Highlights: Singer Returns to Upper Valley Roots

  • Upper Valley native Celia Woodsmith brings her latest musical project, the roots rock band Woodsmith & Hersch, to the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction on Friday night.

  • Lebanon's City Center Ballet opens its production of "Clara's Dream" next Thursday at Lebanon Opera House. See 'Best Bets' for more information.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2016 12:05:03 AM

After five years of writing for and touring with the bluegrass ensemble Della Mae, Celia Woodsmith revisits her musical — and Upper Valley — roots with two concerts in White River Junction over the next five weeks.

“It seems like all of a sudden I’m playing around my hometown again, which I didn’t that much when I was with Della Mae,” Woodsmith, a 2003 graduate of Hanover High School, said during a telephone interview last week. “We were focusing on larger cities. In a way, it’s a relief to get back to smaller places for a while.”

With Della Mae, which earned a Grammy nomination for best bluegrass album in 2014, going on hiatus this fall, Woodsmith, who now lives in Kittery, Maine, joined forces with Girls Guns & Glory guitarist Chris Hersch for a series of short tours focusing on the roots-rock vibe with which Woodsmith began her career.

Together they front a five-piece ensemble that plays a stomping, roots-inflected rock. The change of genre is freeing, she said.

“In bluegrass, things are a little more controlled,” said Woodsmith, who wrote or co-wrote eight of the 12 songs on Della Mae’s This World Oft Can Be. “The flow of the music, there’s more of a formula. I had a fantastic time with Della Mae. It opened up my musicality. You can take influence from old-timey music and bluegrass, and use it to your advantage. But there’s more of an untethered nature of singing I’m able to do now.”

When Woodsmith & Hersch roll into the Briggs Opera House on Friday night at 8, Woodsmith will unleash a voice that often roared, bringing to mind Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, during the seven years she collaborated with fellow University of Vermont student Avi Salloway, first as the duo Avi & Celia, then with the Boston-based Hey Mama, which featured what the band described as “washboard rock ’n’ roll.”

And if you miss them Friday, Woodsmith & Hersch will circle back around for the New Year’s Eve celebration at The Engine Room in White River, performing the 12:30-to-2-a.m. shift.

“It’ll be great to go back to the Briggs,” Woodsmith said. “I was in the Oracle theater program there as a kid, and did some musicals there. … The theater scene in the Upper Valley really influenced my desire to be onstage, to be comfortable onstage.”

As comfortable as she sounds and looks onstage now, Woodsmith was never tempted to base herself in a musical hotbed such as Nashville or Austin.

“Where I am now, the proximity to Boston is huge, for the music scene there, and access to the airport,” Woodsmith said. “It’s easy to get to Portland and Boston and New York City and Providence. And this environment’s kind of in my blood. I love the seasons. … It allows me to be a real human being.”

Woodsmith credits her mother, Norwich-based poet Sybil Smith, with “encouraging my artistic leanings” without “leaning on me to get a real job.” That flexible approach, Woodsmith added, has freed her to move back and forth among musical genres.

“With kids in high school, there’s often a lot of emphasis on finding your career, finding your path,” she said. “There’s so much pressure to find the thing you’re meant to do. … You don’t have to end up being Katy Perry to feel like you’re going to be successful. I’ve learned that you have to remake yourself. You have to be creative.”

Woodsmith & Hersch perform at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction on Friday night at 8. For tickets ($20) and more information, visit yellowhousemedia.com.

Best Bets

The No Strings Marionette Company stages an adaptation of the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall on Saturday morning at 11. For tickets ($7) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

The five-member band Wild Asparagus plays music from New England, the British Isles and Canada, as well as from the classical tradition, during a contradance at Norwich’s Tracy Hall on Saturday night. Before the dance begins in earnest at 8, there will be a walk-through for newcomers to contradance at 7:45. All should bring clean, soft-soled shoes and snacks for the potluck at the break. Admission is $10 to $15. To learn more, visit uvdm.org.

George Seymour brings a fleet of banjos to the Newbury (Vt.) Village town hall on Sunday afternoon at 3, to collaborate with South Newbury fiddler Patrick Ross in a Mountain Money concert benefiting the music program at Newbury Elementary School. To reserve tickets ($15) and learn more, visit patrickrossmusic.com or call 802-866-3324.

Looking Ahead

City Center Ballet will dance the Clara’s Dream passage of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker on the stage of the Lebanon Opera House five times in December, starting next Thursday night at 7:30. Jennifer Henderson choreographed and adapted the ballet, and Elizabeth Lurie designed the elaborate costumes. Subsequent performances are scheduled for Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 3 at 1 and 4 p.m., and Dec. 4 at 3 p.m.

For tickets ($9 to $32 in advance, $5 extra at the door) and more information, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400. To learn more about the Clara’s Tea that the Lebanon Ballet School will host before the Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 performances, visit citycenterballet.org.

Shaker Bridge Theatre will stage the Patricia Kane play Float at Enfield’s Whitney Hall Auditorium starting next Thursday night at 7:30. The play, which follows the joys and trials and tribulations of members of a Midwestern women’s club crafting their float for an annual holiday parade, will run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and on Sunday afternoons at 2:30 through Dec. 18. To reserve tickets ($16 to $32) and learn more, visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.

Guitarist-songwriter Willy Porter and singer Carmen Nickerson will join voices and compare notes at the Flying Goose Brewpub and Grille in New London next Thursday night at 8. To reserve tickets ($25) and learn more, visit flyinggoose.com or call 603-526-6899.

