Looking for a way to try and beat the midwinter blues? Two virtual arts series, taking place over roughly the same length of time, offer some relief.
The organizers of Laurel Park in Northampton and CitySpace in Easthampton are running a series of events that start this month and run through March (with an event in April). From music to storytelling, from theater to conversations with writers and artists, eight performances are on the program between the two series.
Burns Maxey, president of CitySpace, suggests that the nonprofit’s series offers a great way to “get through those cold days” by highlighting the work that artists in the area continue to do even as the pandemic has taken hold. put an end to live events for months.
“The arts, in all their forms, have the capacity to uplift us in times of adversity,” Maxey said in a statement.
What CitySpace calls “Four Virtual Nights On the Town” begins Sunday, February 14 with “Live in a Groove,” which features music and conversations with singer and jazz pianist Karrin Allyson and James Argiro, a pianist, songwriter and arranger who has worked with dozens of musicians and artists ranging from Lionel Hampton to Count Basie to Carol Channing.
The hour-long program, which starts at 6 p.m., will air from Luthier’s Co-op, where five-time Grammy-nominated jazz nominee Allyson will join Argio to discuss their experience playing music through the world and to play some music too. Argio, who teaches music at Westfield State University, was already a member of an R & B / blues group at age 16 that supported 1950s bands such as The Drifters.
Other events in the CitySpace series include “The Writer’s Imagination” on March 7, a panel discussion featuring four writers from the region: María José Giménez, Easthampton poet laureate and translator; poet and children’s writer Lesléa Newman; fiction writer Kelly Link, a MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize nominee; and poet / translator Michael Favala Goldman.
For the Laurel Park series, Amherst storytellers Eshu Bumpus and Motoko Dworkin will bring their work to an event on February 11 that kicks off at 7 p.m. and guitarist – and he worked a lot with schools. Dworkin, originally from Japan, has presented to audiences of all ages for nearly 30 years.
Dworkin, who trained with famous American mime artist Tony Montanaro, offers a range of presentations including Asian folk tales, ghost stories, mime vignettes, and memories of his childhood in Japan.
The two played together and will do so again on the 11th; their show’s notes say they will lead audiences “to places as strange and exotic as the Chinese storybook village, a slave trade island in Senegal and inside our own hearts.”
The Laurel Park series is called “Winter Chautauqua,” in reference to the founding of the community in the 1870s as a Methodist summer camp that later became part of a national adult education movement and social known as Chautauqua. The name derives from the social, religious, and artistic camps that began at a site along Lake Chautauqua in western New York State; these gatherings of speakers, teachers, musicians, preachers and others in rural parts of the country remained popular until the early 1900s, including in Laurel Park.
Laurel Park in turn has presented a regular series of cultural and social events over the summer for the past several years, including music, theater, lectures, and more.
The “Winter Chautauqua” program continues February 25 at 7 pm with a presentation by Valley percussionist Tony Vacca, who has toured and performed for years in the Northeastern United States and West Africa. He is also a longtime music teacher who has held workshops in schools on a variety of West African drums and gongs and the balafon, a gourd resonant xylophone.
Laurel Park events will last approximately one hour and 15 minutes and are free, although donations to Laurel Park Arts are encouraged. Visit laurelparkarts.org for more information and for links to register for events.
More information on the CitySpace series is available at cityspaceeasthampton.org/events/. Tickets cost $ 25 per household per event, or $ 80 for all four; reduced prices are available for blacks, natives and people of color. Tickets also come with a variety of perks, including special offers from restaurants in Easthampton.