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Headliners: Theater Project’s ‘Million Dollar Quartet’; ‘Turlough O'Carolan: A Life in Song.’


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Harmonic convergence

It happened, as momentous events often do, by pure chance. On Dec. 4, 1956, seminal rockabilly singer (“Blue Suede Shoes”) Carl Lee Perkins entered the Sun Record Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, to record new material with an unknown musician named Jerry Lee Lewis, who had been recruited by Sun Records owner Sam Phillips to play piano. Not long afterwards, 21-year-old Elvis Presley, a former Sun artist now with RCA Victor, dropped in to pay a casual visit. After listening to a playback of the Perkins session in the control room, Presley entered the studio and an impromptu jam session began. When fledgling country singer Johnny Cash turned up and joined in as well, the legendary recording session known as the “Million Dollar Quartet” was born.

That’s also the name of the 2010 “jukebox musical” by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott that loosely dramatizes the events of that day, supplemented with renditions of the quartet members’ most famous numbers (“Blue Suede Shoes,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Hound Dog” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” among them).

Celebrating the launch of its 20th season, the Theater Project’s production runs through Oct. 23 at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, with performances Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 7 p.m.; and Thurs., 7:30 p.m. Additional shows Sun., Sept. 27 and Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. $25-$33. 747-7797, majestictheater.com

Early music from Ireland

Regarded by many as Ireland’s national composer, Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) took up the harp at 18 after being blinded by smallpox, and spent the next 50 years crisscrossing the island, composing and performing songs whose traditional melodies and tonalities are inflected with the Baroque musical style prevalent on continental Europe at the time.

On Friday, the Boston-based Ensemble Musica Humana — soprano Corrine Byrne, flutist Lidia Chang, keyboardist/ percussionist Sheila Heady and recorder player Laura Osterlund — will kick off the 2nd annual Pioneer Valley Early Music Day with a concert of works from their album “Turlough O'Carolan: A Life in Song.” The performance, presented under the auspices of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, is at 7 p.m. at the United Congregational Church of Holyoke, 300 Appletion St. in Holyoke. $30 advance; $35 at the door ($5 discount for student and senior advance tickets).

The festival continues Saturday with free performances: 10 a.m., Veronica Gonzalez, Enterprise Farm, Whately; 11 a.m., Musica Spira, South Hadley Public Library; 12 noon, Pioneer Valley Recorder Quartet, Barnes & Noble, Holyoke; 1 p.m., Ensemble Musica Humana, Bing Arts Center, Springfield; 3 p.m., Miryam, Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies, Amherst; 4 p.m., Pioneer Valley Recorder Quartet, The People's Pint, Greenfield; 5 p.m., Cavalier Consort, Abandoned Building Brewery, Easthampton; 7 p.m. Sight Reading Party, Warbeke Room, Pratt Hall, Mount Holyoke College. mifafestival.org

— Dan DeNicola