'What Would Petula Do' to benefit Taconic Music
Readers: This story was edited at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24 to correct the spelling of Andrew Koss and to clarify the name of Taconic Music's program is "String for Kids."
MANCHESTER — Maxine Linehan grew up in Ireland with Petula Clark playing on the family turntable, thanks to her mother's love for the singer and actress.
"It was something I grew up listening to," Linehan said in a recent interview with the Journal. "It wasn't the music of my generation, but I listened to it my whole life."
Linehan, a critically acclaimed vocalist now making her home in Manchester with her family, has brought that music and Clark's career alive. Her show "What Would Petula Do?" is an exploration of Clark's career, which, as Linehan explains, runs much deeper than the cheerful mid-1960s pop songs such as "Downtown" that made her a superstar in America.
Linehan will perform "What Would Petula Do?" at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at Southern Vermont Arts Center's Arkell Pavilion, as a benefit for Taconic Music. Tickets are $40, and $100 VIP packages are available and include preferred seating and a meet-and-greet session with Linehan.
The singer, her husband Andrew Koss and their children moved to Manchester about a year ago, and she was introduced by a mutual friend to Taconic Music co-directors Joana Genova and Ariel Rudiakov when she was looking for music teachers for her daughter (violin) and son (cello).
"All paths lead to Joana and Ari when it comes to music education," Linehan said of the couple. "We've forged a great friendship ever since. It's incredible what they're doing with String for Kids."
Rudiakov said Taconic Music is grateful to Linehan for taking the time to help the organization raise funding for its programs.
"She believes, as we do, that classical and other styles of music should be as accessible as possible for children, adults, the elderly, veterans and all the collective people Taconic Music's mission serves," Rudiakov said. "Maxine is a performer with an extraordinary gift and ability to communicate energy and emotions across the spectrum. We look forward to performing with her in a supporting role as she tracks the legendary career of Petula Clark."
What Northshire audiences will experience, as described by Stephen Holden of The New York Times in a 2015 review, is a "fiercely talented, self-assured" singer who "exudes the comfortable rootedness of a performer who knows who she is and where she came from."
Where Linehan came from is Cork, Ireland, and a career in music that came about later in life. As a child, Linehan loved music, dance and theater, and she made her acting debut at 17. But she then took a career detour, earning a law degree and working as an attorney, before deciding to pursue music as a career.
"It took me a while — until around 2013-14 — for me to figure out what I wanted to do," Linehan said. "What I wanted to do was be on stage as myself, telling stories through song."
She doesn't take her change of careers for granted.
"It's the most joyful thing in the world to do. I had the great fortune in the last five or six years to have made a real success of it," Linehan said. "Doing this work is a gift. I'm able to be myself."
In a similar way, Clark's career arc included moments of risk and reinvention. While she's best remembered for her string of pop hits in the U.S., she also earned widespread acclaim in different eras and different mediums — as a multi-talented child radio, television and movie star of World War II-era Great Britain, as a beloved interpreter of songs in France, and as a stage actress who sold out theaters on both sides of the Atlantic.
"When I started to delve deeper I uncovered a fascinating story of a woman and her life," Linehan said of her research of the role. "She was the Shirley Temple of Great Britain and desperately wanted to break out of child stardom."
And though American audiences know her pop hits from the 1960s, "a massive chunk after that wasn't pop stardom," Linehan said. "Most audiences just see that one area of her career — all her megahits."
Linehan said she has met Clark on a number of occasions. "She's a wonderful woman and very supportive and grateful for my continuing to pay homage to her."
While the show is about Clark, it's not Linehan trying to "be" Clark.
"There's a fine line between interpretation and impersonation," Linehan said. "All of our arrangements of the songs stay true to the melodies and song formats but I have a brilliant world class music orchestrator, and he created these stunning arrangements. They've all been given a special treatment and all interpreted by me as Maxine rather than me trying to be Petula."
"It's a cheerful, joyful night in the theater," she added. "At times like this in our world, in our country, in the climate we live in, the arts are a wonderful place for us to feel relief and wallow in something that's good for us."
Tickets for "What Would Petula Do" can be purchased at www.taconicmusic.org
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