Sojourner Truth celebration in Florence, an opera preview and Beatles show in Amherst, and more

A musical tradition continues this summer

NORTHAMPTON — The annual musical celebration and fundraiser at Look Park is set to take place again in August, and this year the theme will be… elemental.

“Performance 33: The Elements,” which will be staged Aug. 22, will celebrate the power of science and weather, with Valley musicians taking on the personas of artists such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Canned Heat, Silver Jews, Weather Report, Steely Dan, Muddy Waters and others.

“Performance,” previously know as “Transperformance,” has been produced for over three decades by the Northampton Arts Council as a musical fundraiser for arts programs in city schools, with the concert taking place at the Pines Theater at Look Park.

Musicians interested in being part of this year’s show should contact the Arts Council at Please explain which artist or band you’d like to cover and your ideas for specific songs. Sending multiple choices is always helpful.

The lineup will be announced in July, and musicians are asked to spread the word through the community, as the Arts Council is always looking for new performers.


Celebrating Sojourner Truth

NORTHAMPTON — The legacy of one of the most famous residents of Florence will be recognized May 28 when the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee (STMC) hosts its annual celebration of the noted abolitionist and women’s suffrage advocate at Sojourner Truth Memorial Park, at the junction of Pine and Park streets in Florence.

At the free event, which begins at 2 p.m., $1,500 scholarships will be awarded to seven high school seniors from Hampshire and Hampden counties who have been active in social justice efforts and plan to attend college or postsecondary school.

Northampton Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, State Representative Lindsay Sabadosa and other elected officials will provide brief remarks, and the Amherst Area Gospel Choir will perform. The event will also feature the unveiling of a new historic women’s suffrage marker honoring Sojourner Truth.

The celebration is cosponsored by Suffrage100MA, a Newton organization that commemorates the 100th anniversary of women earning the right to vote in the U.S.


Faces at Faces

NORTHAMPTON — Photo portraits based on a cross-generational project that paired University of Massachusetts Amherst students with the community group Northampton Neighbors will be on display in the windows of the old Faces store, at 175 Main Street, through May 31.

In “Story Share,” undergraduates from the UMass Public Health Sciences program spent time with members of Northampton Neighbors, an organization that offers varied support to older adults.

Over the course of a semester, each student met with an older Valley resident, with both people sharing life stories that were recorded and made part of a larger project examining issues of loneliness and isolation.

The project’s long-range is to explore the importance of connection and community.

In the Northampton display, each photo is paired with the participant’s name, a summary of their interview topic, and a QR code leading to the audio file of that person.


Preview of a new sci-fi opera

AMHERST — A free workshop performance of “The Onion,” a new opera based on a fictional machine that allows a person to re-experience a memory as a visceral reality, will be staged June 4 at 3 p.m. in Holden Theater at Amherst College.

The opera, featuring a number of noted vocalists, takes place on an island in the Pacific Northwest, where a neuroscientist has sequestered herself with her daughter, her co-inventor, and their invention, called Onion, which seems to gain its own personality with each use.

Composer/librettist Eric Sawyer and director/librettist Ron Bashford will host a conversation following a partly staged performance of the first half of the opera.

Sawyer, a professor of music at Amherst, and Bashford, a theater professor at the college, have previously worked together with Northampton librettist Harley Erdman on the opera “The Scarlet Professor” and the cabaret musical “My Evil Twin.”

The cast includes sopranos Dana Lynne Varga and Corrine Byrne, who both earned vocal performance degrees at UMass Amherst; both also recently made their debut as soloists at Carnegie Hall in New York.


Calling all Beatlemaniacs

AMHERST — The Pioneer Valley Folklore Society (PVFS), hosts of the monthly Song & Story Swap, will stage a special fundraising show June 10 built around the music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

For “Acoustic Beatles Night,” which begins at 7 p.m. at First Church, 165 Main St., musicians can perform songs recorded by The Beatles or a former Beatle. Musicians from around the Valley will lead the songfest and singalong.

Instruments should be of the acoustic variety, such as guitars, ukuleles, hand drums, accordions and sitars. Electronic keyboards and direct lines are permitted as well. Microphones for instruments and vocals will be available, and a tuned piano is also on site.

Performers should sign up by emailing Paul Kaplan at Get your song choices in early, before your favorite gets taken.

The event is open to all ages. Admission is free, with a suggested minimum donation of $5 to $10, which PVFS will use to cover its rental of the hall for next season. Masks are required, except for performers when they’re on stage.


Honoring old artistic friends

EASTHAMPTON — “Unnatural History,” an exhibit at the Elusie Gallery featuring work by artists Mark Brown and Marty Klein, continues through June 3.

The show is part of an occasional series that Elusie calls “Old Friends of Big Red Frame,” in this case celebrating “two artists without whom Easthampton would certainly not be what it is today.”

Brown, known in particular for his whimsical clocks made from mostly repurposed kitchen and household ware, here offers a series of “immediate, unplanned, and spontaneous” drawings and illustrations.

Klein, a blacksmith by trade, has developed a second career as a “scanographer,” which he describes on his website as a process in which he scans images of plants and other natural objects and then further develops them with Photoshop.

The Easthampton exhibit features some of Klein’s favorite creations alongside a new body of work: original collages created from existing artwork.

Compiled by Steve Pfarrer.

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