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HomeFeaturesEntertainmentMusic and Poetry Events at The Buttonwood Tree, May 2023

Music and Poetry Events at The Buttonwood Tree, May 2023

Submitted by Amy Albert
(April 25, 2023) — The Buttonwood Tree at 605 Main Street in Middletown presents the following events in May 2023. For information on all shows and performances, visit  or call (860) 347-4957  Email:
Friday, May 5, 2023/Americana Band A Former Friend. Show starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15. A Former Friend is known to challenge genre boundaries through the classic medium of American songwriting. His songs speak to a time when the intersection of popular music drew from country, gospel, jazz, blues, and Appalachian folk. A time when the only necessary genre designation was purely “music”.  Arizona-born musician Robert Tobias moved to New England from Kentucky in late 2018 after years of touring all over the world. A Former Friend began performing regularly in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island until and was about to hit the road for a multi-week East Coast tour in spring/summer of 2020 when a global pandemic forced venues to close and prevented travel. Never in his adult life had the consummate musician gone even a few weeks without performing live so he turned his focus to recording his expansive catalogue of songs and writing new music that speaks to the modern zeitgeist. The self-titled debut “Just A Former Friend” was re-released in January 2021, followed by “This Television Will NOT Be Revolutionized” in February of that same year. The two EP’s are available individually for streaming or together on a 12″ vinyl record. 


Saturday, May 6, 2023/Songwriting & Poetry Workshop by musicians Stan Sullivan, Bruce Pratt and Jim Mercik. 4:00 p.m., preceding their musical showcase. (see next item). Admission is $15.  Seminar topics: 1) Finding Inspiration—so many sources 2) Is It A Poem or Is It A Song? 3) The Work: Taking your work from the inspiration stage through finding the words, the forms and the revisions to create a finished work worthy of the printed page or the concert stage. 4) A really good song deserves good music. Sometimes less is more  5.) Q & A

Saturday, May 6, 2023/Singer-Songwriters Stan Sullivan, Bruce Pratt, and Jim Mercik. Show starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $20. Connecticut native Stan Sullivan earned his BA in Modern Languages from CCSU in 1970. He is a self-described “singer-songwriter-guitar instrumentalist-composer-and-folk-and-blues performer.” He modestly explains that although he wrote his first song at the age of 17, it was not until many years later that the quality of his songwriting and performing came together. Sullivan has played solo in Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts at colleges, libraries, festivals, clubs, coffeehouses, special events and more. He has opened and done sets with more than a hundred internationally touring artists, including Muriel Anderson, Janis Ian, Dave Van Ronk, John Hartford, and Happy Traum. He has released two lyrical albums, The Right Road, and Do You Like the Rain? featuring 24 original songs and instrumentals and two compilations of recording appearances on Folk Next Door and Folk Next Door V-Cicada, both recorded for WWUH 91.3 FM Radio. Bruce Pratt’s poems are smart and accomplished. He keeps a close watch on the natural world, and an even closer one on human nature. “Boreal” is a collection that extends pleasure to insight on every page. A memorable outpouring of passion and paradox, Pratt’s pitch-perfect poems entwine uncertainties into a retrospective which rather than striking back at experience, holds it gracefully, gratefully, close at hand. He is the winner of the 2007 Ellipsis Prize in poetry, a finalist for the Erskine J. Poetry award from Smartish Pace, and his poems have appeared in Only Connect, an anthology from Cinnamon Press, (Wales) Smartish Pace, the 2007 Goose River Anthology, Revival (Ireland), Puckerbrush Review, The Poet’s Touchstone, Rock and Sling, and Red Rock Review.                                                       Jim Mercik is a Connecticut multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and arranger. He plays guitar, banjo, clarinet and also sings. He has appeared in concert with a multitude of artists including Eric Andersen, Eric Von Schmidt, bluesman Paul Geremia, and Grammy Award winners Bonnie Raitt and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. He was a founding member of the popular Connecticut bands The Roadbirds and The Congo Square Ramblers, and is currently performing as a member of The Smokin’ Mirrors Jazz Quartet. For many years Jim hosted Blue Monday, a three-hour radio program of American Blues, Jazz, and R&B music, which continues to air on WWUH-FM.

Friday, May 12, 2023/Performance Artist Laurel Knight. Show starts at 7:00 p.m. Admission is $15. Laurel Knight is an artist from Connecticut who uses taped musical and vocal recordings to make a “cacophony” effect soundscape to accompany her unique performance art that involves projecting video of live assemblage building, for an intimate and stimulating experience. Reiki and elements of ASMR are incorporated into the performance. The assemblage aspect of the act is a magical unveiling of small sacred spaces that are recorded and projected onto the wall so that viewers can get an up close vantage point. She has been making videos of this type that can be found on YouTube. The show will also feature the Buttonwood Tree’s May art exhibit of Laurel’s artwork.

