Culture To Do


For many of us, live performances are among the things we have missed the most during the past year, and we've been waiting for the day when our local artists could return to the stage. It's therefore great news to see some venues now offering limited public events. We'll continue to provide information about programming, events and concerts that will bring you inspiration and diversion — either from your couch OR out and about.

Dust off your sense of adventure and enjoy a virtual festival of music and dance set in the foothills of Spain’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The afternoon begins with Variación a Tempo, the newest award-winning work by duo Sara Jimenez and Pablo Gimenez, broadcast live from Teatro Mira Amescua in Guadix. Then, retreat to the olive groves of Almazara de Paulenca for a live evening performance led by guitarist Pablo Giménez with dancers Rocío Montoya and Jasiel Nahim.

All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen makes a point to attend “globalFEST” at a New York City nightclub every year. Now, given the pandemic's challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST moved the 2021 edition from the nightclub to your screen of choice and shared the festival with the world. The virtual festival presents 16 artists representing more than a dozen countries. Check out Nora Brown, 10th grader with a preternatural skill for the banjo.

This documentary tells the inspiring story of how six iconic African American women entertainers —Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier — challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process.

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You may have seen a number of series in the NEPM TV schedule listed as part of the “Walter’s Choice” collection and you may have wondered who Walter is. Walter's Choice is a curated collection of award-winning international drama, hand-picked by Walter Iuzzolino, a TV connoisseur who has scoured the globe for compelling hits. Presented in their original languages with English subtitles, this collection is available to stream with PBS Passport. Enjoy whenever you like.

Inspired by the Mister Rogers’ Factory Tours, this new exhibit celebrates stories about how things are made—the people, the manufacturing processes and the technology used to make everyday objects in our world. Families will find tools and machines to cut, mold, deform and assemble, and will discover how familiar the story of manufacturing is to all of us.

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In his Inaugural Speech, President Joe Biden made reference to and quoted lyrics from one of his favorite patriotic songs, “American Anthem.” PBS fans may remember that this was the theme song for Ken Burns’ 2007 documentary “The War.” Revisit the song, as performed for the series by Norah Jones.

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Sweet Honey in the Rock: MLK Day Celebration — Reclaiming the Beloved Community
Stream Sunday, Jan. 17 at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.

Join Washington, D.C.-based, African-American a cappella ensemble, Sweet Honey in the Rock®, as they mark this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a celebration of hope, resilience, and new beginnings. The ensemble will take the stage at the historic Lincoln Theatre, where they will connect with an audience of thousands who join via Zoom from around the world.

For the past eight years, thousands of families, young people, community leaders and artists have come together on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in downtown Springfield to reflect on the message and ideals of Dr. King. Community Music School of Springfield, Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services, DREAM Studios, Springfield College, and Focus Springfield present “The Dream Is Calling You,” Springfield’s annual citywide Dr. King Day Celebration, re-imagined as a one-hour virtual event.

Mass MoCa’s ‘Auditory After Hours’ gives visitors a chance to engage with art in an all-new way — while listening to a bespoke experience curated by favorite musicians. Wander the museum’s cavernous spaces after hours, and prepare to have eyes bedazzled and ears enthralled. This month, with a recorded a modular set incorporating sounds from their past albums, the music of electropop duo Sylvan Esso will bring the Mass MoCA galleries to life. Saturdays, January 9, 16 & 23.

Stephen Thompson writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music created a collection of favorite 2020 Tiny Desk Concerts that were published before COVID-19, noting, “They feel like sepia-toned dispatches from the Before-Times, beamed from a magical place where musicians could safely raise their voices indoors and let their assembled droplets waft over an appreciative crowd.

This upbeat holiday special premiered on NEPM TV on Tuesday, Dec. 15. NOW it’s available for streaming any time. In partnership with The Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Vanessa Williams and the American Pops Orchestra presented a new take on Ella’s classic 1960 holiday album, “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” performed in its entirety by a stellar lineup of artists.

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Every New Year’s Eve since 1985, First Night Northampton has filled streets, concert halls and churches with a 12-hour, family-friendly festival of the arts. This year, even with COVID-19 the celebration will go on!  You will be able to watch all of the performances, exciting shows, the fireworks — and even the ball raising — from the comfort of your own space on the screen of your choice.

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Hope for the New Year

Dec 22, 2020

Join Joshua Bell, Renee Fleming, Denyce Graves, Patti LaBelle, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald and others as they encourage our nation to come together on New Year’s Eve to celebrate our irrepressible strength as Americans. Watch “United in Song: Celebrating the Resilience of America” on Thursday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m., on NEPM TV.

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New Year’s day, you can waltz in 2021 with the annual New Year’s Day concert from Vienna performed by the Vienna Philharmonic under the direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti. From the Golden Hall at the Musikverein, there will be waltzes, polkas and more from the Strauss family in this annual holiday tradition. Listen Friday, Jan. 1 at 11 a.m. on NEPM 88.5. Then, you can watch the TV broadcast from Great Performances with host Hugh Bonneville at 9 p.m. on NEPM TV.

