SHIRLEY -- The fourth annual Shirley Shines, a showcase of local talent, was held on the Common last Saturday afternoon and evening, with art and crafts displays in Center Town Hall and performances in the Historic Meetinghouse next door.
Having often noticed Shirley residents performing or displaying their work in other cities and towns, Holly Haase and her fellow event organizers decided four years ago to tap some of that creative spark to spotlight for friends and neighbors closer to home.
So they got the word out and rounded up an eclectic array of folks with talents to share.
The result was Shirley Shines, a local, modern version of "let's put on a show in the old barn," with a multigenerational roster that Haase said is one of its best features. This time around, it ranged from a dynamite chanteuse who's only in middle school but sings like a pro to a pair of teenage comics with a penchant for the zany satire of Monty Python to adult artists, craftspeople and performers of all ages.
In the wide-open second floor space at Center Town Hall, with its many tall windows and cozy, creaky floorboards, displays lined the walls and decorated the nooks and crannies.
The varied line-up included photos by Holly Haase and Robin Terhune, Russian icons and other vividly-colored and faithfully copied genre paintings by Mona Longley, Ann Towne's fanciful folk art, Janice Yancey's practical and pretty quilted creations, paintings by Mary Sullivan, Don Reed, Kim Mellama, Linda Malone and John Strum and hooked items and paintings by Fran Gray.
Tables of homemade treats by talented local bakers enticed all who attended.
The event program listed each participant and performer and his or her contribution to one or both shows, with short bios provided by the artists.
In the Meetinghouse, with its superb acoustics, a small but attentive audience settled into the rustic pews to watch an entertaining and eclectic variety show unfold on stage, reclaimed altar space from the old building's historic past as a church.
Kicking off the show, eighth-grader Shannon Mountford gave a memorable a capella rendition of "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone."
As if lack of traditional instrumental accompaniment were not enough to differentiate her solo act, Shannon did the song "cups" style, using an upended red plastic cup like a combination drum and metronome. At one point, the cup bounced off the table and onto the floor, but Shannon kept on smiling and singing and never missed a beat.
Recovery so smooth and quick the audience is scarcely aware of the gaffe is a given for a professional, as Vicki Landry later commented after her own split-second loss of lyric progression. Landry faltered on a high note while singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables, but her delivery was sheer perfection otherwise and her evocative soprano voice shimmered with angelic clarity and enough emotional pull to bring a statue to tears.
Holly Haase, also acting as emcee, was the second act, singing "Poor Wanderin' One" from Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance." A challenging piece, but as she said earlier, "If Linda Rondstadt can do it, so can I." And she did, beautifully.
Drawing from the light opera tradition of the piece, Haase had rounded up a "wanderin' one," to set the scene, but it was a delightful surprise to the audience when Andy Sullivan ambled across the stage, with a hobo stick slung over one shoulder, sporting a bundle made of a plastic grocery bag instead of a bandana. He looked suitably ready to bolt as Haase sat him on a stool, promising to "regale him in song."
Sullivan later swapped his carry-on hobo gear for a guitar when he took the stage to sing a seasonally appropriate song by Neil Young, "Harvest Moon."
Emilie Faucher, an accomplished folk singer and musician, accompanied herself on piano and guitar, respectively, when she sang "Faithfully," a song by Journey that she recalled slow-dancing to when she was a student at the Lura White School years ago, and Paul Simon's "Slip Slidin' Away" with Jodie Rachman, whose vibrant alto complemented her singing partner's soprano to weave lovely harmonies.
Rachman's solo rendition of "Prodigal Daughter," by Michelle Shocked was an ironic jab at gender-based behavioral norms and forgiveness gaps. Party for the wayward son but hide away the shameful daughter. Rachman lent her interpretive gifts to the song.
High-school students Bobby Morse and Ethan Rambacher reprised the "Cheese Shop Skit" from Monty Python that they performed on the same stage for Vespers last year. The two contacted her to propose the skit, Haase said.
Bobby's dad, Bob Morse, also performed, offering up "Death Don't Have No Mercy," a gritty blues-guitar and vocal solo that once lulled his kids to sleep, or kept them awake, he said.
Mellow-voiced and audience-friendly, singer-guitarist Greg Sullivan offered up two numbers: "Nothing Man" by Pearl Jam and "Lucky," by Radiohead.
Mary-Ellen Jones told a story: "The Devil with the three golden hairs," a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.
Pianist Silvia Bota, who originally hails from Romania, played a piece by Franz Listz, "Ave Marie (The Bells of Rome)."
Janice Yancey exercised her fine soprano voice with a quirky take on "Second Hand Rose," in costume, accompanied by Elenye German on piano. Yancey later helped wrap the program with "The Greatest Love of All," followed by Haase, Landry and Andy Sullivan, ringing the rafters with a rousing spiritual, "Glory Bound," in three-part harmony.
As the last notes of the spiritual died away and people prepared to depart for refreshments and socialization across the common, it was clear that this was the right venue for music. Classical, rock, blues or gospel, this old church was made for nights like this.
Admission was free or by voluntary donation, with proceeds split between the volunteer organizations that maintain the two beautiful old buildings that grace the town common.