top story – Lenton concert

Story and photos by Stephen Kiltonic
ADAMS – On March 22, a free Lenten sacred concert, entitled “Behold the Wood,” was performed at Pope John Paul the Great church, featuring the acclaimed singer-songwriter and parish music director Mary Verdi, along with religious education director Ken Kaigle.

The nearly 100 parishioners who braved the cold, blustery, and snowy Berkshire County night were treated to an evening of contemporary and traditional music which included Verdi’s own compositions and some favorite songs by John Michael Talbot and Marty Haugen.

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A Mary Verdi Christmas at the Colonial

The Berkshire Family Focus
November 27, 2012
By Jenn Smith

PITTSFIELD – When it came to looking for inspiration to write an original holiday song among the countless tunes that are out there, local singer-songwriter Mary Verdi only had to look out her window, and “Christmas Time” was born:

Snow is falling, streets are calm. Here we are, at peace.

Christmas lights still shining bright. There is hope this night.

“I wrote this in January, after my first Christmas show,” said Verdi.

“I was staring out the window with the snow falling. I knew then I really wanted to remind people that Christmas is a special time to stop and be thankful for everything and to spend time together. That’s my message,” she said.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, Verdi will return to the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield to present her third holiday show. This time she’s bringing special guest and fellow Berkshire County musician Tony Lee Thomas on stage with her, as well as 50 to 60 other musicians — from her seven-piece band to the Craneville Children’s Chorus, plus the jolly man in red himself, Mr. Santa Claus.

“I felt so excited when I was asked to be part of this. I felt like I was going to scream,” said fifth-grader and Craneville Chorus member Madeline Naef. “It makes me feel important (to have been asked), and special because my family will be there celebrating the holiday with me.”

According to a promotional statement for the show, “’Christmas at the Colonial with Mary Verdi’ has become a cornerstone event in the Berkshires.” This year, the Colonial has decided to offer audiences two show times for the program, at 2 p.m. matinée and 7 p.m. show on Saturday.

“Every year you try to change it a little bit, so we’re doing a few new things,” said Verdi.

In deciding the set list for the show, Verdi turned to her Facebook fans and, by popular poll, will be performing Christmas time standards like “Let it Snow,” “No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” and the 1992 country/Christian contemporary hit, “Mary, Did You Know?”

Also new to the program will be a group of seven young violinists from Berkshire Music School, who will lend their talents to a performance of Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Canon,” including the groups smallest member, 7-year-old Nicholas Fu.

“My father was a symphony conductor, so I have a soft spot in my heart for young violin players,” Verdi said. “This little guy, I am putting on a box to make sure the audience can enjoy his playing —what a doll!”

Verdi said she began writing the Christmas show in August to accommodate for all the guest performers and special surprises.

“Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. It’s a time to come together with family and celebrate the birth of Jesus and remember what the holiday spirit is all about,” she said.

“Christmas at the Colonial with Mary Verdi and special guest Tony Lee Thomas” is set for Saturday, Dec. 1, at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 16. The Colonial is located at 111 South St. in Pittsfield. For tickets and information go online to

See the article on The Berkshire Family Focus

Honoring the homecoming article on YNN

Article about the event featuring “Here at Home” video  at the Norman Rockwell Museum Saturday June 23

Honoring the homecoming of troops past and present
By: Brandon Walker

Soldiers past and present are honored during a ceremony at the Norman Rockwell Museum. As our Brandon Walker reports, the ceremony also paid homage to Norman Rockwell’s paintings of troops returning home from combat.

STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — They consider themselves two soldiers, sharing the story of thousands more. First Lieutenant Andrew Shaw, and his wife, Sergeant Kelsey Shaw honored Saturday as they are welcomed home.

“We just hope to represent each and every one of the veterans proudly, humbled and honored,” said Sgt. Kelsey Shaw.

