New name for a vintage show: Organizers of Transperformance seek new title for annual benefit concert

  • Matthew Pierce from the Unband performs music from This is Spinal Tap during Transperformance 25. The popular annual benefit concert will be getting a new name. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Tom Sturm performs as Robert Palmer with members of Page 6, which includes Lisa Palumbo, left, and Lesley Smith during Transperformance 23. The popular annual benefit concert will be getting a new name. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/16/2021 3:04:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As crowds gather at Look Park Tuesday afternoon for a popular, longstanding benefit concert, the process has begun to find a new title for the event.

What’s been known since 1990 as Transperformance features area bands and artists playing the songs and taking on the image of other bands to raise money for arts enrichment programs in city schools and the community.

But in a nod to a new era, the show’s producer, the Northampton Arts Council (NAC), says this year’s concert, which begins at the Pines Theater at 4 p.m., has been given a temporary title of sorts — Performance 31: Unsung Heroes — and that a hunt for a new name for future concerts is now underway.

In a statement, the Arts Council says renaming the concert is part of its “ongoing equity and inclusion work,” and that the council’s board and staff members decided to rename the concert “to embrace and support all members of our community.”

The council notes that the title of Transperformance, adopted for the debut concert in 1990, was a reference to the “transformation musicians undergo when they take the stage and perform covers” but that the title now needs to change, given the increased visibility today of transgender people.

“NAC acknowledges and apologizes for any harm or negative impact using this name has caused to members of our community who are trans,” the statement reads in part.

“The name does not align with our equity statement,” said Danielle Amadeo, chair of the Arts Council board. “We’re excited to rename this performance so that it’s accessible and welcoming to as many people in our community as possible.”

“This concert is one of the highlights of NAC’s summer program, and it raises essential funds to support arts programs in Northampton public schools,” Amadeo added. “We’re excited for a name that accurately reflects the mission of this program.”

In fact, over $500,000 has been raised to support the arts in the city in 30 years worth of summer concerts, the Arts Council says.

In a recent phone call, Steve Sanderson, the Arts Council event producer, said the council “wants to be sensitive” to all members of the community and has been mulling a new title for Transperformance for some time.

But he noted that the show “is really beloved and close to the heart of a lot of people” — musicians, audience members, producers and event supporters alike — and that the Arts Council wanted to take some time to come up with a new name. “We need to give this some real thought,” he said.

For that reason, the council will be seeking public input from the community for suggestions and other feedback for a new name; the group plans to release a Google form survey in the near future to collect that information.

In the meantime, today’s concert, “Unsung Heroes,” will showcase the music of bands and artists who have never been featured at the annual benefit, from Willie Nelson to Wilson Pickett to Bonnie Raitt. Tickets range from $6 to $11 and can be purchased through northamptonartscouncil.org and in person at State Street Fruit Store in Northampton, Cooper’s Corner in Florence, and AJ Hastings in Amherst.

Tickets will also be available at the Pines Theater box office on the day of the show starting at 3 p.m.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

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