Monday, November 23, 2009

Taggart-Grycky Duo at UD

On November 21, the Taggart-Grycky Duo of Christian Taggart, guitar and Eileen Grycky, flute, played a concert at Gore Hall on the UD campus. Eileen Grycky and Christian Taggart are gifted, gracious and have the magic coordination of a duo that comes only after the decades of practice and performance.

Taggart’s arrangement of the Valse from the Suite de trois morceaux, Opus 116 by Benjamin Godard and a selection of orchestral pieces from the ballet Gayane by Aram Khachaturian showed his ability to transform both piano and orchestra to guitar without compromise.

Since they are always looking for new repertoire, the Duo commissioned a Delaware native to write a piece for them. In his composition, Double-Speaking, Peter Flint used a medley of styles that dovetailed smoothly. The piece starts with a jazzy South American theme that Flint says was inspired by the Vallanato style of Columbia. The piece moved into a modern atonal section—the syncopation of which the duo handled clearly and securely. They worked hard, though, and I was delighted to hear Grycky’s accented flute lines and a sort of “Leadbelly-effect” on the guitar, with which Taggart played unpitched rhythms for a percussion line. The recapitulation brought the listener home again with a happy landing.

Flint’s group, The Avian Orchestra, will be playing at The Barn at Flintwoods (the home venue to Brandywine Baroque) on Saturday, December 5 at 205 Center Meeting Road in Centerville, with a program entitled ChamberRock! A Modern Mash-Up. His new music organization, Avian Music, was founded to promote joint projects between emerging and established composers.

It is a privilege to hear new works played by accomplished musicians!

See and

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Old-time religion in 'God's Trombones'

The Delaware Valley Chorale's concert Saturday night at Newark United Methodist Church was terrific -- good enough to hear again on Sunday, Nov. 22, in Wilmington.

"God's Trombones" -- a sermon in verse by poet James Weldon Johnson -- is a tribute to the fiery black preachers of the old South, arranged against traditional Negro spirituals by composer Roy Ringwald. Guest conductor Lawler Rogers and the chorus caught their visceral energy and emotional conviction.

With narrators Tina Betz as the prayer leader and Joshua Martin as the preacher, it was thrilling to hear. Betz spoke with the passion of belief, and Martin had a sonorous dignity in retelling the Creation and Last Judgment stories.

Franz Schubert's Mass in G was gorgeous, with lovely interplay in the Agnus Dei between the soloists Angelyn Robinson, soprano; David Anderson, tenor; and Jeffrey Chapman, baritone. Nancy Chronister was the conductor.

"On Green Mountains" by Steve Danyew won the chorale's 2009 composition contest. Danyew set a simple lyric praising nature to sweeping melody. The choir, led by artistic director David Christopher, rendered the mood with seamless cohesion.

Danyew, a graduate student at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., will attend Sunday's concert too. The program will be at Saints Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church, 719 N. Shipley St., Wilmington.

Tickets are $20, $16 for seniors and students, $8 for children under 12. Call (302) 325-4110. Or see

Monday, November 16, 2009

It Takes a Special Person

There are tons of gifted musicians, but few who can communicate to others how to make better music. Tim Schwartz proved that he is one of those few with the wonderful performance he conducted of the Wilmington Community Orchestra at the Music School of Delaware on November 15.

The Bacchanal from Camille Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Dalila showed me how far the WCO string section has come in intonation - providing a smooth background for the delightful snake charmer themes played by the oboe (Gary Walter), flute (Melinda Bowman, Susan Ryan, Emily Waddell) and clarinets (Michelle Webb and Anthony Pantelopulos). Sam Fuhrman’s cymbal playing had a long dynamic build-up which gave the frenzied color to the whole ballet. The spice of Melany Hoffman’s castanets and Debra Bialecki’s timpani added an exotic flavor.

In the Symphony No. 94 by Franz Josef Haydn, the Surprise Symphony, the strings also met the challenge, forming an excellent unison chorus behind solo winds. Susan Ryan’s flute entrances were spot on and the bassoon responses by Kathy Melvin in the Menuetto: Allegro Molto were clear and delightful. Laura Reimer’s first oboe part was delicate in its simple classical line.

But the pièce de resistance for me was the Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms. I had been listening to a record of Emil Gilels’ performance with the Berliner Philharmonic all week and had concluded that no mortal could play the piano part. Sandra Rivers walked out on stage, sat down and calmly proved me wrong. Her ability to bend to the orchestra showed her mastery of the piece. She made sure that not only were the difficult technical fireworks going to land in the right place, but that her playing could melt into the most delicious soft tones, lifting melody over absolutely quiet arpeggiations and accompaniments and taking the sound of the open lid piano so low that Jennifer Stomberg’s beautiful cello solo could resound without being crowded.

