Ukulele ballads and worksong chants resound

Thursday January 3, 2013

Spectrum Playhouse

The beautifully repurposed transformation of the landmark St. George’s Church in Lee into the Spectrum Playhouse is put to good use this weekend with the monthly "Family First Saturday at the Spectrum" Series at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

In this first event of the new year, actress Linda Peck will perform her "Just Like Mary" variety show, in which she takes on the iconic role of everyone’s favorite English nanny, Mary Poppins, with her magical manners, "uplifting" umbrella and an incredibly capacious carpet bag filled with all kinds of surprises.

With her signature combination of mime, magic and mirth, Peck has been known to leave audiences of all ages in awe of her impressive impersonation of this beloved children’s film character -- with singing, dancing and illusion.

Admission to the monthly series is free, and a suggested donation is welcome. Families who attend the performance will receive a voucher for a discounted lunch at the nearby Starving Artist Café on Main Street, which offers made-to-order crepes and delicious baked goods in an art-filled environment.

Information: (413) 394-5023.

Marketplace Café

In the heart of downtown Pittsfield, the Marketplace Café has become a familiar fixture known not just for hearty and wholesome food like brisket, meatloaf and pear salad, but also for an extensive program of local performers who entertain audiences with a rich mix of music, spoken word and even puppetry.

Today at 6:30 p.m. as part of the weekly "Thursday Live" music series, the Berkshire-based Ladies Auxiliary Ukulele Orchestra with special guest Mariah Lewis will deliver a memorable start to the year with a quirky acoustic blend of high-toned ukulele strings and skilled close harmony singing.

The trio has included well-known Berkshire songwriter and educator Bernice Lewis, composer and teacher Cathy Schane-Lydon, and artist Sarah McNair, who ably stepped in for co-founder and former band member Amy Rose. Together, they bring extensive musical experience and an infectious joie de vivre to their performances, mixed with considerable vocal accomplishment and heaps of good humor. Their obvious love of musical heritage encompasses an eclectic repertoire from sources as diverse as Mozart and Radiohead.

There is no cover charge for the performance, and all ages are welcome. Information: ourmarketplace (413) 358-4777.

Worksong Workshops

Over the years, the call-and-response worksong chant has entered into the collective consciousness of the American people, through its pervasive use in film and television media to depict the toil and hardship of African-American field workers and chain gangs in the oppressive South.

Now the Berkshires have a chance to learn some of these evocative songs from singer Max Godfrey at a pair of Williamstown workshops -- on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Sheep Hill, home of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, and on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Williams College’s Goodrich Hall.

Sometimes referred to as the "Fiddlin’ Farmer," Godfrey has made it his mission to retrieve Southern worksongs from old 20th-century field recordings and share them with new audiences across the Northeast and in his home state of Georgia. He aims to reintroduce the songs to a new generation of working farmers, adding a cultural component to the process of tending the land and feeding families. Moving away from their forced labor roots, the songs are designed to make seeding, weeding, harvesting and food preparation a more enjoyable and enriching communal activity.

The evenings will include plenty of participatory singing and a free supper prepared by Godfrey and his friends. The Northeast winter tour is sponsored by the Greenhorns, a national organization that supports young farmers.

While there is no charge for the workshops, registration is recommended and donations are welcome. Information and registration: Sheep Hill, (413) 458-2494; Williams College,


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions