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September 5, 2013

Couple mark 50th anniversary with public concert

NEWBURYPORT — A Newburyport couple are planning to celebrate their milestone anniversary in a really big way.

Betsy and Jonathan Woodman, who will mark 50 years of marriage this fall, have organized a free jazz concert this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at First Religious Society.

“It’s a gift to the community,” Betsy Woodman said. “We have really deep roots here.”

“It’s our opportunity to give back to the people who have given us a lot,” Jonathan Woodman said.

The Woodmans, who are both 71, also want to shine the spotlight on local musicians, including drummer Les Harris Sr. and baritone saxophonist Danny Harrington, whom they describe as “institutions in this community.”

Harris is a retired Berklee College of Music professor who lives in Newburyport and still teaches at West Newbury School of Music. He has performed with a number of jazz greats, including Gene Krupa, Bobby Hackett, Zoot Sims and Dinah Washington.

Harrington is a Newburyport resident who has been teaching at Berklee for 35 years. He is the former president of the Firehouse Center for the Arts, which he helped develop 22 years ago.

“We have the best of the best playing Saturday night,” Betsy said. “It’s not just a concert. It’s a concert that’s going to be memory-making.”

The concert isn’t the Woodmans’ only gift to the community. They have made a sizable donation to the Newburyport Education Foundation in honor of Harris Sr., who will be presented with a plaque on Saturday night. The money will be earmarked for enhancements to the music program at Newburyport High School.

During Saturday’s concert, Harris will be joined by both his son, Les Harris Jr., who is also a drummer and Berklee graduate, and Les Jr.’s daughter, Aubrey Harris, a 16-year-old bass player who performed with Keith Urban at last year’s American Country Awards and will attend Berklee on a full scholarship next fall.

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