Headliners: New Year’s Eve in Greenfield; Handel’s ‘Messiah’ in Cummington

Published: 12/29/2016 12:39:41 PM

Alt New Year’s Eve

First Night in Noho is always a grand affair; but neither is Northampton’s fellow city to the north, Greenfield, a slouch when it comes to offering festive occasions for welcoming the new year. At the Arts Block in the center of town — a handsomely renovated historic building — they’ll be holding a two-part celebration on different levels. On the first floor it’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Resort, a night of music featuring a slew of bands — The Alchemystics, LeSpecial, The Primate Fiasco, the Pitchblack Brass Band, The Medicinal Purpose, Fat Bradley, Mamma’s Marmalade and DJ Redshift — with a ball-drop at midnight. Admission is $30 advance, $35 at the door. A $55 ticket includes dinner; and for $195 you get a room at the Hampton Inns for the night, including a shuttle to the celebration and breakfast in the morning. On the 4th floor of the Arts Block, meanwhile, — a high-ceiling room with a big wooden dance floor, — an evening of dinner and dancing to the swing/Motown sound of The O-Tones Quartet (Mary Witt, soulful singing and bass; John Caban, guitar and vocals; Walt Chapman on rhythm and blues piano; J.J. O’Connell on drums, pictured) is planned. $60 includes buffet repast and champagne toast. theartsblock.com

For the Valley’s vast population of contra dance enthusiasts, there’s the annual New Year's Eve Contra Dance Party at Greenfield’s Guiding Star Grange (401 Chapman St.), which will also feature a cornucopia of Valley talent: Kate Barnes, Ann Percival, David Cantieni, Ron Grosslein, Stuart Kenney, George Marshall, Mark Roberts, Rebecca Bosworth-Clemens, and Cedar Stanistreet. Calling will be shared by George Marshall and Steve Zakon-Anderson. There’s a dessert potluck at the break (please bring a contribution to share). Wear clean-soled shoes and avoid using perfume/cologne or other scents. Cost: $15 general; $12 students, seniors, low income. friendsofgreenfielddance.org

On a budget and/or happy to say good riddance to 2016? Check out the Pulaski Club at 79 Maple St. in Easthampton, where Angry Johnny and the Killbillies will be doing their choleric thing 8 p.m.-1 a.m. (“time to rue and weep and drink like apes!”) and where lite fare will be available from Mill Town Deli.

Beyond ‘Hallelujah’

While many of the choruses of Handel's “Messiah” are relatively easy to sing, difficult patches abound — a fact due in part to the composer's determination not to waste a good tune on just one occasion (including other composers’ tunes, using the rationale that said tunes “weren’t good enough for them”). The famous “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” for instance, requires some nimble vocal gymnastics because its contrapuntal texture (elegantly interwoven with violin parts) and melismas — the stretching of one sound over a line of notes — belong to a complex Italian love duet Handel had written earlier (the otherwise odd emphasis on the word “For” in the score is thus traceable to the original words of the song: “NO, di voi non vo' fidarmi” —- “NO, I'll never trust you again”).

The matter is worth mentioning because if you attend the 52nd Annual “Messiah” Sing-Through at the Cummington Village Church on Sunday you're likely to hear an astonishingly good rendition of “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” by a totally unrehearsed group of singers who have, however, been participating with such regularity over the years that they have become nearly adept as professionals.

Listeners as well as singers are welcome to attend the 4 p.m. performance, which will again be directed by Gregory Hayes of Goshen. A limited number of vocal scores will be provided. Instrumentalists are also welcome (particularly string and oboe players) and are urged to bring their own music stands. The church can accommodate 150 or so people.

— Dan DeNicola

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