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Highlights: Americana concert series evolves and expands

  • The Mammals, featuring Ruth Ungar, front left, and Mike Merenda, front right, headline a concert Sunday of roots and Americana music at Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Ruth Ungar and Mike Merenda of The Mammals. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/8/2019 10:00:32 PM
Modified: 5/8/2019 10:00:24 PM

Jes Raymond can’t wait to go to work this Mother’s Day. Really.

For one thing, the Hartford native needs to drive only a couple of miles on Sunday evening to the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction, from the Wilder home that she and husband Jakob Breitbach share with their soon-to-be-2-year-old son, Barrett Breitbach.

For another, Raymond and Breitbach will be playing roots music for two hours or so with fiddler-songwriter Ruth Ungar and her band The Mammals.

Sunday’s show marks an evolution of Raymond’s concert series, which started out in 2017 as “Americana in the Valley” and moved to the Briggs Opera House last fall. The series has become a bit more formal: It has a new name — “Here in the Valley” — and a new website that says the shows are to White River Junction as “Austin City Limits” is to Austin, Texas. Raymond hopes to double the number of shows, from one a year to two.

The gentle reboot begins with one of Raymond’s role models.

“I’m a big fan of theirs,” Raymond said of Ungar and Mammals co-founder Mike Merenda, Ungar’s husband, this week. “I think they’re just wonderful. Ruth is one of the best songwriters that I know, and together The Mammals’ musicianship is just stellar. And as a couple, Ruthy and Mike are inspiring to me as parents who find a way to juggle writing and playing music with parenting.”

Ungar learned about balancing music and family life in the 1980s, during tours and festivals with her father, Grammy-winning fiddler and composer Jay Ungar, and with her mother, folk musician Lyn Hardy. Now it’s Ungar and Merenda’s turn, with son Willy, 10, and daughter Opal, 6.

“I was fortunate to hang out with my parents and their friends and peers, the musicians of their generation,” Ungar said on Tuesday. “They didn’t look at it as a business or a career unless they really had to. Primarily, it was a craft and an art form and a way of life.”

Three years after leaving behind the Seattle music scene to return to her native Upper Valley and have her son, Raymond looks forward to sharing her craft and way of life with her fellow devotees of folk music.

“Up till now, it’s been all we can do to do a show like this once a year,” Raymond said. “We’re trying to do it twice a year, which is about what I can handle in my current state of parenthood. Next year, we’ll see about building it up for a few more.”

The Mammals perform a Mother’s Day concert with Upper Valley roots musicians Jes Raymond and Jakob Breitbach on Sunday night at 7 at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction on Sunday night at 7. General admission costs $20. To learn more about the concert series, visit

Best bets

Shaker Bridge Theatre kicks off a three-weekend production of Wendy McLeod’s mystery/comedy Women in Jeopardy on Thursday night at 7:30, at Whitney Hall in Enfield. The play follows the efforts of two divorcees to figure out whether their friend’s new husband is a serial killer. The production runs through May 26. For tickets ($16 to $35) and more information, visit or call 603-448-3750.

■Lebanon-native soprano Mary Bonhag sings an early composition of Jean Sebelius, during Friday night’s 7:30 concert at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph with violinists Yonah Zur and Adelya Nartadjieva, violists Margaret Dyer and Ayane Kozasa, cellist Karen Ouzounian and bassist Evan Premo. The instrumentalists also tackle works of Brahms, Kenji Bunch and Evan Chambers. Admission by donation to Scrag Mountain Music.

■Theater students from Dartmouth College perform a series of 10-minute plays during the ArtisTree Community Arts Center’s “Two Days in May” festival on Friday night at 7 at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret. Free general admission.

■ In frank, adult language, Etna’s Cindy Pierce shares her experiences as a sexuality educator, an innkeeper, a comedian/storyteller and a mother, on Saturday night at 7 at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. Proceeds from the ticket price of $25 benefit the Half Moon Sober Festival. To reserve tickets and learn more, visit

■Acclaimed cellist Cecylia Barczyk performs at three venues this weekend with her daughter, Lebanon pianist and music teacher Elizabeth Borowsky, and with Classicopia pianist and artistic director Daniel Weiser. The mini-tour, featuring classical compositions of Melanie Bonis, Luisa LeBeau and Cecile Chaminade, begins Friday night at 7:30 at the Old South Church in Windsor.

