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Music contest winners fill an evening with river song

Montague, MA. September 15, 2008. The Great Hall of the Great Falls Discovery Center was filled with music, song, and cheers last Friday night as finalists in the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s Living along the River Songwriting Contest performed before judges and an overflow crowd. With a dozen finalists vying for top honors, river tunes rang out well into the evening as performers treated the Friends of the Discovery Center Coffeehouse audience to original songs just steps from New England’s Great River at the lip of Turners Falls.

In the final tally a panel of judges chose John Currie of Orange, MA, for the $500 first prize for his song The River, a personal history of growing up along the Connecticut and witnessing its changing moods and seasons. Currie’s simple opening line, “its two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen,” and a refrain that took listeners through a river year seemed to resonate with the judges. It also captured the fancy of the crowd, who dubbed it their “audience favorite.”

Songwriter Claire Dacey of Easthampton, MA, notched second honors with her travelogue, This River, and Charlie Conant of Greenfield, MA, garnered third place for his, River Day. The packed audience was enthusiastic throughout, and cheered loudly when Chelsea Rancourt of West Stewardston, NH, was awarded a special $50 prize honoring her work and her song Coming Back, as the youngest finalist in the concert. Rancourt is 16 years old. All twelve finalists received prizes for their efforts and artistry—ranging from cash to recording time, to gift certificates, and a Connecticut River Boating Guide.

“It was a magical evening,” said the Watershed Council’s Pat LaMountain, who came up with the songwriting contest idea, “We were thrilled we could award something for each entrant,” said the CRWC Finance Director, “They deserved it.” The winners were chosen from among the 65 initial entries to the contest. Songs were judged in part on the specific connections they drew to the Connecticut River. “They painted lovely pictures and told great river stories with their music,“ said LaMountain, who hopes to make the songwriting contest one of the Valley’s seasonal traditions.

The twelve finalists that performed Friday night were: Thomas Anderson, Putney, VT; Charlie Conant, Greenfield, MA; John Currie, Orange, MA; Claire Dacey, Easthampton, MA; Grayson Hugh, Danbury, CT; Davis Johnson, Monson, MA; Roland Lapierre, Greenfield, MA; Tony Lechner, South Hadley, MA; Chelsea Rancourt, West Stewartstown, NH; Emily Samuels, Gill, MA; Rob Skelton, Montague, MA; and Russ Thomas, Greenfield, MA. The contest judges were Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura; long-time regional radio DJ Johnny Memphis; Klondike (John Koehler), founder of renowned, Greenfield-based Klondike Sound; Sue Merrow, Connecticut River Watershed Council Board member (and former Sierra Club Board President); and Sheryl Hunter, music and arts columnist for the Greenfield Recorder.

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For press information contact: Chelsea Gwyther at: (413) 772-2020, ext. 202, or cgwyther@ctriver.org.