Entertainment Highlights: Iris DeMent Brings Songs Based on Anna Akhmatova’s Poems to the Upper Valley

After more than two decades of channeling the small-town sensibilities and soul of her Midwest home and her roots in the Mississippi Delta into songs of love and loss and longing, Iris DeMent noticed something calling to her in a Russian accent.

So during her concert at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Sunday night, prepare to hear the folk singer-songwriter and her band blend into her country- and gospel-tinged set list at least few of the 18 songs she adapted from the verse of Soviet-era poet Anna Akhmatova.

It might take a while, yet, before you’ll hear them on a CD or on the radio.

“I’m sure we’ll do several of those,” DeMent said this week of her yet-to-be-released, yet-untitled recording. “At this point I’m still looking at cover art, and I don’t know if that’ll get out in the fall — maybe November or January. I just know that when I was reading her work, it was like I heard somebody say to me, ‘Set these to music.’ I started, and I kept going. That was a very serious happening. She lived during the purges and the horrors of the Stalin era, and during (World War II). She survived and had the poems to show for it.”

And thanks in part to Akhmatova, DeMent has more songs to mix into her onstage repertoire at the Tupelo end of her current, five-stop tour of New England. She released one album of exclusively her own writings — 2012’s Sing the Delta — in the last 18 years, and one mostly covering gospel songs, since her spurt of Infamous Angel, My Life and The Way I Should, in the early and mid-1990s, yielded acclaim and a Grammy nomination for a contempory folk album for My Life.

“I’m not what you call prolific,” DeMent, now in her mid-40s, said with a chuckle. “My husband (veteran folk troubadour Greg Brown) could go out and do a separate batch of songs every time for weeks.”

The music industry has undergone a revolution since DeMent began recording and touring in 1992. “Infamous Angel retailed for $18.99, and Sing the Delta was $9.99,” she said. “You do the math.”

But DeMent said she’s grateful to still be writing and singing about subjects that interest her, and sharing it with others. She also appreciates being able to maintain a tour schedule built around weekends, usually no more than five at a time, that works within the rhythms of her family in Iowa City, Iowa, including her and Brown’s adopted daughter.

“I have to go out and sing,” DeMent said. “To make up songs and not perform them for people feels like an incompletion. … It all goes together, and has from the beginning for me. I never considered the option of not going out and playing.”

She added that that urge to share grew out of her upbringing in a family of 14 kids, whose social life revolved around a Pentecostal church. The urge lingered well after she began questioning the tenets of the faith itself.

“It’s still about having a relationship with people who have a timbre or a vibe in common,” DeMent said. “There’s something very satisfying about sharing that vibe. You can feel the relationship.”

Just forgive Iris DeMent for the time it often takes her to put a name to it, particularly the Akhmatova album.

“The title is not tumbling out,” she said. “Something will come.”

Iris DeMent and her band will perform Sunday night at 7 at the Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction. Tickets cost $30. For more information, visit tupelohallvermont.com.

Best Bets

Patrick Sharpe of Sharon will sing at least two numbers Friday night, during the grand-finale concert of rhythm-and-blues favorites during the Quechee Summer Music Series on the Quechee Club’s ski hill. The 15-year-old student of The Sharon Academy will join powerhouse vocalists and instrumentalists from Dartmouth College and from Chicago’s One Accords stable of performers, as the youngest among the winners of auditions for the “Quechee’s Got Talent” contest. The show begins at 7, and concludes with fireworks around 9:30. Tickets cost $10 to $30, with net proceeds going to the Upper Valley’s WISE program supporting Upper Valley families dealing with domestic and sexual abuse. For tickets and more information, call 802-295-9356 or send email to info@quecheeclub.com.

∎ Under the direction and choreography of Keith Coughlin and the musical shepherdship of Andy Roninson, the New London Barn Playhouse launches a run of Cole Porter’s classic musical Kiss Me Kate this week, including 7:30 stagings tonight, Friday night and Saturday night, at 5 p.m. on Sunday, and at 7:30 Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The play will continue through Aug. 16. For tickets ($24.50 to $40) and more information, visit nlbarn.org.

∎ The North Country Chamber Players kick off their 36th season on Sunday with a 4 p.m. concert at Alumni Hall in Haverhill. The first in a series of guest artists will be horn virtuoso Jacquelyn Adams, performing with the ensemble on Mozart’s Musical Joke and Ferdinand Ries’ Septet. Tickets cost $20, and are available by visiting courtstreetarts.org.

Looking Ahead

Sensible Shoes will perform during the Lebanon Farmers Market at Colburn Park on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 7, from 4:15 to 6:45.

