Music Under the Stars in Brattleboro

The best time of year for outdoor entertainment in New England is summertime, and Retreat Farm in Brattleboro has just the thing this season.

The Music Under the Stars series returns for its fourth year, with three concerts planned in support of the farm and Brattleboro Music Center.

Fiddle player Becky Tracy and guitarist, pianist, piano and foot percussionist Keith Murphy will close the season with a performance August 20. The couple has been part of the series since its first year, when in dramatic fashion, they and the audience had to run to the barn for cover from a torrential downpour. 

Murphy is a faculty member at Brattleboro Music Center and founder of its Northern Roots Traditional Music Festival. 

He and Tracy have played and recorded together as a duo and as members of several bands, and have toured across the U.S., Canada and in Europe. They perform traditional music from Newfoundland, Quebec, Ireland, and France. 

When the pandemic hit and the couple’s live performances were canceled, they had just released a recording and had CD release concerts planned around the country. They recreated them online, where they also began teaching their Brattleboro Music Center students. More recently, they’ve moved to a hybrid teaching model, with some classes offered in-person and some online.

A group of Murphy’s students were at that stormy concert three years ago, and together they salvaged the set list.

At last summer’s concert, the pair invited a few of their musician friends on-stage with them. 

“It felt like a big moment because we had only done one or two live events since (the beginning of) the pandemic, and we hadn’t done a lot of playing with other people,” said Murphy. “We made it festive for everyone. It was a really big audience and we had perfect weather.”

Next, they will visit Murphy’s native Newfoundland and reconnect with some of their music community, doing some performances there this summer at festivals and visiting music camps.

“We’ve had our share of ups and downs trying to move forward in the performing world (since the pandemic),” he said. “We have a certain amount of cautious optimism going forward.”

Following last year’s concept at Music Under the Stars, this year’s performance will also feature some guest appearances.

 “In the past we would have gotten up and done one of our programs as a duo,” said Murphy. “One of these little discoveries we made is that it’s a fun thing to be able to pull up friends for a piece here and there.”

The Music Under the Stars series, supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Vermont Arts Council, kicks off Saturday, June 25, with a performance by the Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra.

A Brooklyn, N.Y.-based steel pan band, the orchestra was founded in 2015 and in its first year played Citi Field and the New York City Halloween Parade. The band’s mission is “to promote unity throughout the culture and steel pan community all while displaying the band motto of ‘Together As One.’” 

The Vermont Jazz Center Big Band completes the series with a concert Saturday, July 23. The band, in its 20th year, draws on the talent of professional musicians from within an hour’s drive of Brattleboro. Each year, the Vermont Jazz Center hosts one or more guest artists to perform with the ensemble; past artists have included members of the Artie Shaw Orchestra.

Rain dates for all three Music Under the Stars concerts are the following day (Sunday). 

Admission is free. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. at Retreat Farm, with the concert at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome to bring lawn chairs and a picnic, and to enjoy food truck fare and assorted beverages at The Thirsty Goat bar. Donations are welcome in support of Retreat Farm and the Brattleboro Music Center, and to help offset event costs. For more information, visit https://www.retreatfarm.org/events


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