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Highlights: Trio Pays Tribute to Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ in Hartland

  • Singer Julie Ness, of White River Junction, plays a selection of Joni Mitchell tunes at Damon Hall in Hartland, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Ness will join guitar player Tristan Bellerive and bassist Dave Wysocki to perform Mitchell's full album "Blue" at Damon Hall in Hartland, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 10. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Julie Ness, of White River Junction, left, and Tristan Bellerive, of Brownsville, tune their instruments before running through a song from Joni Mitchell's album "Blue" at Damon Hall in Hartland, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. The group will perform the album at Damon Hall Saturday, Nov. 10. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Singer Julie Ness, of White River Junction, middle, bassist Dave Wysocki, of Hartland, left, and guitar player Tristan Bellerive, of Brownsville, right, gathered at Damon Hall in Hartland, Vt., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, to play a selection of Joni Mitchell tunes before their upcoming performance of her full album "Blue." (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, November 08, 2018

Bassist David Wysocki, singer Julie Ness and guitarist Tristan Bellerive would love to tell you that they planned all along to perform the 10 songs from Joni Mitchell’s legendary album Blue as a celebration of the Canadian folk-siren’s 75th birthday this week.

“In fact,” Wysocki admitted on Sunday, “we had no idea until today that it was a couple of days before the concert.

“Just good karma.”

The trio is riding the wave of good vibrations into Saturday night’s tribute at Hartland’s Damon Hall after spending a year and a half rehearsing, and listening again and again to the breakthrough album. Recorded in Los Angeles in 1970 and released in 1971, Blue was ranked No. 30 on Rolling Stone’s 2012 list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” and topped National Public Radio’s 2017 list of the 150 greatest albums made by women.

“Tristan embraced it from the start,” said Wysocki, who teaches at the Upper Valley Music Center with Bellerive and Ness. “He’s a big James Taylor fan, and James played guitar on three of the songs”

Recruiting Ness, an Oberlin-trained opera singer with whom Wysocki often plays classical concerts, required a bit more effort.

“At the start, Dave wanted to do three songs from Blue with me and Tristan,” Ness recalled last week. “I told him, ‘I am not a big fan of Joni Mitchell.’ I grew up in a household where my parents played a lot of different popular and folk music, but we did not have a Joni Mitchell album, and what little I’d heard didn’t impress me.”

Wysocki recommended taking Mitchell’s landmark recording in small doses.

“He said, ‘Go listen to A Case of You,’ and I went, ‘That’s amazing!’ ” Ness said. “Then he said, ‘Now listen to River,’ and I found it heartbreaking, as well as beautiful.”

Then Ness dove into the rest of the album, and found an epiphany in the introductory track, All I Want, which begins:

I am on a lonely road and I am traveling

Traveling, traveling, traveling

Looking for something, what can it be?

“It hit me, ‘Oh, that’s a Schubert song, or it could be,’ ” Ness said. “Then I realized as I went through the album, ‘Oh, it’s a song cycle.’ Now I could relate to what she had done: These are art songs. There’s a narrative arc to the album. Her words aren’t just lyrics — they’re poetry. Once I made that connection in my mind, I was in a thousand percent and thought it would be so much fun.”

In addition to singing all 10 songs and playing piano on four, as Mitchell did, Ness bought and learned to play an Appalachian dulcimer for All I Want, Carey and California.

“The way (Mitchell) wrote for the dulcimer was sort of visual,” Ness said. “She uses non-standard tunings. Then she chooses a shape for your hands, and follows the fret board through most of the song. I had to practice a lot, but I like to practice.”

After months of occasional rehearsals with lots of individual research in between, the trio began practicing in earnest in May. As they went along, Wysocki’s appreciation grew for Ness’ approach to the songs, which in turn enriched his appreciation for a recording he’d treasured since its release.

“Harmonically, (Mitchell) was way, way ahead of her contemporaries,” Wysocki said. “In the way of classically-trained singers, Julie delved deeply into the text. I have a whole new world of respect for the artistry involved in a song cycle.”

Ness said that while her children, ages 16, 13 and 10, and her husband, baker and author Martin Philip, didn’t delve quite as deeply, they “know every single word of the album now.”

Singer-pianist Julie Ness, guitarist Tristan Bellerive and bassist David Wysocki perform the 10 songs from Joni Mitchell’s album Blue on Saturday night at 7, at Damon Hall in Hartland. Tickets ($10 to $20) are available at the door, and proceeds benefit the programs of Hartland Community Arts.

Best Bets

Pianist Annemieke McLane and clarinetist Matthew Marsit perform two benefit concerts this weekend on the theme of “Winds and Woods.” On Friday night at 7, the instrumental conversation takes place at the United Church of Strafford, where admission is by donation, 20 percent of which goes to the Manheim Fund for upkeep of the church steeple.

And on Sunday afternoon at 4, the duo performs in the Hayloft at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret, where admission is by donation to the Upper Valley Haven. To learn more, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

■ Actor/comedian Rusty DeWees and South Newbury, Vt., folk musician Patrick Ross, aka The Logger and the Fiddler, bring their “No Sugar Added” tour to Lebanon Opera House on Saturday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($25 to $30) and learn more, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400.

■The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra wraps its series of tributes to Leonard Bernstein on Saturday night at 8, with performances sampling Bernstein’s operetta Candide and his musical West Side Story, and works of Gustav Mahler and Grant Still, at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. For tickets ($10 to $25) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

■Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams leads her Americana band Buick 6 into Lebanon Opera House on Sunday night at 7:30. As of Tuesday afternoon, the opera house website showed 30 seats available toward the back of the orchestra level, and about 75 remaining in the back half of the balcony section. To reserve tickets ($44.50 to $59.50) and learn more, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400.

