Q & A with Matt Alber

July 4, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

Sweet and tender, talented and down-to-earth, Matt Alber is a rising star. Returning after packing the house in Provincetown last year, Alber looks forward to his series of concerts at the Crown and Anchor this Bear Week. Alber took some time to chat with Provincetown Magazine about what inspires him musically, breaking the shackles of conservative Christianity, and the culture shock of moving from Kansas to San Francisco. 


Provincetown Magazine: Who are your biggest musical influences?

Matt Alber: My earliest musical memory is sneaking out of bed to watch my dad play Rachmaninoff. Listening to my Dad play piano was entrancing. He plays so passionately and really leans into every phrase because he felt it that way. He opened up a window into music for me by doing that and I’ve been playing that way since I can remember.

 PM: You refer to the “sacred place where music happens.” Is music something that is tied to spirituality or religion for you?

MA: I had a pretty terrible experience with organized religion growing up. I was brainwashed by fundamentalists, at age 15, into believing I was going to hell for being gay, and spent most of high school praying I would be “healed.” Thankfully, I got an answer to those prayers and woke up from the bubble of fundy Christianity – it dawned on me that God wasn’t anything like they’d told me and that I should embrace who I am. Writing songs about my experiences and sharing them with people is a catharsis and a real privilege. It requires creating a sort of sacred space, though, with different boundaries and permissions inside the room than out in the real world where we honk and squawk at each other. I try to lead the way with my guitar and my voice, but it really requires the audience’s willingness to go there with me. I’m always amazed when they do. 

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What I Do is Who I Am

June 27, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

A conversation with Rosanne Cash

The Outer Cape isn’t exactly the heart of the country music scene, but then again, “neither am I!” laughs Rosanne Cash, who will be appearing at the Payomet Performing Arts Center in North Truro on July 3 for the second year in a row. “We all play the same circuits—I think it was Patty Larkin who first told us about Cape Cod, and coming out here just seemed perfect and fun,” she says. “They asked us again this year, and we said yes!”

Her most recent album, The List, is Cash’s tribute album to the greats of country music, inspired by the list of 100 “essential country songs” her father, country-music legend Johnny Cash, gave to her by way of a musical education; she’s said,  “I looked to that list as a standard of excellence, and to remind myself of the tradition from which I come. This album enables me to validate the connection to my heritage rather than run away from it, and to tie all the threads together: past and future, legacy and youth, tradition and timelessness.”

The timelessness piece is interesting, and it’s a short step to wondering what recent songs might be added to that canon. “I’ve often asked myself that,” Cash answers. “You know, what would be added after 1973 … but the list is so long! Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Lucinda, Kris Kristofferson—and some standards, too, like ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ There’s so much out there…”

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From the Beatles to Brahams

May 9, 2012 5:00 am0 comments

A Decade of Music with the Outer Cape Chorale


As spring rain forms puddles in the street, and gray clouds hide the blue sky above, it can be hard to see the beauty in things. But looking out the window of his Commercial Street home overlooking the Bay, Outer Cape Chorale director Jon Arterton admires the beauty of the ever-changing view. 

“The other day we saw a fox running along the beach,” he recalls as he grabs a pair of binoculars to get a better look at a black shape in the distance.

Arterton moved to Provincetown in 1993. It was several years later, in 2002, that he found himself “semi-retired” and wanting to return to conducting, in which he’d majored in graduate school. Serendipitously, the Provincetown Choral Society found itself leaderless when Betty Kelly, who’d led it for 35 years or so, decided to call it quits. It was under these circumstances that the Outer Cape Chorale was formed.

The Outer Cape Chorale celebrates its tenth year with performances of Johannes Brahms’ beautiful Ein Deutsches Requiem this month and in the fall, a program of Stephen Sondheim favorites. It is this range of material that has made the Chorale an incredibly popular group, and their biannual concerts eagerly anticipated.

