Storytelling school

Anaïs Mitchell and Bonny Light Horseman Bring Folk Sounds and Whimsical Tales to the Hopkins Center

The two-time Grammy-nominated trio are gearing up to perform some well-known and all-new songs during The Hop’s 2021-2022 season.

by Armita Mirkarimi | 02/15/22 02:05

Anaïs Mitchell, who created and starred in the first version of the award-winning musical “Hadestown” and is part of the group Bonny Light Horsemen”

Source: Courtesy of Anaïs Mitchell

Anaïs Mitchell — along with bandmates Josh Kaufman and Eric Johnson, the three of whom form Bonny Light Horseman — will perform today at 8 p.m. in the Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Mitchell will kick off the show by playing original songs from her previous albums and the musical “Hadestown,” and halfway through the performance she will be joined by Kaufman and Johnson, according to Hop program manager Karen Henderson.

“Anais has really exploded since ‘Hadestown’,” Henderson said. “The three of them are like superpowers in folk.”

The College’s history with Mitchell dates back to 2014 when she worked on an early version of the now Tony Award-winning musical ‘Hadestown’ through the New York Theater Workshop, which has been coming to Dartmouth since 1991. , according to Henderson. The musical is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice which won Best Musical at the 2019 Tony Awards.

“She’s always been on our radar and had a pretty decent fanbase in that area,” Henderson said. “We kind of jumped at the chance to have Anaïs and the band play. It made sense.

Shortly after the workshop, Mitchell performed a solo concert at the Hop, according to Henderson.

Henderson stressed the importance of having Mitchell perform today, as it is an opportunity to expose both the Upper Valley community and students to folk music and musical theatre.

We like the idea that people come to the show for different reasons,” Henderson said. “Maybe people haven’t heard of her before ‘Hadestown,’ and then they’re going to come and hear about other things that she does, and they’re going to see her in another environment. It’s those converging audiences.

Music teacher César Alvarez, who knows Mitchell professionally, brings his songwriting class to see the performance. They noted that the pandemic has largely prevented students from watching and learning live music.

“I take my students because the pandemic has caused the years to pass and people not going to live music,” Alvarez said. “I think I try to teach my students about songwriting and collective musical creation. And it is essential to go see it. Seeing a band on stage, especially a band like Bonny Light Horsemen, who are people who have been playing music together for years, there is something going on between musicians and people sitting together in a room that is impossible to teach.

Alvarez saw the “Hadestown” workshops in 2012. They recalled that the music didn’t feel orchestrated or fabricated even in its early stages. Rather, Mitchell’s work had a communal and collective quality, according to Alvarez.

“I was really blown away when I started listening to his music,” Alvarez said. “I think what’s cool about it is that she’s a touring musician who’s also really built the world and built a life in theater. And that, to me, is really exciting because when you go see “Hadestown,” the music is so rich and textured, and it feels like the musicians have been playing together for years and years and years because in fact, they have.”

Nat Stornelli ’21, who had taken one of Alvarez’s classes in a previous term, said he discovered Mitchell’s music through “Hadestown” last spring. Stornelli explained that their appreciation of Mitchell’s music grew over time, eventually listening to it constantly after the first few weeks.

“I found it held me back at times when I needed a piece of music, a piece of art, to hold me,” Stornelli said. “It’s been a lonely time, so it’s a gift to find music that can meet you at your highs or your lows and say, ‘Here’s some comfort, here’s a reminder that you’re human and that means you are not alone. ‘ His music is so much about love and connection and what it feels like when it gets tough.

Brandy Zhang ’22 started listening to Mitchel’s music when a friend sent her the song “Wait for Me” from “Hadestown.” Mitchell’s folk style was not something Zhang usually listened to.

I liked the music so much that I ended up watching the show on Broadway, which was fantastic,” Zhang said. After that, she took a class with Alvarez on emerging musical theater, inspired by her experience.

Mitchell’s Vermont roots are reflected in his music, according to Alvarez, as the texture and natural imagery of his songs are as dynamic as the seasons in the Upper Valley.

“She’s not shy about saying that it took time, collaboration, and so many drafts to make her work what it is,” Stornelli said. “It’s not just about raw, spontaneous genius, but also about constant reworking and polishing. This humility and this competence are not to be neglected.