Next Stage plans summer of music, cultural diversity, and creativity

PUTNEY — Next Stage Arts has announced an outdoor, socially distanced, cultural performance series running from early May through mid-October throughout Windham County.

The series will include more than 20 performances from a diverse group of musical styles, circus arts, dance, and theater that will take place in ballfields, farms, and parks throughout the area.

“The idea is to engage and inspire creative spirits of all ages as Windham County becomes the stage to celebrate the arts in a safe and socially responsible way,” says Keith Marks, executive director of Next Stage Arts.

“We're building on the area's creative and rich history, dynamic performance and arts community while offering an exciting mix of diverse talent from near and far,” Marks said. “Folks are eager to get out and shake off the winter and Covid. We're excited to present this outdoor, socially-distanced, cultural performance series. This is something we all need right now.”

Concertgoers can attend in “pods” of up to six family members or friends.

• The Bandwagon Summer Series kicks off Saturday, May 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. with a “Shake It Off, Shake It all Off” dance party hosted by Manhattan's DJ Nickodemus, founding father of the legendary “Turntables on the Hudson” parties and founder of Wonderwheel Recordings, a Brooklyn-based record label.

• On Saturday, May 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Putney Central School (182 Westminster Rd.), the series turns to traditional Japanese drumming with Burlington Taiko.

This group has been mesmerizing audiences with the sounds of taiko (Japanese for “big drum”) and a relatively modern revival of ancient Japanese drumming traditions. They've performed for millions, including feature performances at the 100th Boston Marathon.

• The series moves on with Argentinian vocalist Sofía Rei, coming off a headlining spot at GlobalFEST NYC, performing in back of The Putney Inn on Saturday, May 22, at 6 p.m.

Rei's talents fit comfortably into a number of genres. A self-described “frog from another pond,” her early classical training took her to Argentinean folk music through the punk rock nightlife of Buenos Aires, into some of the most prestigious jazz venues in the U.S., and on to a wealth of festival stages around the world.

• Pumping it up a bit, the series then hosts Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez for a blues-and-barbecue night with the “Beehive Queen of American Soul” on Saturday, May 29, on the Newfane Village Green at 6 p.m.

Ohlman grew up loving equally the sweetness of a Memphis horn line and raunch of an electric guitar riff. She's the longtime vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band.

The series continues throughout the summer and fall with performances that include:

• Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem on Friday, June 4 at 6 p.m. at Cooper Field;

• Yemen Blues (co-presented with The Stone Church) on Sunday, June 13 at 6 p.m.),

• A Year of Frog and Toad on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June 25 to July 4;

• Brooklyn Rider on Saturday, July 17;

• Sammy Rae & the Friends on Friday, July 30;

• Gili Yalo & the Anbessa Orchestra on Saturday, Aug. 7;

• Rev. Sekou & The Freedom Fighters on Thursday, Aug. 12;

• Cheryl Wheeler on Friday, Aug. 13;

• Arun Ramamurthy on Thursday, Aug. 19 at 6 p.m. at Naulakha;

• Bread & Puppet Theater at a date to be announced;

• Cantrip on Saturday, Sept. 11; Kat Wright on Friday, Sept. 17;

• Nimble Arts later in September.

For more information and updates, visit

Patrons will be required to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet and to wear face masks from car to “pod” in the field as well as when using restrooms.

Also, attendees must bring lawn chairs or blankets and, while dancing, remain in their pods. Patrons are asked to adhere to exit instructions after the concert and to remove trash in the process.

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