Friday, July 31, 2009

"Artsy" Observations from a Beach Vacation

Art comes in many forms. Since I am still (mentally) returning from our annual trip to Delaware's Beaches, I thought I'd share some "new finds" and favorite things. If you're headed down DE Route 1, check out:

*Gallery 50, 50-A Wilmington Avenue & Ward Ellinger Gallery, 37 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach
Photos courtesy of Gallery 50/Susan Finsen (left) & Ward Ellinger Gallery (right)

These two galleries are filled with all things I enjoy about visual art: color compositions that shout at you from the walls; warm and welcoming artists/gallery owners; and contemporary art that is truly within my financial realm. Gallery 50 was featuring work by Rose Minetti and Susan Finsen (up until 8/5), whose neon-bright, odd-sized pieces immediately grabbed my eye. At Ward Ellinger Gallery in the CAMP Rehoboth courtyard, Ellinger's work of abstract expressionism makes the space burst with bold shapes and color, and endless energy.

*Kindle, 111 Bank Street, Lewes
I lunched here on a whim, and I am compelled to tell everyone. The restaurant, known for previous digs in Milton, has an atmosphere reflective of its name---warm & cozy but chic. Nice price & selections on wine list. Waitstaff friendly & right-on with recommendations. I had a vegan wild mushroom & multigrain soup so flavorful---Kindle, please make this a menu staple! Also had the BLAT (bacon, lettuce & tomato 'wich with avocado), with so much chunky, creamy avo, I (almost) forgot about the bacon.

*Seafood Shack, 42 1/2 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach
We love this little aqua blue-and-pink spot, tucked between shops just past CAMP Rehoboth. Yummy po'boy sandwiches (full of shrimp, crab, oysters or all), casual back patio (where dogs are welcome, YAY!), live music at night. But maybe the best thing? The red sangria by the glass. Ask your friendly host, co-owner Steph, her secret ingredient and she'll tell you it's the cinnamon. I think it's all of the above...but I'll have another sangria to be sure.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Delaware Musicians in the UK

The jazzy vibes of French bassoonist Ludovic Tissus gave life to the world premier of Chuck Holdeman’s composition Quintetto for bassoon and string quartet at the International Double Reed Society in Birmingham, England on July 23.

Tissus, bassoonist for the Paris Opera, plays the French system bassoon, which Holdeman had in mind when he wrote the piece.

Quintetto starts with a largo which dissolves into a fast-moving leitmotiv. The second movement is a haunting, lyrical chanson. The third movement is a theme and variations with a wild fugal coda.

The exchange of voices in the coda is quite tricky, but Tissus and the very youthful Boult Quartet dove in with gusto.

Holdeman has a new commission which will premiere at the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel DuPont as part of the Delaware Symphony chamber music series on October 27.

Two other pieces by composers from our region played at the International Double Reed Society convention were Andrea Clearfield’s Three Songs for oboe and double bass after poems by Pablo Neruda and Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Oboe.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Local artists in Middletown

Brilliant colors handled with sure-handed verve splash through the Local Artists show at Middletown's Gilbert W. Perry Jr. Center for the Arts. This third annual exhibit is a refreshing summer stop, with paintings both pleasing and accomplished.

The show hangs to Aug. 1. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

Ricardo Colon's fauvist Latin pink street scene in the gallery window sets the tone, picked up by Tracy Landmann's bold cafe vignettes and Joyce R. Hoover's kaleidoscopic still lifes. Judy Robb renders little landscapes in big dashes of unblended bright white and green. All of them temper their pure colors by using black outlines for a contemporary graphic effect.

Samantha Norwood's quieter pointillist woodland in acrylic is also deft. And Abigail McBride's luminously lavender view of a river bank is a impressionist charmer.

For contrast, Pamela Skwish deconstructed a flower in a shadow box paper collage. The dominant black in Nancy Williams Woodword's two abstracts looks organic and fluid.

The gallery is at 51 W. Main St., Middletown. Young students' work is in the hall.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Delaware Shakespeare Festival's Twelfth Night

Shakespeare Al Fresco


~ By Jessica Graae


Thanks to Mother Nature’s bountiful rain, we caught the Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s opening of Twelfth Night on Saturday in Wilmington’s beautiful Rockwood Park.  The company, in its seventh year, continues a much-loved tradition for Delawareans who might not otherwise get much Shakespeare or theater in the summer.  The Bard’s hysterical farce entertained young and old.


