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Behind the Scenes

Weymouth church opens concert series with father-and-son combo

The multi-talented Jake Armerding (right) with his father, Taylor, at a 2008 concert.

David Bazemore

The multi-talented Jake Armerding (right) with his father, Taylor, at a 2008 concert.

Jake Armerding, who was brought to music by his father, will be playing with him this Saturday in Weymouth.

Taylor Armerding founded the popular Northern Lights bluegrass band, and his son Jake is a superb violinist and a “terrific songwriter,” said Victor DeRubeis, music director at the East Weymouth Congregational Church. 

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“Jake and Taylor have performed all over the planet, at some of the most storied venues, including Passim in Cambridge,” said DeRubeis, who began the “Music at Sanctuary Hall” concert series in order to take advantage of the church sanctuary’s first-rate acoustics and provide high-quality live music.

“The acoustics make it a great place to play,” Jake Armerding said last week. “It couldn’t be better. It has a wonderful natural sound.”

Handed a violin at an early age by his father (a mandolin virtuoso), Jake has been performing since age 12. While studying classical violin, he absorbed bluegrass from hearing his father perform and later played fiddle on several Northern Lights albums during his high school and college years.

Critics have praised the younger Armerding for bending boundaries in acoustic music. “His real achievement has been to break the conventions that define country music,” a Boston Globe review stated.

Armerding describes his fifth album, entitled “Her,” as “organic music.”

“It’s a bunch of us playing our instruments and singing, and getting taped while we’re doing it. There’s no pitch correction, no chemicals, no nothing,” he said.

The result is an album of unconventional love songs inspired by the experience of falling in love and getting married. “If you’re going to make a record of love songs,” Armerding advised songwriters, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “I recommend getting married first.”

Singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, who plays guitar and sings on the recording, said the album provides an opportunity “to listen to a whole record of love songs and not hear any of the usual love song clichés.”

DeRubeis calls “Music at Sanctuary Hall” a hybrid coffee house and formal concert. For this weekend’s program, the church will open its doors at 7 p.m. and invite people in for coffee and snacks in the fellowship hall. Then everyone will move into the church sanctuary for the Armerdings’ performance of bluegrass, contemporary ballads, and genre-hopping licks.

Next in the series will be a “community carol sing” on Dec. 1. Led by the DeRubeis, the songfest combines what he calls, in the concert’s title, the “Sacred, Secular, and Silly.”  

“It’s a small, intimate community event,” he said. “Even if there are underlying differences between sacred music and the other songs, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the secular and the ‘silly’ as well,” he said of a program that encompasses holiday songs such as “Joy to the World,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” and even “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”  

That program will take place in the church’s fellowship hall and includes soda and cookies. The words to the songs will be projected onto a screen.

Another local tradition is a joint performance by a half-dozen church choirs performing Christmas music in a program called “A Little Christmas in Jackson Square.” 

Scheduled for Jan. 6, it commemorates the holiday of Epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day (also known as “Little Christmas”), and includes soloists and ensembles in addition to the church choirs. Voluntary donations have raised nearly $10,000 for the Weymouth Food Pantry since the concert began in 2003. 

Looking further ahead, the Sharon Concert Band will play a patriotic-themed program on April 14, Patriots’ Day weekend. An ensemble of some 50 players, including trumpets and horns, the band will perform a 3 p.m. program to appeal to families and seniors who don’t go out at night.

The series finishes with a concert by the Southeastern Philharmonic Orchestra. Billing itself as “America’s oldest community orchestra,” the 60-player orchestra rehearses regularly at the church. The ensemble plays popular classics and “classic pop” music, such as compositions by Mozart and Brahms, opera excerpts, film music, show tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and jazz by Duke Ellington. 

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@gmail.com
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