House-bound, Dan Stevens Makes Music Online, Diddley Bows and Cigar Box Guitars

OLD LYME — “It’s the human spirit. People make music somehow, they figure out a way,” explained touring musician Ramblin’ Dan Stevens. “It’s like the little blades of grass between the cracks in the sidewalk, they’ll figure out some way to grow.” Sitting in Nightingale Acoustic Cafe on Lyme St., Stevens showed off instruments he’s had more time to make since his gigs stopped abruptly in early March. As he talks, he plucks a few licks on the one-string diddley bows and three-string cigar box guitars that he’s made out of found materials: cigar boxes, gum tins, sink drains, washers

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Musical Masterworks Adds a Managing Director, Sketches Plan for Coming Season

OLD LYME — “I’ve been making budgets for 40 years,” said Lawrence Thelen, the new managing director for Musical Masterworks, who will oversee budgeting, budget management and long term strategic planning for the 30-year-old nonprofit.  “The organization is tremendously strong right now and so it’s my goal to maintain that,” he said by phone on Thursday. “When I produced [an] off-Broadway show, or even at Goodspeed, or when I was artistic director, you’re constantly making budgets. You’re always making sure that you don’t go over budget because that’s how theaters close. It’s the easiest way that theaters close.” Thelen has

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Music at the Red Door Hosts an Intimate Pop-up Recital with Christa Rakich on Harpsichord

In a stirring noontime pop-up concert on a recent Wednesday, Christa Rakich performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s French Suite #5 in G, BWV 816 on the harpsichord as part of Music at the Red Door, a series of online performances hosted by St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford, CT. Rakich, a masterful interpreter of J. S. Bach’s work on a variety of keyboard instruments, has a lifetime of experience performing this piece. Rakich first learned it as a high school student. “It is a very old and very dear friend,” Rakich says. “Having grown up with it, it has revealed

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McAloon’s Debut Paints Nature in Chords and Complex Harmony

Singer-songwriter Octavia McAloon paints sweeping scenes of natural phenomena — think mountain skylines, rocky stream beds, starlit nighttime skies. “If the aurora borealis could get in not only through your eyes, but through your ears, what would it sound like?” she asks. “Two triads, that kind of go with each other, but that fade in and out against each other, which I think has the aurora’s effect of lights appearing and disappearing,” she answers, in chords. On her debut album, “With Breath of Wind,” set to drop Friday, McAloon supplies her own personal choir for lead vocals — some songs

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Chad Browne-Springer Gives “Intimate, Extraordinary” Performance Across COVID-19 Isolation

So much has erupted out of music and performance in the last two weeks, as we come to grips with a surreal world of COVID-19 isolation. Live-streamed shows, multi-voice and instrumental pieces recorded and assembled remotely, and improvisational jams via Zoom. After a time, we’ll all be able to sit together in one place and play and listen to music again. But even so, there will be a new normal. I’ve been tuning in to The Quarantined Series, organized by Sarah B. Golley to highlight original Connecticut musicians, live-streamed from their homes. Last week I got a chance to hear

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New-Haven-based Sarah Golley Sparks Online Music Event — The Quarantined Series

Every gig got cancelled. Then, a short pause. Then, online live shows began bubbling up and over the lid of the internet. Now a veritable phenomenon, examples of coordinated and impromptu performance are everywhere on social media: story book hours, dance-a-days, video projects of apartment-bound academics on sabbatical in Spain. Musicians are finding new ways to jam, to create, and to perform. NPR is curating a list of live music shows for artists around the country. Here in Connecticut, songwriter and New-Haven based performer Sarah B. Golley organized an ongoing local event,  “The Quarantined Series: A Series of Online Shows

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Poignant Show by Singer-Songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan at Old Saybrook’s Kate

Irish-American singer-songwriter Aiofe O’Donovan summons all the whirring, humming, soaring, straining sounds of the cosmos in her latest solo project, Bull Frogs Croon (And Other Songs). The swoop and plumb of the strings, the poetry in the lyrics, left palpable vibrations in the air in her live performance at The Kate in Old Saybrook on a mid-March Wednesday night, in a set that drew from European classical repertoire, through bluegrass, through O’Donovan’s own compositions. It was a poignant show. The first event of O’Donovan’s U.S. and world tour, the audience responded enthusiastically to a generous set of songs. It could

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HannaH’s Field Warms up Essex with Rasta Folk Performance at Earth & Fire

