Wednesday, April 26, 2017

University of Delaware Hosts a Mendelssohn Marathon

By Margaret Darby
The Music Department of the University of Delaware has put on some amazing concerts over the years. Their latest Mendelssohn Festival with The Calidore String Quartet as visiting guest artists is an ambitious undertaking with all of the published string quartets of Felix Mendelssohn and his Octet for Strings, performed with UD's Ensemble-in-Residence, Serafin String Quartet.

The Calidore Quartet was founded in 2010 while the members were in Los Angeles studying at the Colburn Conservatory. They discovered their potential as an ensemble when they first began to work on the Mendelssohn String Quartet, Opus 13, which was actually the composer’s first mature string quartet, although it was the second to be published.

The Calidore String Quartet.
Mendelssohn was 18 years old he wrote this quartet, and although his prowess as a pianist was well known, he actually played violin and viola quite well, so his composition for both instruments came from a thorough knowledge of how they were played. He, like Beethoven, put a lot of emphasis on the middle voices.

Both Estelle Choi, cello and Jeremy Berry, viola are able to bring these voices to the fore without dominating the ensemble’s sound. The first two movements of Four pieces for quartet, Opus 81 feature the viola leading the melodic chase, but the cello also has a big and dominant part in the Tema con variazioni which segues into a brief but thrilling Presto. Choi’s vibrant tone and acute attention to detail makes the harmony for the quartet work.

In all of the music of the first two days of the festival, the sound was so well blended that it seemed almost to be performed by a single musician. First violinist Jeffrey Myers, a tall and lanky man, leans into his violin, tilting his head to the left as if to hear himself better. But then he turns to the other players before lowering the sound of the violin as he plays in the low register, to just the point at which you can hear his soft melodic line over the others, who manage to play even softer at the end of the Allegro vivace of Opus 13. As the recapitulation of the theme (Mendelssohn’s short song: Ist es wahr?/Is it true?), the quartet diminishes the sound to the softest nothing as they reach the final chord.

When the two violinists Jeffrey Meyers and Ryan Meehan trade off the melodic lines in the Scherzo of the Four pieces for string quartet, Opus 81, it is impossible to tell who is playing. Their innate ability to match each other’s intonation and bowing make it sound like a single line of music. Each of them also have a solid sound in the low register of the violin which projects well, even at a soft dynamic.

The Calidore played the String Quartet Opus 44, No. 3 so fast that the sixteenth note patterns which come after the repeat in the Allegro vivace sound like trills — magically even and exciting. They played the fourth movement, Molto allegro con fuoco, with very big sforzandi, giving the entire movement a playful, roller coaster feel.

When they played the last quartet written by Mendelssohn, Opus 80, they talked about how he wrote this after his beloved sister Fanny died suddenly. He used this very beautiful piece as a metaphor of his grief, writing a wailing and sustained high B-flat for the first violin, which Jeffrey Myers managed to make a delicate cry of anguish.

Having a quartet of this caliber visit the Gore Recital Hall, with its fine acoustics for such intimate concerts, is a treasure. The Calidore have won impressive international chamber music competitions. They have a wide range of repertoire, including some dissonant and modern pieces like the Anton Webern Five Movements for String Quartet, Opus 5, which you can hear online here.

And if you miss the Mendelssohn Festival, the Calidore Quartet’s mentors, the Emerson Quartet, will appear at the University of Delaware on Sunday, April 30.

See or call 302.831.2577.

A Dazzling ‘Circus’ Comes to Delaware Theatre Company

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) ends its 2016-17 season with the American premiere of the London smash hit family musical, Hetty Feather. Emma Reeves’ adaption of Jacqueline Wilson’s beloved book about a headstrong orphan girl’s adventure to find her true home will delight young theater goers. However, the mature themes of abandonment and loss in the story will also intrigue adult audience members.

The Cast of Hetty Feather. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Hetty, played by the wonderful Clare O’Malley, is on a quest through Victorian England searching for her birth mother. Being an unwed woman during this time, Hetty’s distraught and sadden mother had no choice but to leave her infant daughter at London’s Foundling Hospital (a public institution for abandoned children).

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Hetty is sent to a foster home in the countryside where she spends the first six years of her life. The headstrong heroine never loses her insatiable desire to find her birth mother, even though she forms a strong bond with her foster mother and three brothers. While living with her foster family, Hetty develops a keen imagination that will later serve her well.  

