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A day to celebrate Darwin’s achievements

(English Heritage Library)
By Nancy Shohet West
Globe Correspondent / February 9, 2012
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On Sunday, it will be exactly 203 years since the birth of Charles Darwin.

And if that doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy to you, don’t say so to the Concord Area Humanists. The group is planning a gala celebration in honor of the evolutionary biologist, complete with a discussion, a Darwin impersonator, a birthday cake, and a showing of “Journey of the Universe,’’ a documentary by Brian Thomas Swimme and Mary Evelyn Tucker.

But there’s always room for more among their midst, which is why the group hopes for a strong turnout Sunday. And though it’s a long way from Darwin’s England (or the Galapagos Islands) to Concord, members believe that observing the scientist’s birthday is an important way of celebrating their cause.

According to Concord Area Humanists coordinator Patrick Everett, a retired engineer and longtime Darwin devotee, the party will begin with lunch at 1 p.m. at First Parish in Concord, 20 Lexington Road. A Darwin impersonator will circulate among the group for informal discussion of his ideas.

Following the cutting of the 19th-century naturalist’s birthday cake, the film will be screened at 2 p.m. Audience members can then share their reactions with a panel comprising Abby Hafer, who holds a doctorate in zoology from Oxford University and teaches at Curry College, and Ellery Schempp, a lifelong humanist and retired professor who taught physics, chemistry, and energy at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Geneva in Switzerland; and “Darwin’’ himself.

Calling Darwin Day “a celebration of science and reason,’’ Everett said it was first observed in 1993, and is now recognized globally to acknowledge the biologist’s achievements, and how they have contributed to the advancement of humanity.

“Darwin’s masterwork, ‘On the Origin of Species,’ published in 1859, changed the thinking about how we came to be as we are,’’ Everett said.

The 60-minute “Journey of the Universe’’ film “tells the story of how we came to be, starting with the big bang through the transformation of the universe over 14 billion years . . . tracing first life through Darwinian evolution leading to millions of species, including us,’’ said Everett. “The movie ends with the question: ‘What now?’ And our panel of experts will pick up the discussion from there.’’

To attend Sunday’s event, RSVP to (put “Darwin’’ in the subject line). Suggested donations are $5 per person, $10 per family, payable at the door. For details on the host group, go to

BENEFIT TONIGHT: When the Indian Hill Big Band learned that Groton-Dunstable Regional High’s Chamber Chorus needed to raise $130,000 in order to accept an invitation to perform at this summer’s Olympic Games in London, the musicians volunteered their services for a benefit, which takes place tonight.

The Chamber Chorus will open the evening with several of the songs it plans to perform at the Olympics, and then turn the stage over to the Indian Hill Big Band, which will play a full concert of jazz and blues standards.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for students, with all proceeds going toward the trip. The 7 p.m. concert will be in the Black Box Theater at Groton-Dunstable, 703 Chicopee Row in Groton.

MUSICAL RANGE: Area venues will provide an array of eclectic offerings this weekend.

Jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer will join musician, composer, and experimental music scholar George Lewis in a concert featuring Lewis’s “Voyager’’ system, a digital improvising device capable of responding to human performers, at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Houghton Chapel on the Wellesley College campus, 106 Central St. For details on the free event, call 781-283-1000.

Cellist Aaron Wolff and composer Anna Larsen will be featured in two performances with the New Philharmonia Orchestra this weekend. In the program, entitled “Of Youth & Music,’’ Wolff, 17, performs Schumann’s Cello Concerto, followed by the premiere of Larsen’s Symphony No. 1, and Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Dreams’’ symphony, led by the orchestra’s music director, Ronald Knudsen. The concerts are Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 848 Beacon St., Newton Centre. Tickets are $10-$30. For more information or to order tickets, call 617-527-9717 or go to

And at 4 p.m. Sunday in Framingham, the Heritage Chorale performs “Diamond Jubilee,’’ celebrating its 75th anniversary season with songs drawn from 1937 to the present. The pops-style concert will be held in the Memorial Building, 150 Concord St., with table seats $25, and balcony seats $20. For tickets or details, call 508-270-3999 or go to

SCREENING TONIGHT: A community screening of “Connected,’’ an award-winning documentary that poses provocative questions about what it means to be connected in the 21st century, takes place tonight at 7 at the Bromfield School, 14 Massachusetts Ave. in Harvard.

Admission is free, and the screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with filmmaker Sawyer Steele, who is a Bromfield graduate. Register online at; for details, call Heidi Hynes at 978-302-1198.

ART AND HISTORY: Works by sculptor Linda Hoffman and photographer Sue Cunio Salem are on exhibit in “Light, Wood and Bronze: Two Artists Journey,’’ at the Groton Public Library through March 24, with a reception and artists’ talk Feb. 21 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. For library hours and more details, call 978-448-1167 or go to

From 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, the Framingham History Center presents historical interpreter Libby Frank reenacting a salon with Julia Ward Howe, who produced some of the most stirring and recognizable lines of music in US history as a Boston writer and abolitionist in the decades leading up to the Civil War. The wife of reformer Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, she entertained poets, politicians, reformers, writers, and exceptional women.

Libby will present Howe as the host of a salon that might have included H.W. Longfellow, Edgar Alan Poe, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Fuller, Charles Sumner, and Charles Dickens. Music of the era will be performed and refreshments served following the performance, which takes place in the Heineman Ecumenical Center at Framingham State University, Maynard Road and Church Street.

Tickets are $10, $5 for Framingham History Center members and students, and free for Framingham State students.

PEANUTS AND CABARET: Theatre with a Twist presents “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,’’ a musical comedy by Clark Gesner showcasing the antics of Charlie Brown and his friends Linus, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, and Snoopy, tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. at Thoreau Elementary School, 29 Prairie St. in Concord.

Tickets are $12.50, and can be purchased at or at the door.

The Millis Backstage Crew presents its third annual Cabaret Night fund-raiser at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Millis High School cafeteria, 245 Plain St.

Cabaret Night features performances by Millis High student musicians, singers and dancers. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, and proceeds will support Millis Backstage Crew, a nonprofit formed to support music, drama, dance, and the arts in Millis school system.

For more information, e-mail Marnie Doherty at

RURAL LIFE: Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art presents “Rural Ireland: The Inside Story,’’ an exhibition of recently discovered 19th-century interior paintings reflecting how Irish country people worshipped, mourned, conducted business, arranged their homes, and entertained themselves.

The exhibition opens Saturday at the museum, in Devlin Hall on BC’s campus, 140 Commonwealth Ave. in Chestnut Hill, and remains on display through June 3. For more information, visit

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