The Beat Goes On: Deck the halls with holiday shows, from Amherst to Easthampton to Northampton to Turners Falls

Slambovian Circus of Dreams offers a “Very Slambovian Christmas” show Dec. 15 at The Drake in Amherst.

Slambovian Circus of Dreams offers a “Very Slambovian Christmas” show Dec. 15 at The Drake in Amherst. Slambovian Circus facebook page

Jazz/pop singer and songwriter Kimaya Diggs will bring a bunch of musical friends to The Drake on Dec. 16 for her third annual holiday show.

Jazz/pop singer and songwriter Kimaya Diggs will bring a bunch of musical friends to The Drake on Dec. 16 for her third annual holiday show. Kimaya Diggs website

TapRoots, the big Valley ensemble that cooks up a musical stew of soul, funk, salsa, afrobeat and more, will be at the Shea Theater Dec. 15 for a “Winter Ball.”

TapRoots, the big Valley ensemble that cooks up a musical stew of soul, funk, salsa, afrobeat and more, will be at the Shea Theater Dec. 15 for a “Winter Ball.” Photo by Julian Parker-Burns

The Sweetback Sisters, led by vocalists Emily Miller, left, and Zara Bode, come to Northampton’s Academy of Music Dec. 21 for their annual Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular. 

The Sweetback Sisters, led by vocalists Emily Miller, left, and Zara Bode, come to Northampton’s Academy of Music Dec. 21 for their annual Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular.  Photo by Anja Schütz

The Arcadia Players, seen here at Abbey Memorial Chapel at Mount Holyoke College in 2022, perform there again on Saturday, Dec. 16.

The Arcadia Players, seen here at Abbey Memorial Chapel at Mount Holyoke College in 2022, perform there again on Saturday, Dec. 16. Photo by Walter Denny

Darlingside, the alt-folk quartet from Boston, comes to Northampton’s Academy of Music tonight, Dec. 15.

Darlingside, the alt-folk quartet from Boston, comes to Northampton’s Academy of Music tonight, Dec. 15. Darlingside website

Lúnasa, an acclaimed instrumental group from Ireland, come to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on Dec. 17.

Lúnasa, an acclaimed instrumental group from Ireland, come to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on Dec. 17. Image from Lúnasa website

By STEVE PFARRER

Staff Writer

Published: 12-15-2023 11:16 AM

The holidays are nearly upon us and, no surprise, the Valley’s music calendar is chock full of holiday shows over the next week, with some featuring bands playing their versions of seasonal tunes and others focused more on spreading general good cheer.

Here are some of the highlights, starting with a one-two punch at The Drake in Amherst tonight (Friday, Dec. 15) and tomorrow.

Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. Based in New York’s Hudson River Valley, Slambovian Circus begins with a base of Americana and layers in bits of Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Neil Young, The Beatles, the Incredible String Band and late ’60s psychedelia to create a sound that’s been described as “hillbilly Pink Floyd” and “rootsy psychedelia.”

At the group’s “Very Slambovian Christmas” show, they’ll offer a mix of traditional Christmas songs played with a unique twist, as well as some original holiday tunes.

And on Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. at The Drake, jazz/pop singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs is bringing many of her musical friends to the club for her third annual holiday show, described as part jazz, part “campy variety,” and “one part elf magic (if that’s a thing).”

Guest artists including Wallace Field, Naomi Nye, King Manzi, and members of LuxDeluxe will be backed by a swinging jazz trio of Paul Arslanian on piano, Jake Edwards on drums and Reed Sutherland on bass.

  Diggs has also released a new single, “Alone at Christmas” in time for the show, a slow jazz number exploring the idea of spending a quiet holiday by yourself as an antidote to the crush of shopping and socializing: “Sometimes the meaning of holiday joy / gets lost in all the details of the day.”

But the Dec. 16 show, she said in an email, is definitely based on sharing good times. Her role includes “scurrying around behind the scenes, crafting decorations, wrapping faux gifts, measuring and cutting swaths of festive fabric … working as hard as an elf to make sure the show looks, feels, and sounds as magical as possible!”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Jena Schwartz: Things I have not said
As Hadley works on energy storage bylaw, some question why the town has to allow them at all
Residents seek to balance intersection upgrades with preservation of Sunderland character
Don Michak: Dig deeper after scandalous court ruling in Soldiers' Home case
Susan Tracy: Support Ukraine funding
Amherst police chief finalists stress anti-racism cred, discuss other issues in separate meetings with public

More seasonal shows: TapRoots, the big Valley ensemble that plays a mix of funk, soul, salsa, afrobeat, reggae and more, will be part of a “Winter Ball” tonight at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls at 8 p.m. They’ll be joined by Mal Maïz, a Vermont-based group that “explores the psychedelic side of Latin music,” according to program notes.

