Laurel Massé at soon-to-relocate Unison in New Paltz

Laurel Massé

By the time this issue of Almanac Weekly hits the newsstands, word should be spreading like wildfire that one of New Paltz’s most beloved cultural institutions, the Unison Arts & Learning Center, is giving up its longtime home at 68 Mountain Rest Road. Citing the “financial burden” of the rented headquarters on the road to Mohonk, which has been plagued by water problems and recurring repair and maintenance issues, Unison board president Tom Nolan has announced that, “in January, we will move our office to temporary quarters in the Village of New Paltz.”

Locals who have enjoyed concerts, plays, workshops, art exhibitions and countless other cultural and educational offerings at Unison since 1975 will doubtless be alarmed at this news. But events will still go on as scheduled before the year is out, and now is the time to help fill the not-for-profit organization’s coffers to help sustain it through a shaky transitional period, whether by purchasing tickets to a show or making a donation.

Luckily, Unison has a pretty enticing show lined up for this very weekend: “An Afternoon with Laurel Massé,” starting at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 9. A repeat visitor to Unison and a terrific role model for a venerable cultural institution that endures in spite of hardship, Massé made an indelible impression on our collective ears as the original keystone voice of Manhattan Transfer, even though she only sang with that group for seven years. During her tenure, Manhattan Transfer recorded four gold- or platinum-selling albums and toured widely.

That halcyon era was cut short in 1978 by a near-fatal automobile accident. After a long recuperation Massé made a strong comeback as a solo artist, and by now is seen as a go-to person for expertise on cabaret-style and group jazz vocal technique. She taught at Yale’s International Cabaret Conference for eight years and has been a vocal coach on the staff of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s Ashokan Fiddle and Dance Camps since 1997. Most recently she joined the staff of the Augusta Heritage Center’s Blues and Swing program.

Ashokan isn’t the singer’s only Catskills/Hudson Valley connection; Massé frequently gigs with composer/arranger/pianist Vinnie Martucci, a familiar Woodstock-area fixture who currently teaches Jazz Theory and Improvisation at SUNY-New Paltz. Martucci will be her accompanist at her Unison appearance on Sunday, so it’s a class act all around. Expect some good conversation mixed in with the music at this salon-style afternoon performance.

Advance tickets to “An Afternoon with Laurel Massé” cost $20 general admission, $15 for members; they go for $25 at the door, $20 for members. Students get in for half-price with a valid ID. That’s a lot of voice for not so much moolah. Call (845) 255-1559 or visit for tickets.

Laurel Massé with Vinnie Martucci, Sunday, November 9, 2 p.m., $25/$20/$15, Unison Arts & Learning Center, 68 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz; (845) 255-1559,

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