New Hampshire Theatre Project’s Seacoast Sessions continue on April 7 with Ben Baldwin & Kent Allyn. Hosted by Kathleen Somssich of WSCA Radio, Seacoast Sessions is a series of afternoon concerts and interviews with beloved seacoast musicians, a unique opportunity for an intimate conversation with favorite performers.
Vocalist and saxophonist Ben Baldwin is the founder of Ben Baldwin and the Big Note, one of the most popular dance bands on the seacoast since 1975. Named for a mystical concept borrowed from Frank Zappa, The Big Note has a repertoire that is elegant, eclectic and raucously entertaining. Ben is also a member of the music faculty at Berwick Academy.
Kent Allyn plays piano, bass and guitar and is a veteran of 43 years in the Big Note adventure. An in-demand accompanist and studio musician, he is also a key sideman for several groups and songwriters including Susie Burke & David Surette, Cosy Sheridan, Harvey Reid & Joyce Andersen, Cormac McCarthy, Sarah Bauhan and Julie Snow. At Berwick Academy since 1989, Kent teaches private lessons on guitar, piano and electric bass.
On April 7, Kathleen Somssich will talk with Ben and Kent about their multi-faceted musical careers as well as 43 years of performing together.
New Hampshire Theatre Project’s Seacoast Sessions continue on March 10 with Susie Burke & David Surette. Hosted by Kathleen Somssich of WSCA Radio, Seacoast Sessions is a series of afternoon concerts and conversations with beloved seacoast musicians. On March 10, Kathleen will talk with Susie and David about their wide range of musical interests as well the joys and challenges of raising a family while working as professional musicians.
Together since 1988, Susie Burke and David Surette have built a steady following for their own blend of contemporary, traditional, and original folk and acoustic music. Burke's vocal style is at once stunning and heartfelt, and is matched by Surette's fluid fretwork. Both are well-respected within the folk music community and have appeared as backing musicians on numerous recordings. Recipients of Individual Artist Fellowship awards from the NH State Council on the Arts in 1993, Susie and David are also on the Council's Touring Arts roster. They have released five critically acclaimed albums since 1990 on the Madrina Music label, and their latest recording Waiting for the Sun was released in 2015. Together, they bring skill, taste, feeling, and pure enjoyment to their music, and are bringing their music to an ever-widening circle of listeners.
Susie Burke has been singing on Seacoast stages since the early 80s, as a soloist, a member of several local bands, and in several duos, including one with guitar whiz Harvey Reid. Her musical tastes and influences encompass contemporary and traditional folk, swing, country, topical songs, and a capella singing, with detours along the way for Broadway showtunes and classic ballads. "Susie Burke possesses one of the finest, purest ballad sopranos heard in folk music today" writes Scott Alarik in the Boston Globe, noting that "her phrasing is unerringly devoted to the lyric" and that "Burke displays a gift for pulling honest emotional chords - all too rare in these clever and cynical times." Before devoting her energies to music full-time, Burke worked as a day-care teacher, and her love of kids is evident in her wonderful participatory children's concerts.
David Surette has been performing in the Seacoast area since the mid-80s, both with Susie and with a number of other groups and musicians. He is well-known as a top-notch accompanist in New England's contra dance and Celtic music circles, and is also in demand as a studio musician. As a multi-instrumentalist, David brings a variety of stringed sounds to the duo; Folk Roots magazine notes that his "bouzouki, guitar, and mandolin playing is exemplary." In addition to performing and recording, Surette maintains an active teaching schedule, and is head of the folk department at the Concord (NH) Community Music School. He was awarded an NEA travel grant in 1994 to study the traditional music of Brittany, France, and has written a book of Celtic guitar arrangements for Mel Bay Music.
New Hampshire Theatre Project celebrates their 30th anniversary season with Seacoast Sessions, a brand new series of intimate Sunday afternoon concerts and conversations with beloved seacoast musicians, hosted by Kathleen Somssich of WSCA Radio. The series begins on Sunday, February 3 at 2 pm with New England’s “troubadour of the common people,” Cormac McCarthy.
Cormac made his singing debut on WKRC Radio in Cincinnati, as a three-year-old belting out "Davy Crockett" on his father’s radio show. He returned to public performance some 20 years later, singing his own compositions with a bit more experience in his voice. Born in Ohio, but rooted in rural New England since the age of ten, Cormac grew up in towns where the economies teetered on marginal sustenance from logging, and paper and woolen mills. Though the towns were small, his musical influences were not: his father’s love for jazz and classical music introduced Cormac to everything from Errol Garner to Beethoven.
It wasn’t until his sister made a visit home from college, bringing an armful of recordings of Dylan, Baez, and Eric Anderson, that things clicked musically for McCarthy: he traded his clarinet for a Western Auto guitar, purchasing the Black Diamond strings across the street at the barber shop. In his own college years, Cormac studied literature and music and took a great liking to the works of James Joyce and Mississippi John Hurt. He spent most of his time reading, playing guitar, and working in the local mills to pay for school. His college roommate, Bill Morrissey, helped encourage Cormac to make his music more public, and a stint of shared local gigs and storytelling marathons ensued. A trip west followed college, as did an array of different jobs including construction worker, truck driver, street singer, and a season as a migrant worker. Through his music Cormac has succeeded in bringing his lyrical magic to some of these rougher edges of life.
Cormac has been nominated for both Outstanding Folk/Acoustic Act, and Outstanding Folk/ Acoustic Album by the Boston Music Awards. His album Troubled Sleep helped to kick off the Green Linnet Records' prestigious singer-songwriter Redbird Series devoted to the most creative of this generation’s acoustic musicians and songwriters. Cormac was honored to be one of the artists asked to perform in Boston’s WUMB Folk Radio 10th Anniversary Celebration. He has been invited three times to the stage of the Newport Folk Festival, and twice to appear on NPR’s Mountain Stage Live radio show. A fan favorite and regular at the Hartland Folk Festival, Cormac is a frequent special guest to many performances by the most popular musicians of the folk genre. Also known as a humorist and storyteller, Cormac was invited to headline for the Night of Humor and Songwriters in Boston’s Somerville Theater. Fellow musicians and fans alike regard Cormac as one of New England’s finest songwriters. He writes and sings of a heartfelt, sometimes funny, sometimes desperate, sometimes glorious world of common people, struggles, hope, relationships, madness, and love. He sings the poetry of real life with a silky baritone voice and just enough grit.