More than two dozen members of Newtown Senior Center enjoyed a musical treat last week, when Bethel musician Billy Michaels, on vocals and guitar, shared his considerable enthusiasm for the American heritage of songs. Kicking off the afternoon performance on April 10 with the seasonal “Easter Bonnet,” he moved smoothly into a series of other classic songs from the 1900s, and 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, including “Piano Roll Blues,” “Baby Face,” and a song he said was the “biggest American hit of all times,” the 1892 “After The Ball,” which sold over 2 million copies of sheet music that year.
The afternoon of music got even better, though, when Mr Michaels, who has entertained at the center numerous times, introduced a local talent many had not had the pleasure of hearing before Thursday.
Stephanie Paproski, a 2008 graduate of Newtown High School, added her vocals first to a set of country songs, and later to a medley of Beatles songs, accompanied by Mr Michaels.
Sarah Evans’s “Born To Fly” was a song fit for the “Corn Maiden,” as was her version of “Red Neck Woman,” said Mr Michaels, whose gentle teasing referred to his singing partner’s family connection to the Paproski Castle Hill Farm on Route 302. It is an unlikely pair — the bubbly, young blonde and the seasoned musician — but it is a combination that seems to work. The witty give-and-take of the musical duo cast a charm over the audience, some who could not resist singing along and tapping toes.
Her appearance at Newtown Senior Center was a first for her, said Ms Paproski, but she has sung regularly with Mr Michaels at various other Newtown and Bethel venues.
Mr Michaels is not only a family friend, she said, but performs at the Castle Hill Farm Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze, in the fall.
“About two years ago, he was playing at the Corn Maze, and he was really encouraging, so I got up the nerve [to sing with him] and it went from there,” Ms Paproski said. “I’ve sung in choirs in the past, but I was never brave enough to do something like this before,” she said.
Now a JV Lacrosse coach and Varsity Field Hockey coach at Newtown High School, as well as working at the family farm, Ms Paproski is finding music to be a great outlet. “I really do enjoy it,” she said. “Billy makes it a lot of fun.”
While Ms Paproski took a break, Mr Michaels enticed Senior Center Director Marilyn Place to add her “Yippie-Yi-Yo’s” to his galloping guitar version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” (with verses rewritten on the fly to include Ms Place). “Let’s Do The Twist” tempted some talented twisters from the audience to dance to his songs of the Sixties.
“We love having Billy come here,” said Ms Place. “It’s always a good time.”