Hetty, like all foundling children, must return to the hospital following her sixth birthday. Under the stern supervision of Matron Bottomly (chillingly played by Michael Philp O’Brien), life at the hospital is cruel and unforgiving. Living in such harsh conditions, Hetty becomes even more driven to find her legitimate place in the world, but to get there she must go on a journey that will take her to bleak places where she must face tumultuous situations.
Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Director Bud Martin has created a charming, yet sinister, production that at times delights as well as frightens. His brilliant ensemble cast creates their characters on a circus set which provides a great juxtaposition to Hetty’s plight.
O’Malley and O’Brien — along with their stellar co-stars (Terry Brennan, Dave Johnson, Rachel O’Malley, and Karen Peakes) — have the daunting task to act their parts while performing circus stunts. For most of the show, the actors are hanging from flowing sheets or a ring that dangles above the center of the stage. It’s amazing how effortlessly they make it look to stay in character as they climb, swing and perform high above the stage.The cast is flawlessly costumed by Katie Sykes. Her understated costumes, some including a hint of a clown suit, not only capture the grim look of the poor during the Victorian period, but also let her circus set shine. The stage was built so the fantastic musicians (Liz Filios and Josh Totora) have an area to create mood music and flow easily in and out of scenes. In addition to playing their instruments, Filios and Totora provide the vocals for most of Bendi Bower’s score, leaving the actors to focus on their characters and circus stunts.
Hetty Feather isn’t your traditional family show or musical, but that makes it a special treat for the whole family. DTC recommends the show for children ages 7 and up. Hetty Feather runs through May 14. 

For tickets and additional information, call 302.594.1100 or visit

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Artists Take Note: Choosing the Right Company to Move Your Art Supplies

By Guest Blogger, Aimee Lyons
Ms. Lyons created DIYDarlin to share her knowledge and serve as a forum to learn from other DIYers.

Photo via Pixabay.
Are you faced with the task of moving your entire art studio? If so, you probably have some questions about finding the right moving company for your supplies. Below are six proven steps to find the right professional movers for you.

1. Research Your Options 

Make your decision long before your actual move by starting the process at least a month beforehand. Research your options online and learn about moving companies in your community. Some of these companies may specialize in moving expensive or specialized equipment. Keep your eye on these businesses in particular. Make a list and carefully narrow it down to three or four moving companies.

2. Conduct Interviews 

From there, you’ll need to conduct interviews. These interviews can be with a manager or an expert mover. Either way, get in touch with someone who is familiar with the history and capabilities of the business. During your conversation, ask about specific equipment and how it should be handled. Take note of the methods and care each company is willing to provide. Ask how many movers will be available for your moving date, and how many of them have experience with art supplies. You should write down a complete list of questions and bring it during your interview so you don’t miss anything important.

3. Weigh Pros and Cons 

Once you have answers from each moving company, weigh the pros and cons of each option. Which benefits are most important to you, and which matter less? Are there are cons that you consider deal breakers? Maybe you don’t want to work with a company that has little experience moving expensive artwork and equipment. You could also insist on a company that has specific movers that specialize in heavy pieces. Cross out any companies that have deal-breakers. Then, determine which two businesses have far more pros than cons. Move forward with these two in mind.

4. Find Referrals or Past Clients
Now that you’ve chosen two companies, you’ll want to do some additional research to make sure your artwork and supplies will be in capable hands. Look up reviews online or talk to past clients. You can also ask around town for information. If you hear negative reviews, don’t quit right away. Only walk away if you hear consistently negative reviews or a particular awful review from a credible source. Every company has at least one person in the “dislike” pile. Once you’ve spoken with a number of people, consider dropping a business and making your choice. If you can’t, move on to the next step.

5. Provide Inventory 

Next, you’ll need to provide a list of expensive or breakable items for each company to inspect. If they have any questions, comments, or concerns, let them know to contact you. This ensures the movers will know what to expect when they arrive on the big day. It will also give you a chance to gauge how much each business cares, based on their reaction to your list. This should help you make your final choice.

6. Make Your Choice 

By the time you choose a business, you should have at least a week left before the move. This will give the manager or employees time to go over your inventory. The time has come to finally make a decision. Which company has your best interests in mind and makes you feel the most confident about the moving process? Move forward with that business.

By the time you make it through this list, you should feel solid about your decision to hire a professional moving company for your artwork and supplies. Your equipment will be moved and ready for action before you know it.