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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Winter Concert Series Kicks Off on Saturday

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

Last week, I lamented the difficulties I run into in January as I try to find things to write about.

I’m happy to say that didn’t last long! This week, I have something wonderful to share. It's an excellent topic for so many reasons—it's a many-faceted community story; it's a big thank you to a Reading resident for his enthusiasm, generosity, and talent; it's an open invitation to you to spend four evenings during the winter (technically three in the winter and one in the spring) in the company of your fellow Readingites and, undoubtedly, many folks from surrounding communities; and finally, it's about giving.

The big thank you goes to Niles Franc. Niles’s day job finds him at Spring Brook Farm. His other passion finds him behind a bass or harmonica or banjo. He is one of the members of the Band Still Hill, which “plays a blend of progressive bluegrass dipped in folk, Americana, and old-time roots music.” If you recall Still Hill played the first September Puddledock Park Party to a good-sized crowd. The band got people dancing and helped highlight one of the ways that park can be used to benefit Reading.

That very same month, Niles approached the Reading Recreation Commission with an idea. He wondered if the commission and the town would be open to a series of winter concerts at Robinson Hall that would benefit local organizations. He said that he would have no problem lining up bands to perform at these events.

The commission went to the select board with the request, and they liked the idea. Their only concern was the work being done at Town Hall. Things are good on that front, so the concerts got the green light. Side note: when I left for vacation, the back of Town Hall was covered in that white papery-looking building material. When I returned, I was impressed at how beautiful the ongoing work looks. The reddish cedar shingles replacing their weathered predecessors give you an idea of what the building must have looked when it was first opened in the early 1900s.

Back to the concerts. As I mentioned, they will benefit local organizations. Working with Niles, the Reading Recreation Commission chose four worthy causes: the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, the Reading PTO, WISE (which works to end gender-based violence), and the Reading Green Spaces Committee. The concert admission is $10 for adults. Children 15 and younger are free (so bring the kids)! In April, after the last show, the commission will pool all the admission fees together and divide it up evenly among the four beneficiaries.

There is one other thing the promoters of the Winter Concert Series (an easier tag than repeating some variation of “the Reading Recreation Commission” and “Niles Franc”) ask of the people attending these shows. Please bring non-perishable food items. Those will be collected at every concert and donated to the Food Shelf immediately.

You may have seen posters around town promoting the show. That aspect of promotion was brought to you by the seeming indefatigable Niles. No sooner did I firm up the final details with him regarding the concert did someone contact me to say they saw posters up already. Good job, Niles! I keep telling him that the Reading Recreation Commission could use someone with his vision, talent, and determination on the board. However, the more I think of it, the more I realize that Niles is filling a role on the commission that I had suggested to people in the past. He is a “volunteer without a career.” The Rec Commission is grateful for his work. It’s been delightful and energizing getting to know Niles better through this process.

He is a gem, and Reading is a better place with him in it!

The first concert in the series happens this Saturday, January 12, at 7pm at Robinson Hall. If you are concerned that 7pm is smack dab in the middle of dinner time or that you’ll have to rush to get your family fed so you won’t miss the band’s first number, no need to fret. There will be food suitable for dinner (not just chips and popcorn and cookies) at the show. You can consider it a night out—dinner and show with your fellow music-loving, community-minded, cabin-fever-relief-seeking friends and neighbors!

Of course, I will share more details of the individual concerts with you as they approach, but know the remaining shows will be held on February 9, March 9, and April 13.

Changing gears a bit, thanks to Kate Allen for dropping of the Reading Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue calendar. It’s always good to know about upcoming birthdays and anniversaries. While I was away, I didn’t have my calendar with me, so I took a break from extending greetings. But I’m back!

Happy Birthday to Jennifer Nunan (January 15). Admittedly, it’s a slow return.

I hope to see you on Saturday at the first of the Winter Concert Series with Still Hill!

That's the news from Reading. See you next week!

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