight Bluegrass band in front of the Port Jefferson Village Center. Photo by Amy Tuttle

By Philip Griffith

On the soft summer evening of Aug. 31, another friendly audience viewed and listened to the Eastbound Freight Bluegrass band [in Port Jefferson]. It was the final of nine free Sunset Concerts of the 2016 season. Raindrops moved picnic suppers, blankets and chairs into the comfortable confines of the Port Jefferson Village Center overlooking the Harborfront Park and Long Island Sound.

Listening to the traditional bluegrass music, I was reminded of my family’s visits to Clarksburg, West Virginia. It was there in my grandparent’s home that my father and his 12 brothers and sisters grew up.

During their childhood and adult years, my father and uncles were coal miners. Like the Welsh coal-mining family in the Academy Award winning 1941 motion picture, “How Green Was My Valley,” the miners performed their dangerous work with manly pride and all contributed their meager wages to their mother.

The West Virginia heroes were John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers, socialist candidate for U.S. president Eugene Debs and union organizer Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a. Mother Jones. My grandfather and his sons were part of the bitter labor union struggles of coal miners.

During the 1930s Depression, my father migrated to New York City to find work, but he always loved his roots in the mountain state. On our family’s frequent visits to his childhood homestead, there would always be warm gatherings of families and friends.

At those reunions, there would be much food, drink and always the playing of their own brand of Appalachian Mountain country music. This family ritual provided a joyful respite from the rigors of coal mining. It was at those gatherings that I first hear and forever loved old-time country and bluegrass music. The Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, wrote, “Music is the art which is most near to tears and memory.”

I do not know what other recollections were engendered among the audience by these pure sounds of American bluegrass, but I’m certain it triggered a toe tapping, hand-clapping response. After both the last tune and an encore, the audience gave Bill Ayasse, Bruce Barry, John Bricotti, Bill De Turk and Dave Thompson standing ovations of appreciation.

These annual Sunset Concerts are a valuable artistic contribution to the wonderful life in the Village of Port Jefferson. Thank you to everyone who gives us this musical gift each year since 2009.

The author is a resident of Port Jefferson.

Editor’s note: The Sunset Concert series is sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council.

Folk rock duo The Kennedys perform on the Backstage Porch during last year’s Fiddle & Folk Festival. Photo from Bob Benner

By Rita J. Egan

The sounds of bluegrass, blues and folk music will fill the air at Benner’s Farm once again when the homestead hosts the fifth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival on Sept. 11. Presented by Homestead Arts, Benner’s Farm, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and WUSB Radio, the festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine.

“It’s kind of a laid back, easy going, good sounding old-time festival,” Bob Benner, owner of the farm, said. The Benners began hosting the festival a few years ago after the owner and the late Gerry Riemer, a board member of Homestead Arts, were discussing the possibility of a September event on the property. The two remembered how much fun the Fiddle & Folk Fest, formerly held on the property of the Long Island Museum, was and began to ask people what they thought of the event being held at Benner’s. They received positive feedback, and Benner said that the first two years the Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) worked with them on the event.

The combination of music and a farm setting has turned out to be a successful one, and Benner estimates the number of attendees last year to be around 500. “It’s completely different than any other concert I’ve ever been to, because it’s a farm and people can wander around,” the owner said.

Benner said attendees are welcome to explore the organic, solar-powered working farm while listening to the music, and with people so connected to their cell phones and other gadgets nowadays, he enjoys seeing people interacting with each other and connecting with nature. “Every time that people come here it is just so enjoyable to see them wandering around, looking at animals, looking at the garden,” he said. The farm owner enjoys the music at the festival, too. “I’m not a musician’s musician, so I enjoy very much listening to some of the groups that come that I don’t normally hear,” he said.

Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, said one of the things she loves about the festival is seeing family members and friends coming together and enjoying the music. “It’s easy to enjoy the festival. It’s not overcrowded, and it’s a chance to see not only some very talented local performers but internationally known performers in a very relaxed setting,” she said.

Sponsored by The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company and emceed by Bob Westcott, the festival will feature headliners Steve Forbert, the Feinberg Brothers Band, the Claudia Jacobs Band and Jeff Davis and Maria Fairchild playing on the Backporch Stage. Tuttle said Forbert is internationally known for his hits in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The singer of “Romeo’s Tune” recently released the album “Compromised,” which the program director said sounds terrific. “We’re reaching out to a bigger music community by bringing Steve Forbert in,” she said.