We got to the park early to get the perfect spot for our blanket in front of the Rockwood Mansion, which serves as the stage for this enthusiastic young company.  Its Tudor-style crossbeams and slightly crumbling façade transport the actors and audience to a by-gone era.  Scenic designer Simon Harding uses the various levels and doorways of the house to maximum effect, with minimal fuss.  The sunlight, which lights the set for the first hour of the performance, gives way to stage lighting creeping in, almost unnoticed.


Orsino’s famous opening lines “If music be the food of love, play on” are underscored by the sultry sounds of a saxophone playing.  The music and designer Regina Rizzo’s clever costumes of linen and tweed transport us to the 1930s or 1940s.  Rizzo even creates an updated version of the cross-gartered leg ensemble for Malvolio, whose role was performed hilariously by Brian McCann.


Ably directed by Karen DiLossi, the entire cast projected their words with clarity.   The actors moved about freely, without being constrained by the location of the microphones.  I was concerned the latecomers sitting further back might miss nuances of the performance, but it was clear from the hearty laughter and applause, nothing was missed. 


For more information about the performances, which run through August 1, go to or call 302.764.0113.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brandywine Guitar Quartet at Pell Gardens

Chris Braddock, Dan Graper, Mark Unruh and Mark Oppenheimer are the versatile members of the guitar quartet they founded in the summer of 2008.

Speaking to Chris about the group means hearing the incredible energy and enthusiasm he has for the music. He, like the other three, is a composer (see blog on SOWETO Festival for a review of his composition for harpsichord and mandolin for Melomanie.)

For the August 9 concert at the Pell Gardens along the canal in Chesapeake City, Chris has transposed the William Zinn arrangement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart, and Dan Graper has arranged some Leroy Anderson string quartet arrangements of Blue Tango, Jazz Pizzicato, Belle of the Ball.

They will even do a Beethoven trio arrangement as well as the first movement of the third Brandenburg Concerto – so variety will not be lacking.

Come enjoy the gardens under the stars with this free concert.

To listen to the quartet:

To hear Dan Graper’s music:

To hear Chris Braddock’s music:

Monday, July 20, 2009

ARTY at the Party!

Our very own arts party-hopper, ARTY, was out on the town this week. This time, Arty hit the annual Mélomanie picnic on July 18 at the home of co-Artistic Director and harpsichordist Tracy Richardson. The ensemble hosts the event each year to celebrate its past season, thank colleagues and collaborators, and look to the coming year. Arty was thrilled to see that the intimate get-together was a veritable “who’s who” of regional performers! Arty chatted up violinist Sylvia Ahramjian and Mélomanie co-Artistic Director and flutist Kim Reighley, who were both delighted to be holding repertory classes this year at West Chester University.

Composer Chuck Holdeman was excited about the premiere of his Quintetto, set for the International Double Reed Society convention in England on July 23.

Guitarist and composer Chris Braddock---there with his beautiful wife, soprano Jeanmarie Braddock, and daughter Ellie---talked enthusiastically about his Brandywine Guitar Quartet’s upcoming concert on August 9 in Chesapeake City.

Also in attendance was composer Ingrid Arauco, who was quite pleased with the recent premiere of her Divertimento at the Delaware Chamber Music Festival. Percussionist Gerardo Razumney was lively, as he explained to guests the difference between Argentinian tango and the American ballroom tango.

A great gathering of artists on a beautiful summer day! Look for information on Mélomanie's 2009-2010 season coming soon! Thanks for the invite, Mélomanie!

Got a party you'd like ARTY to attend? Send us an email at

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Free Summertime Arts Options

When you're out and about this summer (maybe at the beach?) and want interesting, affordable ways to experience family-friendly and fun "art stuff", why not check out the below?

Summer Film Reviews presented by the Rehoboth Beach Film Society
July 20 through August 17
Cape Wine & Spirits, 34164 Citizen Drive, Lewes
The free public film screenings are used to assist selection process for Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival (November 2009). Reviewers are asked to complete a rating form and join in post-film discussion.

