The Beat Goes On: a celebrated classical conductor returns to Springfield, live music at Look Park, jazz in Amherst, and more

  • Kevin Rhodes, the former music director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, will conduct a show with his old friends July 21 at Springfield Symphony Hall. MOSSO WEBSITE/JOHN ROBERT WILLIAMS

  • Venerable singer-songwriter Roger Salloom plays his annual free show at Look Park in Florence on July 20 with the help of musical friends. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Pianist and singer-songwriter Regina Spektor plays the Pines Theater in Look Park July 26. PHOTO FROM REGINA SPEKTOR WEBSITE

  • Ani diFranco, seen in 2021 at the Green River Festival, comes to the Pines Theater in Look Park on July 28. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Swing Set, a Valley jazz ensemble specializing in intricate harmonies and vocal rhythms, will play a free show at Amherst’s Sweetser Park on July 16. Swing Set Facebook site

  • Young jazz saxophonist Sarah Harahan will lead her quartet at two shows at the Drake in Amherst July 23 and 24. Photo by JC PhotoGraphics/Sarah Hanahan website

  • Travis LeDoyt conjures Elvis Presley at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center July 23 at 3 p.m. Image from Hawks & Reed website

Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2022 3:33:44 PM
Modified: 7/14/2022 3:30:59 PM

Last summer, in the midst of a prolonged contract dispute with management, musicians who play in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) formed an independent group, Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO) and began staging some of their own concerts, from small ensemble performances to full shows in Springfield.

On July 21, at 7:30 p.m., MOSSO returns to Springfield Symphony Hall to play another full symphonic show — and leading the effort will be SSO’s former conductor and music director, Kevin Rhodes, who left after 2020 when his contract was not renewed. Today, Rhodes lives in Michigan, where he directs the Traverse Symphony Orchestra; more recently he was named chief conductor of the Slovak National Opera and Ballet in Bratislava, Slovakia.

The July 21 concert, which is billed as “The Return of the Rhodes,” will feature a number of scores by John Williams, the celebrated film composer who’s won 25 Grammy Awards. Music from “Schindler’s List,” “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and a number of other movies is on the program, as are some popular symphonic works by Massenet, Stravinsky and Rossini.

Guest violinist Yevgeny Kutik, a young Belarusian-American concert player who’s won much acclaim, will join Rhodes at the concert, which is a benefit for MOSSO.

“We’re thrilled that Kevin is coming back to do this show,” said Thomas Bergeron, principal trumpet with SSO and a key member of MOSSO. “We loved working with him in the past, and we know how much he liked working with us.”

Rhodes, who conducted a MOSSO concert in Springfield Symphony Hall last October, spent 20 years with SSO before the pandemic arrived and his contract was not renewed. But MOSSO has just announced that Rhodes will now serve as its artistic advisor, helping the group build its repertoire and conducting and performing with MOSSO as his schedule permits.

“I am very happy to be able to continue the relationship with my dear friends and colleagues, with whom I have such an incredible history onstage,” Rhodes said in a statement.  

In previous interviews, MOSSO members told the Gazette they had formed their independent group in part because they felt SSO management was not committed to the orchestra’s future as it emerged from the pandemic. Management offered just two concerts this past season, although eight concerts are now planned for the 2022-2023 season. However, SSO has yet to hire a new music director, instead relying on a series of guest conductors for its concerts.

Negotiations for a new contract between SSO management and the musicians union are still proceeding, Bergeron said, and “there has been some progress.”

 

Summer brings plenty of outdoor concerts, and some of the local action is shifting to the Pines Theater at Look Park in Florence. Starting things off on July 20 at 6:30 p.m. is the annual free concert offered by veteran Valley singer-songwriter Roger Salloom, who’s been performing that summer show for almost 40 years.

Salloom will be backed by a number of other musicians, and the concert will be opened by Northampton native Jamie Kent, the Americana singer-songwriter who now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Kent grew up near Look Park and remembers dancing to many of Salloom’s early concerts there.

