Judith Arts Society 2014-2015 Season is Set
Information shared by Vicky McCray, Judith Basin Press News-Editor
Judith Arts Society Board members attended the Montana Performing Arts Consortium's (MPAC's) 31st Annual Showcase in Fort Benton in January and were treated to a long list of fabulous performers. With only 12 minutes to impress their crowd, the artists made choosing a season difficult, but fun. Of course, small organizations like the JAS must also take into serious consideration the price tags set by performers. Fortunately, block-booking lends a hand with prices as well.
At the end of the showcase weekend, board members were hopeful concerning three presenters and still thinking about a fourth. Today, the hoping and the thinking are over and JAS's 2014-2015 performing arts season has been set. And it includes the three artists board members were keeping their fingers crossed on.
Opening the season on Friday, August 29, is Two Bit Franks, a band home-based in Bozeman. The Franks are a five-piece contemporary bluegrass band that focuses on original music and features three-part harmony and tight, driving instrumentals. Their creative solos, hot vocals, and interesting arrangements have pleased listeners at Big Sky's Big Grass Bluegrass Festival, Missoula's River City Roots Festival, and the Livingston Summerfest. They have also played countless shows in local pubs, clubs, and venues and are quickly becoming the go-to band for parties and weddings throughout the region.
Other presenters have commented on the band's professionalism and musical ability. They have also noted the ease with which the Two Bit Franks engage an audience, forcing even the most stuffy listener to become a toe-tapping fool.
The band includes lead vocalist and guitarist John Lowell, who some may recognize from Growling Old Men. His well-crafted songs and warm, rich voice give this contemporary bluegrass group their distinctive sound.
Tom Murphy lends his voice to Lowell's and his talent on the mandolin. Folks will want to pay close attention to his dazzling fingerwork.
Upright bass player Russ Smith keeps the beat and adds lead vocals to several songs.
Jeff Shouse has been playing the banjo for 35 years and is a master.
The mandocello, played by Kevin Fabozzi, is not an instrument typically seen in these parts, so it will draw attention from the crowd. Fabozzi also plays mandolin and adds his voice to the vocals.
This first concert with the Two Bit Franks is JAS's popular Pub Night and is held at the Utica Community Hall. The evening includes great hors d'oeuvres and refreshments, which will be ready to serve Friday evening at 6:30. The music begins at 7 p.m., but folks are encouraged to come early, get a good seat, and enjoy the bluegrass. Admission is by season ticket or $15 at the door.
Otter Creek is booked for Sunday, October 19, and will play in the Hobson School multipurpose room. This man and wife duo has won multiple awards for their virtuosic instrumentals, adept songwriting, and visionary arrangements of traditional and original songs. They have 10 instruments between them and 53 strings to tune, and according to a California reviewer "combine folk music with old time, sprinkle it with a seasoning of Celtic and western roots, and produce a wonderful sound that is both unique and refreshing."
Peter and Mary Danzig burst onto the national folk scene in 2012 with back-to-back hit albums on the folk charts. Their harmony is wonderful and they are passionate in their craft.
The Danzig's three daughters, the Three Muses, often appear on stage with them. Their three-part harmony and infectious charm never fail to put a smile on every face in the room. The JAS board can only hope the girls will be with Mom and Dad.
Otter Creek bursts onto the Hobson stage at 4 p.m. on October 19. Admission to this concert is by season ticket or at the door.
The duo will also present a school concert, the lucky school yet to be determined.
The new year welcomes Jonathan Kingham to Montana all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. His singing has been featured in films, soap operas and even the WB network’s hit show “Felicity." He splits his time between touring the country and writing, recording and producing.
At Consortium JAS board members were blown away by Kingham's stage presence and his ability to interact with the audience. Interest in him was high during the block-booking session, making a Montana tour possible. Fortunately for the JAS audience, Kingham's tour will include Hobson. The artist can be seen, heard, and appreciated on the Hobson stage in the school's multipurpose room on Sunday, January 18, beginning at 4 p.m.
Kingham weaves folk, jazz, country, and R&B sensibilities seamlessly together in an upbeat acoustic concert. He is also a gifted lyrical improvisational artist. He can put together a song in a matter of minutes with an idea or just a word from the audience. His quick freestyle wit is perfect for a Sunday afternoon in Hobson. Admission to this concert is by season ticket or at the door.
The guitar player and songwriter will also present a school concert on Monday morning following the JAS concert. The where will be determined at a later date.
It seems like every year MPAC's showcase presents a group that is the favorite of every presenting organization, a group that simply gives listeners goosebumps for 12 minutes.
Last year it was the Russians – Trio Voronezh – and thanks again to block-booking, a Montana tour was possible. Anyone who saw Vladimir Volokhin, Valerie Petrukhin, and Sergei Teleshev on the Hobson stage in March would have to agree what they had heard was not hype. These guys were good and so personable.
Well, this year presenters were "wowed" by the International String Trio, which is based out of Boston. Of course, this location makes them expensive to begin with, but with so many organizations interested in these three talented musicians, a Montana tour was put together. They will share their talents with the JAS audience on Sunday, February 15, 4 p.m. in the Hobson multipurpose room.
The trio is made up three exceptionally talented musicians who hail from Russia, Japan, and England. All three are alumni of Boston's Berklee College of Music (Hobson has a native daughter, Adessa Campbell, currently attending the same college).
The International String Trio prides itself on its stylistic diversity, delivering gypsy jazz, Appalachian folk, acoustic world music (Irish, Klezmer, Russian, Italian, French, Bluegrass, etc.), virtuosic classical arrangements, and popular songs from movie sound tracks.
Admission to this concert is by season ticket or at the door. The trio will perform Monday morning, February 16, at the Stanford School.
JAS season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through any JAS board member: Conni Kaufman at 406-423-5332, Norma Zimmer at 406-566-2651, and Vicky McCray at 406-735-4429.
The Judith Arts Society has been in existence since 1984. Originally established as the Judith Cultural Committee, it is a non-profit corporation with a Board of Directors that meets as necessary.
In 1988 the Committee applied for an IRS non-profit determination, which allowed the Board to apply for available grants from state and national art groups. The present name was selected in 1996 through the aid of a contest.
Today the JAS receives partial funding from Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), Montana Performing Arts Consortium, National Endowment for the Arts, Montana Arts Council, Montana Cultural Trust, and a couple of local endowment funds, The Hobson Endowment Fund and the Judith Basin Endowment Fund. Business sponsors, ticket holders, and private donors also fund the organization.
Choosing a broad selection of performers, with at least one performance being a cross-cultural performance, is the Board's goal. They feel they have met their goal again this year and look forward to a fun and well-attended concert series this season.
For those who have never participated in this program, now is the time to give it a try. This is inexpensive professional entertainment for the whole family.
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CHARLES M. RUSSELL
Special appreciation goes out to the local merchants,