Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, April 14, 2019

Rise Again: 1,200 Songs to Expand our Musical Horizon

People’s Music: Songs About Real Life Experiences that Real People Enjoyed Singing Together

Do you have a copy of Rise Up Singing? How about companion, Rise Again: A Group Singing Songbook, with preface by Pete Seeger and foreword by Billy Bragg? Conceived, developed, and edited by western Massachusetts based folk singers Peter Blood and Annie Patterson under the guiding hand of the late Pete Seeger, Rise Again is a treasure trove of lyrics and chords to 1,200 well-loved songs spanning genres as diverse as British Invasion, blues, country, jazz, Motown, composed folk, traditional ballads, gospel, Broadway, early rock ‘n’ roll, alternative/indie artists, “pub songs” and much more, arranged in 39 themed chapters, with commentary on the songs, cross-reference listings at the end of each chapter, and Artists, Cultures, and Titles indexes.

Pete Seeger played a central role in the development of both Rise Up Singing and Rise Again. Following the publication of Rise Up Singing in 1988, Pete Seeger urged the creation of a second songbook with the same format as Rise Up Singing but with even more inclusion of genres that were not heavily represented in the original book. Until his death in 2014, he regularly sent Annie Patterson and Peter Blood suggestions for songs to include in the second volume, lobbying for a balance of song genres and subjects, and for the songs to reflect a message of empowerment and positive change through community music making.

Every page of Rise Again: A Group Singing Songbook reflects the vision of Pete Seeger, who did not believe in artificial boundaries like “folk music”‘ and constantly encouraged Patterson and Blood to center their work on songs he referred to as “people’s music”– songs about real life experiences that real people enjoyed singing together. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone Can Sing: Holiday Music Brings Community Together in Song

Caroling & Chorus Music During the Winter Holidays

Singing together with family, neighbors and friends is one way of enhancing children’s language learning. Read more in our archived post, “Christmas Singing for Language Skills.”

A fun holiday tradition, caroling events are wonderful intergenerational events that explore choral music with your family and friends. With many songs sung during the holiday seasons rich in history, there is much to learn, plus it’s good for your health and wellness! Download our Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts to discover more about these annual events.

It’s no secret that music is good for your brain. A Chorus America study found that, while participation in a chorus has benefits for everyone, it seems to have a particularly meaningful effect on children. Children who participate in a chorus were found to achieve more highly in school compared to classmates who weren’t involved in chorus – a statistical representation of the deep learning that chorus participation promotes.

In addition to the learning-based benefits of singing in a chorus, being a part of a singing group helps to ward off chemicals that can cause depression and loneliness. Generally seen as a major benefit for adults, the natural production of extra endorphins and oxytocin (a chemical that decreases stress and anxiety) as a result of singing certainly has benefits for children, too. A singing child is likely to be calm and happy more often than not thanks to the chemicals that choral singing helps to release in their bodies.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rock Poster Retrospective: Merging Music & Visual Art Studies

DRAW THEM IN: A Rock Poster Retrospective
Bingo! Gallery at Shire City Sanctuary
April 1, 2016 through April 30, 2016

For 21 years Dan Blakeslee‘s mysterious rock posters have been hanging on record store windows, telephone poles and cafe walls. Every bulletin board becomes a gallery, transporting the viewer into his wondrous, strange landscape. He is also the artist behind “Heady Topper” and “Focal Banger” beer labels for The Alchemist Brewing Company.

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This groundbreaking exhibit, DRAW THEM IN: A Rock Poster Retrospective at the Shire City Sanctuary, will showcase 100 of Dan Blakeslee’s work spanning two decades. Off kilter and whimsical, his pen becomes an acrobat, bombarding each page with expressive line and type. The artwork can be iconic, conjuring up new, bizarre creatures of the old forms, with a nod to Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Fillmore poster artists. Viewers will delight in the masterful blending of art and music woven throughout the work of a brilliant local artist.

The exhibit runs April 1, 2016 through April 30, 2016 in the Bingo! Gallery. An art opening and concert on Friday, April 1 with thee gallery opening at 5pm and the concert beginning at 7pm.

Gallery at Shire City Sanctuary. 413-236-9600. 40 Melville Street, Pittsfield, MA. (FREE)

Halloween Concerts Peak Interest in Classical Music

Halloween as a Catalyst for Supporting an Interest & Exposure to the Symphony

One of the best ways to peak children’s interest in classical music is simply through exposure – and two special upcoming seasonal events offer families an exciting entry point into studies (or simple enjoyment) of classical music. By combining symphony performances and concerts with exploration of musical instruments, community-based educational resources, and close listening to recorded classical music, families can support children in gaining a deepened awareness of what defines classical music.

During the last week of October, student musicians at two local colleges will offer concerts of Halloween-themed classical music concerts, each designed specifically to cater to young audiences. On Friday, October 30th at 4pm, the Smith College Orhchestra presents a free Halloween Family Concert, featuring spooky music as well as Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens, meaning that audience members dressed in creature-inspired costumes will have be provided with a perfect soundtrack.

On Saturday, October 31st, Mt. Holyoke College presents two installments of Monsters Ball: Parallel Universes, which feature waltzes, polkas, cha-chas, and mambas broken up by Halloween-themed pieces from modern pop culture including Star Wars, Psycho, and The Twilight Zone. Audience members are encouraged to attend in costume! Shows will take place at 3pm and 8pm, with the 3pm concert catering to children and including opportunities for movement and learning about instruments.

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I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store

Fast Forward: New Filmmakers
at Historic Northampton

In our modern society, most of us (even a lot of kids, and certainly many teens) are well aware of the effect that corporately-run big box stores have on small businesses, tightly knit communities, and local economies. Filmmaker Brendan Toller’s documentary, I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, tells the story of the national impact that big media, big business, and internet-based purchasing has had on a very specific part of our economy and our culture.

