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For Met Fans—More Operas!

The Metropolitan Opera is making up for the sudden dearth of live broadcast performances this season by adding archival productions every Saturday from May 23rd through the last weekend of July.

You can find the new list of broadcast Met operas on the WHRB website, HERE.

There will be Met Prelude programs before the operas at 1:00 PM, so HAH will end 10-15 minutes early each Saturday.  /CL

Harvard Gazette Highlights WHRB

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The Harvard Gazette is “the official news website for Harvard University,” and seems to be updated more-or-less daily.  The May 4th issue featured a story by Jon Chase on WHRB staying on the air (‘WHRB keeps classical connections’), despite the unexpected departure of most of its staff, as I posted in ‘WHRB and HAH Are Still on the Air’.  Readers will remember Jon from his photo ‘Slideshow’ on Hillbilly at Harvard back in 2014.

Jon, whose official title is University Photographer, couldn’t come in to capture the small team of station members keeping WHRB on the air, so he used photos from them and others to let the Harvard community know how the station was faring during the pandemic.

That’s Allison Pao, current WHRB President, with a mandolin (she’s really a violinist) at the head of the article.  Writes Jon,

WHRB president Allison Pao ’21 said it’s been a collaborative effort to stay on air 24/7, with staff on duty at all hours. An undergraduate student comes in every Saturday afternoon to produce regular Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. General manager Emily Spector ’21, chief studio engineer Margaux Winter ’21, and former chief engineer Hamish Nicholson ’20 live nearby and regularly come into the station to manage basic operations.

“Undergraduate staff have been working hard to produce broadcasts remotely as well, recording our classical afternoon concerts from 1 to 6 p.m. on weekdays,” Pao added. “This in itself is a massive effort which requires ripping hundreds of CDs and recording hundreds of announcing breaks

Despite the limited staff on site, WHRB has still managed to present two weeks of its semi-annual Orgy® Period, featuring programs built around a single theme, composer, or style of music.   They’re listed in the WHRB Program Guide, available for download in PDF HERE.

HAH listeners who like ‘jamgrass’, ‘new acoustic music’, Americana, etc. should check out ‘The American Acoustic Orgy’, starting at 10:00 AM Monday (May 11th).  Following that are 28 hours of ‘The Ella Fitzgerald Orgy’, from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM Tuesday the 12th, 5:00 AM to 1:00 PM Wednesday the 13th, and Thursday the 14th.  And at 7:00 PM Tuesday tune in for the ‘North Carolina Bluegrass Orgy’, hosted by Margaux Winter.  Margaux will feature artists like ‘Rhiannon Giddens, Mandolin Orange, Chatham Rabbits, and Hank, Pattie & the Current’.  Wednesday will rebroadcast the 2019 tribute to David Elliott with ‘The David Elliott Orgy’ at 1:00 PM.   See the Program Guide for more details.

The other news is that WHRB is asking for donations:

“We published our station’s response to the pandemic on March 16 as well as an update on April 21 asking for donations on our website,” Pao said. “We are raising money because we are projected to lose over a third of our annual operating budget in the next few months due to canceled ad campaigns from our clients, many of whom are performing arts organizations in the Boston area.”

. . . The team remains determined to keep things running. The radio station prides itself on being “entirely self-supporting,” Spector said. As a commercial nonprofit business, the station is provided studio space, but otherwise does not receive funding from the University.

Of course, ‘commercial’ means advertising!  You can advertise your business on WHRB.  Rates are very reasonable, and you can advertise on Hillbilly at Harvard as well as on the Boston area’s most innovative Classical, Jazz, and Rock programming.  See my post, Don’t Clap—Throw Money (or Rather, Buy Time!)‘  Email [email protected]

PS HAH got a mention in this article as well, and a photo—from Jon’s 2014 ‘Slideshow’!

PPS Orgy® information updated; thanks to listener Louis in NYC.  /CL

Photos from the 2020 Joe Val Festival

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Pickin’ in the Hallways at the JVF

It’s hard to believe it’s been two months since the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival on Presidents’ Day Weekend in February.  Harder still to remember that hundreds of bluegrass pickers and fans took over the entire Sheraton Hotel for three days, and even packed the Main Stage auditorium for the Sunday afternoon finale with the Dan Tyminski Band, and it all went off without a hitch.

There was an good deal of elbow-bumping instead of handshakes, which makes good sense at the height of flu season, even without any new bug to worry about.   Even in mid-February, there weren’t many cases of the Wuhan virus in the United States, and we assumed there wouldn’t be many people from China at the festival, so (rightly or wrongly) there wasn’t much chance of encountering it in a crowd of bluegrass and country aficionados.

In any event, the mood was festive and the performances were great.  As usual, I hung around with my camera (a new Canon Rebel SL3 with Canon 18-135mm lens, not a high-end rig, but close enough for country music), so here are, belatedly, a few photos.  It’s been two months, so I’ll keep comments to a minimum.  There are higher-resolution, downloadable versions of the photos on Flickr, too, HERE.