Subsequent shows are scheduled for Saturday night at 7:30 at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon and for Sunday afternoon at 2 at Borowsky’s studio in Lebanon. For tickets ($18 for the Friday and Saturday performances, $35 for the Sunday event), visit

■The Zack’s Place Theatre Guild performs a musical adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book on Wednesday night at 5:30, at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre. Admission is by donation to Zack’s Place’s enrichment programs for Woodstock-area people with special needs.

Theater/performance art

Once, performances Thursday afternoon and evening through May 19 at Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. Admission $19 to $59.

■Little Apple Circus, Friday morning at 9:30 at Court Street Arts’ Alumni Hall in Haverhill. Admission $5 at door.

5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche , Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 3 at the Eclipse Grange Theatre on Thetford Hill. Comedy co-stars Thetford residents Kay Morton and Perry Allison, Lebanon’s Memory Apata, Norwich’s Katie Kitchel and Hanover’s Jenn Langhus. Tickets $10 to $20; visit


Walt Cunningham Pop Group, free concert with DJ P.J. O’Sullivan, Thursday night at 9 at Hopkins Center’s Top of the Hop.

■Adam Ezra Group, folk rock, Thursday night at 8 at Pierce’s Inn in Etna. Admission $45-$65. For reservations and more information, visit or call 603-643-2997.

■Calvin Knickerbocker, concert of “Wacky Songs that Made Us Laugh,” Saturday afternoon at 2 at East Grafton Union Church. Admission free.

■Jacob Martin, Appalachian roots, monthly Coffeehouse Cabaret on Saturday night from 7 to 10, at North Common Arts in Chelsea. Admission $10.

■ Thetford Chamber Singers, spring concert, Saturday night at 7:30 at United Church of Strafford, and on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 and Sunday night at 7:30 at First Congregational Church of Thetford. Admission $8 to $15. Visit for more information..

■Cameo Baroque, chamber works of Telemann, Mascitti, Legrenzi, Quentin and Boyce, Sunday afternoon at 4 at Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in Hanover. Admission by donation.

■Keene State College Choir, Monday night at 7:30 at Fairlee Town Hall. Free.


Gypsy Minor and caller David Millstone, contras, squares and waltzes, Saturday night at 8 at Tracy Hall in Norwich. Walk-through at 7:45 for newcomers, rusty dancers. Admission $7 to $12.

Bar and club circuit

Joel Cage, rock, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place in Orford; singer-songwriter Ericka Cushing, Sunday night at 6.

■The Repeat Offenders, roots rock, Thursday night at 7 at Windsor Station; The Medicine Tribe, roots rock, Friday night at 9:30; Jack in the Pulpit, rock, Saturday night at 9:30; Johnny O, folk rock, Tuesday night at 6.

■Abigail Lapell, folk noir, Friday night at 7 at The Skinny Pancake in Hanover.

■Saxophonist Michael Parker with guitarist Norm Wolfe, jazz, Friday night at 7:30 at American Legion Hall in Lebanon; and with guitarist Ted Mortimer, rock and soul, Tuesday night at 6 at Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton.

■Singer-songwriter Ken Macy, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Newport; John Lackard, blues, Saturday night at 9.

■Shrimp Tunes, rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover; Never Too Late, folk trio, Saturday night at 9.

■Better Days, classic rock, Saturday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon.

■Jim Yeager, rock/funk, Monday night at 7 at Woodstock Inn’s Richardson Tavern.

■Jazz pianist Sonny Saul, Wednesday night at 6:30 at On the River Inn in Woodstock.

Open mics

Jim Yeager hosts open mics at ArtisTree Community Arts Center on Thursday night at 7; at The Public House Pub in Quechee on Tuesday night at 6; at Skunk Hollow Tavern on Wednesday night at 8.

■Alec Currier’s weekly open-mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, Thursday night at 8.

■Al Carruth and E.J. Tretter host Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse’s monthly open mic on Friday night at 7 at Methodist Church in Sunapee Harbor. Admission by donation.

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

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach’s weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music, Tuesday night at 7 at Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Tom Masterson’s weekly open mic, Tuesday night at 7 at Colatina Exit.

Looking ahead

Corinth Coffeehouse open-mic session, May 18 at 7 p.m. at 1387 Cookeville Road in Corinth. To reserve a 10-minute performance slot, email by Wednesday.

David Corriveau can be reached atdcorriveau@vnews.comand at 603-727-3304. Send entertainment news to

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