On July 26, singer-songwriter and pianist Regina Spektor, Russian-born but for over 30 years a New York City resident, comes to the Pines at 7 p.m. Spektor grew up playing classical piano but after coming to the U.S. in 1989 with her family was exposed to pop music and all its sonic possibilities.

She’s gone on to record top-selling albums; perform at The White House, on The Stephen Colbert Show, and other high-visibility spots; and been inducted into the Bronx Walk of Fame in New York. “A great Regina Spektor song,” Pitchfork writes, “unfurls like a short story with the boring parts excised.”

And on July 28 at the Pines Theater, Ani DiFranco — one of Spektor’s early inspirations — brings her huge song catalog (20-plus albums) and her percussive, fingerstyle guitar playing to the stage, also at 7 p.m. She’ll be sharing the bill (and likely a few songs) with her special guests “The Righteous Babes”: fellow singer-songwriters Gracie and Rachel, Zoe Boekbinder and Jocelyn Mackenzie.

 

Want to hear some jazz? Head to Amherst over the next 10 days or so. On July 16 at 1 p.m., Swing Set, a Valley ensemble that specializes in four and eight-part harmonies, will play a free show at Sweetser Park. Singing either a capella or to the piano accompaniment of group leader Kit Johnson, Swing Set offers fresh takes on standards from the Swing Era as well as other music.

At the nearby Drake, meanwhile, the Northampton Jazz Workshop, led by The Green Street Trio, will host German-born instrumentalist and composer Hendrik Meurkens on July 19 at 7:30 p.m. Meurkens, who lives in New York but spent time in Brazil in the 1980s soaking up Latin jazz rhythms, plays chromatic harmonica and vibraphone. “If there is a Venn diagram of these attributes,” writes Latin Jazz Net, “he would be one of the few in the middle.”

And on July 22 at 7 p.m., the Drake will host a jazz trio — bass, drums, piano — led by bassist Michael Feinberg, who Jazz Inside Magazine calls “one of the premier young artists on the New York scene.” Then on July 23 and 24 at 7 p.m., the downtown Amherst club features a quartet led by saxophonist (and Massachusetts native) Sarah Hanahan, who’s part of a new program started by Jazz at Lincoln Center, “On the Road,” that supports up-and-coming jazz players on New England tours.

 

More music on tap

Zoe & Cloyd, who we mentioned in the last Beat Goes On column, bring their bluegrass and Americana songs to the Wesley United Methodist Church in Hadley tonight (July 15) at 7 p.m.

Folk-pop specialists Darlingside were supposed to play in the area in May but got rained out, so they’ll give it another shot July 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Black Birch Vineyard in Hatfield. Louisa Stancioff, who offers a bit of folk-pop as well with finger-plucked notes on electric guitar, opens the show.

Oh He Dead plays a mix of indie soul, funk and rock that’s fired by lead vocalist CJ Johnson; the band comes to Race Street Live in Holyoke on July 17 at 8 p.m. The Zachary Bartolomei Quartet opens the evening with its own mix of jazz-funk, fusion and neo-soul.

The Fiddle Orchestra of Western Massachusetts, made up of musicians of all skill levels and ages who love traditional fiddle music, plays the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on July 21 at 7 p.m. They’ll be followed at Bombyx on July 22, also at 7 p.m., by Kombilesa Mi, an Afro-Colombian folk-rap group.

Elvis lives! Well, at least at 3 p.m. on July 23 at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield he does. That’s when Travis LeDoyt performs as the young King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, singing “All Shook Up,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Can’t Walk Out” and other hits. LeDoyt does look the part.

And at 7:30 p.m. at Hawks & Reed on the 23rd, you can hear jazz with The Sprague/Jaffe/Ennis Trio, which has Valley roots with pianist Miro Sprague and bassist Marty Jaffe.

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


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