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BETTY – Making Their Own Rules

October 11, 2011 5:00 am0 comments

altIf you were in a band in the 1980s, your path toward fame and fortune – in other words, “success,” was fairly clear and certainly predetermined. Play a bunch of gigs in a major city until you get noticed, make a music video and sign with a major label, get on MTV, done. As simple as it seemed, the process was almost completely out of your hands and it relied on the not-necessarily-brilliant tastes of the recording industry.
Some bands made it through that traditional route; many more found themselves eaten alive by it. But a few intrepid rockers made it out alive, securing a place for themselves in the indie rock explosion without giving in to the record industry’s whims, carving out their own spot for themselves. BETTY is one such band.
“The music industry came to us. We’ve always been D.I.Y. and that’s what the music industry is now,” says Elizabeth Ziff, the band’s guitarist. “We’ve always been sort of reinventing ourselves or pushing what it means to be in a band or be in a group… We’ve never really done the ‘straight’ path,” she adds with a laugh.
BETTY (intentionally spelled with all capitals, by the way) came on the scene in the late 1980s with Ziff, her sister Amy on cello, and Alyson Palmer on bass. All three claim vocal credit and the current lineup also features Tony Salvatore on guitar and drummer Mino Gori.

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Q & A with Holly Near

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altHolly Near is a multifaceted icon of music, feminism, and activism. Independent and guided by unwavering integrity, Near has forged a unique career mixing her passion for music and human dignity. Near’s portrait hangs at The Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, along with those of other social change artists, including Paul Robeson, Marion Anderson, Pete Seeger, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Joan Baez, Harry Belafonte, and Woody Guthrie. As an activist, she traveled to Juarez, Mexico, joining Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, and Christine Lahti to protest the uninvestigated killing of hundreds of young women. Near has received numerous awards, including honors from the A.C.L.U., the National Lawyers Guild, the National Organization for Women, National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, Ms. Magazine (Woman of the Year), the Legends of Women’s Music Award, and the Impact Fund. Originally from Potter Valley, California, Near was an actress in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, appearing in episodes of All in the Family and The Partridge Family, the films Slaughterhouse-Five and Minnie and Moskowitz, and on Broadway in the counter-cultural musical Hair. But she made a choice to pursue music, releasing 26 albums so far. She also wrote the iconic song “We Are A Gentle Angry People,” a response to the assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1978. Near took some time prior to traveling to Provincetown to talk about her storied career, her Women’s Week show, and the future of activism in America.

Provincetown Magazine:
Early in your career you were on Broadway in Hair. That must have been quite an experience. What was it like being part of such a monumental and historic piece of musical theater?
Holly Near: I didn’t know it was monumental and historic at the time. I did know it was contemporary and outspoken and a success. There were occasional bomb scares where the theater had to be cleared. Sometimes someone would storm out during the nude scene or when the flag touched the ground. Hard to imagine how the world will see us decades later.
PM: What made you choose singing over acting?
HN: I was a better singer!

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REVIEW: Karen Grenier’s “Crazy” Love CD

5:00 am0 comments


altFor some reason love songs never really go out of style. Since the beginning of songwriting history, love has been a favorite topic for musicians and Karen Grenier is no different. Her pleasant singing voice, rhythmic energy, and straightforward approach on her latest CD Crazy Love make for an uplifting soundtrack to your daily commute, a get together with friends, or as you go about your day.
The tracks on this CD are overwhelmingly up-tempo, free of angst-ridden tirades or mournful ballads that only serve to make a bad mood worse. Grenier’s approach is bright, light, and soothing.
If Grenier’s message isn’t abundantly clear from her musical style, she includes a written statement on the inside of the CD cover that speaks volumes about what you will find on the album: “Crazy Love is a collection of songs inspired by love. We experience love in moments. We find it in the ups and downs of life; in absence and in togetherness, in joy and in pain. Mostly, we find love in the ordinary. Love is serious and silly, difficult yet simple, rational and crazy, personal and communal. It is freely given and freely received. Love is part of the journey, part of us, when we are open to each other.”