Reaching out to a bigger music community helps with the main goal of the festival. “The mission is to connect the artists with an audience that appreciates what they do — it’s pretty similar to what the arts council’s mission is and what WUSB’s mission is,” Tuttle said. According to the program director, Jeff Davis is also well known in the world of traditional folk music. On Sept. 11, he will be playing fiddle, and Maria Fairchild will be joining the musician on banjo. Tuttle says the duo has a big following of fans of old-time music. “I love it all. Most people who come to this festival like the folk songwriter music, but all the performers are very good in their own style,” Tuttle said.

The festival also offers a Contra Dance with a live band led by Rusty Ford as well as a Kids Corner where children can enjoy stories and music.

Benner said the featured artists will meet and hold workshops at the Shady Grove Stage close to the woods, and Charlie Backfish of WUSB radio will be on hand to host the activities. Attendees can participate in the Fiddle Workshop at Jam Hollow, too, and bring their own instruments to join in on the musical fun.

“It gives people a chance to either sit back and be entertained or participate wherever they feel comfortable,” added Tuttle.

Benners Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Admission to the festival is $18 for adults and $13 for children and seniors. Bring seating. For more information, please call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.

Eastbound Freight will come to Stony Brook on Sept. 9. Photo courtesy of LIM

Bluegrass fans rejoice! The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook in conjunction with the Bluegrass Club of Long Island will welcome Eastbound Freight with the Jeff Davis Maria Fairchild Duo for an evening of live bluegrass in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room on Friday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

The band members share a life-long connection to the music and a love for the big bluegrass sound of the original groups: Bill Monroe and the Bluegras Boys, Flatt & Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys and others. Their repertoire includes tunes popularized by these groups as well as many original songs by banjo player Bill DeTurk.

Advance tickets may be purchased at www.longislandbluegrass.org for $14. If available, full-priced tickets may be purchased at the door (cash only) for $20. For questions, please contact bcli@gmail.com.

On Aug. 23, and despite Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) being unable to attend, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) introduced Beatles cover band Strawberry Fields as the second-to-last free concert as part of a four-part series this summer at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Rocky Point. Hundreds flocked to see the band perform early and later songs in the Beatles’ career and danced the night away as band members rocked the stage. Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, a Billy Joel tribute band with roots in Miller Place, will perform the last concert of the series on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

On Aug. 20, Mount Sinai’s Heritage Trust, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, hosted Summerfest 2016 at Heritage Park.

The event featured live music, including Dog House Blues Band, The Jukebox Explosion and Rock Nation; vendors; a beer tent; raffles and other family fun.

The garden bench dedicated in memory of Ellen Michelmore. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Friends and family gathered at the garden at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson to dedicate a bench in memory of the late Ellen Michelmore on July 24. Michelmore, who served as the theater’s resident musical director for more than 25 years, passed away this May at the age of 63 after a five-year courageous battle with leiomyosarcoma, a cancer that infects muscle tissue. “Ellen loved this theater,” said her husband Jeff Lange. “She was the bravest soul I ever knew,” he added.

Ellen Michelmore and her husband Jeff Lange File photo
Ellen Michelmore and her husband Jeff Lange. File photo

A gold plate on the bench is inscribed with the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”:

Try ‘n’ to get my soul free

We are stardust We are golden

And we got to get ourselves

Back to the garden.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Theatre Three’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel said the lyrics were chosen because “those were the opening lyrics to our ‘Summer ‘69: Return to Woodstock’ that Ellen sang in the very first production. It’s where it all started — it has so many levels in its meanings.”

Jean Sorbera, who had been Theatre Three’s resident choreographer for many years, purchased the bench and donated it. It now sits alongside memorials for two other members of the Theatre Three family gone too soon, Brent Erlanson and Bonnie Vidal.

During the ceremony, Michelle LaPorte and Gerry Saulter performed a moving rendition of “Progressions para Pauline,” a flute and guitar piece by Argentinian composer Luiz José Merlin, in Ellen’s honor.

A reception followed at the theater’s Second Stage. Sanzel gave a toast to Michelmore with her favorite wine, Prosecco, saying, “There are no words,” as he choked back tears. Scanning the packed room, it was incredible to see how many lives Michelmore had touched over the years.

