Greenfield, MA. October 28, 2009.
Over 150 people tramped through the drying maple leaves of Greenfield’s Court Square on Sunday, October 25th and up the steps of the 2nd Congregational Church to hear a new crop of home-grown Connecticut River Valley songs in the Connecticut River Watershed Council’s “Living along the River” songwriting contest. “It was a terrific turn out for a lovely fall afternoon,” said CRWC Finance Director Pat LaMountain, who conceived of the contest, “Everybody from kids to seniors came to listen.” Contestants ranged from first-time songwriters to seasoned Valley music veterans. They broadcast to a crowd that got to do some of its own song-judging, assisted by the church’s fine acoustics.

In the final tally the contest’s five official judges chose the lyrics of Chicopee’s Sparkie Allison’s “River Daze” as the contest’s first prize song. “River Daze” weaves together a story of Allison’s impressions from time spent boating on the Westfield and Connecticut Rivers. Contest judges included State Representative Stephen Kulik, The Greenfield Recorder’s music and arts columnist Sheryl Hunter, community arts advocate Karl Bittenbender of Orange, MA; ecologist and musician Elizabeth Farnsworth and John Sinton from CRWC’s Board who–along with Wendy Sinton and Farnsworth authored The Connecticut River Boating Guide.

Sparkie Allison’s first prize brought $300 and a new soprano ukulele donated by Maple Leaf Music of Brattleboro, VT. All of the song entries paid homage to the Connecticut and its tributaries. Varied styles showcased lyrics touting special connections to a river’s wetland plants, aquatic species and fish, as well as historic floods, log drives, and fossils. Ultimately, second place and a check for $200 went to Greenfield’s Charlie Conant for a driving bluegrass song of the Connecticut’s changing end of winter extremes in “Ice Out”; while long-time Greenfield singer/songwriter and physician Russ Thomas was awarded $100 and third place for his thoughtfully-whimsical treatment of the predicament facing an endangered freshwater bivalve on the river, “Russell the Dwarf Wedgemussel.”

An attentive audience also recognized Thomas’s crowd appeal in audience balloting that was basically a snap poll of the evening’s overall performances. The dwarf wedgemussel song received recognition as “audience favorite,” followed closely by a tie for second place in voting between Sheila Moschen’s “Near Where the River Flows” and John Currie’s “Seems to Know.” Keiran Minor of Danbury, CT won the “under 18” category. Minor accompanied himself on piano as he shared “Legends of the River” with the audience. Minor received a $50 check for winning, and each of the twelve finalists went home with a prize.

The top songs from the 2008 contest were released on a three-song CD that evening and the 2008 winners performed their songs: John Currie’s “The River”, Claire Dacey’s “This River” and Charlie Conant’s “River Day”. The CD is available from the Connecticut River Watershed Council. “People really love the river music people are making right here in the Valley,” Pat LaMountain says. Those interested in a CD can contact: www.ctriver.org.

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For press information contact: Pat LaMountain at: 413-772-2020, or plamountain@ctriver.org, or Chelsea Gwyther, Executive Director, CRWC, at: 413-772-2020, ext. 202, or cgwyther@ctriver.org