Thursday July 4, 2013

WILLIAMSTOWN -- At the Clark Institute this summer, history is not only on the walls, but in the air as well. While works by American greats Winsow Homer and George Inness hang in the galleries, music from the 1960s will be played for all to hear on Tuesday nights in July.

Beatles tribute band Across the Pond will play next Tuesday. Singer and guitarist Marc Clayton promised a celebration and auditory preservation of the band.

Across the Pond aims to re-create the Fab Four’s legendary sound. They use period instruments: Rickenbacker and Höfner guitars, Ludwing drums and Vox speakers. This year, they began delving into the sounds of the psychedelic era. To play "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," the band acquired a harpsichord.

Clayton, from the Saratoga/ Glens Falls area, said he had been in cover bands before, and that he wanted the chance to devote his attention entirely to one music group. He found his bandmates on Craigslist in 2008.

They don’t look much like the Beatles, and they don’t have the Manchester accents, but their passion makes up for it. They want to preserve the music, live, drawing primarily from the hits from the Ed Sullivan Show era.

Clayton doesn’t see himself as any one Beatle. He’s been compared to John Lennon because of the songs he sings -- and to George Harrison because he still has hair, he said with a laugh.

Their lack of costumes sets them apart from other cover bands. "We’re friends with other Beatles bands; those are the guys that do the theatrics," he said. "We’re all about the music."

A week later, on July 16, a cover band of another kind plays -- and this time, costumes are a must. Nicki Skipper, keyboard player and vocalist for the Bennington, Vt. band Funk in the Trunk, said that costumes became a natural part of the fun for the Motown, soul and funk band -- playing music from the 1960s, from a sound that artists like Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and Diana Ross were developing in Detroit as the Beatles were revolutionizing rock in Manchester.

Funk in the Trunk is a seven-member band that ranges in age from 32 to "let’s just say 50," Skipper said. The guitarist, John Carson, is IT/Media Services Coordinator at the Clark.

Skipper, like Clayton, had been in bands before. But she craved passion of funk and soul music. She pulled the band together a year ago from people she knows in the area.

"We do dress up sometimes," Skipper said, "it’s a little campy, but the intention is not to poke fun, it’s to have a good time." The band appears in photos donning bell bottoms and afro wigs, broad smiles on their faces.

The band has three female backup singers, the Golden Assetts. Harmonies and strong beats abound in this genre.

More than anything else, the aim of these Tuesday night concerts is to enjoy the summer evening. The galleries are free, and they’re open late: 6 p.m. And from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., they’re free. These Tuesday night concerts welcome the entire community, said Caedy Loomis, membership and events coordinator at the Clark. The series has been happening for close to 20 summers now. It has become a beloved staple to the northern Berkshire summer.

"Before I even worked here, my family used to come [to the concerts]," Ostheimer said; she has raised three children in Williamstown.

So the Clark reaches people in many forms.

Decades ago, Skipper was studying piano restoration at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. There was a particular Steinway that she loved to play, and that she watched her teacher, Bill Garlic, restore.

She never expected to see the same piano on display at the Clark. "I really like the Clark," she said.

"We’re a significant institution in every area of the art world," said Ronna Tuglan Ostheimer, Head of Education Programs. And in some instances, these areas overlap, or have different meanings to different people.

And sometimes, that form of art is nothing but a good time. For both Skipper and Clayton, music is a matter of having fun. And both musicians spoke of the charm their music holds.

"If you’re playing I Wanna Hold Your Hand, whether you’re 5 or 90 you know that song," Clayton said.

And when Funk in the Trunk plays Aretha Franklin’s Rock Steady, the tradition among the band’s followers, "Funky Junkies," is to form a soul train line. This music is plain old fun.

"I’ve never seen anyone in the audience just standing still," said Skipper.