Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Kids' Stuff....with the Arts!

Despite the winter weather, it's time to start thinking about WCC Summer Camp. This year, we will offer two camps, our Annual Summer Day Camp for treble singers who have completed grades 2-8 and a new Advanced Vocal Camp for advanced male and female singers ages 13-18.

This year's Summer Day Camp for singers who have completed grades 2-8 is scheduled for June 21-25. In addition to choral rehearsals and musicianship training, campers learn new skills in recorder and percussion classes and take the afternoons off for some fun activities like swimming and bowling. After one week, we put it all together for a Friday noontime concert for family and friends and follow it up with an old-fashioned cookout. Older singers can apply to be camp interns.

The new Advanced Vocal Camp is designed for the advanced high school singer who is considering a vocal major, minor, or participation in a college-level choir or opera/musical theatre program while pursuing a non-music major. This one week camp emphasizes solo and choral repertoire, performing and auditioning skills, musicianship skills and staging skills. Highlights include master classes with performing arts professionals and a final performance for family and friends.

Campers do not need to be members of the WCC, so bring a friend! Camp brochures, registration forms and financial aid applications are available and enrollment has already begun.


Mulan Jr.
is based on the Disney production. Music & lyrics by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, Stephen Schwartz, Jeannine Tesori & Alexa Junge. Adapted and arranged, with additional Music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle. Mulan Jr. is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI). Mulan Jr. is part of THE BROADWAY JUNIOR COLLECTION.

Three shows are available: Friday, March 5th, 7:00 pm, Saturday, March 6th, 4:30 pm & 7:00 pm at the Tatnall School’s Laird Performing Arts Center, 1501 Barley Mill Road, Wilmington, Delaware 19807. Tickets are $10 general or $15 for reserved seating. Available at the door or to guarantee a seat, purchase online at: https:\\ Directed by Kathy Cammett, with Music Direction by Yoonhak Baek.


Monday, February 22, 2010

An Artist Breaks with Tradition to Find Truth

At six, the artist clearly knows he is not Picasso, and not Chagall: “My name is Asher Lev,” he tells his uncle as the play unfolds. The painter’s quest for powerful artistic expression drives a wedge between him and his Hasidic roots. Guided by his heart and his paintbrush, Asher learns to show the painful truth in his works.

Aaron Posner’s artful adaptation of Chaim Potok’s novel, presented in by the Delaware Theatre Company is a co-production with the Round House Theatre of Bethesda, Maryland. This tightly-wound tale, directed by Jeremy Skidmore, gets to the heart of Asher’s conflict with beautifully acted scenes and well-crafted dialogue. Potok grapples with some heavy thematic material: the artist’s role in society and his responsibility to his own culture.

In a way, the story is a “play within a play”. The age-old Pygmalion theme runs through the story: Asher is mentored by Jacob Kahn (played by Adam Heller), a famous artist who views the young prodigy as his own marble, ripe for sculpting. When Asher realizes he cannot distract his mother from her sorrow by painting the birds and flowers she requests, he is already well on his way to painting the ugly truth, and Kahn guides him in expressing his perceptions of the world, his family and culture on the canvas.

Alexander Strain is moving in his portrayal of the young artist. He conveys with finesse the character’s bewilderment at his talent, wonderment of his neighborhood with its endless subjects for sketching, as well as his devotion to his parents. Though the actor never leaves the stage, he transports us, scene by scene to different locations and times in his life. After his beloved uncle Yitschock dies, Asher becomes unable to paint for three long years. His mother, played by a sympathetic and versatile Lisa Bruneau, bemoans the loss of his art. Bruneau handles her role as a traditional Hasidic wife and mother who is torn by her son’s unquestionable talent and the rift it causes with her rigid scholar husband. As Anna, Kahn’s assistant and manager, Bruneau’s change in posture and behavior was so striking, I had to look in the program just to be sure there wasn’t a forth actor.

Each time Asher parts with a painting, he parts with a piece of himself, and it is painful for him. The audience is completely willing to believe the attic room, which never changes configuration- is his parents home in Brooklyn, his teacher’s studio, and the artist’s childhood bedroom. The painted canvasses stacked along the walls and the spattered paint and the gloomy windows and skylights remind us we are in an artist’s den, and perhaps metaphorically, in his mind. The canvasses he does show us are all blank, allowing the words to paint images for us.

As Asher’s stern father, Aryeh, Heller is unbending and almost cruel. The actor shines as Kahn, the crass mentor, whose thick slab of Brooklyn accent and self-observations bring comic light to the show. Heller’s subtle changes in voice and posture age his characters and help bring to life this story of self-discovery and artistry.