For actors Hans Paul Hendrickson, Steven Uihlein, Sarah E. Bush and TracyLynn Conner, memories of Ellen were practically identical — how she made them feel welcome when they first arrived and helped them perfect their craft. Conner said she and Ellen formed a close personal relationship and would get together often to sing. Conner wore a pair of Ellen’s shoes to the dedication.

“I absolutely adored Ellen and miss her very, very much. She was like family to me,” said actor Steve Ayle. “We worked together at Theatre Three for the last 25 years, most recently playing opposite each other in the [2015] One Act Play Festival’s ‘Quack.’ Ellen was warm and kind beyond compare, her talent immeasurable, and her big, bright eyes reflected her remarkably positive and enduring spirit, even in the face of her illness. She will live on forever in my heart and soul.”

Douglas Quattrock, who has been at the theater full time since 2002 but has been acting there since the mid-80s, was clearly moved by the dedication. “Besides being one of the most caring and genuine people you could ever meet, Ellen was also an inspiration,” said a tearful Quattrock. “Even though I have never had any formal training in composing music, Ellen always encouraged me to do it. ‘Just play what’s in your heart’ is what she would say. I was honored to work on so many shows with her.”

Michelmore was such an integral part of the Theatre Three family that she was honored with a musical tribute “Ellen Michelmore: Notes From The Heart,” in 2014. The evening featured singers, actors and musicians who had been blessed to work with her. “Jeff [Sanzel] asked me to write a song for Ellen [for the tribute],” continued Quattrock. “The opening lyric that immediately came to my mind was ‘You’re The Music, You’re The Song.’ To me, that was Ellen … She was the music.”

Actor and musician Kevin Story also reflected on his time with Michelmore, saying, “Ellen was a unique light. From the moment I set foot inside Theatre Three over ten years ago, she was encouraging and supportive, a great mentor, colleague and friend. There are really no words, as Jeff said.”

Sanzel said that Theatre Three’s Aug. 19 and 20 performances of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” a musical created by Michelmore, will be dedicated to her memory. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In addition, Sanzel said a plaque bearing the inscription, “Ellen Michelmore: The Spirit of Music Ever Present” will be placed in the orchestra pit and “a portrait of Michelmore will be commissioned for the lobby.”

Kevin Story surely spoke for all who attended the ceremony that day, saying, “We’ve all been touched by Ellen in an amazing way, and we can only hope her light will continue to shine through us somehow. She will be missed.”

Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks. Photo by John Broven

Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks performed for hundreds of concertgoers at the Port Jefferson/Northern Brookhaven Arts Council’s Sunset Concert at the Harborfront Park last Wednesday. The group entertained the crowd with tunes from Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as their original music including “Who’s Sharing the Moon” and “It Should Rain” and received a standing ovation at the end of the night. Photo by John Broven

Tom Manuel, back row in black jacket, and the Jazz Loft Big Band performed at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Sunday Summer Concerts on the Green on July 24. As the sun set over Stony Brook Harbor, the band played many jazz favorites including “Woodchopper’s Ball,” “Satin Doll,” “Jackson County Jubilee” and closed out the night with “One Mint Julep.” Corinne Schaller, a Long Island’s Got Talent finalist opened the show.  Photo by Heidi Sutton

From left, Todd Evans, Terri Hall, Gary Settoducatto, Christine Kellar and Henry Diaz in concert at the Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson Photo by Heidi Sutton

Sunset Concert

Sunset concert

He-Bird, She-Bird (acoustic roots Americana) kicked off the Port Jefferson–Northern Brookhaven Arts Council’s 2016 Sunset Concert series (formerly the Picnic Supper Concert series) on July 6. The event, which took place at the Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park, drew a large, enthusiastic crowd.

The group, featuring Todd Evans, Terri Hall, Christine Kellar and “sidebirds” Gary Settoducatto on drums and bassist Henry Diaz (special guests for the evening), sang tunes from Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Buddy Miller, Adele and Hazel Dickens as well as original songs by Kellar including “Once I Called You Mine.”

Up next for the trio is an appearance at IRIE Therapeutic Riding Program annual fundraiser at Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow on July 21, Garden of Eve’s Tomato Festival (August) and Garlic Festival (September) in Riverhead. Their debut CD will be released at the end of the summer. For more information, visit www.HeBirdSheBird.com.

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