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Walpole Library Friends keep culture alive online

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Janet Feld will perform an online concert hosted by Walpole Public Library on Thursday, Jan. 14.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Janet Feld will perform an online concert hosted by Walpole Public Library on Thursday, Jan. 14.Friends of Walpole Library

Before the pandemic, the Friends of the Walpole Public Library arranged in-person presentations ranging from live music and one-act plays to storytelling, talks on art and history, and discussions about contemporary issues.

Like any other group offering programs for the public, the Friends were forced to regroup when COVID-19 restrictions caused them to suspend live presentations. Starting last fall, the group began offering online programs that matched the number and variety of their offerings in pre-pandemic days.

“We’re doing our best,” said Barry Oremland of the Friends, “to try to keep culture alive during these strange times.”

In the coming week, the Walpole library will offer two online programs, a musical performance and a presentation on Antarctica.

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Professional news photographer Barry Pell will present “Antarctica — Travels to the End of the World” on Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m.

In addition, singer-songwriter and guitarist Janet Feld will perform on Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m. Both of these programs are presented on the Zoom platform. Registration is available on the library website, walpolelibrary.org.

An active group with its own board of directors, the Friends canceled already scheduled programs last spring when the lockdown began.

“We didn’t get into Zoom programs much until October,” Oremland said. The group’s switch to virtual programming was eased by the technical abilities of one of its members, Philip Czachorowski, the organization’s president and “prime mover.”

“We’re fortunate that one of the Friends’ board of directors has expertise in the area, resulting in smooth-running Zoom sessions,” Oremland said.

Going to full online presentations did present some challenges, Oremland said. “The difficulty begins with finding presentations that are suitable for that medium, and which are likely to attract the public interest, considering how much time the average person has had to be online and on Zoom in this pandemic age.”

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“With music,” Oremland added, “good sound equipment at the artist’s side is necessary, and typically programming is limited to soloists and domestic duets.”

After the Friends’ programming committee invited Feld to perform, Oremland, an amateur musician, found some of her studio tracks online and was impressed by what he heard, especially the song “Messy Beauty,” which he compared to early Joni Mitchell.

Pell, the photojournalist, also is scheduled to give a second presentation on another subject later this year. Among other upcoming programs, Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr will make his annual appearance for the Walpole library in a talk titled “Handicapping the Oscars,” on Thursday, Jan. 28.

Among others who regularly appear on the Walpole library’s program schedule, storyteller Alan O’Hare is a former Walpole resident. His past offerings include a talk on his book about a supportive teacher, titled “Love, Mary B,” and a program on his play about Alzheimer’s disease, titled “I Love You I Love You I Love You Too.”

Employment counselor Gary Gekow also has offered a number of programs. Earlier this month he presented a job-seeker’s workshop on the topic of “Salary and Benefits Negotiation.”

More programs this year include a talk by TV journalist Ted Reinstein on the “New Normal New England Road Trip” on Feb. 4; and a talk by naturalist Ian Cooke on The Neponset River Watershed on Monday, Feb. 8.

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