For more tickets and information, and to learn about DTC’s other exciting productions and events go to:

Photo Credit: Matt Urban

Monday, February 15, 2010

Photography Brings a Community Together

Photography is something most of us engage in. We take pictures of our friends, family and pets. We’re all artists, to some degree: find the subject, check the lighting, focus the camera (or phone) and snap---Instant art! Something everyone can relate to and almost anyone can do.

To paraphrase Calvary Community Series program director Kathryn Jakabcin: this series aims to find a common place with religion, art and humanity. The Photography Contest & Exhibit, now in its 4th year, is described as “an opportunity to share our creativity and spend and afternoon viewing our photographs”. And that is exactly what happened. In the intimate space where the works were displayed, it was impossible not to strike up conversations with the other viewers and participants. We marveled at the close-up shots of tiny woodpeckers, the capture of motion or the interesting angles and patterns the artists had found.

The contest had six categories: Action, Architecture, Landscape, Nature, People and Still Life. Contest judge Helen Gerstein, whose own award-winning work was displayed along the walls of the room, evaluated more than 75 entries according to composition, lighting, originality and overall beauty. Her comments were specific, and probably quite helpful to the photographers. For example, she commented on how the shadow of a kitten slightly obscured the face of the subject, or how a seed tray with plant labels showed busy-ness, but seemed to lack a central focus. Gerstein’s analytical comments were spot on, and her own work, including several portraits, was stunning in its beauty, simplicity and clean lines.

Some of my favorite shots were those of scenes from the Nemours mansion, Longwood, Bombay Hook or even our recent blizzard. It reminds me---and others---not only of the artistry we have here in our state, but also of the stunning vistas that are waiting to be photographed.

Next up in the Series on March 14 at 2:00 pm: Happy Birthday Chopin, featuring faculty artists from the Music School of Delaware.

(Photograph credit: Kathryn Jakabcin's Bombay Heron-First Prize, Nature Category)


To learn more about Helen Gerstein:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Newark Symphony Chamber Series - Baroque Masters

Mounds of snow did not keep more than 150 people from bundling into the United Methodist Church of Newark on Saturday, February 13 to hear the chamber ensemble of the Newark Symphony Orchestra play Baroque masterpieces, but the snow did rob them of some players who were also in Wilmington Community Orchestra’s concert rescheduled for the same evening. Oh, winter weather woes!

The ensemble found their verve on the Marc-Antoine Charpentier Noëls sur les instruments, adopting the dancing lilt of the notes inégales, which music director Nicole Aldrich explained were part of Charpentier’s instructions – to vary the rhythm according to good taste.

Aldrich also noted that the word Baroque was more of an insult than a compliment, coming from the Portuguese word barocco, which meant a bulbous pearl. In their day, people spoke of songful music and the new Baroque. So, Aldrich quipped, calling something Baroque was like saying ‘What’s with young people’s music these days?’

Hard to imagine that Bach’s audience could have felt that way when you hear the Magnificat, with the fine Newark Symphony Chorus’ on-cue attacks and enunciation. And the five young soloists from the University of Maryland were lively and strong singers as well.

The chamber ensemble also shone in the Bach – from Sue Ritter’s oboe duo with second soprano Katherine Sanford to the excellent bass lines played by Jennifer Hugh on bassoon, Leon Daniels on cello and Felix Cohen on double bass.

The next performance of the Newark Symphony Orchestra will be Sunday, March 7, at 3 p.m. at the Independence School.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Dinotopia is Dinotastic!

Picture at right: The Excursion, from Dinotopia: The World Beneath. James Gurney (born 1958). Oil on board mounted to plywood, 28 x 42 inches. Collection of the artist. © 1995 James Gurney. All rights reserved.

The drawings showed people and dinosaurs living side by side, but of course this was an impossibility…

Not so at the Delaware Art Museum’s newest exhibit, Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney, on view now through May 16.

Gurney’s drawings from his Dinotopia book series tell the tale of explorer Arthur Denison and his son, who stumble upon a world where dinos and humans dwell peacefully together: A stunning, color- and texture-rich depiction of a culturally integrated, socially responsible, incredible utopia. The concept as a whole truly spoke to me, with a powerful message easily translatable in today’s world. Gurney’s stories are equally appealing to children and adults, and feature an artistically and architecturally rich land, varying in ethnic groups (and species) and historical eras---all living in harmony.

Each piece exhibits amazing details in color and shadow; the dinos’ bodies are stippled with texture and striking hues. Gurney’s influence from both the pre-Raphaelites and artist Howard Pyle is strongly evident. Gurney uses many fascinating techniques in his work: Rembrandt’s “dark against light, light against dark”, to draw the eye’s focus and provide three-dimensional depth to his work; and a technique he calls “spokewheeling”, in which he employs the use of lines to direct the viewer’s eye to a particular area of the piece, as in the piece Stormy Sea.