The circus artists and acrobats of Cirque Mechanics will perform “Pedal Punk,” wearing Victorian clothing and accessories while riding hoops, unicycles and many other devices around the stage of the Hopkins Center’s Moore Theater in Hanover, next Thursday night at 7 and on Dec. 2 at 8. For tickets ($13 to $40) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422. Before the Dec. 2 show, the ensemble will stage a free demonstration at the Top of the Hop.

Pianist Bob Merrill will play a memorial tribute to piano tuner Dale Howe during the annual FaLaLa Holiday Revue at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction on Dec. 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Other performers for the First Friday gathering will include students from the Upper Valley Music Center, the White River Ballet Academy, the Raq-On Dancers and Valley Improv. To reserve tickets, visit the Hotel Coolidge or call 802-295-3118.

Classicopia pianist Daniel Weiser and study leader David Bisno of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Dartmouth will lead “A Viennese Holiday Evening,” spotlighting the music and the lives and times of composer Johann Strauss and his family, at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 2 at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. After professional dancers Drayton and Amber Harvey waltz and polka with accompaniment from small chamber orchestra, the audience will be invited onstage to dance. Admission is $20 for Osher members (visit osher.dartmouth.edu) and $25 for others (classicopia.org). Area restaurants offering Viennese-style suppers before the show are the Canoe Club, Molly’s, Pine and Market Table in Hanover, and Carpenter and Main in Norwich; reservations are required for the special at each destination.

Singer Lydia Gray and guitarist Ed Eastridge will perform Brazilian and American jazz standards during the monthly Corinth Coffeehouse show of the new season at Corinth Town Hall on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Donations will benefit the Blake Memorial Library. To learn more, visit the town of Corinth’s page on Facebook.

Theater/Performance Art

Northern Stage shifts into high gear with its production of A Christmas Carol at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction over the coming week, with performances at 2 on Friday and Saturday afternoons, at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday nights, at 2 on Sunday afternoon, at 11 on Wednesday morning, at 7:30 on Wednesday night, at 2 next Thursday afternoon and at 7:30 next Thursday night. Peter Hackett directs the Michael Wilson adaptation of the Dickens story through Dec. 24. For tickets ($14 to $54) and more information, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.


On the theme of “For Each of Us,” the Thetford Chamber Singers rings in the holiday season by performing choral music about home, family and welcoming of strangers at three Upper Valley churches, starting Wednesday night at 7 at the United Church of Strafford. The marathon, which includes renditions of Ariel Ramirez’s Navidad Nuestra and holiday works of Sweet Honey in the Rock, continues on Dec. 2 with a 7 p.m. performance at Woodstock’s North Universalist Chapel, and a doubleheader on Dec. 4 at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church on Thetford Hill. Admission at the door is $8 to $15. To order advance tickets ($8 to $12) and learn more, visit thetfordchambersingers.org or inquire at the Norwich Bookstore or Woodstock’s Yankee Bookshop. Checks made out to Thetford Chamber Singers and snail-mailed by Nov. 30 should be sent to P.O. Box 144, Thetford, VT 05074.

The women of The Valley Chords sing barbershop-style during a public rehearsal at the Long River Gallery’s pop-up shop in downtown White River Junction, on Wednesday night, 6:30 to 7:30.

Bar and Club Circuit

The folk duo of Jim Roberts and Doug Morse performs at Jesse’s restaurant in Hanover on Friday night starting at 5.

Pianist Jonathan Kaplan commands the keyboard at the Canoe Club in Hanover starting at 6:30 Friday night. Appearing at the club over the coming week with shows from 6:30 to 9:30 are guitarists John Stowell and Billy Rosen on Tuesday, pianist Gillian Joy on Wednesday and the duo of singer Lydia Gray and guitarist Ed Eastridge next Thursday night. And on Monday night between 5:30 and 8:30, Marko the Magician performs his weekly sleight-of-hand.

Guitarist Ken Rokicki appears in the tavern at the Inn at Weathersfield in Perkinsville on Friday night from 7 to 9.

Josh Gerrish kicks off the weekend of music at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon by sharing his mix of country-western and acoustic rock on Friday night at 9. At the same time on Saturday, Arthur James sings and plays the blues.

DJ Suave appears at the Salt hill in Hanover on Saturday night at 9.

The Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Duo rocks Salt hill’s Newport pub with Celtic rhythms on Saturday night at 9.

Wherehouse sets the rockin’ rhythm for dancing at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

Strange Changes rocks Windsor Station on Friday night at 9:30. Next to the microphone are The Youngest Sun with a set of rock on Saturday night at 9:30 and singer-songwriter Jake Haehnel on Tuesday night at 6.

Pianist Jamie Ward commands the keyboard at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock on Saturday night at 7.

Zach Nugent of the Jerry Garcia Band and Tony Markellis of the Trey Anastasio Band lead the Dead Set ensemble into the Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Saturday night at 9. For tickets ($10) and more information, visit skinnypancake.com. Bow Thayer plays his weekly set of Americana at the Skinny Pancake on Wednesday night at 7:30.

Open Mics

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.

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

Bradford’s Colatina Exit holds an open mic on Tuesday nights at 8

The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic on Tuesday nights, beginning at 8.

Jim Yeager hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, at 8:30 on Wednesday nights.

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

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


Patricia Kane’s play >italic<Float>res<, which opens at Shaker Bridge Theatre in Enfield on Thursday, is set in the Midwest. The setting of the play was unclear in an earlier version of this column. In addition, the Thetford Chamber Singers perform choral music on Wednesday night at 7 at the United Church of Strafford and Friday night at 7 at Woodstock's North Universalist Chapel. An earlier version of this column gave incorrect times for the performances.

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