Folk musicians bring acoustic chords to the Meetinghouse

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BENNINGTON, VT. — When musicians perform at the Meetinghouse Cafe, amplification is optional. The cafe takes place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, allowing performers to captivate audiences with voices and instruments

Chuck Putney, the venue's committee chairman for the past 9 years. When the church first moved to its new building one block north of Main Street.

"There hasn't been a regular venue for folk music [in Bennington]," he said. "When there were folk music acts in town — Bennington used to have a First Night — they were very popular."

The Meetinghouse Cafe has brought live music back. Shows range from roots to bluegrass to Celtic, jazz and blues. Putney has a longtime relationship with folk music.

"I was in high school and college when the folk music revival was in its heyday in the late '60s," he said, "so I grew up on Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio."

This summer, many of the acts coming through are New England natives who have toured nationally.

Bostonian singer-songwriter and traditional folk musician Bill Staines, who will perform at the Meetinghouse Cafe for his fifth time on June 12, plays 150 to 200 concerts a year around the country, Putney said. Peter, Paul and Mary, Makem and Clancy and Nanci Griffith have recorded his songs.

Rod MacDonald, recommended by a North Adams-based folk radio DJ, will perform on July 24. Originally from Southington, Conn., he became a leader in the 1980s "new folk" scene in Greenwich Village.

On Aug. 7, Spiff Wiegand, a native of New Haven, Conn., will turn into a meticulous one-man band. On his new album "Pentapus" he recorded 12 songs using 12 instruments all in "one perfect take," according to his website.

And on the jazz front, the vocal octet Maple Jam, all former members of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus, will travel down from Burlington on Aug. 29 to sing jazz standards and popular tunes.


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