Merry Music

Merry Music performers

Merry Music, a First Friday, 2nd Annual Holiday Music Event

by Joan Clifford, Executive Director

Merry Music will be performed again at the First Friday event, December 1, 6-9pm at the Milton Art Center. It was such a hit that a new tradition has started. Some of the musicians gave us a preview of their song choices and what they most appreciate experiencing each year during the holidays.  First Friday events are free, family friendly with holiday refreshments and a cash bar.

If we have been very good this year we will hear some of the favorites performed last year like the Pogues’ “Fairytale of New York,” performed by Ron Fletcher and Franc Graham. Ron Fletcher said they chose this song because “ In under five minutes it careens through the conflicting states of heart and mind that darken and light up the holiday season: elation, despair, delusion, dream, resentment, romance, nostalgia, love, and loathing—and that’s just the opening three minutes. Plus, there’s a bit of dialogue from Shane MacGowan that secures his spot among the great Irish writers. He sings, “I could have been someone.” Kirsty MacColl snuffs out the self-pity in a line: “Well so could anyone.” She left this world too soon. Shane is heading for that exit. Let’s celebrate what we can, while we can!”

During the holidays, Ron said he most appreciates “the cold that still lingers within the branches of a Christmas tree after its place inside a warm home.”

Pat Neves and Karl Pastore will be singing “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Pat said that Karl introduced her to this song, an old English poem turned into a hymn, now sung around the world, in the winter of 2020, our first Covid Christmas. Pat said she immediately fell in love with the harmonies and it was perfect for a social distancing video Karl and I needed to create in Zoom. They are excited to perform this song again, in person!

One thing that Pat loves about the holidays is that its a time to be with family and friends to collectively reflect, give thanks, reach out to those alone and in need, be inspired by the wonder and magic of the universe and to celebrate the start of a new year with hope for more peace, love and kindness than the last.

Matt Sandonato said he most “appreciates getting together with friends and family, (well some family…).” Matt will be performing a short 2 song holiday rock opera but if he can’t get that together he may go in another direction with two songs written with former bands he performed with in the hope of grabbing the gold ring for songwriters everywhere-”the oft returning, royalty earning Christmas song. Neither made it for some reason.” Maybe we can turn this around for Matt with a Christmas miracle this season.

Steve Cousineau will be performing “Blue Christmas,” a blues song first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948, it later became a hit when Elvis Presley recorded it in 1957 …a tale of unrequited love during the holidays, what could be better.” Steve said , “We offer ‘happy holiday’ wishes but understand the longing when those most important to us are absent—this song acknowledges that sadness, I like that.”

Claudia Wellington and Kevin Dambruch will be performing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, introduced by Judy Garland in the 1944 MGM musical, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” When first presented the lyrics, Garland and director Vincent Minnelli criticized the music as too depressing. They will also perform  “Please Come home for Christmas,” and “Pretty Paper,” written by Willie Nelson, and originally performed by Roy Orbison; a song about a handicapped street vendor selling pencils and paper on the streets during the holiday season.

Owl Haus, Jen Meyers and Ben Zoll will be performing the Chanukah Song by Adam Sandler and are still mulling over their other song choices.

Mairead Dambruch will sing a song of a William Butler Yeats poem set to music, “The Song of the Wandering Aengus.”

The Wassailers will perform and there will be a group singalong at the end for any performer out there that would like to participate. Currently songs being debated by the musicians to perform include “Merry Christmas Baby” in the key of G, Dennis O’Brien leading; David Bowie’s rendition of “Little Drummer Boy,” key of E,  “Run Run Rudolph,” key of G, and “Do they know it’s Christmas,” first recorded by Band Aid, Bob Geldorf and Midge Ure.

During the holiday season and all year round, I most appreciate the goodwill and talent of our local musicians. They have the capacity to uplift spirits, the ability to translate emotions into melodies, they invite reflection on the nuances of human experiences, inspire introspection and foster connectedness. It wouldn’t be a holiday without music and we are blessed to have these remarkable musicians and people in our community, contributing to it’s vitality, Thank you to Jeremy Blanchard, Drew Dunphy, Steve Cousineau, Kevin Dambruch, Ron Fletcher, Franc Graham, Scott Love, Dennis O’Brien, Matt Sandonato, Geoff Shaw, Jeff Stoodt, Claudia Wellington, Mairead Dambruch, and many more wonderful groups that we get to applaud at Milton Porchfest like the Lazy Susans, Owl Haus, Lower Falls, Twice a Day Ray, Slam Trans-Am, Electric Standard, Dark Crushes, Pauline Wells, etc…. Music appreciators who really enjoy live music are especially welcomed.  If you would like to be a part of future First Fridays, as a musician, email