My hat is off to both Ms. Rivers and Mr. Schwarz for using their innate musical abilities and boundless energy to make such a successful performance possible for this dedicated amateur orchestra.

See. and

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Two Chances to Hear Extraordinary Choral Music

Next weekend will be bursting with song, courtesy of two area choral groups offering two very different, yet equally enjoyable, programs.

In the first, the Delaware Valley Chorale (photo at left) performs Roy Ringwald's God's Trombone's in two venues in Newark and Wilmington. Based on the poetry of James Weldon Johnson, this powerful spiritual piece is often performed by African-American choruses. DVC condcutor David Christopher wanted to challenge the ensemble this season with more ambitious choices of repertoire. The performances will feature guest conductor C. Lawler Rogers, narrators Tina Betz and Joshua Martin, and soloists Angelyn Robinson, soprano, David Anderson, tenor and Jeffrey Chapman, baritone. Additional pieces will be Mass in G by Franz Schubert and On Green Mountains by Steve Danyew.
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main Street, Newark
Sunday, November 22, 3:00 p.m.
The Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew & Matthew, 719 N. Shipley Street, Wilmington
Tickets: $20; $16 seniors (60+) & students; $8 children under 12.

To order, call 302.325. 4110 or see

The next choral program is from CoroAllegro (photo at right), led by Jack Warren Burnam. The program, entitled A Musical Banquet, is a whimsical repertoire meant to entertain audiences with a celebration of pleasures of food, drink and merriment. The repertoire includes the music of Felix Mendelssohn, Bob Chilcott and others. Chilcott's piece, Fragments from his dish, displays moving and humorous lyrics in a food theme. Another piece, Play with Your Food! by composer Paul Carey, serves up a satisfying yet unusual love story that might surprise you!
Saturday, November 21, 2009, 8:00 p.m.
Immanuel Church, Highlands, 17th & Riverview, Wilmington
Tickets: $15.

To order, call 302.652.3997 or visit

Monday, November 9, 2009

Anthony Eastlering: A Cop with a Camera

Art on the Town organizer Jeni Barton told me during the re:FRESH afterparty at Kooma: “People get on the Loop bus as strangers, and step off as friends.” Once again, we were lucky to have Shawn as our bus-driver/tour guide. One friend asked him to be flexible and give us more than the allotted 15 minutes per stop. Always congenial, he agreed, and treated us like the celebrities he so often transports. It was a blast to trek around the downtown portion of the Loop with complete strangers, all of whom have an interest in art, culture and the city of Wilmington.

We met artist Amy Orr at the DCCA who “quilts” with bits of old credit cards, creating brilliant, gleaming works. We made it to the Delaware College of Art and Design for some short, animated movies. Pahl Hluchan, area coordinator of animation, pointed out one of the “controversial” movies to me. As our group watched some graphic moments, one of my new friends quipped, “We are too old for this. We don’t know what is happening.” I laughed and remembered that art not only binds us together as humanity, it also provides a bridge of understanding between young and old (most of the time).

Anthony Easterling, photographer and 14-year veteran of the Wilmington Police Department, was my loop pick artist of the month. His bold, sometimes raw photographs are displayed at Veritas Wine and Spirits through the end of November. A tall, soft-spoken man, Easterling is a Master Corporal in the Special Operations Division. Some of his photographs depict the grueling training at the Police Academy, where he is a certified instructor. When asked why the men in one photo were covered in mud, he smiled, noting they “got into a little trouble” and were doing push-ups. He also captures moments of swat teams in action, officers on the beat and other gritty scenes. Though the photos grip you with action-packed motion, the vulnerability of his subjects’ faces is moving and even heart-wrenching.

Greg Barkley at the DCCA

Tired, dragging myself upstairs at the DCCA and feeling rather hungry after a long day’s work, I spotted two red objects: one, a tempting bowl of salsa and two, a large painting of something very red and a train in the top third – a train with vivid detail mixed into the steel-grey colors of its pistons and driving axle with a little bit of rust and wear mixed in.

Feeling grateful for both the salsa and the vivid color, I wandered in to Greg’s studio and found out he is from Delaware and studied at the University. His teachers, Stephen Tanis, Julio DaCunha, and Charles Rowe – gave him soft realism, romantic and surrealistic models. He has had a studio in the DCCA for a few years now and had a book of Francis Bacon he is perusing.

He genially posed for the piece that I was so taken with of a man in a business suit with a fishbowl for a head and tipped a diptych of a dog with a violin head so I could get a picture without too much glare. The dog is so black and the bright green beneath him makes his dark coat even more striking. The violin seems to be a weapon of sorts – incongruously intriguing in the bullring setting.

