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Luna Pizza, Corey Rieman Debut Under 21 Open Mic

SIMSBURY — There’s numerous open mic events in the Farmington Valley but a new once-a-month offering at Luna Pizza specifically caters to youth under the age of 21.

“We want to be an outlet for young musicians and artists,” said host Corey Rieman, who hosted the first event earlier this month.  … Continue Reading

Images of Canton: An Evening of Percussion 2016

The Canton High School Percussion Ensemble recently presented the 4th Annual Evening of Percussion, directed by Artist in Residence Bob Rush. The evening featured the ensemble as well as a myriad of middle- and high-school groups. Selections included

  • Crescendo for Percussion by Alexander Lepak – Symphonic Band Percussion
  • Mi Milagro by Ralph Hicks – Seventh Grade Percussion
  • Afterthoughts by Alice Gomez – Percussion Ensemble
  • We Work the Black Seam by Sting, Arrangement Bob Rush – Eighth Grade Percussion
  • The Rock Syndicate by Murray Houllif – Freshmen Percussion
  • Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber – Canton High School Percussion
  • Tell it all Pat Metheny/Lyle Mays arr. Bob Rush – Percussion Ensemble
  • Music for Pieces of Wood by Stephen Reich – Rowan Cookman, Mia Tuccillo, John Solomon, Zach Oliver, Jacob Allen.
  • Wildwood for Percussion Ensemble by Matt Bissonnette arr. Paul Rennick – Entire Cast

Second Annual Collinsville Hot Slated for July 16

Anatolia’s Dance of Fire at the 2015 Collinsville Hot. Photo by John Fitts

By John Fitts

As organizers plan for the second Collinsville Hot event on July 16, the idea is to incorporate many of the elements from last year while tweaking a few details.

Bob Bessel, a board member for Canton Main Street, the umbrella organization for the event, estimates that some 4,000 people enjoyed last year’s festivities.

“We started this thing with high hopes and it exceeded all of them last year,” Bessel said. “We’re really excited about doing even better this year.” … Continue Reading

Collinsville Author Takes a ‘Real’ Look at Maple Sugaring in New England

By John Fitts 

It’s easy to wax nostalgic about Maple Sugaring. But while it might contain elements of tradition, David K. Leff’s recent book on the subject is no mere trip down memory lane.

Rather in “Maple Sugaring: Keeping it Real in New England,” Leff writes about current state of the industry, its hobbyists, longevity, innovations and ongoing threats.

Through personal stories of producers in all six New England states. Starting in 2008, he interviewed some 85 sugar makers before the book was published last year.

Few make a living with the pursuit but producers come from all walks of life, said Leff, long-time Collinsville resident.

“You name a walk of life and I’ll find a sugar maker,” Leff said. “Sugar makers are so interesting.”

In the book, Leff talks about other aspects of sugaring, such as environmental threats to area maple trees, such as  invasive species and global warming. Leff also conveys the art and science behind sugaring.

Innovations such as reverse osmosis, which drastically reduces boiling time and tubing, which save time and labor costs, were really key as to why sugaring remains practical for so many. … Continue Reading

Evening of Percussion Takes Place at Canton High School on Friday

PercFlyerCourtesy of John Solomon

The 4th Annual An Evening of Percussion, a concert put on by the Canton High School Percussion Ensemble, will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday April 22, 2016 in the High School auditorium.  The concert will contain pieces across a wide range of musical styles performed by the High School Percussion Ensemble as well as featured pieces by the 7th and 8th grade percussion classes and the High School advanced percussion class.

Under the direction of Artist in Residence Bob Rush, the Canton High School Percussion Ensemble has put on An Evening of Percussion for the past 3 years, growing each year as it has attracted greater audiences to appreciate the wonders and beauty of percussion music.

This year’s program promises to accommodate practically any and all musical cravings, including some standard repertoire from composers Alexander Lepak and  Alice Gomez, as well as dual composer and mathematician Stephen Reich. The Middle School percussion classes will be featured on pieces by Ralph Hicks and a more contemporary selection by Sting as well as helping out on the evening’s Caribbean-style grand finale, “Wildwood” by Matt Bissonette.  Opposite ends of the musical spectrum round out the evening’s program with Bob Rush’s original arrangement of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays’ “Tell It All” from First Circle, “The Rock Syndicate,” a piece for Body Percussion by Murray Houliff, and timeless classic, Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” transcribed for Marimbas.

I hope that you are able to accept this invitation and look forward to seeing you at the concert.  There will be no charge for admission at the door but be sure to arrive a little early to check out the Percussion Petting Zoo in the lobby that will represent a vast selection of percussion instruments.

Collinsville-Based Artist to Host Reception for ‘Photographs of Gazelle Powers’

On Friday, April 22, Kevin Stiles will host a reception for “Photographs of Gazelle Powers.” Photo by Kevin Stiles

On Friday, April 22, Kevin Stiles will host a reception for “Photographs of Gazelle Powers.”
Photo by Kevin Stiles

By John Fitts

It was approximately two years ago when Collinsville-based artist Kevin Stiles began working with Maryland model Gazelle Powers.

That work has resulted in a series of photographs – and a few drawings – that showcase Powers’ sultry female figure, often nude, in the midst of some of the area’s most beautiful natural settings. Among the locations featured are those in Collinsville, Litchfield, Cornwall and Hartland.

