Copyright © 2008-11 Flagpole Productions.

The Flagpole Radio Café

   is a lively variety show presented by Flagpole Productions™
in association with the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission

Flagpole Radio Café  Press Release


August 20, 2009







For information call 364-0898



Newtown, CT - the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is pleased to announce the beginning of Season Two of The Flagpole Radio Café on Saturday, September 12 in the Edmond Town Hall Theatre at 7pm.  Rhythm and Blues sensation Vaneese Thomas will be the Guest Artist.  Ticket prices for this performance are $15.  Reservations can be made online by visiting the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission home page at and clicking on the Flagpole Radio Café link. If further information is needed, please call 364-0898.


Music Director Jim Allyn noted, “We’re thrilled to have the talented Vaneese Thomas performing at the premiere of our second season.  She is an extraordinary R&B singer and the band is very excited to back up her vocals. The audience is in for a great evening.”


            Born in Memphis Tennessee, the daughter of R&B legend Rufus Thomas, Vaneese Thomas has cultivated her own style by blending all the influences of her background including R&B, gospel, blues and jazz.  Regarded by many industry insiders as an accomplished performer, songwriter, producer and actress, Vaneese Thomas is above all a vocalist extraordinaire.  Throughout her rich career, Ms. Thomas has worked with an array of internationally known performers including Sting, Luciano Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Chaka Kahn, Luther Vandross, Joe Cocker, k.d. lang, Jonathan Butler, Jewel, Celine Dion, Joan Osborne, Annie Lennox and Patti Austin.  She has produced recordings, created vocal arrangements or written songs for Austin as well as Freddie Jackson, Bob James, Larry Coryell and Melba Moore.


            In 1987 Geffen Records released Vaneese, which included the Top Ten R&B hit “Let’s Talk It Over,” followed by Many Voices in 1993.  Ms. Thomas’ movie soundtrack credits include Mighty Aphrodite, The First Wives Club and the Oscar nominated Seraglio among others.  In 1995, Diana Ross scored a Top Ten hit in the UK with “One Shining Moment,” a song written by Vaneese.  In 1999, Ms. Thomas’ When My Back’s Against the Wall, a gospel crossover record, was released on her own Peaceful Waters Music label.  Billboard Magazine hailed the record as, “A small label masterpiece that begs for attention from savvy majors.”


            From 1990 to 1996, Ms. Thomas appeared as Grace the Bass on the PBS series Shining Time Station, and in 1997 was recruited to be the singing and speaking voice of Clio, Goddess of History in the Disney production Hercules.  Her other TV appearances include The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Rosie O’Donnell Show and NBC’s Today.


The Flagpole Radio Café is an ongoing variety show produced by Newtown residents Jim Allyn, Martin Blanco and Barbara Gaines, in conjunction with the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission.  Returning to the Flagpole Radio Café is music director Jim Allyn, musicians Rick Brodsky, Dick Neal, Grammy Award-winning Stacy Philips, host and guitarist Chris Teskey, and performers Martin Blanco, Barbara Gaines, Jennifer Rogers and David Wheeler.   


Music Director Jim Allyn’s music roams the landscape of American roots, rock, country, blues and Celtic music.  A seasoned stage performer, songwriter, and studio musician, “he plays a lot of good bluegrass too,” according to the legendary Bill Monroe.  His intuitive songwriting and singing are matched by his freewheeling improvisations on guitar, mandolin, piano, and harmonica.  A “mandolinist extraordinaire” according to the Danbury News-Times, he has performed with Arlo Guthrie, Bela Fleck, Chris Hillman of the Byrds, Newgrass Revival, Vassar Clements, and many others.  His song The Colors recently won first prize in the Acoustic Alternative category of the 2008 International Acoustic Music Awards.  Another original, We Got the Mo, has garnered rave reviews and tens of thousands of views on YouTube.  He is featured on recordings by many artists, including Grammy-winning Dobro player Stacy Phillips and singer/songwriter Terence Martin.  With Terence Martin, he co-wrote and played on the title track to the CD Familiar Mysteries which is one of the annual CDs issued by the Garland Appeal in memory of Linda McCartney.  Mr. Allyn is also prominently featured on the 2008 album Steel and Stone by the Connecticut based band Goldrush.


Newtown Cultural Arts Commission member Martin Blanco produces and directs the The Flagpole Radio Café.  Mr. Blanco has been a stay-at-home parent for almost a decade. Prior to parenthood, he worked as an arts administrator, stage director, teacher and dramaturg for cultural institutions such as the Huntington Theater Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theater Center, Management Consultants for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Belmont Italian American Playhouse,  Boston University and American University.  His current freelance project has been producing and directing a delightful comedy called Irish Authors Held Hostage, which enjoyed a successful run this summer in Washington, DC.  Mr. Blanco is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.


The Newtown Cultural Arts Commission was created by a town ordinance to stimulate, facilitate, coordinate and cooperate with existing artists and arts organizations in order to further the development of the cultural arts in Newtown.  The Commission began its work in June of 2007 and meets monthly. The current Newtown Cultural Arts Commission comprises the following Newtown residents: Commission Chairperson Jennifer Johnston, Recording Secretary Donna Mangiafico, Treasurer Linda Watson,  Town Liaison Debbie Aurelia, Martin Blanco, Emily Howard, Joseph Grasso, Robert Kaiser and Jennifer Rogers.  Anyone interested in filling vacancies on the Commission or joining the Auxiliary Board should contact the First Selectman’s Office in Town Hall at 203.270.4201.


The Flagpole Radio Café will be performed on September 12th at 7pm at the the Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street, Newtown, CT.    Tickets cost $15. There will also be performances on October 24, December 5 and three dates tba in the winter and spring of 2010.