Allen Hopkins is a central determine within the Rochester space folk-music neighborhood — and if not for the pandemic and pause, he’d be on a usually packed efficiency schedule
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Usually, people musician Allen Hopkins would have a full plate round now, with spring and summer time festivals and particular occasions, alongside together with his typical packed slate of exhibits for seniors, instrumental music courses, and the 2 acoustic live performance collection he helps run in Clifton Springs and Rochester. In a given 12 months, Hopkins has some 200 dates stuffed in on his spreadsheet.
This 12 months — the 50th because the Canadice native first took a stage for knowledgeable gig, together with his brother and a buddy in a Rochester bluegrass combo in 1970 — that spreadsheet has all however emptied out as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdown of gatherings. No Ukulele Sing-Alongside final weekend on the Rochester Public Library. No harmonica courses on the Hochstein Faculty. No Sulphur Springs Pageant subsequent month in Clifton Springs. No New England Folks Pageant, the place he’s been a daily for practically 25 years. No Tunes by the Tracks live shows at Clifton Springs Library or Rochester Folkus exhibits at Rochester’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre. Just about nothing till July, and even that’s tentative.
It’s unhappy, however the multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, mandolin, Appalachian dulcimer, autoharp and plenty of extra) is trying to the long run, one the place individuals collect collectively to harmonize and swap songs and luxuriate in music in neighborhood. Which is what, he says, people music is all about.
“The factor I really like essentially the most about people music is getting individuals singing on a great track with a great refrain,” Hopkins mentioned by telephone from his Rochester residence Could 5. “I feel I received that from going to Pete Seeger live shows once I was in school.” Seeger would get everybody singing — “this nice refrain of individuals.”
“My opinion of folks music is, it’s sharing,” Hopkins mentioned. “I feel there must be as little distance as attainable between the performer and the viewers. I feel it must be a shared expertise. … My feeling is, I’d slightly have a bunch of individuals swapping songs and singing choruses, and everybody getting within the sport.
“Folks music is music that individuals make for themselves, principally. A people performer is simply somebody who’s a member of the neighborhood who simply spent somewhat extra time and is a bit more excited about studying the music.”
That’s how Hopkins fell in love with the music, anyway, and realized it might be a lifetime curiosity and avocation — one which, since his retirement from the Metropolis of Rochester some 20 years in the past, has been a full-time pursuit. The 1961 Honeoye graduate went off to Harvard, purchased his first banjo and was quickly absorbed within the Cambridge people scene, spending many an hour within the legendary Membership 47. Again residence he’d already been into the “Folks Revival” pop of the day — individuals just like the Highwaymen, The Brothers 4, The Kingston Trio of “Tom Dooley” fame — and in Massachusetts he would spend a greenback on the 47 and get to listen to the likes of Doc Watson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, the Osborne Brothers and Judy Collins, whereas typically seated just some toes from the stage. As soon as, he even frolicked by the Charles riverbank with some Minnesota child named Dylan, taking part in his banjo. By the point he graduated in 1965, Hopkins knew people music could be a life pursuit.
After commencement got here a stint within the service, largely at Fort Carson close to Colorado Springs — when weekend passes would discover him taking treks to the Denver Folklore Heart, the place he made buddies with like-minded people and performed his first open-mic stint, performing “Victory Rag” on his autoharp. Returning residence in 1967 after his discharge, he moved to Rochester and received a job with the town authorities, largely in administrative work with the police division — and, on his off hours, he absorbed as a lot of the Rochester music scene that he might, hanging out on the outdated El Echo on St. Paul Road, taking part in guitar and banjo at events, having fun with the music of locals like Bat McGrath and Don Potter and, and, ultimately, beginning the Flower Metropolis Ramblers bluegrass band together with his brother John and a buddy Bob Olyslager, which performed festivals, libraries, a month-to-month gig on the outdated Park Avenue Coffeehouse and various particular occasions. He traces his 50-year musical-performance profession again to his first gigs with the Ramblers.
“We performed for about six years — we by no means made any cash, however we had a good time,” Hopkins recalled. “After the band broke up in ‘76, I simply stored going.”
Throughout that point, Hopkins made a mark on the native people scene by becoming a member of with others within the people neighborhood in 1971 to begin the Golden Hyperlink Folks Singing Society, nonetheless rising robust and nearing its personal golden anniversary subsequent 12 months. Golden Hyperlink runs workshops, has a “sing-around” every Tuesday at 12 Corners Presbyterian Church in Brighton (that is nonetheless occurring Zoom, Hopkins stories), hosts live shows (largely on the Rochester Christian Reformed Church in Penfield lately) and presents the annual autumn Turtle Hill Folks Pageant at Rotary Sunshine Campus in Rush. Performers who’ve performed in Golden Hyperlink seasons or at Turthle Hill embrace, to call only a handful, Peggy Seeger, Cheryl Wheeler, John Sebastian, Peter Yarrow and Judy Collins, in addition to native lights like Maria Gillard and the late Bat McGrath. Hopkins was Golden Hyperlink president for about six years and served on the board for about half of its existence, although he’s stepped again from administration in recent times.