The husband-wife duo served multiple tours of Iraq, returning from combat in 2005. While it’s been awhile, making sure every local troop is recognized is the goal of the Berkshire County Here at Home Committee… go to YNN article >

Sgt. Kelsey Shaw and First

June 24, 2012 7:10 AM
Sgt. Kelsey Shaw and First
Lt. Andrew Shaw show a wide range of emotions while being welcomed by The Here
at Home Committee and the Norman Rockwell Museum on the museum’s grounds in
Stockbridge in an event inspired by Rockwell’s 1945 ‘Happy Homecoming’ painting.
(Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Sgt. Kelsey Shaw takes a
minute to hold her 7-week-old daughter Aida and to talk to her daughter Emma, 7,
as she and her husband, First Lt. Andrew Shaw, were welcomed by the Here at Home
Committee at the Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday. (Stephanie Zollshan /
Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Sunday June 24, 2012STOCKBRIDGE — The moment a soldier returns from war to his own doorstep, his
family, neighbors — even the man fixing the roof — all react with unalloyed

That’s how Norman Rockwell depicted it in a 1945 painting. And that’s how a
local group devoted to welcoming home servicemen and women hope to continue to
commemorate military homecomings.

More than 65 years after he painted “The Homecoming,” the Saturday Evening
Post cover currently on loan to the Norman Rockwell Museum has inspired a
celebration of local husband-and-wife soldiers.

First Lt. Andrew Shaw and Sgt. Kelsey Shaw, both 31, arrived by police escort
to the Stockbridge museum Saturday afternoon. They were greeted by a path of
waving American flags and dozens of onlookers, including their four young
children, all there to “officially” welcome them home.

“I’m absolutely spellbound,” said Kelsey Shaw, holding her infant daughter as
she spoke. “The people here thanking us, and the smiles on their faces and
flag-waving, it’s truly touching.”

The Shaws, who live in Lee, returned from duty in the Army’s 283rd
Transportation Company in Iraq between 2004 and 2005. But there’s no time limit
on when it’s appropriate to honor soldiers’ commitment to their country,
according to Ro sanne Frieri, director of veteran services for Pittsfield and a
founder of the Here at Home Committee, which has organized 20 similar events for
local soldiers since it formed in 2007.

In a brief ceremony at the museum, Col. Daniel Swift of Pittsfield spoke to
the crowd about country’s changing reactions to returning veterans — how they
were lauded after World War II, and maligned after the Vietnam War. “We didn’t
have an outpouring. We didn’t have community support,” he said.

Nowadays, honoring warriors is the public’s duty, he said: “Soldiers like
Andy and Kelsey don’t look for notoriety. It’s the community’s responsibility to
come to gether to

Tech Sgt. Shane Willis, who
served three tours in Iraq and will soon be deployed again to Afghanistan, holds
Shane Jr., 2, as he waits to welcome home the Shaws on Saturday. (Stephanie
Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)


Kelsey Shaw averred that she joined the Army not for recognition, but because
she felt it was the right thing to do. She and her husband are both immigrants
— Kelsey from Thailand and Cam bodia; Andrew from Canada — a heritage that
makes them all the more proud to serve the United States.

“Because of my immigration status I value this country even more,” she said.

American Homecomings

Love song inspired elaborate welcome home celebrations

By Ned Oliver / The Berkshire Eagle |
Posted on May 16, 2012 – American Homecomings

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — They’re ready to rally at a moment’s notice.

When word gets to Berkshire County’s Here at Home Committee that a soldier is returning from service overseas, it sets off a flurry of emails, phone calls and Facebook messages.

The mission? To muster as many people as possible to help provide the returning serviceman or woman the hearty — and surprise — welcome home celebration they believe every soldier deserves.

Rosanne Frieri, co-founder of the Here at Home Committee, hugs Pittsfield resident and U.S. Army Specialist Jacob Scace, who returned home from Afghanistan on March 30.
And with only a day’s preparation, they deliver — usually with a full color guard standing at attention, a plaque of appreciation at the ready and a crowd of cheering well-wishers and family members.

“It’s a powerful moment, standing in front of a soldier’s house, and you’re watching the parents, and they’re getting so emotional and are so ready to see their child. … I wish everyone could see it,  because the feeling of patriotism that comes alive in your heart when you do, I have goosebumps just thinking about it,” said Mary Verdi, a local singer-songwriter.