Rehoboth Summer Children's Theatre presents "Anansi the Trickster"
Monday, July 20, 2:00pm
Millsboro Public Library, 217 W. State Street, Millsboro
Based on African folklore, Anansi, the clever spider, must accomplish four tasks before Nyame, the Sky God will return all the stories he has taken from the earth. Library performances are free & open to the public. Some locations do require pre-registration, so check the website for future performances.

Delaware Humanities Forum & City Theater Company Books & Authors Series
Friday, August 14, 7:00pm
Presto!, Washington Street, Wilmington
This program features the book "The Language of Good-Bye" by Maribeth Fischer accompanied by dramatic readings from CTC actors James Kassees, Mary Catherine Kelley and Georgiana Staley. Free admission.
See or

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book & Authors Series Continues to Wow Audiences

- A special combined review by Jessica Graae & Margaret Darby

The Delaware Humanities Forum couldn't possibly have anticipated such an overwhelming turnout at their second Books & Authors event for Christopher Castellani's The Saint of Lost Things on July 15. There was almost nowhere to sit as admirers, friends and family packed the room at the Union City Grill. Castellani's books, like the author himself, have tremendous appeal. His humor, warmth and compassion are evident in person as well as on the pages.

In The Saint of Lost Things, he paints a portrait of Wilmington's Little Italy during its heyday in the 1950s. With loving care, he creates interesting, vivid characters---each one with his own, often heartbreaking, story. Three talented young actors from project partner City Theater Company---Rachel Samples (Maddalena), Amanda Riveras-Parker (Carolina) and Matt Payne (Vito)---set the scene for us in the small, make-believe town of Santa Cecilia in the Lazio region of Italy.

Rita Truschel artfully carved a portion of dialogue from Castellani's first book, A Kiss from Maddelena. During this scene, we gained a glimpse into Maddelena's troubled relationship with her sister Carolina, and her lost love, Vito. Castellani reminded us, as he read from The Saint of Lost Things, that while he is writing of everyone's experience, he is also writing of no one's experience. We may be able to relate to his version of Little Italy, or small town life in Italy, but we all have our own perceptions and experiences. Castellani's psychological portrait of the immigrant Antonio, who thinks: 'Surrender even a little bit to your wife, he knows, and her voice gets louder and louder until it drowns yours out completely,' echoed my own experience with a Sicilian whose need for power and control dominated every aspect of his life and marriage.

Not only is Castellani a gifted observer and writer, he is very clearly a born mentor. In answering questions about his craft, he mentions, "the good news is: we are all qualified writers." The audience also got a taste of his manuscript in progress. Castellani told us it had been the most difficult one to write: Characters from his two previous novels make a pilgrimage back to Santa Cecilia looking for family, trying to "fill a hole" in their lives. Going home to find your roots can be a difficult process, but the author does it himself so fearlessly.

He was carried away by Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita and loves the 19th Century writers George Elliot and Thomas Hardy. He believes our lives are "made up of countless sensibilities" and that "[his] Italy is not your Italy."

Castellani's writing in The Saint of Lost Things gave me such a vivid picture of my 92-year-old friend Antoinetta's youth in Wilmington's Little Italy. I feel I know Nettie better because I was drawn in by his Maddalena character, peeking into her view of the United States and of her marriage to the man of her parents' choice. And how fun not only to meet the author, but also speak to his parents, his brother and sister afterward and discover that, yes, some of his writing is a spot-on description of his family and some comes from his prolific imagination.

Castellani brought me a new view of my friend Nettie's world and he and his family gave me an uncensored view of their own sensibilities. Hard to get closer than that to an author.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Arts money to save jobs

So with recession, shrinking audiences and fewer philanthropic donations as the backdrop, Delaware just put $290,400 to work to sustain 14 jobs at 11 arts organizations. The saved jobs include curators, artistic, production, business and education staff.

This is one-time federal grant money for one year. Gov. Jack Markell and his designated "stimulus czar" Lt. Gov. Matt Denn cited not only the jobs themselves, but the value of arts to improve public education, encourage youth and attract employers seeking quality of life.

The government money comes from Congress, passed through the National Endowment of the Arts from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act this winter to confront the economy. Overall, the NEA distributed $50 million in job aid nationwide.