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Q & A with Whit Smith of Hot Club of Cowtown

October 4, 2011 5:00 am0 comments

By Steve Desroches It’s not often that the music of Austin, Texas, makes its way up to our region, but Payomet Performing Arts Center is capping off its season of incredible, eclectic music programming with the western swing/jazz/indie band Hot Club of Cowtown. As it turns out, this Texas trio [...]

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The Ballad of Larry Beau

September 28, 2011 2:58 pm0 comments

There is a certain magnetism to Provincetown that deeply pulls at those looking for a new life, to create without restraint, or to simply rest at the end of the road after a long and hard journey. It’s that energy that has drawn thousands of artists and writers to town, and perhaps it is that same force that blew the Pilgrims off course from their intended destination near the mouth of the Hudson River, bringing the Mayflower to what is now Provincetown Harbor.
It was aboard the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor on November 20, 1620, that Susanna White gave birth to a baby boy, the first child born to the Pilgrims in the “New World.” She named him Peregrine, a name that means “one who journeys to foreign lands” or “wanderer.” It is then indeed appropriate that it’s here in Provincetown that Declan Burke was introduced to Peregrine White, at least the memory of him some 400 years later. Both wanderers, both destined to become part of the mythologically tinged fabric of Provincetown.

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I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Billy!

August 16, 2011 5:00 am0 comments

altBilly Hough was living in New Orleans and had joined a punk band called Surrender Dorothy not long after being part of a folk duo called Anubis in the late 1980’s. He didn’t like his voice, especially when compared to the hard edge his band mates had in their performance arsenal. He needed to rough it up; he needed to take some sandpaper to the smooth musical style he was used to.
“I would go home and listen to Nirvana and Janis Joplin and I screamed along to toughen up my voice,” says Hough. “I learned to scream.”
Those screaming sessions clearly paid off. The multi-talented Hough, along with bass player Sue Goldberg, are tearing through their sixth season of Scream Along With Billy, a cabaret night of rock and roll.  The two close friends created, and continue to produce, an intimate, raucous evening of music and stream-of-consciousness monologues.
“It all happened by accident,” says Hough, as to how Scream Along got its start in 2006.
Hough began playing the piano at the Porch Bar at the Gifford House at the invitation of bartender Bobby Blinn and manager Gregg Daniels. Performing several nights a week at the Gifford House, which he still does, was a risk for a rock and roll musician in a piano bar. In the beginning, Hough wasn’t exactly popular with the crowd at the Gifford House, he notes. But Daniels stood by him knowing that he would catch on, something Hough is grateful for, which is why he says the Gifford House is like a second home to him. When Blinn moved over to work at Enzo, he and manager Jen White offered Hough a performance slot. Not wanting to compete against himself, he decided to create something completely different.

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Anything Can Happen

5:00 am0 comments

altShe’s coming to Provincetown as a special and unexpected treat: Ana Gasteyer was scheduled to appear at the Art House but had to cancel because of scheduling conflicts with a new sitcom, and Christine Ebersole graciously agreed to appear in Ana’s place in the Art House Broadway series this summer. And the Art House couldn’t be more pleased. 
    “I am over the moon that Christine Ebersole is coming to Provincetown to play the Art House,” says producing artistic director Mark Cortale. “This is a dream booking for our Broadway at the Art House series, and I am thrilled that this new series has attracted such major talent so quickly. Seth Rudetsky, who hosts the series, says that Christine will be singing incredible songs and that she’ll also have hilarious stories to share.”
The woman whose show the Los Angeles Times described as a “tour-de-force … one of the most vivid performances” is arriving in Provincetown for two shows, August 20 and 21, and the time to get tickets is now.
So what is her favorite among the pieces she’ll be performing? “I have no idea,” she laughs. “I don’t even know what we’ll be doing, yet!”
Christine Ebersole is taking it all in stride, the same way that she’s taken most of her career. It’s a spectacular one, covering Broadway, off-Broadway, movies, and television. She won her second Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, as well as virtually every Off-Broadway award, for her “dual role of a lifetime” as Edith Beale and Little Edie Beale in Grey Gardens. The critically acclaimed musical was nominated for a total of ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the CD recording of the show was nominated for a Grammy Award.  

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