Close your eyes and feel the music

Glad rhythms — how can I describe the sound for you? Eight marimbas are cascading tones like summer rain. Within a few beats, most of the audience is on their feet. We’re masked, and we’re keeping careful distance, but we’re dancing together.

The room is basking in the energy of college students cheering their friends at the solos. It’s a Friday night, dropping down from 20 degrees with a keen edge to the wind, and the Zambezi Marimba Band are playing live.

They’re surrounded by brass and jazz piano and drums. The band has more marimba players than marimbas, so at the begining of every song the musicians change over with a flexibility that feels casual. It’s been a long time since I felt this charge — performers handing the music back and forth in buoyant confidence, like old friends sharing inside jokes.

A young man and woman are singing jazz, trading lines at microphones across the room from each other. A violinist sends the descant overhead, high and fast and impossibly fluid. The bandeader, Tendai Muparutsa, is singing a contemporary song from Zimbabwe in his clear, carrying tenor. And for an hour the night is warm.

Tendai Muparutsa, leader of the Zambezi Marimba Band, is an internationally known performer, ethnomusicologist and bandleader, and he’s here, leading the band as an artist in residence at Williams College. These photos above are all press images courtesy of Williams College and the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance. All the pandemic precautions are in place, and Williams College events are only open to the college this semester for safety, students and faculty and staff, and because I’m putting in a few hours a week with oral histories here, I had the chance to hear them. And we have live music around us …

Concerts coming up …

Modernism Panel at Westside Riverway Park: In this public roundtable, scholars and Mastheads team members will discuss the art and literature of the Berkshires during the modernist period (1914-1945) and how modernist style continues to impact the region today.
May 19 2022 @ 4:00 pm
Singer-songwriter Johnny Irion performs songs written by elementary school students from Morningside and Conte Community Schools in a free concert with the Mastheads.
The Metropolitan Opera presents Lucia de Lammermoor. Press image courtesy of the Mahaiwe.
May 21 2022 @ 1:00 pm
The Mahaiwe will screen the Metropolitan Opera’s Lucia di Lammermoor broadcast live in HD with Soprano Nadine Sierra.
Artists and performers present their work at the Marble House. Press photo courtesy of Marble House Project
May 21 2022 @ 2:00 pm
Artists in Residence at the Marble House will share their work in the first Artseed open house of the summer.
A woman stands by a blue and gold mural showing a woman's face half covered by a Ukrainain flag. Creative Commons Courtesy Photo
May 21 2022 @ 7:30 pm
Cantilena Chamber Choir presents a concert honoring the victims of the war in Ukraine with guest speaker James Brooke.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

If you’d like to see the website grow, you can join me for a few dollars a month, enough for a cup of coffee and a cider doughnut. Members get access to extra stories and multimedia, itineraries a bookmark tool. Let me know what you're looking for, and we’ll explore together.

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