Then the Delaware Division of the Arts evaluated applications and decided:
Christina Cultural Arts Center in Wilmington got $20,000.
Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington got $50,000.
Delaware by Hand got $10,000.
Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts in Wilmington got $40,000.
Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation got $35,000.
Delaware Institute for Arts in Education got $5,000.
Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington got $40,000.
Newark Arts Alliance got $20,000.
New Candlelight Theatre in Ardentown got $22,500.
OperaDelaware in Wilmington got $27,900.
Wilmington Drama League got $20,000.

In addition, the Delaware Symphony Orchestra got $50,000 directly from the NEA.
And the Grand Opera House in Wilmington got $30,000 from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

Lt. Gov. Denn said this arts money is the first chunk of federal stimulus to come to Delaware, and the "refreshingly drama-free" allocation process serves as a model for grantsmanship. Gov. Markell said, "This isn't the answer to everything but it helps," and is especially important to smaller organizations.

Live and online audiences

Buying tickets to be in an audience is just not happening as often, whether you're 18, in your 20s or middle-aged.

Yes, one in three American adults went to at least one performance or art museum over the course of a year, according to a 2008 survey done by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Yet that's a big decline since 2002. Audience numbers are down a third or more for jazz, classical music, opera, plays, galleries and especially ballet. Only musicals have sold fairly steadily.

Sure, blame economic recession and high gas prices. But online media entertainment is also a big factor. While fewer people go out to live shows, millions are downloading art, photography, music and theater. Now about as many Americans experience the arts by computer as they do through attendance.

Bottom line: Your enthusiasm and patronage have a direct effect on performers, production professionals and the experiences of a community. Downloads are a great way to sample, learn or follow at a distance. But don't miss the energy, acoustics and close observation of being present at the creation in the room where performance happens.

Music alumni awards

Whether you knew it as the Wilmington Music School or as the now renamed Music School of Delaware, the staff wants to hear how its ex-students are doing. It's organizing an alumni association. Sign up on the web home page.

Know someone who's especially outstanding? Nominations are sought for two Distinguished Alumni awards -- one for accomplishments in music, and the second in other pursuits.
Potential honorees should be 18 or older with noteworthy achievements.

Nomination forms are on the web site Submit by Sept. 15.

The awards ceremony will be Oct. 7 in Wilmington.

Music lessons by site

The Music School of Delaware now offers lessons in Middletown, at the Odessa Townsend Senior Center, 300 S. Scott St. Kids and adults can learn voice, piano, flute, guitar, early childhood activities, even garage band there.

This fine school's main branch is at 4101 Washington St., Wilmington. Its extensive course list for all ages -- including ensembles, conservatory preparation, performances, music history, theory, autism and Alzheimer's therapy -- is at

Other lesson locations are at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Pike Creek; People's Church of Dover; the Drum Pad in Felton; and Long Neck United Methodist Church in Millsboro.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Maestro Amado Unites a City Under the Stars

By Guest Blogger, Jessica Graae

On a most perfect night at Tubman-Garrett Park on Wilmington’s Riverfront, people came together to celebrate the Fourth of July. It was a momentous occasion for the city, observed in a location that commemorates heroes of the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery movement, at a moment when our country is regaining its collective pride being while being led by our first African-American president.

Maestro Amado’s energetic, yet sensitive and expressive conducting painted a swath of bright colors with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Amado took the orchestra and the audience on a historic and emotional journey. Ever the educator, Amado gave the audience a taste of the work of two great American composers, Aaron Copland and Charles Ives. Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man--with its pure open fifths and simple melodies--is an accessible, warm piece. Ives’ Variations on American the Beautiful orchestrated by another American composer, William Schuman, is a tapestry of musical styles, from Classical to Victorian. At one point, the orchestra played a quirky variation that could have served as an overture to a Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta.

The Delaware Valley Chorale, under the direction of David Christopher, sang beautifully. Despite being amplified over a large space, each word and voice part rang out clearly. Their rousing rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic energized the audience. Moving was their wordless Hymn to the Fallen, from John Williams’ "Saving Private Ryan" film score, accompanied by the DSO.

Before closing the program with marches by John Philip Sousa, the orchestra played a medley of tunes from armed forces. As veterans, enlisted and reservists stood when they recognized the theme music of their division, the audience cheered. The colorful firework display brought the evening to a joyous finish.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Art Looping on Independence Weekend

By Guest Blogger, Jessica Graae

Pulling into Toscana’s parking lot at 5:42, I was lucky to get the last seat on the Art Loop bus. Most of us aboard were new to Wilmington's Art of the Town experience and were happily chatting as our guide/driver, Shawn, wove his way from Trolley Square to downtown Wilmington. He made sure we had plenty of time for exhibit-viewing and that we got to each destination on the Loop. Great job, Shawn!