And no Christmas is complete in the Valley without the Sweetback Sisters, who return to Northampton’s Academy of Music on Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. for their annual Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular. Great musicianship and harmony singing, unique arrangements of Xmas songs, trivia contests and prizes for audience members — it’s always a good time.

Two other entries: The Marigold Theater in Easthampton hosts a free Holiday Jam on Dec. 22 starting at 7:30 p.m. with some top Valley musicians; donations are encouraged for West Springfield’s Cancer House of Hope. And Valley folk favorites The Nields present a holiday show Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at The Parlor Room in Northampton.

 

There are also some seasonal concerts that aren’t based around rocked-up versions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and the like.

On Dec. 16 at Abbey Memorial Chapel at Mount Holyoke College, Arcadia Players will be joined by numerous guest vocalists for a performance of “Messe de Minuit pour Noël” by the French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Charpentier based “Messe de minuit pour Noël” (Midnight Mass for Christmas) on the melodies of 10 French Christmas carols, scoring his 1694 composition for a small chorus and solo vocalists ranging from soprano to alto to tenor to bass, with backing from a small orchestra/chamber ensemble.

For their show, Arcadia Players, the Valley ensemble that specializes in historically informed Baroque and early classical performances, will feature two flutes, 10 string players, a harpsichord/organ player, and one person on theorbo, or bass lute. Twelve vocalists, including six members of the Valley ensemble Cantabile, will be part of the show.

And that’s not all: the Amherst Regional High School Chorale will open the 7:30 p.m. concert with its own selection of seasonal music. “We’re really pleased to have these young people take part in the evening’s program,” Jon Solins, Arcadia Players’ president, said in an email.

For music not geared to the season — though who knows, maybe they have a holiday melody or two in their repertoire — you can check out Lúnasa, an Irish folk supergroup of sorts whose name comes from an ancient Celtic harvest festival.

The five-member band, which comes to the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity in Florence on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m., combines on guitar, fiddle, bass, Uilleann pipes and flute on a range of traditional and contemporary Irish music.

They’ve racked up many accolades doing that, like the one from the The Irish Echo music reviewer who called Lúnasa “the hottest Irish acoustic band on the planet.”

Originally formed in the late 1990s, the band’s lineup has changed a bit over the years, though a number of the original members remain. They all have impressive credentials, like bassist Trevor Hutchinson, who was a key part of The Waterboys, and piper Cillian Vallely, who’s performed with Riverdance and recorded with Bruce Springsteen.

More music on tap

Darlingside, the Boston alt-folk quartet that released a well-received new album, “Everything is Alive,” this summer, will be at the Academy of Music tonight (Dec. 15) at 8 p.m. Singer-songwriter Caitlin Canty opens.

Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield is featuring a group show tonight beginning at 8 p.m. with Chris Goudreau, Tony Batey, The Maladaptive, and Frost Heaves & Hales. Masks are highly recommended, club officials say.

The “Hampgrown Holiday Homecoming” will feature three regional bands — Shantyman, Allovous, and Soulkeys — tonight at the Marigold Theater, along with appearances by local craft vendors, in an event designed to celebrate Valley creativity. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Gateway City Arts in Holyoke, which sadly is closing down its live music programming, is still active this month. Tonight there’s a free dance show starting at 7 p.m. at Race Street Live with retro rockers Johnny and the Flashbacks, and on Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. Minstrels in the Gallery, a tribute to Jethro Tull, takes the stage.

Also on Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., the Divine Theater at Gateway will host a multi-act rock concert with Always Manic, Failed To Say, Lunelle, and Youthyear.

The Kings of Joy include Valley singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault and four other players who previously gigged with the late Boston-based drummer Billy Conway in different incarnations. They’ll offer a mix of blues, rock and more in honor of Conway at The Parlor Room on Dec. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

The Paul Winter Consort, which for over four decades has played an annual winter solstice concert in New York City, will bring the music this year to the Bombyx Center for two concerts on Dec. 22, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.