Saturday, May 13, 2023/The Miles Elliot Experience. Show starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $20. Named after jazz legend Miles Davis, Miles Elliot was born in Edison, New Jersey and raised in Bloomfield, Connecticut. He became hooked on music at an early age and began DJing during his early teen years. In 2010 he began his professional DJ career in Hartford under the name DJ M.E.
During the next two years, Miles Elliot’s profile steadily rose as DJ. He was named Connecticut’s Best DJ in 2011 by the Hartford Advocate, which landed him DJ gigs from Connecticut to New York City to Los Angeles. Miles has since evolved into a producer, remixer, multi-instrumentalist, playlist curator and music journalist. He has cited Quincy Jones, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder, Prince, J Dilla, A Tribe Called Quest, The Neptune’s and Kanye West as his biggest musical influences.
Miles Elliot fuses Jazz, R&B, Soul, Funk, Rock, House and Hip-Hop beats into his music. He strives to make music that feels familiar but also explores new territory. His debut EP “Purple Label” was released in April 2019.

Friday, May 19, 2023/Folk-Bluegrass Artist Kate Prascher and Her Band. Show starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15. Kate Prascher is a singer and multi-instrumentalist best known for her evocative songwriting. She was thrilled to be named an IBMA Songwriting Showcase finalist in 2021. Inspired by her Tennessee roots and influenced by master song crafters like Hazel Dickens and Gillian Welch, Kate is a versatile writer and engaging performer. Her songs are outspoken and sometimes tender, by turns playful and heart-piercing. Kate’s past work includes her 2019 solo EP Bright Like This, 2016’s Almanac recorded with The Tumble and a self-titled EP released by The Wildwood Sisters. She has performed with numerous artists as a singer, mandolinist and duet partner.

Thursday, May 25, 2023/Poetry Reading of the Works of Philip Larkin by Bruce Coffin and Chris Sweeney. Reading starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15. Join us for a poetry reading in celebration of the life and work of Philip Larkin, one of England’s greatest and best-loved poets of the 20th century. Bruce Coffin has taught English in a number of independent schools in England and America, including Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut. He is the author of two memoirs, The Long Light of Those Days and Among Familiar Shadows, and he divides his time between Hamden, Connecticut and Woodstock, Vermont. In a 35 year long career at Westover School, Christopher Sweeney taught English, History, and Latin, coordinated the school’s community service program, and held a variety of administrative positions.

Friday, May 26, 2023/Connecticut Songwriters Becky Kessler and Xavier Serrano. Show starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15. Becky Kessler, songwriter, singer and guitarist for the band “Violent Mae,” moved to Connecticut from North Carolina to live and work on a friend’s organic farm. Kessler came from a musical family and discovered her passion for songwriting through the guitar. She won best singer-songwriter in the first annual Connecticut Music Awards and with multi-instrumentalist and producer, Floyd Kellogg, has since received praise from Paste, Mother Jones, Sub Pop, and NPR. Violent Mae was never intended to be a band. Becky asked Floyd to record and produce her first solo album, and as soon as they hit the studio, chemistry, and dynamics between the two sparked the evolution of an artistic partnership. Their full-length debut record was released at the end of 2013. Influenced by artists like The Pentangle, Bert Jansch and Nick Drake, Xavier Serrano fuses traditional melodic styles with forward-thinking and unconventional forms. His songwriting spins stories of reawakening, self-growth, and the contemplations of life utilizing on the discordant chords of jazz, folk, and alternative rock. He is formerly the founder and principal songwriter of New Haven folk group Kindred Queer.

Saturday, May 27, 2023/The Secondary Messengers Jazz Quintet. Show starts at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $20. Reedman Dick Poccia, Professor Emeritus of Biology at Amherst College, has played in jazz groups in Western Massachusetts for 40 years, recording with the Valley Big Band, Jeff Holmes Big Band, and the Lowe-Jaffe Repertory Big Band. Currently a member of the Amherst Jazz Orchestra, Creacion Latin Big Band, Ask Me Now, and the Jeff Holmes Big Band, he has played in back-up bands for the Temptations, Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, Ernie Watts, Claudio Roditi, Yusef Lateef, John Abercrombie, Steve Turre, Al Cohn, Rufus Reed, Karrin Allyson, Steve Davis, Sheila Jordan, George Garzone, Peter Erskine, Paul Winter, John Fedchock, and the Ringling Brothers Circus; has twice toured in Russia playing at the White Nights Jazz Festival; has performed at Sculler’s, the El Morocco, Sandy’s, Berklee School of Music, the Philharmonic Jazz Center in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Estrada State Theater in Moscow, and DOCKS television program in Lisbon; has played with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and the Duke Ellington Festival Orchestra with Gunther Schuller at Amherst College.


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