Gurney intended his works to both stand alone and tell the story, and as such, the exhibit includes several intriguing additions, such as a “photograph” of Arthur Denison and his son, as well as a model of their expedition “journal”.

A few of my favorite pieces: Up High, a vivid portrayal of resident children riding on the backs of Brachiosaurs in celebration of their “hatchdays”; Waterfall City, an expansive piece showing the “great learning center” of Dinotopia; and Clean Teeth, a whimsical drawing, highlighting some “everyday activity” in the world of human and dino.

There’s no better reason to head to the Delaware Art Museum with your children, nieces, nephews, or simply solo…This exhibit will make you gasp, smile, giggle and contemplate the implausible: A peaceful coexistence between seemingly improbable worlds.

Gurney will be on hand at the museum on Sunday, February 7, with a lecture at 2pm and a book signing at 4pm. He is also slated to present demonstrations for six regional schools at the museum next week; hopefully, your child’s is on the list!

BONUS: On my way out, I ran into guest curator Judith Schwab, who is putting together the Outlooks exhibit, Women Collared for Work, which will open (hopefully) for this Friday’s Art on the Town. Back from 5 years in Florida, Schwab (who turns 75 this month) has lovingly constructed this exhibit, with folk-art flair and a broad range of media, with a very personal touch. “I wanted to create a show that puts everything in my life together through art,” Schwab noted. And what better way to do that than look to those she admires---her artist friends. “All the women in this show have work that has impacted mine,” she says. Brave the weather and see this exhibit, on view through March 21.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sneak Peak – Wilmington Community Orchestra

A cold Monday evening finds about 50 people on the stage of the Music School of Delaware rehearsing for the Wilmington Community Orchestra performance this Sunday, February 7.

Tim Schwarz, conductor, starts the rehearsal right on time and the dancing lilt of the Bach Orchestral Suite in D Major starts to warm the hall. The three trumpets and two oboes give the smaller orchestra a festive sound.

Then chairs shift as the other members join the group for the Beethoven Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Opus 21. The strings take the challenge of the exposed writing – the seconds opened the Andante cantabile and the firsts start the final movement at a very soft dynamic of challenging scale work which the other sections jump in and imitate in the Allegro molto e vivace. Schwarz illustrates a few points by borrowing concertmaster Larry Hamermesh’s violin and the string players nod. It is a luxury to have a conductor able to demonstrate the sound he wants.

But Schwarz provides a more dramatic demonstration as he plays his own violin while Sam Fuhrman does the cover conducting for the Brahms Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra. Fuhrman does a fine job leading the orchestra which will be conducted by Dr. Richard Prior of Emery University in Atlanta for the Sunday performance. Lawrence Stomberg plays the cello solo part with the strongest and most resonant sounds I have ever heard in person and Schwarz has plenty of power to match that force on the violin.

The Brahms is still running through my head.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Two world premieres

Mélomanie played two new works on January 30! To think that a small local group can commission works in these hard times is nothing short of great – and they used a little inventive cooperation to do so. Elaine Funaro, harpsichordist who also heads up a non-profit organization in Durham, North Carolina, which promotes new music for harpsichord (, joined forces with Mélomanie to commission a new work by Sergio Roberto de Oliveira.

Oliveira’ s work, Angico, was a vivid descriptive piece of the acacia tree which survived a threatened felling. The story gives a vehicle for Oliveira to evoke Brazil with bird songs, angry workers, and traditional rhythms. He skillfully orchestrated his motives on cello, harpsichord, violin and flute. My favorite movement was The construction into which he snuck a few habañera rhythms.

Mark Hagerty’s piece, After Duchamp, was a provocation in keeping with the provocative pairings Mélomanie strives to achieve. He tackled the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s statement: “I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.” Hagerty decided to go against his natural tendency to write long and serious pieces. For Duchamp, he wrote a frivolous and jocular set of vignettes for harpsichord. His program notes set up the facetious objectives: ‘bird/anger: Two totally unrelated ideas that do not interact musically’ and ‘Werk ohne Opus’ where he takes on the established music world’s pretensions. But how do you praise a composer who is working against his own taste? Do you tell him he achieved the bad taste he was seeking?

And paired with the exciting new pieces were six fugues from Bach’s Art of the Fugue played with subtle dynamics and intonations. The group also played four movements from Louis de Caix d’Hervelois’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for flute and continuo in which they allowed themselves a joyous mood of the dances. Their next performance will be March 13, 2010 at Grace United Methodist Church.