Friday evening we arrived in time to catch Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing, from Vermont, a name I’d heard but a band I hadn’t: Bob Amos (banjo, guitar), daughter Sarah Amos (vocals), Freeman Corey (fiddle), Steve Wright (guitar), Gary Darling (mandolin), Chris Cruger (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Making a quick trip downstairs to the more intimate Showcase Stage, we caught The Deborah McDonnell Band: listed as Deborah McDonnell (guitar, vocals), Stu Ervin (‘multi-instrumentalist’), Steve Smith (guitar), Tim Fiehler (bass), Jackie Damsky (fiddle), looks like a sixth player on stage.  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Downstairs, a gathering of bass fiddles spawned a few jokes of the “Who’s on first?” variety.  Fortunately the grandkids were absent this year, or we’d have to keep them from “Touching all the bases.”

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Back at the Main Stage, the hot young band Mile Twelve, spawned from the bluegrass nest at Berklee and now touring nationally, held forth: Evan Murphy (guitar), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Nate Sabat (bass), BB Bowness (banjo), David Benedict (mandolin).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

I was delighted to see a band that I had greatly enjoyed two years before, Jeff Scroggins & Colorado, back at the Joe Val Festival.  They were billed ‘with Jesse Brock‘, master mandolinist taking the place of Jeff’s son, the incredibly energetic Tristan (off on his own in Nashville, I think Jeff said). Tristan I guess was the harbinger, as the evening’s performance was tempered with the news that this would be the last performance of the band—all were going their separate ways.  A pity, as it was a great band: Jeff Scroggins (banjo), Greg Blake (guitar, vocals), Ellie Hankanson (fiddle, vocals), Jesse Brock (mandolin), not to mention the inimitable Mark Schatz (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Sadly I had to leave before Claire Lynch‘s set Friday night.  Saturday evening I got back in time for the Boston Bluegrass Union’s Heritage Artist Award to Boston’s own singing dentist (and mandolin player) Ritchie Brown (sorry, ‘Dr. Richard Brown).  Here he is on stage, plus the BBU’s Gerry Katz. [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Then it was time for The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, arguably the hottest traditional band on the circuit today, for their second shot at the JVF, sporting their new Rounder album, and now-regular fiddler Laura Orshaw—plus C. J. Lewandowski (mandolin), Jereme Brown (banjo, not a typo), Josh ‘Jug’ Rinkel (guitar), Jasper Lorentzen (bass). [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Now towards the end of the Po’ Ramblin’s set when they brought up their bus driver to sing a couple of songs, I didn’t realize that he was (a) the banjo player Jereme’s dad, and (b) Tommy Brown, of Tommy Brown and County Line Grass, whom I’d been playing on the radio for years!  Tommy Brown always struck me as right smack in The Stanley Brothers tradition, and he sure brought his son up right.  An unexpected treat!

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Laura Orshaw, Tommy and Jereme Brown

The Special Consensus are the closest thing to JVF regulars that I can remember, and never fail to deliver.  Greg always remembers playing at WHRB back in the days of the Kinvara Pub in Allston (when Chris Jones was in the band), and always promises to come back some day—which I’m sure he would, if they were in town at the right time.  I enjoyed meeting Rick Faris, as I’ve been playing a lot from his excellent new album.  Greg Cahill (banjo), Rick Faris (guitar), Nate Burie (mandolin), Dan Eubanks (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Headliners Saturday night were Balsam Range, multiple IBMA award winners and solid performers: Buddy Melton (fiddle), Marc Pruett (banjo), Caleb Smith (guitar), Tim Surrett (bass, dobro).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Laura Orshaw (fiddle) is now doubling (or tripling or quadrupling if you count her own band and others in the Boston area) with Adam Bibey & Grasstowne, whom I caught on Sunday afternoon.  And who else is in the band, at least for this gig?  Tony Watt on guitar!  The rest: Alan Bibey himself (mandolin), Justin Jenkins (banjo), Zak McLamb (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Sunday afternoon is traditionally winding-down time at bluegrass festivals, with folks packing up to go home.  But the Joe Val Festival is at an hotel, so a few years ago the BBU were inspired to turn the last act on Sunday into a rousing closer.  I must admit I was a little dubious when I heard they were bringing in The Dan Tyminski Band for the finalé.  Yeah, I knew Dan was famous in the Soggy Bottom Boys in that awful slam-at-the-South movie, was Alison Krauss’s leading sideman, and had won numerous awards for all kinds of musical adventures, but he wasn’t really bluegrass country.