∎ Movie director Jay Craven’s Northern Borders, a Depression-era drama starring Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold that Craven shot in New Hampshire and Vermont, will return to the Upper Valley twice in August. Screenings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the 16th at the Claremont Opera House and at 7:30 the night of the 23rd at Lebanon’s First Congregational Church. For more information, including the full tour schedule, visit kingdomcounty.org/our_films/northern_borders.php.

∎ The Boston-based Walden Chamber Players will perform “Cuba — Music and Images from the Forbidden Island” at 7:30 on Aug. 7, a week from tonight, at the First Baptist Church in New London. Before the concert, the Summer Music Associates of New London will present, at 6:30, an exhibit of photos of Cuba by Doug Munch and a lecture on the musical history and culture of Cuba by Benjamin Willis. Tickets cost $5 to $25. For reservations and more information, visit summermusicassociates.org or call 603-526-8234. Tickets also are available, by cash and check only, at Morgan Hill Bookstore, Tatewell Gallery and the New London Chamber of Commerce.

Theater/Performance Art

The University of New Hampshire’s Little Red Wagon troupe will tell Twain Tales today at noon, as part of the weekly Thursdays in the Park series for families at Lebanon’s Colburn Park.

∎ The New London Barn Playhouse this weekend will stage four more showings of Over the Pub, a Tom Dudzick comedy about an Irish family at odds with a strict nun, starting tonight at 7:30. Subsequent performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and a 5 p.m. finale on Sunday. For tickets ($24.50 to $34) and more information, visit nlbarn.org.


Michele Fay will lead her Vermont-based acoustic quartet onto the green in Woodstock at noon today, for the latest in the Pentangle Arts series of admission-free Brown Bag concerts. If it rains, the concert will move into the nearby Town Hall Theatre.

∎ Jesse Terry will play a blend of folk and rock music on the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30, in week seven of the Hartford Parks & Recreation Department’s series of summer concerts.

∎ The Honky Katz will perform their “Dueling Pianos” show on the bandstand at Colburn Park in Lebanon tonight at 7, as part of the city’s Front Porch Series.

∎ Tom Hampton will perform folk, rock and country music at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction at 6:30 on Friday night. Because of construction on the Hartford Municipal Building next door, parking is limited for this summer’s series. The rec office is advising late-arrivers to park at the White River Junction Visitor Center downtown or at White River Elementary School.

∎ Did you miss Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Leon Russell’s performance with Hot Tuna at Lebanon Opera House earlier this year? The rock pioneer is back in Grafton County Friday night with a 7:30 performance at The Flying Monkey in Plymouth. Tickets start at $39. For more information, visit flyingmonkeynh.com.

∎ In a world premiere inspired by Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture Amor Caritas, the Hevreh Ensemble will perform “Between Worlds: Native American Inspirations” on Sunday afternoon at 2, for the weekly concert at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. The group blends percussion and piano with multiple wind instruments. Admission is included in the price to enter the historic site, $5 for age 16 and up. For more information, visit nps.gov/saga/planyourvisit/summer-concerts.htm.

∎ Students who honed their craft during the Lyra Summer Workshop over the past three weeks will wrap up the series of public concerts at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall with a performance Saturday afternoon at 1. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. For more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

∎ The Buskers will hit the bandstand of Lebanon’s Colburn Park on Monday night at 7, with an often-danceable mix of folk and jazz.

∎ Woodchuck’s Revenge will roam the folk landscape through cowboy songs, Irish ballads blues and bluegrass starting at 7 Tuesday night on the green in Canaan.

∎ Gerry Grimo leads the East Bay Jazz Ensemble onto the Ben Mere Bandstand at Sunapee Harbor for a swinging evening of big-band music on Wednesday night at 7.

Bar and Club Circuit

Jazz guitarist Ted Mortimer opens the next week’s parade of performers through Hanover’s Canoe Club tonight at 7. Following to the microphone with 7-to-10-p.m. sets are pianist Dierre Upshaw on Friday, versatile pianist Jonathan Kaplan on Saturday, the ensemble of tenor saxophonist George Rice and bassist David Westphalen and piano wizard Fred Haas on Sunday, and guitarist/singer-songwriter Lester Hirsh on Tuesday. The one break in the stream of music: Marko the Magician will perform his weekly sleight-of-hand on Monday night between 5:30 and 8:30.

∎ The Peter Concilio Jazz Ensemble swings through Skunk Hollow Tavern at Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

∎ Matt Meserve performs at Jesse’s in Hanover on Friday night, starting at 5.

∎ Cold Chocolate brings its bluegrass road show to Windsor Station at 9 on Saturday night. On Tuesday at 6, Johnny O will come calling.

Open Mics

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

∎ At Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.

∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock. It’s on Mondays, starting at 8:30 p.m.

∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit hosts an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.