The Beat Goes On: A busy musical weekend brings classical, folk, bluegrass, and the songs of Joni Mitchell to the Valley 

  • Opal Canyon, the Americana group fronted by Debra DeMuth and Dave Houghton, celebrate their new album on April 9 at The Parlor Room in Northampton. Signature Sounds

  • A select group of players from Arcadia Players, the Valley’s Baroque and early early classical ensemble, returns April 2 in Hadley for their first live show in over two years. Photo by Walter B Denny/Gazette file photo

  • Arcadia Players musical director Andrew Arceci is initially bringing the group back in a smaller iteration. Gazette file photo

  • Acclaimed indie folk duo Milk Carton Kids play Race Street Live in Holyoke April 3.  DSP Shows

  • Banjo specialist extraordinaire Béla Fleck returns to his bluegrass roots when he comes to Northampton’s Academy of Music on April 3. William Matthews

  • Bluegrass, roots music, and more will be on the menu when The Wildmans come to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Integrity in Florence April 2. Image from Facebook

  • Americana singer and songwriter Amy Helm, daughter of the late Levon Helm, brings her band to The Parlor Room April 3. Image from Signature Sounds

  • Celebrated jazz clarinetist Anat Cohen brings her quartet to the Umass Amherst Fine Arts Center April 9. Photo by Gabriele Lugli

  • Springfield native Michelle Brooks-Thompson brings her powerhouse vocals to an April 2 Arts Council show that will feature “the music of the best musical divas.”  Northampton Arts Council

Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2022 12:56:44 PM

Like so many other musical ensembles, the Arcadia Players, the Valley group that plays Baroque and early classical music, has been waiting quite awhile to play live. After the pandemic forced the cancellation of its last two spring concerts, the ensemble finally returns to the stage on Saturday, April 2.

Selected members of the group, which specializes in historically informed performances — music designed to match the tone and style of the era in which a composition was written — will play works by Vivaldi and Handel, as well as early string symphonies by Johan Helmich Roman, Giovanni Battista Sammartini and other composers at 7 p.m. at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Hadley.

The one-hour concert will also mark the debut of Arcadia Players’ new musical director, Andrew Arceci, a multi-instrumentalist, composer and teacher who joined the group in January. Arceci, who plays the viola da gamba, violone and double bass, will by one of eight performers at Saturday’s concert, which the ensemble is deliberately staging at a low-key level to ease back into live performance (some past concerts by Arcadia Players have included 30 or more musicians).

“It’s been a difficult time,” Arceci said during a recent phone call from his home in Acton. “Trying to plan any kind of music when there’s so much uncertainty is really challenging … you have to have backup plans in place in case a soloist or someone else in the group gets COVID before the show.”

To limit the possibilities of that, the eight musicians — on four violins, a viola, a cello, a bass, and a keyboard — will be masked and will sit a bit further apart than usual. Audience members will also be required to show proof of vaccination and to wear masks.

But even given those strictures, Arceci says, the group is thrilled to be returning to the stage. After meeting with some of the players via Zoom earlier this year, he planned to rehearse this week with Saturday’s performers.

“Much of this kind of [period] music is really quite intimate and can really only be performed live, so we’re all excited about the show,” he said. “Fingers crossed that nothing happens before we get back on stage!”


The pandemic also threw a wrench into the plans of The Milk Carton Kids, the noted indie folk act, to return to the road last fall after a long hiatus; they had been scheduled to play in Holyoke last September as part of a tour that then was canceled. Now the duo of singer-songwriters Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale returns to Race Street Live in Holyoke April 3 at 8 p.m.

 The two first began earning accolades for their lyrics, close harmonies and arrangements on acoustic guitars, notably Pattengale’s inventive flat-picked solos and fills, about 11 years ago, and comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers soon followed (as an alternative, the duo toured some years ago with a big backing band for a stretch).

The Grammy-nominated singers are also known for picking at each other during interviews and on stage — something of a routine in which Ryan plays the straight man and Pattengale the comedian. They’ve come back together after both dealt with some big life changes, from Pattengale’s bout with cancer to Ryan getting married and starting a family.

And when the arguing stops and the singing begins, you get what NPR once described as “gorgeous contemporary folk.”

Michaela Anne, whose music incorporates country, pop, and indie rock, opens the show.


In a career that’s stretched over 40 years, Béla Fleck has long been known for taking the banjo into areas of music where the instrument is about as common as snow in Death Valley: classical, jazz, rock and more. Those journeys have earned him 15 Grammy awards in several different musical fields.

But Fleck, who’s now 63, has never forgotten his bluegrass roots, and in fact he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2020. Now he’s touring behind an album he released last fall, “My Bluegrass Heart,” which has been nominated for another Grammy and includes backing by a host of top pickers on guitar, mandolin, fiddle and more.

Fleck will bring some of those players with him to the Academy of Music in Northampton April 3 at 8 p.m. to play cuts from his new album. He says it’s the third record he’s made in a bluegrass trilogy, with this newest installment a tribute of sorts to a new generation of players.

“I set up ‘jam/rehearsals’ with some of my favorites whom I’d never really gotten to play much with,” he writes on his website. “Pretty soon I started to see this project as an exploration of the current bluegrass world, and a gathering of a certain segment of the tribe.”

More music on tap

As the Gazette reported last week, the Northampton Arts Council features two concerts this weekend. New York multi-instrumentalist Nikhil P. Yerawadekar and his band offer Afrobeat, reggae, hip hop and more at the Northampton Community Arts Center tonight (Friday, April 1) at 7 p.m.; and powerhouse singer Michelle Brooks-Thompson appears at the Academy of Music on April 2 at 7 p.m.

Experimental rock guitarist Mike Baggetta will bring his trio, known as mssv and including drummer Stephen Hodges and bassist Mike Watt, to the Northampton Center for the Arts on April 2 at 8 p.m. The show is produced by Flywheel, the Valley arts collective.

Also on April 2, at 7 p.m., the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence will feature The Wildmans, an Americana trio from Virginia, and Chattam Rabbits, an acoustic duo from North Carolina. This is “Barrio Night” at Bombyx, when people living in Florence’s 01062 ZIP code automatically receive a matching ticket in their cart upon checkout.

Big Yellow Taxi plays the music of Joni Mitchell on April 2 at 7 p.m. in the Blue Room, the performance space on the ground floor in Easthampton’s Old Town Hall.

Amy Helm, daughter of Levon Helm, inherited her late father’s gift for storytelling and Americana music. She’ll play cuts from her most recent album, 2021’s “What the Flood Leaves Behind,” at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on April 3 at 8 p.m.

Opal Canyon, the Americana band formed in the Valley a few years ago, is based around the married couple Debra DeMuth and Dave Houghton. The band will debut cuts from its newest album, “Tomorrow to the Sea,” April 9 at 7 p.m. at The Parlor Room in Northampton.

The Anat Cohen Quartet, led by standout clarinetist Anat Cohen, brings its many flavors of jazz to the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on April 9 at 8 p.m.

More jazz: the Wayne Horvitz/Sara Schoenbeck Duo (Horvitz on piano, Schoenbeck on bassoon) performs April 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Institute for Musical Arts in Goshen, in a show produced by Pioneer Valley Jazz Shares.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at

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