I was wrong. Dan put on a terrific bluegrass concert, interspersed with plenty of jokes and comaraderie.  He made himself at home, and the audience reciprocated.  It was one of the most entertaining shows I can remember, and plenty country.  Dan also played new songs he either wrote or co-wrote, which will appear this fall on a new Rounder album.  I can’t wait.  Dan Tyminski (mandolin), Justin Moses (fiddle), Jason Davis (banjo), Tim Dishman (bass), Tony Wray (guitar).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

We hung around for the Festival’s Wind-up Hoedown dance in the Showcase Stage room, featuring Josie Toney and Her Honky Tonk Heroes.  Josie had played a bluegrass set earlier in the day in the Showcase, which I had missed.  But for the dance she turned to classic country, and did she do it well!  I was mightily impressed, at both her repertoire, her stage presence, and her voice.  Another record I’ll be looking to play on the air, when it comes out.  Josie Toney (guitar, vocals); I didn’t get the names of the others, but if anyone knows, I’ll add them.  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Didn’t catch much of the lively old-timey band that followed Josie (and I missed their Main Stage performance), but need to get some recordings!  The Lonesome Ace Stringband from Canada are Chris Coole (banjo), John Showman (fiddle), Max Heineman (bass).  [Click on one to see larger versions in sequence; go to Flickr for high-res versions.]

Chalk up another one for the BBU!  Hey, that’s a song!  So for looking at all these silent photos, here’s a little classic audio for you, from Jimmy Martin.  /CL

 

WHRB and HAH Are Still on the Air

whrb_logo   Back in early March, when the Presidential Task Force, reacting to the COVID-19 outbreak, issued CDC guidelines recommending no gatherings and staying at home (when possible), Harvard like other major colleges across the nation, sent the students home.  Whether this made sense is a topic for another time, but that expulsion included almost all of the staff of WHRB, except for a few who are living in the area, and valiantly keeping the station on the air 24/7.  I have been remiss in not bringing blog readers up-to-date, but here (belatedly) is the notice from current WHRB President Allison Pao and General Manager Emily Spector on March 16th:

To the listeners of Harvard Radio Broadcasting, Inc. (WHRB):

We would like to provide you with an update on WHRB programming in light of recent events related to COVID-19. In response to the risks of COVID-19, on Tuesday, March 10th, all Harvard undergraduates were asked to vacate campus dorms by 5pm, Sunday, March 15th.

WHRB will continue to stay on the air 24/7, uninterrupted. Because most of our students will be away from campus, much of that air will be comprised of pre-recorded shows. Nonetheless, we will continue our live broadcasts of Harvard Memorial Church’s Sunday Services, the Metropolitan Opera, and Hillbilly at Harvard. Please note that pre-recorded classical music programming will temporarily replace some feature shows (including Special Concerts, New Releases, Historic Performances, and Sunday Night at the Opera). Sunday News and Sports Shows (As We Know It and Sports Talk) will broadcast periodically but no longer on a weekly basis, and there will be no live Sports broadcasts at this time.

WHRB-FM has a duty to the Harvard and Greater Boston communities. As our mission states, we “offer musical, cultural, educational, informational, and other programs and materials for the entertainment and profit of the public.” Particularly during this difficult time when people are being asked to stay at home, we believe that the medium of radio can serve as an important source of information, community, and enjoyment for everyone. For that reason, we are committed to continuing to provide high-quality broadcasts to our listeners.

We thank you for your continued support at this time, and we welcome any feedback or questions you may have. If you want to learn more about how you can support us, please visit whrb.org/support. The fastest way to reach us is via email ([email protected] and [email protected]), but you can also leave us a voicemail at (617) 495-9472 and we will do our best to get back to you soon.

Best,

Allison Pao ’21, President of WHRB

Emily Spector ’21, General Manager of WHRB

Harvard Radio Broadcasting, Inc.
389 Harvard St.
Cambridge, MA 02138

I am still coming in on Saturday to produce HAH live, and barring any problems will continue to do so.  If for some reason I can’t come in, a pre-recorded show will air, as on previous occasions when I’ve been out of town or otherwise unavailable.

For me, it’s something like summer at WHRB, as most of the programming is pre-recorded, and there are few people around.  There’s nothing on the Country Calendar, and I have had to tell some guests not to come in, for fear of ‘social distancing’ guidelines.  It is a little spooky coming in Saturday mornings, with no traffic on the roads, and only a few people in Harvard Square, some with masks.

However, with the President and Task Force relaxing the guidelines for individual states today, I am hopeful that within a month or so the spookiness will dissipate.  But we’ll see.  In the meantime, feel free to post comments, suggestions, requests, and observations on the Paper and Pen Page.  You can also email me: [email protected]   /CL

Coming Up: The Joe Val Festival for 2020!

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Design by Jin Suk

Just realized I hadn’t previewed The Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, February 14th, 15th, and 16th, my favorite—and only partly because it’s right in my backyard.  Well, almost; we’re on the river in Saxonville, but only about 10 minutes drive west to the Sheraton in Framingham, so I can do the show Saturday morning, get home for a nap, and still get to most of Saturday’s main-stage events with time to spare.

Friday evening I do need to get home early, so I’ll miss Claire Lynch‘s 10 PM set.  But you don’t have to.  The Sheraton’s rooms have been sold out for months, but there are plenty of hotels nearby in Metrowest; and of course if you’re in the region, it’s easy to reach, right at the junction of Route 9 and the Mass Pike.

Go to the Boston Bluegrass Union web site, and scroll down for both weekend and single-day tickets.  The highlights are below (click on band names for more information); the full schedules are on the web page.  See you there!