This Friday, Stiles will host a reception for “Photographs of Gazelle Powers” at his Collinsville studio on River Street. It will be an evening with art, refreshment and live music.

For Stiles, Powers brings a natural beauty, inquisitive mind and creative spirit.

“She’s just really good in terms of being a creative person,” Stiles said.

Stiles said he had run across from Powers on modeling/photographer sites and first met her when a Virginia-based photographer came up to have Stiles perform some tattoo work. He brought Powers along.

And while there was no set agenda to working with a black model, Stiles said it has become purposeful and he’s thrilled to showcase a less common version of beauty and expand “visual dialogue.”

“Our culture is saturated with the Caucasian version of beauty and its representation in nature and the world around us,” he wrote in an artist’s statement. “It was important to me that this black woman, Gazelle, represent beauty and nature in a way not often given a platform. And by doing so – help us expand our visual dialogue beyond what we typically see.”

… Continue Reading

Jeff Holmes Big Band to Perform April 24 Canton High School

Jeff Holmes.

Jeff Holmes.

Submitted Release

CANTON — Canton Parents for Music and the Canton Public Schools Music Department are proud to host Jeff Holmes Big Band on Sunday, April 24, 2016 as the final concert in their 2016 benefit concert series to support the Canton Public Schools music program.

The Jeff Holmes Big Band featuring vocalist Dawning Holmes will be playing jazz, blues and soul. Band leader/trumpeter/pianist Jeff Holmes is responsible for the ensemble’s book of arrangements and original compositions and has contributed works to the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Ernie Watts, the Big Apple Circus, John Abercrombie and Sheila Jordan among others. He is also Director of Jazz Studies and Artistic Director of Jazz In July at UMASS Amherst. In addition to her work with the big band, Dawning Holmes has sung in jazz clubs from New York City to London and has guested with both Paul Winter and the UMASS Studio Orchestra/Jazz Ensemble I. She performs pieces made popular by Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse and many more.
… Continue Reading

Exhibition Explores One Man’s Passion For The Visual Arts

Kevin Rita

Kevin Rita

Submitted Release 

CANTON – The Annual Maxwell Shepherd Memorial Invitational Exhibition will explore one man’s passion for the visual arts through his private collection that ranges from paintings to sculpture to book illustrations to other expressions of the human hand and mind.

“The Collections of Kevin Rita: Connections from a Life in Art,” will run from Friday, April 22 to Sunday, May 22 at the Gallery on the Green, corner of Dowd Ave. and Route 44. The exhibition is organized and sponsored by the Maxwell Shepherd Memorial Arts Fund.

Kevin Rita has spent most of his life immersed in the arts as a curator, collector, and dealer of rare books and fine art. He fell in love with books at an early age. As he grew older his interest in books expanded beyond the stories within their covers. He came to appreciate the work of illustrators whose art gave books an additional creative dimension.

This lit the fire that led him to frequent galleries and expand his knowledge of, and appreciation for, artistic creation. For more than three decades he has collected a wide variety of objects, many of which are included in the Gallery on the Green exhibition. His interest is primarily American art, encompassing a variety of genres from landscapes to abstract pieces.

“My collection is very personal,” Rita said. “Every piece matters to me.”

… Continue Reading

Canton Library Patrons Now Have Access to On-Demand Digital Service for Movies, Music, eBooks and More

Canton Public Library has partnered with hoopla digital to offer streaming and temporary downloads for numerous items. Photo by John Fitts

Canton Public Library has partnered with hoopla digital to offer streaming and temporary downloads for numerous items.
Photo by John Fitts

Thanks to the Friends of Canton Public Library, patrons now have access to thousands of movies, television shows, music, eBooks, audio books and more.

On Thursday, the library formally announced a new partnership with hoopla digital, which gives Canton residents with a library card access to the service for streaming and temporary downloads. More than 500,000 titles are available. Canton is the thirty-seventh library system in Connecticut to partner with hoopla digital.

“The reality is that people, at this point, are used to online content,” said Sarah McCusker, Director at Canton Public Library. “We see this as a way to meet our users where they are.”

McCusker said there are many advantages to the service including the availability of content for all ages, the on-demand type service, vast selection and compatibility with many platforms on smartphones, tablets and computers. … Continue Reading

Time in Collinsville Helped Inspire Parsonsfield

Parsonsfield in Collinsville. Winter Caplanson

Parsonsfield in Collinsville.
Winter Caplanson

By John Fitts 

COLLINSVILLE — For members of the band Parsonsfield, recording and rehearsing at an old factory complex, in the shadow of the Farmington River Trail, certainly had its highs and lows.

From May to October of 2015, the self-described alt/folk band set up shop in a space at the former Collins Company complex.

“Having a dedicated space for our creativity and our work was something we hadn’t really experience before,” said Chris Freeman, (vocals, guitar, banjo, pump organ and saw). “It was an inspiring place (but) creepy at night.”

But the band took advantage of that ambience, letting some of the sounds from the creaky buildings, barking dogs, and rumblings from the rail trail bleed on to recorded takes.

“It’s totally part of the album and reflected on it,” Freeman said, adding that it could be too much at times. “Some things were ruined and some were helped by people going over the bike path.” … Continue Reading


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