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Highlights: Jim Rooney Throws a Musical Birthday Party

  • The Starline Rhythm Boys are among the performers who will join Sharon's Jim Rooney at Tunbridge Town Hall on Friday night. Rooney is turning 80 and the concert is a benefit for Royalton Community Radio. (Jack Rowell photograph)

  • Geordie Productions, a theater company based in Montreal, brings its production of Marcus Youssef’s play "Jabber" to Dartmouth College's Spaulding Auditorium on Sunday afternoon at 2. For more information see 'Theater and Performance Art.'



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 01, 2018

As a teenager growing up in central Vermont, Danny Coane first heard the voice of Jim Rooney on a Montpelier radio station in 1963, singing and playing guitar on the bluegrass classic Livin’ on the Mountain with banjo master Bill Keith.

“I had a part-time job in a record store, so the next time I went to work, I bought that album,” Coane, now singer-guitarist for Vermont’s Starline Rhythm Boys, recalled last week. “It was a good record.”

During a Del McCoury concert at Barre Auditorium decades later, Coane finally got to express his admiration to Rooney, who had gone on to a long career in Nashville, producing records for the likes of John Prine, Lyle Lovett and Iris Dement.

Next thing Coane knew, he and his rockabilly trio were playing at the wedding of Rooney’s stepdaughter at a club on Lake Champlain — the start of a professional relationship that continues on Friday night at Tunbridge Town Hall, with a concert celebrating Rooney’s 80th birthday and benefiting Royalton Community Radio.

“That band is just wonderful fun,” Rooney, now a full-time resident of Sharon and host of a regular show on Royalton Community Radio, WFVR-FM 96.5, said last week. “The longer I’ve lived around here and worked at the station, the more local talent I’ve come across. It took me a while to find everybody, but once I did, I’ve been very impressed.”

Rooney will join Coane, bassist Billy Bratcher and guitarist Al Lemery during the second set of the concert. Before intermission, he’ll play a bluegrass-y set with Catamount Crossing banjoist Bob Amos, fiddler Chris Brashear and Brattleboro-born mandolin player and Kimball Union Academy graduate Colin McCaffrey.

“We appreciate that Jim’s grown to like our stuff,” Coane said. “I tell people who haven’t heard of him, ‘This guy is a pretty major dude.’ At the same time, he’s got no attitude. He’s totally down home, just really a great guy. It’s a pleasure to play with him. You don’t get this feeling that he puts on airs.”

Rooney, a Boston native who during the 1960s built his national network of Americana performers while managing Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass., and later directing and coordinating talent for the Newport Folk Festival, is having just as much fun now in small-town Vermont.

“These venues are a real asset to the state,” Rooney said. “I love the Tunbridge Town Hall, Barrett Hall in South Strafford and the Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon. It strengthens the communities to have a resource like this. People appreciate having it, especially in the winter.

“It makes a difference.”

Bob Amos, Colin McCaffrey, Chris Brashear and The Starline Rhythm Boys perform with Jim Rooney at Tunbridge Town Hall on Friday night at 7:30. Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door, with proceeds going to Royalton Community Radio, WFVR-LP. To reserve tickets and learn more, visit royaltonradio.org.

The dance floor at Tunbridge Town Hall gets another workout on Saturday night at 7:30, with Sensible Shoes and Cape Cod disc jockey Matty Dread setting the rhythm for the monthly The Shindigs gathering. Admission is $10. To learn more, visit shindigsvt.com. 

Best Bets

The Norwich Public Library screens four movies with African-American themes in February, starting tonight at 7 with the PBS American Masters documentary Mayo Angelou: Still I Rise. Subsequent screenings are the Academy Award-nominated horror film Get Out next Thursday night, the PBS documentary John Lewis: Get in the Way on Feb. 15 and the 2016 Academy Award-winning drama Moonlight on Feb. 22. Admission is free.

Northern Stage previews Only Yesterday at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction at 7:30 tonight and Friday night, before the official opening on Saturday night at 7:30. The world premiere of Bob Stevens’ play, which re-imagines an early episode in the relationship between Beatles co-founders John Lennon and Paul McCartney, runs through Feb. 18. Admission costs $13.75 to $32.75 for the previews, $20 for Tuesday night’s 7:30 show and $13.75 to $57.75 for all other performances. Stevens answers questions about the play on Sunday afternoon at 3, before the 5 o’clock matinee. To reserve seats and learn more, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

The Vermont Bach Ensemble of four singers and nine instrumentalists performs two concerts of Epiphany works of Bach and of Dieterich Buxtehude at two Upper Valley venues this weekend, starting Saturday night at 8 at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Woodstock. Saint Denis Catholic Church in Hanover hosts the second concert at 3 on Sunday afternoon. The suggested admission is $20.

In advance of his Feb. 9 performance at the Hopkins Center with the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, mandolin master Carlo Aonzo performs a free mini-concert on Tuesday afternoon at 5 at the Top of the Hop in Hanover. Next Friday night’s concert with the DSO, at 8 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium, will feature Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and a digital projection of seasonal images by Dartmouth graduate student and singer Camilla Tassi. For tickets ($10 to $20) to and more information about the Feb. 9 show, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Looking Ahead

The Parish Players will stage the company’s 12th annual Ten Minute Play Festival at the Eclipse Grange on Thetford Hill over the second and third weekends of February, starting next Thursday night at 7:30. The eight plays include Final Confrontation #43 by the late Ross Whitlock, a graduate of Thetford Academy, and White River Junction resident Alan Haehnel’s A Hip-Hop Riff on a Late Night Tiff for Two. For tickets ($10 to $15) and more information visit parishplayers.org or call 802-785-4344.

