Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wadsworth Mansion: 5 in July!

Summer is upon and it's time to party with Mother Nature.  Over the course of the next 9-11 weeks, there will be a slew of outdoors concerts in the Middletown area and one knows how fickle the Goddess of Weather can be.

Nevertheless, the Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate, Wadsworth Street in Middletown, will presents its annual July Concert series aka Music at the Mansion.  And, this year, the Music Committee (note: I am a member of that august group) has chosen to present 5 concerts, one on each Wednesday of the month.  In case of rain, there will be 1 make-up concert on August 7.  As has been the tradition over the years, the concerts are free, the grounds are open for picnics 60 minutes before each 6:30 show, and the line-up is a creative blend of styles and sounds.

The fun starts of Wednesday July 3 when the Hartford Jazz Orchestra, Donn Trenner, Music Director, makes a return visit. The HJO has been in existence since 1965 when Bill Stanley (at that time, band director at Hall High School in West Hartford) convened the musicians for its first of its Monday night rehearsals.  The ensemble went through a number of music directors and venues until Chic Chicetti took over in the early 1980s and settled the HJO into the famous but now defunct 880 Club in Hartford.  Over the years, the ensemble built quite a following for its Monday night shows plus the occasional gigs away from the venue, often with vocalist Bobbi Rogers as a guest (then becoming a permanent member.) Saxophonist/flutist Seb Giacco, a fixture on the local music and former co-owner of National Paint & Wallpaper, has been in the group since its inception. On the night of this concert, Mr. Giacco will be honored by the Wadsworth Mansion, not only for his long career as a great musician but also as the "father" of the Music at the Mansion series.

The following week (7/10) marks the Mansion debut of guitarist Jeff Pitchell & Texas Flood. Pitchell, a fixture on the Connecticut and New England blues scene, has been playing guitar since he was 15 and is considered one of the best blues players around.  Joining his 5-piece band will be the Jeffettes, 4 singers with a background in gospel music.  Should be a rocking night on the back lawn.

On July 17, Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem returns to the Mansion playing their joyful program of "agnostic gospel music", folk, swing, and blues.  Ms. Arbo, who sings and plays fiddle, lives in Middletown with her husband and percussionist Scott Kessel (who plays the home-made "Drumship Enterprise).  Guitarist/vocalist Anand Nayak and bassist/vocalist Andrew Kinsey (who also plays a "mean" ukulele and banjo) round out the quartet.
The Quartet has released 3 CDs, including 2012's "Some Bright Morning" and 2010's "Ranky Tanky", the latter a rollicking collection of songs for the younger set (but everyone can sing along.)
Their live shows are certainly fun for the whole family and this show, like the others, will draw quite a crowd of fans from all over the region.

On July 24, the series continues in the "folk" mode when Gail Wade & Turning Point makes its Mansion debut.  Singer/songwriter/ guitarist/banjo picker Wade has been making music for 3 decades throughout the Northeast. Turning Point is 4 fine musicians - Peggy Ann Harvey (fiddle, saxophone, harmonica, vocals), Dan Manzone (banjo), Rob Rainwater (acoustic bass) and Tim St. Jean (mandolin) -  all of whom pour their hearts and souls into this music.

The concerts come to a close on July 31 when Quartetto Vivo becomes the first string quartet to play in the series. Based in the Hartford area, the chamber ensemble plays a repertoire that spans centuries, from Bach to The Beatles and beyond.

As stated above, all concerts start at 6:30 p.m. Limited parking is available on the Estate's grounds, at Wilbur Snow School, 299 Wadsworth Street and at Mercy High School, 1740 Randolph Road. Concerts will go on even in light rain but, if there is more electricity in the sky than on the bandstand, the show will be cancelled.  If there is a threat of bad weather, check the Mansion's website - - or call 860-347-1064.  You can check the EYE as well.

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