[email protected] Chorus celebrates three decades with three nights of shows; Tim Eriksen takes you to Pumpkintown.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012
By Gary Carra

Photo Courtesy of Bob Cilman

Seasoned international singing sensations the [email protected] Chorus celebrate 30 years–and a new CD–at the Academy of Music this weekend.

Given the combined actual ages of the current 34 members on the “active roster,” the [email protected] Chorus would need close to 3,000 candles to celebrate its collective birthday in the traditional way. But the group of seasoned citizen singers is marking its 30th anniversary as a vocal troupe this weekend. Considering that the area elders have toured the globe several times over and been the focus of a major motion picture in those years, it’s an accomplishment that apparently takes at least three evenings to celebrate.

“I know it sounds like a cliche, but it’s been a long strange trip with never a dull moment,” group director Bob Cilman notes of the experience as the group readies for a three-night “anniversary party” at the Academy of Music Theatre this weekend, Oct. 19-21.

Friday night’s show will see [email protected] with special guests Trailer Park, followed by collaborations with area singer/songwriter Heather Maloney on Saturday and scene staples the Lonesome Brothers on Sunday.

Coinciding with the event is a special month-long exhibit at the Hosmer Gallery in Northampton’s Forbes Library. The exhibition is curated by none other than Cilman’s daughter Stella, and features never-before-seen video, rare photos, theatre costumes, banners and more.

As if they needed another excuse to party, the [email protected] have also just released Now—a new 17-tune offering that includes chestnuts like Dandy Livingstone’s “A Message To You, Rudy” and Stills-Young’s “Long May You Run,” with a couple of cool bonus live tracks tacked on for good measure. Tickets for all three shows are available at youngatheartchorus.com and range from $20 to $100 depending on the package selected. Options range from a simple seat to a ticket, CD and aftershow meet-and-greet reception.

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Similarly celebrating new studio product is local songwriter/world-renowned Americana balladeer Tim Eriksen (timerikesenmusic.com). The disc is titled Josh Billings Voyage and is slated to drop Oct. 23. In hearing the Amherst native discuss some stories behind the project, however, it could have just as easily been dubbed Of Mice and Men.

“I found a mouse nest in my stereo speaker,” he recalls. “Some time later I was dubbing a tape, forgot about it and eventually noticed a barely audible, high-pitched singing in the next room. Every hair stood on end, because I believed that the mice were singing. I was shocked at what I was capable of believing, even for three seconds. The song (‘The Mice’) speaks to those things… to the presences and beliefs and our attempts to understand what’s going on.”

Other tunes conjure images of deep West Africa (“Gabriel’s Trumpet”) and South India (“How Come The Blood”), all blending together to support the overarching narrative: Josh Billings Voyage is actually a look into the fictitious, Eriksen-created New England village of Pumpkintown. It’s an audio excursion aimed at uniting the foothills of Western Massachusets with the shores of Madras and Zanzibar.

“It struck me early on that ‘Yankee’ culture has always been deeply multicultural,” Eriksen points out. “It’s the kind of multiculturalism that’s invisible if you don’t recognize the distinctions or sources of influence.”