State Historical Commission honors Academy of Music in Northampton

May 8th, 2015

Auditorium  at Academy of Music.jpg

By George Lenker | Special to The Republican
on May 06, 2015 at 11:28 AM

A vibrant city combines the best of the old and new, and when it comes to historic venues presenting modern shows, it’s hard to beat Northampton’s Academy of Music Theatre.

The Academy of Music has just been honored with a Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award for its renovations that were completed last fall. The award will be presented May 29 at the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s 37th annual awards ceremony.

The renovations included work that saw the restoration of the main hall’s ornate plaster as well as a new paint job in a period color scheme that was researched by stripping the existing paint layers, according Debra J’Anthony, executive director of the independent nonprofit arts organization that manages the building.

The theater’s 800 seats and the aisle lighting were also part of the refurbishment, as was critical work on the insulated roof above the stage.

“The careful restoration of the Academy of Music Theatre demonstrates a strong commitment to historic preservation that goes well beyond what is normally expected,” wrote William F. Galvin, secretary of the Commonwealth and chairman of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, in his notice to the Academy.

More than 50,000 patrons attend Academy performances, films and other events each year, and many have noticed the new look.

“Both new patrons and old fans have been bowled over by the new gilding, the colors and the trompe l’oeil ceiling,” J’Anthony said.

The renovations were led by Northampton-based Thomas Douglas Architects via $500,000 from state and city sources, including the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Northampton Community Preservation Act and the City of Northampton, plus more than $150,000 in donations raised during a capital campaign last fall—the first in the Academy’s history.

Built by Northampton native Edward H. R. Lyman, the Academy of Music opened in 1891 as a state-of-the art opera house. Lyman deeded the building to the City of Northampton in 1892, making it the nation’s first municipally owned theater. The full-fly proscenium stage and full-size screen are unique in the region, according to J’Anthony.

“The Academy staff and board are thrilled with this recognition and with the community’s recognition of the Academy’s importance,” said Andrew Crystal, president of the theater’s board of directors, “The continued financial support of the community has been incredible.”

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Northampton singer-songwriter Heather Maloney talks heartache, hometown beginnings ahead of album release

April 23rd, 2015

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By Laura Newberry | laura.newberry@masslive.com
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on April 23, 2015 at 9:45 AM, updated April 23, 2015 at 2:03 PM

As it often is with major life changes, it all began with some heartache.

Heather Maloney was sitting in silent meditation at a Buddhist retreat in Barre, Mass. when her first lyrics came to her: If your heart is aching, let it ache.

“One of the things they teach you is to go into feeling things rather than distract yourself from them,” the singer-songwriter said of her time at the retreat center, where she lived in a small cottage on the grounds on-and-off for three years.

And what Maloney was feeling, she said, was “insane heartache.”

“Suddenly I’m sitting there writing music instead of meditating,” she said. “I just kind of went with it.”

That was in 2008, before she settled in Northampton. Those lines that acted as the catalyst for her music career became the song “Let it Ache,” which eventually made its way onto her 2009 debut album “Cozy Razor’s Edge.”

The 29-year-old has since produced two more albums, the latest with Northampton record label Signature Sounds. On April 28 she’ll release her fourth, “Making Me Break.”

Maloney will play a release show at The Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton on April 24.

heather[4].jpgHeather Maloney in front of Northampton’s Academy of Music in Northampton, where she’ll play an album-release show on April 24.

Though she grew up in northern New Jersey, Maloney calls Northampton home. She landed in town after her time at the retreat, where she cooked vegetarian meals for her keep. She’d been studying operatic singing, but just one semester before graduating with a two-year degree she was overcome with the impulse to drop it all and find solace in silence.

Maloney’s first concert was a small one, playing at the retreat’s meditation hall for others who lived and worked there. By 2010 she was had moved to Northampton and was pursuing a full-time career in music. She played the now-closed Yellow Sofa Cafe, Sam’s Pizza and opening slots at Iron Horse Music Call.

Those first songs and shows reflected her recent experiences, Maloney said.

“In some ways it was challenging to go from a structured, peaceful life there,” she said of the retreat. “The whole point of you being there is to cultivate awareness, compassion. Those values initially inspired me to write songs.”

“I don’t know when the turning point is, but I’m committed to getting there.” – Heather Maloney

Maloney’s song-writing process has changed along with her life, she said. For much of last year she was touring, driving from state to state in her van, or in hotel rooms.

“I’d get an idea and sing them into my iPhone, going back later to record demos,” she said. “Sometimes I would just say, ‘Well, screw it,’ I’m on the road and I’ll try one of these songs live. I developed a number of these songs in performance situations.”

The songwriter said the mental space she occupied at that time comes through strong in “Making Me Break” – most evidently so in the name.

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