Over the following a long time, new partnerships and alternatives abounded.
There’s Flint Hill Folks, a band Hopkins and others shaped to carry out interval music on the Genesee Nation Village and run its annual Fiddlers’ Truthful.
There was the ten-year stint within the blues band Bluesgrass within the 1970s and 80s with fellow multi-instrumentalist Nancy Lee Park. There’s his Celtic bands — first Thistledown and now Innisfree. There’s his longtime musical partnership with songwriter-musician Bonnie Abrams, which developed right into a trio with Glenna Probability, “Love and Knishes,” presenting music from the Jewish custom.
There was a longtime DJ stint on WGMC. There’s the music-teaching gigs at Hochstein, Brighton Recreation and extra, educating ukulele, harmonica, mandolin and no matter else he can. There’s yearly treks to Canandaigua for Homestead Days at Granger Homestead, taking part in 19th century music in interval costume.
There have been his frequent performances for seniors in recent times, at group houses, senior facilities and the like — Unity St. Mary’s Campus, Brentlan Woods, Episcopal Church House, Canandaigua’s Clark Manor Home and extra — and library applications.
There are the native live performance collection: Tunes by the Tracks at Clifton Springs Library, which he organizes together with native musicians and founders Jim Clare and Cathy McGrath; and the Rochester Folkus collection, housed within the Downtown Cabaret Theatre off Major Road in Rochester, co-helmed with Invoice Destler and Rebecca Johnson
“We’ve been in a position to give individuals an opportunity to play on Wednesday night time in a library in Clifton Springs — it’s hardly Carnegie Corridor. However they’re glad to do it, and we’re glad to have them,” Hopkins mentioned of Tunes by the Tracks, named by Clare because the library on Railroad Avenue was constructed as a rail passenger depot.
And, alongside the way in which, some particular moments, like opening for David Bromberg (“somebody I’d been listening to for 30 years”) and for Doc Watson, who he noticed again in these school days. “Among the issues that I actually bear in mind most are possibilities I’ve needed to open or share the stage with very proficient musicians for whom I’ve all the time seemed as much as,” he mentioned.
Additionally vital to him is the relationships constructed with audiences through the years. “One of many issues that gratifies me is, I’m usually invited again,” he mentioned. There are occasions he’s performed for greater than 15 years, just like the Perry Farmers Market or a Halloween occasion in Penfield. “I take that as a praise,” he mentioned. “It’s all the time good to be requested to carry out — even higher is being requested again.”
For now — like so many others — Hopkins is on a break he by no means needed. However he’s appreciative that, as a civil service retiree, he doesn’t depend upon taking part in out for his livelihood, additionally like so many others; “it’s an avocation and a lifelong pursuit.” And he’s trying ahead to, sometime, stepping out once more with certainly one of his coterie of devices and making these connections with the audiences as soon as once more.
“So long as I can do it,” he mentioned, “I can do it.”
A digital encore for ‘The King’s Legacy’
Could not make it final 12 months to “The King’s Legacy” at Bristol Valley Theatre? No worries. Whereas it isn’t fairly the identical as being there for the dwell manufacturing, “BVT at House” will current a free encore manufacturing of final summer time’s world-premiere musical on the Naples theater in regards to the intrigue within the courtroom of Henry VIII and his six wives.
Beginning Could 16 at 7 p.m., “The King’s Legacy” will be seen totally free at https://youtu.be/vrHhj3YGI7A. The hyperlink might be energetic for one month.
Playwrights Play Readings strikes on-line
In preparation for its upcoming digital manufacturing of Playwrights Play Readings, Geneva Theatre Guild held Zoom casting auditions for components in 19 performs, auditioning over 70 individuals from throughout the nation.
Among the many actors forged to participate within the productions, to be offered dwell on the guild’s Fb web page on Wednesdays at 7:10 p.m., are 4 Display screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Tv and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) members, by particular permission: Donnell Adler, Katherine Alt Keener, Renata Hinrichs and Jackie Maruschak. In line with a launch from the guild, “Contracts had been signed and because the occasion is to learn the Geneva Theatre Guild and certainly one of their longtime Board Members Larry Ann Evans, who’s battling a uncommon type of most cancers, the skilled actors got permission to carry out with the neighborhood theatre group.”
The 9 administrators mentioned the occasion and the play readings they’re directing dwell Could 6 on the guild’s Fb web page, the place the productions will begin subsequent Wednesday, Could 13, and proceed every week. Every video might be left up one week for viewing, for individuals who had been unable to tune in on a specific Wednesday. An entire forged checklist, and extra info, is at genevatheatreguild.org/playwrights2020.