After a 50-year career, singer Judy Collins, now 76, isn’t thinking about retirement
In fact, the Grammy-winning folk artist, best known for her recordings of “Both Sides Now” and “Send in the Clowns,” has a new album, “Silver Skies Blue” due out in June with dozens of upcoming tour dates across the U.S. and abroad.
You can catch her locally when she performs at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead this St. Patrick’s Day as part of Long Island Winterfest.
“For any artist, you don’t stop doing what you do. If you’re a painter, you don’t stop painting,” Collins said in a phone interview last week. “I just happen to do it in public more than most people do.”
The concert will draw inspiration from her 2014 album and PBS special, titled “Judy Collins: Live in Ireland,” which was recorded on the Emerald Isle.
“I love Irish songs and grew up with them,” she said. “I’ve never had a chance to perform a whole bunch of them. As a matter of fact two Irish songs that put me on the road to being a folk singer were ‘Gypsy Rover’ and ‘Barbara Ellen.’ I didn’t record them for decades, I don’t know why. But they’re both on the new album.”
The 9th annual Long Island Winterfest festival is in full swing, but next week things will kick up a notch when headliners like Collins and Jefferson Starship take the Suffolk Theater’s stage.
This will be Collins’ second appearance at The Suffolk Theater.
“I love Long Island and the North Fork is very special,” she said. ‘When I’m out here I eat a lot of lobster and bluefish, which is my favorite and run on the beach. I just love it.”
Jefferson Starship, the 1960s band that began as Jefferson Airplane, will also help close out the festival on March 19, playing a slew of their hits.
The music act’s March 19 concert will be dedicated to band member Paul Kantner, who passed away in January at the age of 74. As a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, Kantner, a songwriter and vocalist for the band, helped develop the “San Francisco sound” that was so influential in the 1960s.
While Long Island Winterfest has always been a cornucopia of local bands, veteran performers and emerging artists, the fact that two well-known acts like Collins and Jefferson Starship are closing out the festival is the vision of the festival’s producer James Faith who began organizing the festival last year.
“I think it was important to raise the level of the artists,” he said. “There were never any headliners on the festival and that was a problem. I felt that the media would have more interest and people would have more interest.”
In addition to the headline acts, several wineries have also shifted focus this year, supplementing concert with wine-focused events like barrel tastings and winemaker talks.
Faith also increased the festival’s advertising, particularly in Nassau County, which he felt was being underserved as many western Long Island residents frequent the East End.
Initially Winterfest was created by the Long Island Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the Long Island Wine Council and East End Arts to bring people out to the region during slower winter months. He said he has used the allure of the North Fork, not only to attract audiences, but to draw in performers as well.
“Part of the attraction for attendees are the venues. The vineyards and hotels are so unique and how beautiful the North Fork is in winter,” he said. “I think those things are attractive for artists too, plus they’re playing for very intimate crowds. Judy [Collins] has performed at the Suffolk Theater once before. Jefferson Starship is used to bigger crowds, so this is kind of intimate for a band that tours.”
Faith added that he would like to see the festival move in a more family-friendly direction in upcoming years.
“I’d like to add more foodie events and maybe even children’s events in the afternoons,” said Faith. “That would be great as an overall view or vision for the festival, to have a place that families can attend and have something to do for the whole family.”
Judy Collins takes the Suffolk Theater’s stage on Thursday, March 17. Doors open at 6:30 and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 to $75 and can be purchased by visiting SuffolkTheater.com.
Jefferson Starship will perform at the theater on Saturday, March 19. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 to $55 and can also be purchased by visiting the Suffolk Theater’s website.
Long Island Winterfest 2016 runs through March 20, for a complete schedule of events, visit liwinterfest.com.