ESSEX — On the eve of a February leap year, with the barest sliver of a moon hanging in the chill night sky, HannaH’s Field from Farmington gave an intimate studio performance at The Earth & Fire Art Studio & Gallery in Essex, CT. The space is located right on Main Street in Essex and serves as a community gathering place for art and artists of all kinds. Visual art, photography, woodworking, ceramics, jewelry are all displayed. Julie Tigner Bonilla, artist and owner, said this is exactly why she created the studio. “I wanted a place for people to be

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Benny Benack Plays for Love at the Side Door

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OLD LYME — Benny Benack III sang all the sweetheart songs you could wish for on a Valentine’s Day engagement at the Side Door in Old Lyme. He announced, “We’ll fit in as much Great American Songbook as we can here tonight!” With Sinatra-inspired vocals and a great band of friends and contemporaries, he delivered standards like “My Funny Valentine,” “Unforgettable” and “Home is Where the Heart Is” to an audience of Valentine’s couples. Several of his own song compositions followed this swinging nostalgic mode – “Irrepressible,” as well as the up-tempo “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” the title

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Yale’s Paul Berry Continues Popular Lecture Series on Basic Building Blocks of Beethoven

OLD LYME — “If you asked people to name one composer representative of the summit of western notated tradition, many would choose Beethoven,” according to Yale School of Music Professor Paul Berry. More the reason to take apart the idea of Beethoven as the towering genius — a notion that can overshadow the listener experience of the music, explained Berry about his upcoming lecture, the second in a three-lecture series, examining musical phrases in Beethoven’s work as well as the relationship between his biography and music.   Berry’s lectures complement the 29th season of Musical Masterworks, which will include all of

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Lark and Thurber Headline Full House at Musical Masterworks Weekend Concerts

Musical Masterworks played to a full house in its February 9th concert at the First Congregational Church in Old Lyme last weekend. The beautiful meetinghouse, built in 1910, has incredible natural acoustics that make it a great spot for the chamber music presented by the 29-year old organization. Artistic Director Edward Arron presided over the event, in a pre-concert talk as well as introductions to each musical piece during the concert. Arron is an engaging and affable speaker and educator, and these qualities translate into his cello playing. His character on cello is that of a considerate, attentive conversationalist who

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Surveying the Jazz Scene in Southeast Connecticut

I went to hear a good bit of jazz in the last month. All jazz. All different permutations. James Baldwin wrote that Jazz – all black American music – has at its origins a necessarily laconic expression, encoding what it was saying with circumspection. It needed to say things without being universally understood. It still does that, often with an extravagant filigree of virtuosity. It misdirects attention from the thing that is really being said, or the thing that is too painful to be said outright. “Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” Emily Dickinson advised readers in a

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Clare Byrne Tonight at Nightingale’s Cafe

Guilford-based musician and songwriter Clare Byrne will be appearing this Friday at Nightingale’s Acoustic Cafe in Old Lyme. Take a look at our interview with Byrne — now a regular arts columnist for CT Examiner — earlier this summer. Byrne will be appearing solo, with a guitar, a piano, and “lotsa songs, just some old, some new, some borrowed, many blue.” 7:30 – 9:30PMNightingale’s Acoustic Cafe68 Old Lyme StreetOld Lyme, CT

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Delfeayo Marsalis Tears into Old Lyme’s Side Door

Delfeayo Marsalis and his New Orleans-based Uptown Jazz Orchestra tore into the Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme on Thursday January. The ten-man band wouldn’t wait even for Side Door owner Ken Kitchings to finish his introductions. The procession started in the hall, wove through the sold-out room and up onto the stage. Marsalis called out, “Hello Old Lyme! What I’d like to know is, where’s New Lyme?” Kitchings called back, “You’re making it!” Yes indeed. Marsalis and his brilliant Crescent City players helped nudge that idea just a little closer to reality in a show filled with the

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Vince Ector’s South Philly Groove at the Side Door

Philadelphia, land of the Schuykill River, home of the “South Philly Groove” as defined by Vince Ector, a dynamic jazz percussionist and leader of Organatomy Trio +, a quartet that rolled into the Side Door Jazz Club in Old Lyme on Friday night. Ector was incredibly relaxed, dressed in an impeccable pink button-down shirt, introducing a song late in the second set by Burt Bacharach. “See, people think that jazz musicians just like jazz. It’s not true! I love pop music. We stole this song. Did all sorts of things to it — we polluted it — and now, here

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Johnny O’Neal Leads Fierce, Playful, Eclectic Night at Old Lyme’s Side Door Jazz Club