To date, the group has put together 19 welcome back events for returning Berkshire veterans since Verdi founded the group in 2007 with Rosanne Frieri, a veteran herself who at the time had just started her job as the city’s director of veterans services.

In addition to the ceremony, the group also sponsors a billboard featuring each returning soldier’s picture and a note thanking them for their service.

The idea for the committee was actually born from a song written by Verdi, called “Here at Home.” It’s a love song to a soldier that Verdi was inspired to write after she heard the story of an Iraq war veteran who was having a hard time readjusting to civilian life.

The song is popular, especially among members of the armed services and their family members. Verdi actually performed it at the Pentagon last year, and she says she still gets emails from people around the country who have come across it and been touched.

But Verdi said she wanted to do more with the song than just sing it. A mutual friend put her in touch with Frieri. Together, they hatched the Here at Home Committee and funded it with sales of Verdi’s CD.

Frieri said she immediately appreciated the need to systematically thank Berkshire County soldiers for their service.

“I’m old enough to remember a little bit about Vietnam,” Frieri said. “I had friends who served and I heard the stories. They weren’t welcomed back.”

For some local veterans, the negativity surrounding military service isn’t just a relic from the ’70s.

Jacob Scace, an Army specialist from Dalton who was the subject of group’s latest ceremony in March, said it’s difficult to describe how good a simple act of appreciation makes him feel.

“To me, there’s nothing that could give you a better high than somebody coming up and shaking your hand and understanding what you’ve been through,” Scace said.

See original article The Denver Post American Homecomings
To reach Ned

Advocate review of Mary Verdi’s new Christmas Album

Wednesday December 14, 2011

Mary Verdi wants to be part of your holiday tradition.

“I wanted to make sure I created a CD that people could play while wrapping gifts or making cookies, that sort of thing,” the Berkshire-based performer said of “Christmas in the Berkshires,” her new full-length album. “It was important for me to create a CD that would be a little bit of everything and bring back the nostalgia of that whole Christmas season that we just love.”

The result is an album that is decidedly traditional in its musical approach, with an emphasis on Christian spirituality.

“I think Christ just remains to be one of the best teachers that we’ve ever had of how to love everybody around you, and to celebrate the birthday of someone who was just so profoundly full of love, I think that is the epitome of my CD, I hope,” she explained.

The 15-song track listings include familiar chestnuts like “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Silver Bells” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” although it’s also dotted with songs of a more recent vintage by artists such as Amy Grant and a new song by Verdi herself.

“Ultimately I think we all want to hear all those songs we know so well,” she said. “I wanted to make sure it was a CD where we all get to hear those songs that we only hear once a year.”

Verdi’s vocals are featured, accompanied by Ben Kohn on piano, Tony Lee Thomas on some guitar and vocals and Joe Meo on saxophone. The concept for the album, Verdi’s fourth, came about after last year’s version of her annual Christmas concert, which for the first time was held at The Colonial. Verdi said many people approached her merchandise table seeking a Christmas-themed album, and her next step was clear.

Shortly thereafter, she sat down at her piano and composed “Christmas Time,” an elegant, holiday-themed song in the true tradition of sentimental Christmas ballads.

The album is a family affair, with Verdi’s children chipping in their vocals on “Silent Night.”

“I added my kids just because I felt that Christmas is so family-focused. I really wanted the CD to depict my family and not just make it a commercial CD but make it feel like we all do in the Berkshires and have this nice community around us,” Verdi said.

Underlining this sense of place is the cover art for the album, a gatefold watercolor painting by local artist Marguerite Bride of a snow-kissed Park Square, Pittsfield, set in 1912. There’s also the presence of some antique sleigh bells Verdi came across in a Connecticut antique shop on a hot August day, while searching for the perfect wintry effect.

“We were able to use these antique bells all through the CD,” she recalled. “They have a sound that’s just magical. It was gorgeous.”