At Gallery 919 Market, Peter Kaplan’s photography demanded attention with its bold, daring hues. A renegade, Kaplan related how his persistence has paid off, as he gained special access to the Statue of Liberty, becoming the preferred photographer of Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation. Though many of his photographs are shot from dizzying heights, he is fascinated by detail: April, 1938 is a close-up of The Statue of Liberty’s toe with the date carved in it. Other notable pieces include aerials of the Golden Gate Bridge, for which he was named the official 50th anniversary celebration photographer.

For information on his upcoming book America From Above, see

Our bus reached the Delaware Art Museum just in time for us to hear Ne Ne Ali, the eleven-year-old headliner of YouthSpeaks! A brilliant and insightful young poet, Ali stunned the audience with her wisdom, words and grace. Her social commentary included an observation that MTV and BET were “trying to raise her.” Through her dynamic verse, she reminded us that the spoken word is virtuous, can lead to reading and free thinking, and can guide away from negative stereotypes.

For information on Ali and to hear her poetry, see Be sure to visit!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Art Helps to Restore a Downtown’s Vibrancy

Mike Kalmbach was an artist looking for exhibit space. The Delaware College of Art and Design instructor noticed a lot of “available” space in myriad buildings in the area. So, this determined young man formed a group of 71 young artists in the same position and presto!: ART POWER---otherwise known as the New Wilmington Art Association---has helped enlivened a number of unoccupied storefronts all around the city.

On July 3, Mike mounted an exhibit of 31 artists on the floor above a sneaker store on 605 Market Street. The art is young, unpretentious and vibrant.

Alexander Chassey’s cynical cartoon style in acrylic on canvas hits hard. Killer shows a thug getting a back-rub from one babe and a beer from another. Francine Fox’s graphite-on-paper drawing series Talking to myself moved me, with its surreal figures whispering into ears with an Alice in Wonderland-esque feel. E.C. Graney’s surprisingly conservative oils on board were refreshing and well-executed. I am still laughing at Lee S. Millard’s Large, Obnoxious Wall Label ink jet print.

The NWAA moves to 214 North Market this fall. Come see them and help them revitalize Lower Market Street.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Music at the Newark Free Library

Nicole Aldrich’s pure high notes and infallible pitch are only a small part of her musical life. She is a pianist and conductor, too.

“It’s all music and any chance I get to share music, I am delighted.” Her mastery of French, German and Italian made Debussy, Handel, Mozart, Fauré, Bellini, Gounod come alive. Lori Geckle accompanied her on the piano and in piano duets.

Pam Nelson, program organizer, said “We are grateful to have programs of such quality and it is the support of the Friends of the Newark Free Library that makes them possible.”

The next concert features Eileen Grycky, flute and Christian Taggart, guitar on Wednesday, July 22 at 7 p.m.

Call 302-731-7550 for information about Newark Free Library programs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mining Our Young Poetry "Gems"

By Guest Blogger, JulieAnne Cross

I admire those who are willing to mine that precious element that is youth talent. There is an individual whose work with young people always blows my mind: a gentleman named “iz the truth”, whom I know from activities that “stimulate the minds and expand the dynamics of thinking” for all ages of people who live, work and play in Wilmington. He, along with Fridam Marley, is the force behind YouthSpeaks! The program celebrates the creative spirit of young Wilmington poets and spoken-word artists and organizes events for artists 21 and under.

This Friday, July 3, from 6:00-8:00pm, the Delaware Art Museum hosts 11-year-old Bronx poet Ne Ne Ali, the headlining artist for a YouthSpeaks! event featuring many young Wilmington-area spoken-word artists. Ms. Ali is well-regarded for her passion for the healing power of words and her ability to deliver mind-blowing, standing ovation-garnering performances.

This free event runs concurrent with Art on the Town, so you can take advantage of the Art Museum’s other free offerings, as well as the free Art Loop afterparty, re:Fresh. July’s re:Fresh is hosted by nearby Toscana Kitchen+Bar, and YouthSpeaks! organizers will be on hand to celebrate what I’m sure will be a stupendous success.