Friday, December 9, 2011

The Camerata's gonna get medieval on your holiday

... and speaking of cool holiday music, the kind probably won't be subliminally torturing you in elevators or department stores,the Boston Camerata is about to get all medieval on your holiday. Just back from a tour of northern France and Belgium in November, the early music group will perform “A Medieval Christmas,” a program of song and poetry from France, Provence, England, Spain and Germany performed by a virtuoso consort of voices and instruments, including harps, vielle, lute, recorder and flute. Selections range from a very early Hebrew chant and 10th century Spanish Sybill’s prophesy to 12th-century Aquitanian (French) tales of the Wild and Foolish Virgins, to 13th- and 14th-century English and 15th-century Dutch songs. Program notes include contemporary English translations of the texts and lyrics, much of which will be quite familiar to the audience.The only north of Boston performance will take place at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at First Parish Church, 20 High Road, Route 1A, Newbury. The performance will be recorded by WGBH for a commercial release ... well, as commercial as medieval music gets.

A rockin' Christmas with Zuni Fetish Experiment

.... And speaking of free stuff and Christmas spirit and all the rest of that holiday hockum, here's something to jump on before the season completely overwhelms you: It's a haunting from holidays past, holiday music for those of us who can't stand holiday music, or the holidays, especially, an album guaranteed to put the affect back into your seasonal disorder. Or get rid of it. Or something. It's "In the Christmas Spirit," 30 minutes of ramped-up seasonal selections from Zuni Fetish Experiment, Jeff Morris' gritty, in-your-face, improvisational power trio that wreaked sonic havoc at the nexus of jazz and rock, a kind of no-commercial-potential, Miles-meets-Jimi vibe, a band that morphed into the far more radio-friendly Death & Taxes after clearing venues for several sizzling years. Morris, the Port guitarist probably best known for his work with the Bruisers, blew town last year and set up shop in Chicago. He's put up "In the Christmas Spirit," and lots of other goodies, online for free download. But, given the clock ticking down on the most profitable, I mean the most wonderful time of the year, we're gonna focus on "In the Christmas Spirit," an album that teaches us the greatest Christmas lesson of all: that Christmas music doesn't have to be syrup, schmaltz and pseudo-solemnity, that it doesn't have to be endured, that it can be fun, that it can be smart, that it can sizzle.  

Time to deck the halls with free art ... again

It's probably true, the old saw that it's better to give than receive, but, to quote another old saw, it takes two to tango. Which is to say, you cannot give unless there's someone to receive  — and that's where you come in. You've got to help out all the area artists who have created piles of art to give away, and for you to give away to others if you want, as the second decade of the Free Art exhibit begins. Your gift, so to speak, is to receive. At least for now. It started in 2001, when Gordon Przybyla and Dylan Metrano staged an unorthodox art show — an exhibit without a venue, where the art was free. They asked their artist buddies to contribute 50 pieces of art to be given away anonymously in December. Some artists gave 50 unique pieces, others made prints or photocopies. They made some sturdy boxes with signs that said “Free Art: Take One” and filled them with the art. They hung the boxes up around downtown Newburyport in various stores and public places, where they were picked through and emptied out over the course of the season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

'Sooner' a real kick of a debut

There’s always a danger of confusing artist and art or stories and storytellers, especially when dealing with first-person perspective — like on “Girl of Little Faith,” one of the tracks on “Sooner,” the bleak-but-cathartic debut album from Liz Frame and the Kickers, in which a life-hardened narrator who has been kicked around long enough to be drained of hope, faith and even the possibility of redemption, rejects the old saw that good things come to those who wait. Nothing could be further from the truth for Frame, the Newburyport-based songwriter who decided to dive back in after nearly two decades away from the music scene and, much to her surprise, is making a big splash. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, just playing out once in a while at open mikes, not so much trying to jump-start the career that would have or could have been if she hadn’t walked away from it all those years ago, as much as trying to provide a creative outlet for the music that, career or not, still bubbled up inside her. She made an impression quickly, picking up fans and accomplices — and, before she knew it, she had a band. “It all came together in such an effortless way, it just felt right,” she says.

Kickers percussionist discovers The Way

The road is a way of life for musician-types, a way of life whose rep is nowhere as romantic as its reality, or half as lurid as Frank Zappa's account in "200 Motels." Let's hope, anyhow. But the recent roadtrip of Kristine Malpica, percussionist for Liz Frame and the Kickers and, for those with longer memories, the force behind Imagine Studios in Amesbury, and her musical and actual fellow traveler Port singer-songwriter Meg Rayne, is something else entirely: a 500-mile, 40-day  backpacking tramp on the El Camino De Santiago, known as The Way, across France and northern Spain, which has been recognized as the first official European Cultural Route by the Council of Europe, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This week you can go along for the ride, at least vicariously, when Malpica,  a student in the Northern Essex Community College Honors Experience program, with a focus on history and anthropology — who knew? —  will give a virtual tour of the landscapes, history, culture, archaeology, art, architecture and music that represent the spirit of The Way today.