Brett Dennen at the Beachcomber, Wellfleet
Instant attraction to a new artist is rare, so I could barely contain my excitement after listening to Brett Dennen’s “Wild Child” for the first time. Dennen’s gentle voice and lyrics, paired with his guitar, contribute to a warm folk sound that is irresistible.
Dennen will be performing at the Wellfleet Beachcomber on July 22. If I were of age, I would be there. Instead, I will be enjoying some (long overdue) additions to my usual playlist. —Isabelle Nobili
Brett Dennen, Friday, July 22, 9 p.m., at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet (1120 Cahoon Hollow Rd). Tickets are $28 at thebeachcomber.com.
Dar Williams at Payomet, Truro
“The Christians and the Pagans” is everything a folk song ought to be — whimsical, earnest, like a fable. It’s extra close to my heart because I spent the first 18 years of my life surrounded by devout Catholics and the next four surrounded by nondenominational hippies. Suffice it to say that my own spirituality is fluid and sometimes confused.
Over acoustic guitar, Dar Williams’s elastic voice yodels the story: Pagan Amber and her girlfriend, estranged from their families, are celebrating the winter solstice upstate. In search of a place to stay, Amber calls her uncle’s Christmas-celebrating family. The result is a sometimes comical and ultimately profound family reunion. The chorus goes like this:
So, the Christians and the pagans sat together at the table/ Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able.
There are cheeky moments like when little Timmy asks if his aunt is a witch and his mom flees to the kitchen for pie. The following verse concludes: “When Christians sit with pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.”
Dar emanates a certain emotional intensity, and you can’t help but be pulled into her stories. She’ll be performing at Payomet on July 23. —Nora Markey
Dar Williams, Saturday, July 23, 7 p.m., at Payomet in Truro (29 Old Dewline Road). Tickets are $32 and $45 at payomet.org.
DakhaBrakha at Payomet, Truro
When the war in Ukraine started, my wife, who is from Poland, felt a need for some Slavic music in our home. With the help of Google, she introduced me to DakhaBrakha. I found the music arresting with its otherworldly shrieking vocals and eccentric mix of traditional Slavic folk music and contemporary beats. It’s wild and exciting.
The band was formed in 2004 at the Kyiv Center for Contemporary Art by the avant-garde theater director Vladyslav Troitskyi. It has retained its artsy roots with an experimental approach to mixing forms. The members describe their sound as “transnational,” playing Indian, Arabic, African, Russian, and Australian instruments while being “rooted in Ukrainian culture.” They are an ethnomusicologist’s dream band.
DakhaBrakha has a penchant for the theatrical, both in sound and look. The four members wear ornate traditional costumes highlighting folk motifs and often don large cone-shaped hats. They are known for their live shows, so I’m looking forward to hearing them at Payomet on August 2, grateful for the way their music provides a space to experience emotional solidarity with the people of Ukraine during this trying time in their history. —Abraham Storer
DakhaBrakha, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 7 p.m., at Payomet in Truro (29 Old Dewline Road). Tickets are $40 to $75 at payomet.org.
Verona String Quartet at CCCMF, Chatham
Oberlin isn’t a party school. Still, I receive an email with a conspicuous subject: “Party at the Conservatory.” Hello, friends, it reads. Sight-reading party from 8 to 11 p.m. Sign up for pieces below.
In a small conservatory classroom, I sit down at 8 with my cello. There are three others. We form a string quartet and bring out Debussy and Mozart. Sight-reading is a full brain workout. We fly through runs and rests. Everyone makes mistakes. At 10, someone passes around the first movement of the Beethoven string quartet in F major, Opus 18 Number 1.
He’s tricky, this Beethoven. We are lost and found continuously. But we don’t stop. At this party, we substitute small talk with instrumental communication.
The melody is passed from violin to viola to cello and back again. Gentle lullabies give way to aggressive interruptions. The piece moves like a wheel, spinning, repeating, but always traveling forward.
The Verona Quartet, in residence at Oberlin, will perform this piece in Chatham on Aug. 3 as part of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival. That restless, driving energy is sure to intoxicate players and audience alike. Also on the program: “Crisantemi” by Giacomo Puccini and György Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 1, “Métamorphoses Nocturnes.” —Eve Samaha
Verona String Quartet, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 5 p.m., at the First Congregational Church in Chatham (650 Main St.). Tickets are $40 for adults, $15 for students, free for children under 18 at capecodchambermusic.org.
Mendelssohn Octet at CCCMF, Wellfleet
Sixteen-year-old Felix Mendelssohn wrote an octet for strings and gave it to his violin teacher as a birthday present. At 17, before Covid-19 ended my senior year of high school, I received a plea from seven fellow music students — they needed a second violinist for their performance of the first movement of the octet. I said I would gladly join them and spend long hours in LaGuardia High School’s crumbling basement practice rooms. I would do it for Mendelssohn.
The second violinist begins the piece with a breath, a deceptively difficult oscillating pulse between the D and G strings, and a nod to the first violin. The first violin plays the melody, a dizzy, joyful tune that will visit the two cellos, the two violas, and the other three violins, even just for a moment, as it wanders. We eight, playing in our tiny practice room, brushed shoulders and dipped into and out of our semicircle, cueing and receiving. “Mendelssohn would want us to smile,” said a violist, so we did. The music made it easy.
Two young string quartets, the Ariel and the Verona, will perform the entire octet in Wellfleet on Aug. 5. The concert, which includes Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring in its original 13-member chamber-ensemble instrumentation, is called “Miraculous Masterpieces.”
In that high-school basement, we believed our successful last-minute preparations for our concert at Lincoln Center was something of a miracle. In Wellfleet, I hope listeners will smile as they experience Mendelssohn’s miracle: eight musicians who communicate with their breath and their bodies and fill the air with the beautiful fugal spirit of a 16-year-old. —Dorothea Samaha
Ariel and Verona quartets, Friday, Aug. 5, 5 p.m., at the First Congregational Church in Wellfleet (200 Main St). Tickets are $55 for adults, $15 for students, and free for children under 18 at capecodchambermusic.org.