Friday, July 23, 2010

Family Members’ Evening at the DCCA

The Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts was buzzing with children creating art at work tables and touring the galleries trying to spot the art on their recognition sheet. Susan Isaacs, back to fill in the gaps left by staff reductions at the DCCA, gave a compelling gallery walk lecture.

Starting in the Elizabeth Dennison Hatch Gallery, the Julio da Cunha exhibit (yes, the former UD professor has a studio at the DCCA again), Isaacs talked about the contrasts of color da Cunha used in his tribute to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. Each of his works has striking color contrasts, but the combinations of color make a very carefully constructed effect. Having an artist with the experience and longevity of da Cunha gives a certain gravitas to the DCCA’s membership – and Dr. Isaacs’ knowledge and lecture and writing experience puts meat on this local art table.

The Carole Bieber and Marc Ham Gallery still has most of the exhibit chosen by Carina Evangelista for June (Spectrum: Contemporary color abstraction). Isaacs pointed out that Bill Scott’s A brief moment of titillation, an abstract with a bright pink/orange background was really influenced by Henri Matisse. Dr. Albert Barnes’ acquisition of Matisse in the early 1900s brought his influence to the United States. (The Cone sisters had begun collecting Matisse but kept them in their home until the 1950s). Isaacs has added works to the exhibit: Steven Baris’ abstracts on mylar and Emily Bowser’s Radiation, a sculpture of brightly colored beanbags.

The tiny E Avery Draper showcase was painted sea blue to show off Joseph Barbaccia’s Eight currents - fanciful sea creatures decorated with brightly colored sequins.

The Beckler Family Gallery housed the bright colors of Lawrence Cromwell’s Make it bigger. His cut paper mobiles, his videos and his vivid color oil and wax works were as refreshing and restorative as the summer evening.

Exhibits will be changed July 25 and August 1. The new works will be on display for the August 6 Wilmington Art Loop.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Arty at the Party

Mélomanie celebrated their year at a picnic at the home of Mark Hagerty and Tracy Richardson, and Arty found plenty of musical fun and festivity to be had…

As guest Sylvia Ahramjian showed off her new Baroque violin to Philadelphia violinist Fran Berge, rich sounds emanated from the music salon. The salon houses both of Richardson’s harpsichords, which have also been busy this summer, as Mélomanie continues to record its new CD, slated for release later this year.

Mélomanie Board President Tommie Almond presented a cake adorned with a photo of flutist Kim Reighley’s Baroque instrument (taken by photographer Tim Bayard), as a celebration of Reighley’s newly announced doctorate and tenure as music professor at West Chester University. Congrats, Ms. Reighley; what a great start to the new season!

Rafael Arauco was seeking more venues to play piano in ensembles. He heard a great deal about the Vermont Music and Arts program from Margaret Darby.

Guitarist and composer Chris Braddock and his wife, violinist Jeanmarie Braddock, recently welcomed another family musician, their son Benjamin, who slept peacefully through the picnic.

During the lively conversations, Arty was surprised to hear absolutely no mention of the departure of Mark Mobley from the DSO staff. Arty wonders, is Mobley’s exit “just another” in a string of recent losses, which also touched DTC and Rehoboth Art League…Shall we pretend not to notice until the seasons start up in the fall?

Arts in Media’s Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald proudly announced that her latest blogger at Delaware Arts Info, Holly Quinn, is truly enthusiastic about happenings south of the Canal and looks to help expand the blog’s reach. Stay tuned to this address for posts from Quinn as the Arts get back into full swing.

And Arty wonders: is it a coincidence that all the musicians and spouses at this gathering were gourmet cooks and/or gourmand eaters? If musicians create a love of food, eat on!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shhhhhhh! It’s Shakespeare’s Macbeth!

Was it the lovely evening, cooled by the threat of a storm, which never materialized, that made the evening so pleasant?

The bagpipes were resonant and the scent of spruce redolent as we walked up the hill. We spread out our pallets (we were given spots close to the stage as we had no chairs to block the vision of those in front of us) and started our picnic. We watched the couple in front of us set up their roses, anniversary card and rosé wine as they cuddled and smiled. A contagious contentment spread.

Banquo (Adam Altman) and Malcolm (Allen Radway) gave a funny theatre lecture telling us that the real Macbeth was a great and just king and that much ink had been spilled to justify Shakespeare’s portrayal of him as a murderous despot.

When Allyson Sands Good appeared as Lady Macbeth, I was immediately transported into the story. Her delivery of Shakespearean English seemed as clear as modern speech and I was as excited as she when she greeted her husband as Thane of Cawdor. Her overzealous and eager urging of Macbeth (David Blatt) was as hard to take for me as it was for him. Blatt was able to show the conflict between Macbeth’s love for his wife, for his children, and for Banquo as he yielded to a temptation, which also seemed to be his destiny.

The play seemed brief and I had just stopped mourning the senseless deaths of the children of Macduff and the lonely wanderings of Banquo’s son Fleance, they appeared in the curtain call together – the wildly red-haired Harcourt-Brooke siblings. How lovely to have their Scots features to enhance the play.

Coming down the hill in the magic of the cool evening, I felt that Birnam wood had indeed come to my perch on the high hill of Rockwood Mansion Park.

