Layaali and Life In the 413: Two Great Nights in the Big City

Two nights in the Big City: I enjoyed the same Old Speckled Hen lager at McLadden’s Irish Pub two  nights in a row after two different nights out in Northampton. Both were memorable and say a lot about the quality of our local nightlife and the arts scene here in our beloved Pioneer Valley.

On Friday night, I joined my pals Jack and Bill for a concert of Arabic Music performed by Layaali, a group of musicians from all over the Arab World at Edwards Church. The place was packed and I was happy to join so many 50 and 60-somethings who share my love of Arabic music.  Michel Moushabeck on percussion introduced the musicians joyfully, each from their own country in the Arab world. He is from Palestine, he said, and the players were from Morocco, Lebanon, and Syria.

The show was a benefit for a Palestinian organization that helps bring closer relations between Israel and Palestinians, and the show picked up tempo in the second half.  Jamal Sinno plays the qanun,  an instrument with strings played flat on the lap, and this brings the essential sounds of Arabic music along with the oud, a large guitar-like instrument that goes well with the qanun. The music got better and better as the show went on, and we were all very happy we made it.

Then on Saturday Mary and I went to Life in the 413, live radio theater made up of six short plays read by actors accompanied by sound effects men on stage and a musical accompaniment of the Expandable Brass Band. The highlight was Christine Steven’s hilarious depiction of various candidates to star in the next “Housewives of the Happy Valley.”  She touched on so many familiar and accurate stereotypes and really caught the whole point of the show–mentions of things we all recognize here in the Pioneer Valley.

Another wonderful play by Tom McCabe was set to the tune of the Beatle’s Rocky Racoon.  The song was played and each time a lyric was sung, someone piped in and put it into a Pioneer Valley context.  References to the Whately Ballet and to many other familiar places in our area made the audience howl. An especially loud applause moment was when they mentioned the benches recently removed from downtown.

It was a great two nights of entertainment. I am proud to say that there is no small town I can think of that could present such diverse entertainment two nights in a row. It’s just another night in our favorite arts town!