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South Shore Conservatory’s concerts light up the night

At the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, the Bo Winiker Band will play dance music on July 20.

At the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, the Bo Winiker Band will play dance music on July 20.

The Summer Spotlight concert series at the South Shore Conservatory in Hingham will fill the summer nights with song this month. Blues, jazz, the history of dance music, and the inspired silliness of Gilbert and Sullivan’s splendid maritime musical comedy “The Pirates of Penzance” provide the music beneath the stars at the school’s outdoor amphitheater.

In the first of two concerts this weekend, Berklee College singer-songwriter Nick Hakim holds the stage in a one-hour performance Friday. On Saturday night, the music school’s long-running Evenings Under the Stars series features the R&B band Superchief Trio. The next weekend, the conservatory will install a dance floor under its pavilion for the Bo Winiker Dance Party. The month wraps up with a fun summer dose of Gilbert & Sullivan in a concert version of “Pirates” on July 27.

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Hakim, performing in his college’s Berklee Stars program, “has a beautiful, warm, dark sound” in his slow ballads, said Beth MacLeod Largent, the conservatory’s director of performance. “We’re feeling the love with that one.” Hakim told her he was influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Largent said, but she heard Curtis Mayfield in his sound.

The Berklee Stars program originated last year as an offshoot of Berklee Presents, which has placed the college’s young but polished performers in events such as the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals. The conservatory’s spacious outdoor performance area offers a learning experience for the performers and a great space for young adult audiences, Largent said.

“It’s a very cool venue for kids. I set up candles, carpets, interesting lighting. We make it like MTV unplugged,” she said. “We make it look like fun.”

The Friday concert is also a good fit for “date night,” Largent said. “Bring your date, come out for an hour. Go to dinner before or after.”

Superchief Trio, currently a five-member group that bills itself as “Rhode Island’s largest trio,” plays New Orleans-style jazz featuring trombone player Pam Murray. Led by Keith Munslow on keyboard, the group tells jokes and stories on stage.

“This fun-loving Rhode Island band is famous for its dance-inspiring swing, New Orleans R&B, jump blues, and boogie-woogie sound,” said Kingston publicist and singer Michelle McGrath.

The five-member trio — insert your math joke here — “combines the tradition of good-time music and barrelhouse hi-jinks, with reckless musical experimentation and daredevil abandon,” McGrath said. “This is no sit-in-your-seat kind of entertainment.”

Another fan of the band, Emmy-nominated blues guitarist Duke Robillard, praises Munslow’s “rich piano grooves,” Murray’s “gutbucket trombone,” and drummer Johnny Cote’s “invigorating rhythms.”

“This band is fun from the first note,” Robillard said. “So put on your dancin’ shoes and dig this mess!”

The dancing will continue the following weekend, the conservatory says, when the Bo Winiker Band dips into 100 years of the best-loved American dance music for its dance party. The conservatory rented a wooden floor to supplement the driveway where concertgoers danced at the band’s concert last year. Last year, the Winiker band gave a concert themed around the history of jazz, America’s original contribution to the world’s great music. This year the band invites the audience to dance all night.

The audience probably won’t dance, but it will almost certainly laugh to the conservatory’s concert version of “The Pirates of Penzance,” the world’s best-loved piratical farce not involving Johnny Depp. Set in a timeless version of Victorian England — Penzance is a sleepy tourist town in Cornwall seldom plagued by pirates — the story’s premise is that a promising lad (Frederic) had been apprenticed to a pirate rather than a “pilot” because his nurse was hard of hearing.

“We haven’t done ‘Pirates’ for 10 years,” said Duxbury resident Largent, a mezzo-soprano and voice teacher who will sing in the production. “We sang a song from it last year and people went crazy, so it’s back by popular demand.”

A full cast of soloists and chorus perform a “modified” concert version, not the fully staged opera. “The singers move around and wear costumes, but there are no big sets,” Largent said.

Largent plays Ruth, the nurse who has become “a piratical maid of all work” after bringing Frederic to the Pirate King.

“She believes she is glamorous and gorgeous, and realizes she is not,” Largent said. Ruth realizes she will no longer captivate young Frederic when she hears girlish voices approaching their deserted beach. “She sings ‘I think I hear girls. If he sees them, then I am lost.’ She sings ‘Lost! Lost!’ as she runs off stage,” Largent said.

The part is fun, said Largent, allowing her to spend less time on stage and more time “being with the singers.”

Those singers include George Cordes, who performs the central role of “the very model of the modern major general,” as he describes himself in one of the best-known set pieces in the Gilbert and Sullivan canon. Among the other soloists are Brian Gilman of East Bridgewater, Natalie Polito of Quincy (”an up and coming soprano,” Largent said), and Susannah Thornton of Hanson.

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