Lively music and playful humor by Claudia Schmidt

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BRATTLEBORO — There are only two kinds of true Vermonters. Ones that love winter and those who like winter.

So, it is fitting that Claudia Schmidt chose to book a CD release concert, here in the Green Mountain State, at a time when the mountains still have lots of white. The veteran singer-songwriter from Michigan is celebrating her 23rd album, "Hark The Dark," a song cycle homage to our favorite season.

In a recent email exchange, I asked Ms. Schmidt what inspired her to make an album of winter-related songs. "While I eschewed the idea of a 'holiday' record, I nevertheless love winter, and that spurred me on to create my own celebration, albeit a quiet one! And hence the name 'Hark The Dark'. It starts in a swirl of snow and covers a wide musical swath, ends in a wordless ethereal meditation."

Ms. Schmidt, who will be warming her audience at Next Stage in Putney on Saturday, has produced a record meant to be listened to from beginning to end, which is kind of rare in the digital era. " I encourage people-even though they will probably chop it up for their personal device — to sit down, at least once — and listen straight through, back around to the beginning again (the whole message of winter is slow down, right?). The project begged a pianistically centered sound, so I went with that. My recording engineer, Mark Thayer, of Signature Sounds, completely understood what I was looking for, and the musicians got it, too, so it was an easy and joyful collaboration."

Like many great singers, Ms. Schmidt began training her voice early in life-in church. "I was in my first choir when I was barely 5" she recalled. "The cherub choir at church! My family enjoyed music, sang in the car the way families did, but, I was the driven one. In my small town I was in every permutation of every choir I could be in."

It wasn't until years later after seeing a high school classmate play and sing an original song of her own at a recital, that young Schmidt got the bug to craft her own music. "It wasn't like I said 'I could do that,' but something happened inside me. Got a guitar for Christmas at 16, started writing songs, I always wrote poetry. Growing up near Detroit, influences were all over the map, Motown, hard rock, my parents and Jack Jones, Jobim, etc. So I have always had a wide aural palate. I moved to Chicago for a day job in 1973 and walked smack into the singer-songwriter boom and without planning a thing I was a full-time musician inside of a year."

Since then is has been a long, sometimes bumpy, but ultimately joyful journey. I asked Schmidt what she is proudest of. "As far as being proud of something, probably that I have been able to do this for 43 years and remain on my path, difficult as that often is."

As for what attendees might expect at the Next Stage show? "Let me at them! Live performance is my passion, and the audience can expect just about anything, including some participation. I will be visiting some numbers from 'Hark the Dark', but there will be many other musical rambles as well. One audience member described my concert as 'a contagion of joy'."

The show takes place on Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m., at Next Stage 15 Kimball Hill Putney. $20 in advance, $24 at the door. For more information, call 802-387-0102 or visit nextstagearts.org.

Dave Madeloni may be reached at madeloni@aol.com

     




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