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Matt Haimovitz

The two major classical-music turnoffs of the present age seem to be the lack of relevance most of the music enjoys, and the sterile environs in which it’s typically presented. Cellist Matt Haimovitz, who won early acclaim as a prodigy, eases into his 30s with an antidote to both of those problems: Get it out of the stuffy concert hall and the music will speak for itself.

On Wednesday, he begins his latest Listening Room Tour at Great Barrington’s Club Helsinki, where his program features the first three (of six) suites for solo cello by Bach. Quite a switch for an artist whose previous Berkshires gigs have been at Tanglewood.

Haimovitz studied with legendary cellist Leonard Rose, whom he replaced at short notice to play the Schubert String Quintet in C Major at Carnegie Hall (with no less a contingent than Isaac Stern, Mstislav Rostropovich, Shlomo Mintz, and Pinchas Zukerman)—and this was when Haimovitz was 13! He has gone on to perform and record with the major orchestras for the major labels, but always with a sense of the grassroots nature of musical communication tugging at him.

A champion of contemporary works, he has performed and recorded much of the 20th-century cello literature. But the Bach suites are a bulwark of cello literature, and Haimovitz decided to champion not only the works themselves, but also their accessibility, by distributing his indie-label recording of them in unusual retail venues, and performing them in places where you’d otherwise expect to hear blues and folk and the like. (The recording has been nominated for an Indie Award by the Association for Independent Music, and won a Just Plain Folks Award for Best Classical Recording of 2001.)

Not only is Haimovitz introducing the works to new audiences, he’s also bringing his own audience into the comfort of these venues. As the Boston Globe observed, it’s “by all accounts the first time a classical musician of stature has ventured outside the hallowed halls of conventional concert venues on a national scale.”

The current tour will wind through the Midwest (he’ll share a stage with Dar Williams in Madison, Wis.) before he hits England next month; he continues in October to tour the western United States before finishing back in Massachusetts.

Matt Haimovitz will perform at 8:30 PM Wednesday (Aug. 21) at Club Helsinki, 284 Main St., Great Barrington, Mass. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door, and may be reserved by calling the club at (413) 528-3394.

—B.A. Nilsson

Rock/River/Snake

Presented as part of the Dionondehowa Wildlife Sanctuary and School’s series of Outdoor Dances in Beautiful Places, choreographer Joanna Brotman’s Rock/River/Snake, which will be performed Sunday, celebrates the Battenkill River and, as she explains it, “explores the metaphor for change inherent in its flowing waters.” (The sanctuary’s land runs along the Battenkill for nearly a mile.) Brotman is particularly interested in “how the natural world offers a model for acceptance, release and deepening of experience.”

The idea of this outdoor dance series is to present nature-oriented choreography in context; in this case, the performance will take place on sanctuary land with a view across the Battenkill to the Taconic Mountain range. Along with Rock/River/Snake on Sunday, choreographer Laura Gates Carlson will present Water Dance, and Barbara Roan will offer Serpent Song. The performers are a mix of 12 professional and amateur dancers from the community.

Rock/River/Snake will be performed on Sunday (Aug. 18) at 2 PM at the Dionondehowa Wildlife Sanctuary and School, 148 Stanton Road, near Shushan. The rain date is Wednesday (Aug. 21) at 6 PM. Bring blankets and lawn chairs. Suggested donation $7. Call 677-7764 for more information and directions.

Lackawanna Blues

Once upon a time, Lackawanna was a rough and tumble little factory town just south of Buffalo, on the shores of Lake Erie. Bethlehem Steel employed thousands of workers there and belched smoke 24 hours a day. This grubby prosperity was a magnet for all kinds of folks, including Southern blacks looking for a better life. Some of those who didn’t find that life were lucky enough to find themselves in one of the boardinghouses run by Rachel Crosby, a woman of moral strength and tender kindness. Both Crosby and her corner of Lackawanna are brought to vivid life in Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s one man play, Lackawanna Blues, opening this Wednesday at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Taken in and raised by the woman he called “Nanny” Crosby when his own family fell apart, Santiago- Hudson was one of many who were watched over by her careful eye and helped by her humanity and kindness. He portrays Crosby, and more than 20 other characters, with a clarity and force that has earned him comparisons with renowned monologist Anna Deavere Smith (Twilight: Los Angeles 1992). With sharp humor and deep empathy, he introduces us to the damaged veterans, battered women, slick schemers and working people that made up his childhood world. With blues guitarist Bill Sims Jr. adding an atmospheric musical background, Santiago-Hudson performs on a spare set (designed by Myung Hee Cho), using limited props.

Santiago-Hudson, who has won both Tony and OBIE awards for his acting, has crafted a play critics have described as free of ego and artifice; it can’t be a coincidence that Lackawanna Blues has the honor of being the first one-man show to be presented on the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s main stage.

Lackawanna Blues will be staged Wednesday (Aug. 21) through Friday (Aug. 23) at 8 PM in the Adams Memorial Theatre, Williams College, Route 2, Williamstown, Mass. There will be a matinee on Sunday (Aug. 25), at 2 PM. Tickets are $20-$45. For more information or to reserve tickets, call (413) 597-3399, or go to www.WTFestival.org.


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