Barkley has one thought about his art: ‘I wish had more time to do it. ‘He and Ken Mabrey are scheduled to have an exhibit in the downstairs gallery at the DCCA in January.

I look forward to an uncluttered display of Mabrey’s farms, birds, trees and whimsical pastels as they stand their ground against Barkley’s biting Magritte-esque visions.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Evil and Oh So Messy!

“We have a line out the door, so it’s your lucky day!” yelled Bootless Artwork’s Artistic Director Rosanne Dellaversano into the microphone. She encouraged the audience to move from general seating into the “splatter zone” for Evil Dead: The Musical. The zone’s special effects — blood gushing, floating ghost heads, entrails spilling onto the stage and audience members — were riotously funny and well worth the extra dollar for seating. Directed by James Gaspero and music directed by James Fuerst, the sold-out performance was a big hit.

The musical is based on Sam Rami 1980’s cult-classic movie. The movie—“so bad it’s good” (bad acting, bad effects, bad writing, just altogether bad)—is fodder for this hilarious spoof. Minutes into the show, the actors make a mockery of the horror movie genre. All the elements of predictability, stock characters and theme are played to the hilt. The role of the dumb blonde—a staple for the horror genre—is played expertly by Melissa Leigh Elizabeth Baker. “Shelly” provides the audience with plenty of opportunities to yell things like, “No, don’t open that door!” or “He’s right BEHIND you!” As the indestructible protagonist, Ash (played by the deadpan Dan Farrell), weathers demons, evil trees and even saws off his own evil-possessed hand while singing over the buzz of his chainsaw.

After Ash has defeated all his friends who have become demons, the newly evil-possessed Professor Ed played by Brooks Adam Banker, comes at him. With an unused weapon in hand, Ash calmly reminds the audience he has nothing to fear since the man is a “bit-part demon” and would never kill the main actor. This prompts the demonized Ed to break into song, complete with tap dancing and cane. Given the perfect time of year and our culture’s incessant love of camp and gore, Bootless has certainly hit the mark!


Friday, November 6, 2009

Mastersingers of Wilmington at First and Central Presbyterian Church

On Saturday, November 7, at 7:30, David Schelat and his Mastersingers will present In Memoriam – Songs for the Loving Departed. I snuck into a rehearsal to bring you a preview.

The reverberant room lifts the tenor voice for Selig sind die Toten (Blessed are the dead) by Heinrich Schutz and you are transported to the sounds of a European cathedral as the other voices enter and weave the harmony of the early baroque master. The John Sheppard In pace in idipsum continues the European baroque mood, but this time in the English Tudor chapel.

But don’t be lulled. Three pieces by Pavel Chesnokov, a twentieth century Russian composer, sung in Church Slavonic will bring you out of your reverie. Chesnokov, whose works David Schelat recently discovered in the Musica Russica edition, was a composer and choirmaster who struggled to pursue his profession from the Bolshevik Revolution until his cathedral was destroyed during the Stalinist era. Soloists Margaret Anne Butterfield and Charles Warrick provide a delicate cantor line for the second piece.

Organist Marvin Mills accompanies the last two pieces. He keeps a fairly simple and quiet registration for the Bach double-choir motet, Komm, Jesu, komm, letting the myriad voices of the choirs take the fore while providing a basso continuo.

But the organ is a principal voice in the Alfred Desenclos Messe de Requiem which exults in the French twentieth century lush and wild harmonies reminiscent of Ravel and Poulenc. The soloists Katherine Supina, Marjorie Eldreth, Charles Warrick and Paul Stamegna and the rest of the choral group negotiate the pitches without a hitch, showing that they indeed have earned the name Mastersingers.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pyxis Quartet at Grace United Methodist Church

The Pyxis Quartet is brand new, but you would not know it by their ensemble playing in their November 1 concert at Grace United Methodist Church.

This was the dedicatory concert for the brand new Mason and Hamlin grand piano, which the church has purchased in memory of Ruth McFarlane. The lid was fully open, but Ms. Yamazaki’s playing could get so soft it became a whisper under the strings.

First violinist Meredith Amado has a steely focus but her touch on the 1662 Nicolò Amati was so delicate that the high notes came out in silken tones – and yet had the power in crescendo to blossom forth without overwhelming the group.
Jie Jen had some lovely lines in the Brahms Quartet Opus 26 in A major that showed the strength and power with which she could play – sometimes dominating Ms. Yamazaki’s pianissimo sound and then smoothly quieting to let the piano, viola and violin back to the fore.

The entire concert was delightful, but the reverberating stone walls tended to blur the clarity of the Mozart. But that which was robbed from Mozart was paid to Brahms as the resonance of the romantic quartet brought many members of the audience to their feet at the end of the concert.

Encore, please!