■Northern Stage unveils its production of Matilda the Musical next week, with preview performances starting on Wednesday night at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. The musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book opens on Nov. 17, and runs through Jan. 1. For tickets and more information, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

■The Old Church Theater in Bradford, Vt., hosts a mix of cabaret entertainment and refreshments on Saturday night at its temporary headquarters on Waits River Road, with proceeds benefiting the company’s ongoing renovation of its regular venue on Main Street. The “Creative Harvest” gathering stats at 6:30 p.m., and includes a silent auction, a live auction and a 50/50 raffle. Admission is by donation. To learn more, visit oldchurchtheater.org.

Looking Ahead

ArtisTree Community Arts Center will stage Steve Martin’s comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile on Nov. 16, 17 and 18, at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret. For tickets ($20 to $25) and more information, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

■JAG Productions founder Jarvis Antonio Green will host a “Juke Joint” in downtown White River Junction on Nov. 17, to benefit the company’s work in introducing African-American theater to the Upper Valley. The gathering begins at 6:30 p.m. with a dinner party at Newberry Market, featuring South Carolina comfort food cooked by Green’s mother.

And at 7:30, actors, singers and dancers from past JAG productions, among them Francesca Harper, who channeled Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill last spring, will perform at the neighboring Briggs Opera House. For tickets ($100) and more information, visit jagproductionsvt.com.

Theater/Performance Art

Maine comedian Bob Marley performs at the Claremont Opera House on Friday night at 8. For tickets ($30) and more information, visit claremontoperahouse.org or call 603-542-4433.

■The Hopkins Center continues its series of public conversations about the modern relevance of Shakespeare’s works on Tuesday night at 5 at the Top of the Hop, with Dartmouth College faculty members Roberta Stewart and Brianne Gallagher taking on the topic of “Gender Roles in Modern and Ancient War.” The presentations are in preparation for the Stratford (Ont.) Festival’s production of the bard’s tragedy Coriolanus at Dartmouth’s Moore Theater, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. For tickets to and more information about the production, and to learn more about this week’s and subsequent discussions, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Music

Singer-guitarist Willy Porter plays tonight at 8 at the Flying Goose Brewpub and Grille in New London. To reserve tickets ($25) and learn more, visit flyinggoose.com or call 603-526-6899.

■Fiddler Darol Anger and singer Amy Phelps lead The Furies into the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Friday night at 7:30. Tickets cost $23 in advance and $26 at the door. To reserve seats and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

■The Handel Society of Dartmouth College centers its fall concert on Brahms’ Requiem on Tuesday night at 7, at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. For tickets ($10 to $25) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

■The Unitarian Universalist Church of Springfield, Vt., hosts its monthly Just Our Voices a capella song circle on Wednesday night at 7. Singers of all ages and abilities are welcome, as are listeners. Admission is free.

Holiday Music

Weekly rehearsals begin on Monday night at Barnard’s First Universalist Church for the recital of winter carols that the BarnArts Center for the Arts will stage during the holiday season. Through Dec. 13, Michael Zsoldos directs the Monday rehearsals for BarnArts’ youth chorale from 5 to 5:45 p.m., and the session for the adult chorale from 6 to 7:30. The concert at the church is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. To join one of the chorales and learn more, email info@barnarts.org or call 802-234-1645.

■The North Country Chordsmen are holding Tuesday-night rehearsals for their yuletide holiday sing-outs. The rehearsals, from next week through Nov. 27, will take place at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in Hanover. There is no fee to participate, and singers are welcome from all Upper Valley communities. To learn more, email brucepacht67@gmail.com.

Bar and Club Circuit

Singer-songwriter Ericka Cushing and guitarist Dane Anderson perform a mix of contemporary folk, rock and country classics and Cushing’s compositions at Peyton Place Restaurant in Orford tonight at 6.

■Sensible Shoes sets the rhythm for dancing at Crossroads Bar & Grill in South Royalton on Friday night at 9.

■The Chris Kleeman Blues Band performs at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night starting at 9.

■Flew-Z frontman Alec Currier plays Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9, and Baldilocks rocks out on Saturday night at 9.

■Acoustic rocker Amanda McCarthy plays Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 9. The acoustic-rock duo Bob & Shane performs on Saturday night at 9.

■Chris Powers opens a rockin’ weekend Newport’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9, and Amanda McCarthy picks up the axe on Saturday night at 9.

■Tirade frontman Toby Moore performs an acoustic set of rock at Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Saturday night at 9.

■Windsor-based rapper Jarv celebrates the release of his new album on Friday night at 10 at Windsor Station. The Gully Boys pull into the Station on Saturday night at 9:30, and Mr. Tom’s Band appears next Thursday night at 7.

■Sonny Saul plays jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

■Saxophonist Michael Parker performs with singer-guitarist Alison “Ali T” Turner at the Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton on Tuesday night at 6.

Open Mics

Woodstock musician Jim Yeager hosts open mics tonight at 7 at the ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret, and on Wednesday night at 8 at the Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

■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.

■Folk singer-guitarist Alan “Doc” Rogers hosts the Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse’s monthly open mic on Friday night at 7, in the basement of the Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor. Admission is by donation.

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

■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 an open mic at Colatina Exit in Bradford, Vt., on Tuesday nights at 8.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment news also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.