Johnny O’Neal — finishing off a busy year of touring with his last gig of the decade at the Side Door in Old Lyme — presided at the piano with grace, ease, and rippling arpeggios. Like a ringmaster in a silver sparkling suit, he led Mark Lewandowski on upright bass and Itay Morchi on drums through dynamically arranged songs, sometimes at scorching paces. But subtlety was an even more notable feature. During piano passages of stunning delicacy, O’Neal turned out deep pockets of finesse, hush, stillness, and blues. Born in Detroit, O’Neal has had a long and tumultuous career, playing

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Max Creek Brings Joyous Jams to The Kate

The Connecticut-based group known for an eclectic musical style mixing rock, jazz, soul, country and Calypso with jams in the vein of the Grateful Dead and Phish is playing The Kate Friday, December 6, 2019 at 8:00 pm. The 250-seat venue is located on the Main Street of Old Saybrook.  With a steady grouping since the mid-1970s of guitarist Scott Murawski, keyboardist Mark Mercier and bassist John Rider, Max Fish got its start almost a half-century ago in Hartford before current drummer percussionists Bill Carbone and Jamemurrell Stanley were born. According to Rider, the band was started to “give people

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Eric Lichter Makes Music and Family at Dirt Floor in Haddam

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HADDAM — “My parents had an incredible record collection and we had music all the time… in the car… at home. They had Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor, the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg,” said Eric Michael Lichter showing us around his studio at Dirt Floor Recording & Production on Monday afternoon. A small framed photo of Randy Newman hangs on the wall of the vocals room, one musician who has inspired Lichter since he was a kid. “When I was in middle school and kids my age were listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and

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Saxophone Quartet Premieres Two Pieces for MMModern in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — Imagine four classically-trained saxophonists playing contemporary compositions together, with most pieces performed from memory, and you’ve got “a chamber ensemble for the 21st century” known as the Project Fusion saxophone quartet.  The quartet formed while the players were students at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, said Michael Sawzin, the group’s tenor saxophonist, in a phone conversation with CT Examiner and Musical Masterworks President Alden Murphy on November 6.  The group will perform two world premieres, among other contemporary work, on Friday, November 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Lyme Art Association in Old

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Musical Masterworks Opens Season October 19 & 20… Beethoven’s String Quartets a High Point

The 29th season of Musical Masterworks will come to a crescendo with a special celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, featuring all of Beethoven’s string quartets in two three-day weekends of music March 13-15 and May 1-3. For the two Beethoven weekends, the series is adding a Friday concert in addition to the usual Saturday and Sunday schedule in order to fit in all 16 of Beethoven’s string quartets, said Ed Arron, cellist and artistic director of Musical Masterworks in a telephone conversation on Oct. 8. The theme of friendship extends throughout the season, which kicks off on October 19 and

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Singer Songwriter Clare Byrne Performs at Old Lyme’s Nightingale Café Saturday, Sept. 28

On Saturday, September 28, Clare Byrne will be performing with fellow friends and musicians Amy Larimer and Nick Leichter in a full two-hour set as part of Nightingale Cafe’s singer songwriter series. The series began six years ago with the hard work of Dave Gregorie, according to Gail Stevens, founder of the Nightingale Cafe and the nonprofit MusicNow Foundation in Old Lyme. “It’s hard for performers to just do all original music at most gigs,” Stevens said. “This is a venue and a program where we really feature original lyrics and advocate for it. It’s been really amazing.”  MusicNow is

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Aztec Two-step 2.0, Jonathan Edwards, Pousette-Dart Band Headline Annual Fundraiser for Equine Retirement in Salem on Saturday

SALEM — Spadi, a 22-year-old horse, munched hay Thursday morning while workers rolled out a big white tent that will house the eleventh annual Mitchell Farm Music Festival this Saturday.  “He’s our 99th horse to come through the front gate in the 15 years we’ve been here,” said Dee Doolittle, founder of Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement, a nonprofit that provides a good home for aging horses, and offers education on equine welfare.  The event — featuring Aztec Two-step 2.0, Jonathan Edwards and the Pousette-Dart Band — is a fundraiser with a goal of raising $14,400 to partly fund an endowment

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Twenty Years a Dancer, Byrne Releases an Album

After more than 20 years as a dancer, Clare Byrne is making the leap into music. Her first full album – Celestials – will be released on Saturday, June 15 just nine years after she first picked up a guitar. “It felt like an awkward coming out when I would tell other dancers I think I want to be a musician,” Byrne said.

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