Middlesex Bandstand Music Series: High level performers bely town’s tiny size

Middlesex Bandstand Music Series: High level performers bely town’s tiny size

Jun 30, 2023

Vermonters are increasingly interested in world music and the entertainment committee at the Middlesex Bandstand Summer Concert Series has planned a series of six concerts for its 17th season that feature several groups with an international flavor. The setting for the concerts is a natural bowl where listeners can relax in chairs or blankets in a family friendly atmosphere.

“Last year, we hosted a number of terrific musicians from outside the United States, and it was wildly successful,” said committee member Elliot Burg, “so we’ve decided to continue that approach this year while at the same time presenting some excellent local acts.”

“Middlesex may be a small town,” he added, “but we’re committed to bringing the best in music to our community, from everywhere, summer after summer.”

The Wednesday evening concerts run from July 5 through Aug. 9 starting at 6:30 p.m. with a variety of homegrown entertainers and a program that will include groups from South Africa, Haiti and Africa-by-way-of-Vermont, including award-winning South African singer Nomfusi.

The series kicks off July 5 with Myra Flynn. The award-winning singer, a Vermont native, is making her second appearance on the series. With four albums to her credit, the most recent of which, “Never Mind the Mourning,” Seven Days called “arguably her best.” Flynn’s indie/soul songs combine with a powerful and lyrical delivery that will have fans on their feet.

For July 12 the series has A2VT, which was voted Vermont’s best hip-hop group in 2022. A2VT (short for Africa to Vermont) brings together members of the African diaspora who came to Vermont from Somalia, Congo, Tanzania and Burundi, and made the state their home. Performing their songs in eight languages, they perform an exciting mix of African musical and dance roots and Western pop and hip-hop.

“There’s a message for everybody in our music, especially young people. Music is a form of human connection,” said a group member.

On July 19 Nomfusi, a world-renowned singer whose music is a fearless mix of the Xhosa sounds of her childhood in the squatter camps of South Africa, ballads touched by gospel and American soul, and Afropop. She has appeared at prestigious festivals in North America and Europe, performed with Angelique Kidjo, opened for Lionel Richie and portrayed Miriam Makeba in the 2014 film “Long Walk to Freedom” about the life of Nelson Mandela. Nomfusi is in the United States on a State Department Center Stage tour.

“The bandstand is very honored to have her perform in Middlesex,” Berg said.

The July 26 show features Buffalo Rose, a charismatic six-member modern folk/Americana band from Pittsburgh. In the words of one music critic, “Don’t be surprised if the vocals give you goosebumps.” Another has described the band as “a must-listen for everyone with ears.” With two albums and four EPs to their credit, Buffalo Rose has co-written songs with folk music legend Tom Paxton, and in 2022 the group won top honors in the 18th annual International Acoustic Music Awards.

Aug. 2 features Wesli, the stage name of Wesley Louissaint, a Haitian-Canadian musician who built his first guitar out of an old oil can and nylon shoelace when he was 8 years old. His current band unites Haitian voodoo and rara with roots, Afrobeat and hip-hop for what is described as “an exciting and richly engaging sound.” In 2020, he won the Canadian Folk Music Award for Artist of the Year and the Independent Music Award for World Traditional Song, and in 2019 he received Canada’s Juno Award for World Music Album of the Year.

The series finale on Aug. 9 brings the music back to Vermont with Nick Cassarino, the Vermont-born guitar prodigy and singer-songwriter. Cassarino has been called a master of a staggering range of musical genres, among them rock, folk, jazz, classical, gospel, soul, hip-hop, funk and world music. He recently toured with the super-group The Nth Power. “A powerful … front man, unfurling love-struck lyrics with a style that complements his superior guitar chops” (Seven Days), Cassarino “oozes more soul in one finger than most guitarists could create in a lifetime” (Royal Artist Group).