NPR Music’s calls its ‘Best Songs of 2020’ collection a “whopper of a mixtape,” noting, “As crappy as this year has been for anyone with a shred of empathy, the jams were ample. When the news cycle had us at a loss for words, we found quiet songs to speak for us. When we wanted to smile without looking at our phones, buoyant distractions abounded. . .”

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Broadcasts of Metropolitan Opera performances can be enjoyed every Saturday afternoon through May on NEPM. This year, you will be able to listen to selected performances from previous seasons — most relatively recent, plus some  historic gems like Verdi’s Il Trovatore with Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli Robert Merrill. On most Saturdays, the broadcast starts at 1 p.m.

Catch Up on Thrillers

Dec 3, 2020

The season finale of Roadkill is available for anyone to watch online through Sunday, Dec 6. After that, the finale and all previous Roadkill episodes are available to NEPM Passport members. Same goes for Flesh and Blood, Vander Valk, and COBRA.

Latinx Theater

Dec 3, 2020

The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA) in collaboration with Nueva Esperanza presents the return engagement of New York's Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (PRTT) in a double feature virtual stage reading of two plays. Original music by Desmar Guevara. TORCHED! written by Pregones/PRTT Artistic Director, Rosalba Rolón and THE RED ROSE original story “Little Things Are Big,” by activist Jesús Colón, adaptation by Rosalba Rolón. NEPM members and friends can register for free for the Sunday, Dec. 13 2 p.m. matinee with the discount code MIFAALAIRE2020.

Candles Burning Brightly is a one-hour radio show that celebrates Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Enjoy an exploration of Chanukah foods and traditional activities, and plenty of music. The program is hosted by Minnesota Public Radio’s Mindy Ratner. Listen Sunday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. on NEPM 88.5

Concern over the commercialization of Christmas goes way back and was the theme of the classic 1965 Christmas TV special wherein Charlie Brown becomes the director of the gang's holiday play. Can he find the “perfect” tree, and discover the true meaning of Christmas? Watch Sunday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. on NEPM TV.

What started out in 1982 at a western Massachusetts elderly housing project to joyfully pass the time instead of passing before your time has developed into a stereotype-defying, generation-crossing musical internationally- known phenomenon. On Saturday, Dec 13 at 7:30 p.m. the Chorus presents a free virtual holiday extravaganza.

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Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas

Dec 3, 2020

The 1960 album, “Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas,” was one of the most celebrated holiday collections of all time. Now, host Vanessa Williams and the American Pops Orchestra recreate the album in its entirety with a stellar lineup of artists. Enjoy “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Winter Wonderland,” and more. Watch Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. on NEPM TV.

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Celebrate the Season in Seussian Style! Experience the holidays at the home of the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss. The Springfield Museums have strict safety protocols for in-person visits. Advance ticket reservation is recommended.

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Bright Nights

Dec 3, 2020

What could be better and safer this year than a drive-through holiday tradition? Since 1995, Bright Nights has been a unique public/private collaboration between the City of Springfield’s Department of Parks, Buildings & Recreation Management and the Spirit of Springfield, a private non-profit organization. Bright Lights is happening now, and will be lit through January 6.

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NPR Book Concierge

Dec 3, 2020

For everyone hunkered down at home, the NPR Book Concierge is back and bigger than ever. This year's batch of titles is the largest in the Concierge's eight-year history, with more than 380 recommended reads, all published in 2020. Plus, you can also browse all eight years of recommendations – that's nearly 2,500 books total, spanning 2013 to 2020.

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The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Nov 29, 2020

Since 2015, The Great Thanksgiving Listen has grown from an experimental challenge into a vital intergenerational movement. It empowers young people—and people of all ages—to create an oral history of the contemporary United States by recording an interview with an elder, mentor, friend, or someone they admire. Interviews become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

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American Experience presents a discussion sharing Native American perspectives on the arrival of European settlers in New England 400 years ago. The conversation will examine the experiences of Native populations at the time of the settlers’ arrival, what is actually known about the first Thanksgiving, and how native tribes see themselves in today’s construction of the United States. Watch on YouTube.

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Listen to thrilling performances by Alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin, who won the 2019 Downbeat Critic’s Poll Rising Star Award, Italian guitarist Pasquale Grasso who has been lauded by Pat Metheny as “one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard,” and Vocalist Samara Joy, winner of the 2019 Sarah Vaughan International Vocal Contest. Plus, videos from college, high school and youth jazz ensembles. The virtual VJC Emerging Artist Festival is happening Friday, Nov. 20 and Saturday, Nov. 21.

As part of its “Reimagine Residencies Series,” the UMass Fine Arts Center presents the video premiere of Rock the Boat — a puppet show for young audiences that explores themes of refugees, inclusion and respectful curiosity. A poet in a boat, alone at sea, suddenly finds his home filling with new characters seeking shelter and safety. As all the newcomers and the Poet navigate life together on the vessel, they meet conflict, generosity, kindness and questions. The online event, on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 3 p.m., includes an artist Q&A.

Freedy Johnston returns to Signature Sounds' virtual series the Parlor Room Home Sessions on Sunday, Nov. 22 for a special performance of his 1992 release Can You Fly, the singer-songwriter's second album. Can You Fly appeared on Fast Folk's year-end list of the ten best albums of 1992, and The Village Voice's Robert Christgau later dubbed it “a perfect album.”

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