Theater producer Jarvis Antonio Green will host his second annual JAGfest showcase of staged readings of new works by four African-American dramatists from Feb. 9 to 11, at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. For tickets ($15 for each individual performance or $50 for admission to all four) and more information, visit jagproductionsvt.com/jagfest2.

The BarnArts Center for the Arts will stage Neil Simon’s semiautobiographical Brighton Beach Memoirs during the second and third weekends of February at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret. To reserve tickets ($10 to $18) and learn more, visit barnarts.org or call 802-234-1645.

Theater/Performance Art

Shaker Bridge Theatre wraps its production of Broadway playwright Nick Payne’s Constellations this weekend at Whitney Hall in downtown Enfield. Performances of the drama, which examines a fragile romance through the perspective of principles of string theory, relativity and quantum mechanics, are scheduled for 7:30 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night before the finale on Sunday afternoon at 2:30. To reserve tickets ($16 to $35) and learn more, visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.

Pentangle Arts holds auditions in Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre on Saturday for its April production of Hair: The Tribal Rock Musical. Aspiring singers, dancers and actors of all ethnicities are welcome to the tryouts, which will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To register for an audition time, visit pentanglearts.org/hair or Pentangle’s Facebook page.

The Montreal-based Geordie Productions theater company stages Marcus Youssef’s play Jabber on Sunday afternoon at 2 at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. The three-person play follows the struggles and joys of an Egyptian-born, Muslim teenage girl adjusting to life in Canada. For tickets ($13 to $23) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Music

Multilingual baroque-pop singer Elias Krell appears at Piecemeal Pies in downtown White River Junction on Friday night from 6 to 8.

Gypsy-folk-pop fiddler Emma Back and singer Rob Flax perform  the monthly Summer Street Music Series concert at 30 Summer St. in Bradford, Vt., on Saturday night at 7. Before the music begins, a potluck dinner will be served at 6:30. Admission is by a suggested donation of $5 to $10.

Swedish-Argentinian singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez shares his mix of Brazilian pop, American folk and west-African desert blues at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover on Tuesday night. Syrian-born, Armenian-American singer-songwriter Bedouine opens the show at 7. For tickets ($31.50 to $45) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Dance

Dartmouth College’s Soyeya African Dance Troupe and Middle Eastern Dance Club join forces for a free performance on Saturday morning at 11, in Alumni Hall at the Hopkins Center in Hanover. The show will include a chance for the audience to learn some moves.

Bar and Club Circuit

Singer-songwriter Dane Anderson and singer-guitarist Ericka Cushing join forces to rock the Peyton Place restaurant in Orford tonight between 6 and 9.

Guitarist Charlie Chronopoulos sings and plays the blues at Taverne on the Square in Claremont tonight from 6 to 9. Singer-guitarist Evan Goodrow shares his blend of soul, funk, blues, rock and R&B on Friday night from 8 to 11.

Randy Miller leads the weekly live session of traditional Irish music at Salt hill Pub in Hanover tonight at 6. The weekend lineup at the venue features White Steer with a set of bluegrass on Friday night at 9 and singer-songwriter Chad Gibbs on Saturday night at 9.

FLEW-Z frontman Alec Currier plays an acoustic set at Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9. On Saturday night at 9, The Party Crashers invade the venue.

Singer-songwriter Rich Thomas performs at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 9. The Night Shift Duo plays covers of country and acoustic rock classics on Saturday night at 9.

Tirade frontman Toby Moore rocks Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday night at 9, and the first round of the Newport’s Got Talent contest overtakes the venue on Saturday night at 9. Roger Kahle joins Randy Miller at the venue on Wednesday night at 6 for their weekly live session of traditional Irish music.

Singer-songwriter Tad Dreis performs at Jesse’s restaurant in Hanover on Friday night at 5.

Folk singer-songwriter Bernice Lewis plays the Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse in Sunapee Harbor on Friday night at 7.

Bassist Peter Concilio, keyboard player Tom Robinson, trumpeter Dave Ellis and drummer Tim Gilmore perform jazz at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 8.

The Conniption Fits play the Sumner House restaurant in Charlestown on Friday night between 8 and 11.

Pianist Sonny Saul performs jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6 to 9.

California-based singer-songwriter Steve Cornell plays The Public House in Quechee on Saturday night at 7.

Saxophonist Mike Parker leads his jazz trio into Carpenter and Main in Norwich on Tuesday night at 7.

Open Mics

Jim Yeager hosts open mics on the following nights over the coming week: tonight at 7 at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret; at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock on Monday night at 7:30; at the Public House in Quechee on Tuesday night at 6; and on Wednesday from 8 to midnight at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

Tom Masterson hosts the weekly open mic at Bradford’s Colatina Exit on Tuesday nights at 8.

Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.