New Family Stage at the Hilltown Spring Festival

Hilltown Families Family Stage at the
5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival
May 14th at the Cummington Fairgrounds

On Saturday, May 14th, 2011 at the Cummington Fairgrounds, the 5th Annual Hilltown Spring Festival will celebrate the hilltowns and beyond.  Produced by the Hilltown CDC, the Hilltown Spring Festival will include everything from the quirky to the sublime (you decide which is which!).

This year the will be three music stages, including a new Family Music Stage which will present family-friendly music from 10:30am until 4:30pm, including local stars The Nields, Ben Rudnick and Friends, Mister G, Sarah Pirtle and Lui Collins. Here’s the line-up:

Lui Collins

In the Hilltowns, many kids have their introduction to music with Lui Collins in her Hilltown Music Together and Kids’ Jam Classes.  Families in the Hilltowns are blessed to have this contemporary folk singer-songwriter as their jumping off point to music and singing.  Hilltown Music Together and Kids’ Jam, along with Lui’s newest venture, Kids’ Jam Curriculum, combined to form Lui Collins’ Upside-Up Music. Kids’ Jam Curriculum makes Lui’s innovative and entertaining Kids’ Jam music available to homeschoolers and music and classroom teachers. — Lui currently lives in Ashfield, MA and as a professional musician she has been touring for over 30 years, playing the clawhammer banjo and inspired by traditional southern Appalachian music.

Sarah Pirtle

Sarah Pirtle is an award-winning author and musician who writes and sings for all ages.  Pocketful of Wonder, her ninth recording, received the Gold Award from Parents’ Choice, and in 2007 she received the Magic Penny Award for lifetime achievement in children’s music.  Sarah was invited to perform at the Hudson River Clearwater Folk Festival when her first recording, Two Hands Hold the Earth, became the favorite of Pete Seeger’s grandson. Later, as the principal founder of the Children’s Music Network, she got to know Pete and feel his encouragement for her songwriting for adults as well as children. Currently living in Shelburne Falls, Sarah helps to build supportive communities for young people. She is recognized as a national expert on teaching social skills. Her music and her chaplaincy training add compassion and depth to her work as she leads programs rooted in a basic trust of the innate caring available inside people.

Ben Rudnick & Friends

The acclaimed American roots Style family music band, Ben Rudnick & Friends (BRF) will join us this year on the Family Stage.  With a high level of adventurous musicianship, their award winning recordings contain a unique acoustic sound ranging from light folk to bluegrass, calypso and rock.  Five of their family music CDs (Emily Songs, Blast Off!, Fun and Games, Grace’s Bell and A Frog Name Sam) have received national acclaim, including awards from Parents’ Choice, NAPPA and the Children’s Music Web. Since BRF original songs aren’t overtly children’s music, and enthusiastic renditions of well known songs appeal to all, everyone in the audience from the oldest to the youngest gets involved with the excitement of their performances!

Mister G

Over the past year, Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) has performed with Dan Zanes in Northampton, and for kids in Europe and Latin America. He closed out 2010 with two shows at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Closer to home, Mister G played headlining sets at the Green River Festival and the WRSI Meltdown. Winner of the first songwriting scholarship in the history of Berklee College of Music, Ben spent 20 years touring internationally as a bandleader and solo artist before getting his Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College in 2008. As Mister G, he has led innovative songwriting workshops in settings as varied as Sunnyside Preschool, Dana Farber Cancer Clinic, the 92nd St. Y, Horizons for Homeless Children, and the Smith College Campus School.

The Nields

Nerissa and Katryna Nields grew up singing folk songs in the kitchen and in the back seat of the family car. Katryna learned to sing melody with their father, eventually making her an ideal front person for the band. Nerissa, on the other hand, tackled the harmonies; with that skill, she provided a natural counterpoint to her sister’s vibrant lead. As a duo, the sisters have toured nationally for years and been the darlings of the coffeehouse/festival scene, with tunes ranging from off-the-hook idiosyncratic to kicking to heartbreaking. They were a part of Lillith Fair, and have shared the stage with Natalie Merchant, Suzanne Vega, Sarah McLaughlin, Dar Williams, The Indigo Girls, James Taylor, Joan Baez, the Band, 10,000 Maniacs, Billy Bragg, Dan Zanes and countless others, all of whom informed and enhanced their musical repertoire.

A most recent influence on their music is children. “Having children has brought us back to our roots in a powerful way,” says Nerissa. “I’m much more drawn to the honesty of folk music, the simplicity of it. My kids love singing songs from Sister Holler. And I love how, when we sing these ‘Nerissa’ songs in concerts, everybody sings along, even though it’s the first time they’ve heard them. They’re songs that really invite the listener into the music making process.”


Two other Music Stages will present another dozen local performers, ranging from rock to jazz to folk to blues to bluegrass to African drumming, and one of the stages will be completely solar-powered, thanks to the Solar Store of Greenfield (more details to come). — So on May 14th from 10am-7pm, bring the family and come enjoy local music, local food, local artisans and local businesses, with  kids’ activities all day!  Admission is only $5 per person, children 12 and under are admitted free. Parking is free, too!

The Hilltown Spring Festival is sponsored by Hilltown Families, Maude’s Music, and 11 local cultural councils supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.  Additional sponsorship dollars were provided by 32 generous local businesses.  The full list of supporters is at

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