After a seasonal break, music is to return to the Stoughton Opera House on the last day of January.
The second half of the 2019-20 season gets underway Jan. 31, starting with acoustic music from Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, who began performing as Mandolin Orange in 2009 and have risen to the top of the Americana music scene.
Unfortunately for those who don’t already have tickets, the concert is sold out.
But Opera House director Bill Brehm says it’s an “exciting” way to begin the new year.
“We haven’t had them before and I’m sure they’re going to sound really great in our theater,” he predicted.
With around 30 shows coming to the Opera House in the next five months, fans of acoustic music will have lots of opportunities to satisfy what their ears are craving. While the emphasis is on folk, bluegrass and country music, there’s also gypsy jazz (with Madison’s Harmonious Wail), rock and international styles (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet) on tap.
Brehm said there is a slew of upcoming shows he’s personally anticipating, including trombonist and composer David L. Harris (Saturday, Feb. 29), The Travelin’ McCourys (Saturday, March 7), Ron Artis II and the Truth (Wednesday, March 18) and a solo performance by singer-songwriter Darrell Scott (Thursday, March 26).
Other artists Brehm mentioned include Taj Mahal (Thursday, April 23), Rodney Crowell (Friday, April 24) and Peter Rowan (Saturday, May 2).
Brehm’s choices overlap with a short list favored by house manager Brandi Brandes, who also noted the upcoming Harris and Artis concerts, along with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, who’ll perform country and bluegrass music on Friday, April 17.
“Listening to them is like taking a bluegrass and country master’s class,” Brandes said. “They feature extraordinary musicianship.”
Brehm described Artis as a “great guitar player from Hawaii” who’s adept on both acoustic and electric instruments. His music ranges from introspective acoustic sounds to high-energy electric guitar accompanied by bass and drums.
Brandes said Artis has a “phenomenal sound” that blends a number of styles. “He’s also a great storyteller,” she observed.
Both Brehm and Brandes have high praise and expectations for the David L. Harris performance, whose music “embodies the edge of modern jazz and the sultriness of blues,” according to an Opera House billing.
“I’m a huge fan of creative musicians,” Brandes said. “He’s one of those musicians who really digs deep and comes up with his own sound.
You can hear his New Orleans and Southern-jazz influences, and he plays music that’s honest and from the heart,” she added.
Brandes, who took the job as Opera House manager in September after relocating from San Francisco, told the Hub she’s been impressed with the local culture. She said that she’s “continually blown away” by Stoughton’s sense of culture and community.
“The thing that really blew me away is how many people walk into the box office and order tickets for the artists they like, but then also for ones they’re not familiar with,” she said. “That’s unheard of in the Bay Area. There, everyone is super drilled down into their very specific preferences.”
Brandes also said she loves working in the historic Opera House building and its “story.”
“I keep comparing it to the Bay Area,” she reflected. “The Bay Area is so much about huge institutions and corporate sponsors, and the Opera House is the story of a huge community of individuals who came together and rolled up their sleeves to make something amazing happen. It’s just great to be a part of that.”
Waxing philosophical, Brehm said it’s a challenge to overcome the political divisiveness in the country right now, but the Opera House hopes to address it by “treating everyone with respect and bringing great music to local audiences.”