Focused on the sharp decline in independent record stores nationwide during the past decade, as well as media consolidation and changes in technology, the film features interviews with music industry greats such as Thurston Moore (iconic Sonic Youth frontman), the Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz, activist and author Noam Chomsky, and Pat Carney of the Black Keys. Toller weaves these interviews (and many more) together alongside staggering statistics about the state of the record industry and tales of media consolidation, homogenized radio, big box stores, and – most importantly – greed, in order to pay homage to the iconic indie record shop and to shed a bright light on the frustrating and destructive effect that corporate media has upon the record industry.

Families with older students can see I Need That Record! at Historic Northampton on Sunday, December 15th, 2013, at 3pm. Shown as part of Historic Northampton’s series Fast Forward: New Filmmakers at Historic Northampton, the screening presents a community based opportunity to examine one of today’s biggest economic and cultural issues through a unique lens. The film can help teens and tweens learn how to make good choices about where (and from whom) they choose to buy or access music, and makes the importance of supporting local businesses really hit home. Independent record stores, which can be a pop culture reference for specific sub-cultures, are often portrayed with an air of invincibility about them. They’re often portrayed in the media as being so against the mainstream that they’re unaffected by it; however, quite the opposite is true. The smaller, less represented parts of our culture are generally the most vulnerable – and record stores are not exception.

The Black Man in Song: 18th Century Music & History in Deerfield

The Black Man in Song
Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA

The Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert Series will conclude it 2013 season August 25th with a special concert in tribute to Lucy Terry Prince, Deerfield’s 18th century African American resident and America’s first African American poet who was also known for her singing and story telling.

This Sunday, August 25th, is the 267 anniversary of the last of the Indian raids which took place in Deerfield, MA. Known as the 1746 Bars Fight, the event helped to shape the community of 18th century Deerfield’s relationship with their Native American neighbors. The event is chronicled in the only surviving work of Lucy Terry Prince, a notable African-American poet, songwriter, and storyteller of early Deerfield. A former slave, Prince’s unusual life has become an important part of western Massachusetts folklore.

At this week’s Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert, Prince’s life and work will be celebrated in song, marking the first annual Lucy Prince Tribute. Titled The Black Man in Song, the concert will include both traditional and contemporary music, including a commissioned piece based on letters written by George Washington Carver. Songs will be performed by tenor Irwin Reese and pianist Julia Bady, and the concert will take place in the Victorian Music Room of the Memorial Hall Museum, allowing concertgoers to enjoy historic surroundings while celebrating the village’s past.

While 18th century music may not be the typical favorite genre of most kids, the concert presents a unique musical lens to learn about American history. Older students who have some preexisting knowledge about early American history and the Revolutionary War can expand their learning with specific historical details through song, and will be able to broaden their understanding of artistic expression in early America…

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The Instrument that Rocked the World, Rocks Western MA!

GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World
Rocks the Springfield Museums!
January 18 through April 21, 2013

GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked the World, an exhibit celebrating what is arguably the single most enduring icon in American history, will be on view January 18 through April 21, 2013 at the Springfield Museums.

Throughout history, the many different media that humans have used in order to channel their creativity has expanded – whether as a result of changes in technology, shifting culture, or the availability of different and materials, the ways in which we convey and share our creativity constantly evolving.  The Springfield Museums’ most recent addition explores the history behind one particularly interesting and popular means of expression – the guitar.

“GUITAR: The Instrument that Rocked the World,” is a nationally touring exhibit which, after five years of visiting museums around the country, will culminate in the creation of a national guitar museum.  It will be on view in two museums at the Springfield Museum from January 18 through April 21, 2013.

This fully immersive exhibition allows visitors to interact with the guitar from a historical perspective, learn about its evolution and design, discover the music that guitars have helped to create, and understand the guitar’s role as an agent of personal freedom, social change, and expression. Featuring guitars from greats like Steve Vai, Johnny Winter, and others, the exhibition includes more than 60 instruments – from the rare and antique to the wildly popular and innovative. There’s even the world’s largest playable guitar (over 43 feet long!), along with performance video and audio, hands-on interactives, touch screens, and photographs.

The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum houses an exhibit made up of guitars of all shapes and sizes from all over the world, illustrating the evolution of the instrument across cultures and throughout history.  The exhibit also includes examples of early relatives of the guitar, including stringed instruments from Africa and Asia.

The Wood Museum of History is housing the second half of the exhibit, which details the modern history of guitar.  The introduction of electric guitars into the music world drastically changed the instrument’s role in music, as well as the way in which guitars can be played.  The second part of this exhibit includes many different modern guitars, including some pretty outlandish ones, like an 8-necked electric guitar and the world’s largest playable guitar (a full 43 feet long!).

A visit to the exhibits can help students of all ages learn to make cultural history meaningful, and would be a terrific supplement to music studies.  Music in almost every genre includes elements of guitar, and students can learn about the evolution of music by studying how this one important instrument has changed.

Before or after visiting the museum, families can learn about several types of guitars (and their use in music) from Grammy-nominated children’s musician, Mister G, a contributor of Hilltown Families.  Mister G’s recent vlog for Hilltown Families takes viewers straight into his studio, for a special lesson on guitars in his monthly column, “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education.”  Families can learn about the unique sound each has, and will learn about how Mister G uses each one to enhance his music.  Great for kids of all ages!

You can also check out this video to help understand the physics of the rock guitar, as illustrated by physicist Mark Lewney:

The Springfield Museums are located at 21 Edwards Street in Springfield, MA.  Museum hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and Sundays from 11am-5pm.  For more information, call 800-625-7738 or visit

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