Margaret Darby

Providing an interesting pre-show lecture, Actors Altman and Radway reminded us to listen for Shakespeare’s use of meter, as well as his disregard for iambic pentameter. In fact, as they emphasized, plays during his time were “heard”, not watched. The theme of the destructive trickle-down effect of a bad king on his empire is present in many of the Bard’s plays. Poor Hamlet is tortured by the evil that runs rampant in his own family; King Lear goes mad from his own terrible decisions. Lady Macbeth is engulfed by her own bloodlust and desire for power.

Allyson Sands Good plays Lady Macbeth boldly and expertly. Her transformation from ambitious wife, courting evil into a lost soul who has descended into irreversible madness is powerful, and almost sympathetic. As Good speaks, she is so expressive and free, one forgets she is working within the confines of the written word.

Also strong is David Blatt’s performance as Macbeth. The transfer of evil from husband to wife is almost palpable. His speech “Out, out brief candle” seems a foil to Lady Macbeth’s earlier “Out, damned spot” monologue, which exposes the undoing of her sanity. As Macbeth embraces evil, he becomes seething under his veneer of cheer, whereas Lady Macbeth’s ambitions bring her to an almost unexpected demise of her sanity.

Staged by Artistic Director Molly Cahill Govern, the play runs at Rockwood Mansion Park through the end of July.

For tickets and information about the Delaware Shakespeare Festival:

Jessica Graae

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jazz at Basil, Every Thursday

Wilmington is a world-class jazz town -- the annual Clifford Brown Jazz Festival downtown is evidence of that. In theory, we should be able to go out on any given night and catch some great live jazz. In reality, Thursday night is the night to experience it in Wilmington, at Basil at 422 Delaware Ave. Basil is an atmospheric little bistro inside the Sheraton Suites, with its own separate entrance. Look for the distinctive green awning to bypass entering through the hotel.

Jazz at Basil is an early night: the first set starts at 8:00 PM, and the bar closes at 10:00. The timing is good for a late dinner (Basil is a bistro serving traditional American fare--I saw lots of chicken wings and veggie burgers) or after dinner cocktails. The real draw, of course, is the music. Basil has a nice setup for jazz musicians, with a small stage that is well visible from the bar and much of the seating area in the restaurant.

On Thursday the 15th of July, the trio FVC was featured, and if this trio represents the sort of jazz Basil features every week, it's worth checking out any Thursday night. FVC, led by Philadelphia-based keyboardist Dennis Fortune, who is also a piano & jazz instructor at Wilmington's Christina Cultural Arts Center, started with an all-instrumental traditional jazz tunes with catchy beats and cool solos. Two singers were also featured: established jazz vocalist Barbara Yates, who knocked out standards such as "Misty" and "Blackbird," and up-and-comer Safia Davis, who brought a smooth, contemporary R&B styling to the set. Both vocalists fit seamlessly with the trio, each bringing her own style and edge to the set. A nice mixture of live jazz by some great regional artists.

Jazz at Basil has a $5 cover. Get there by 8:00 for a good spot--the place was filled up, except for the furthest tables, by 9:00.

For more:
Basil at Sheraton Suites
FVC Live at CDBaby

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Washes of Color and Sound

For years, visual artists’ works have been inspired by music and musical instrument. Just think of Pablo Picasso and his friends: guitars, violins or even fragments of sheet music are often present in the paintings and collages. Russian Painter Wassily Kandinsky’s colorful works were his visual interpretations of Jazz. Composers such as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel used the glistening imagery from French Impressionist paintings and infused their music with it. The intertwining of visual and musical art, and the love and collaboration that exists between these two worlds allow for deeper understanding and richer, more meaningful art. Ellen Priest with her works both the Carvel Building and the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art continues and elaborates on this tradition.

Priest creates a small world of art inside her exhibit at the Carvel Building, scheduled to run through the end of the month. Making a stop there during Wilmington’s July Art Loop, we could hear strains of Edward Simon’s “Venezuelan Suite” as we entered the building. Simon's jazz composition is an aural canvas for Priest’s work. Priest told me she had worked listening to both the composer’s midi files and his piano version of the score, so that she could truly understand the music and have it inform her creation. She describes how she used Simon’s “call and response” theme in the fourth movement as a structure for one of the diptychs in the series: the two paintings communicate with each other.

Her work is performance art in its own right: the abstract shapes and colors are layered. Built with translucent vellum on top of watercolor paper, they reach out to their audience with their bold hues and delicately sculpted curves. To retain each layer’s independence, the artist attaches the pieces using gel. Priest explained how she had worked painstakingly to find ways to paint on the vellum (a paper originally designed for use by architects) without destroying it. Ultimately, she came up with a technique in which she let the oil paints drain in coffee filters overnight, allowing most of the oil to slough off.


Monday, July 5, 2010

A fabulous fourth at the farmers’ market

Fleeing the beach, long lines and traffic was easy for this Newark resident as the Newark Coop and Farmer’s Market was in full swing on July 4 (since it was a Sunday). The Coop and the Newark Arts Alliance have both begun to take advantage of the crowds who shop at the Newark Farmers’ Market. The Newark Arts Alliance opens on Sundays at 12 and hosts Sunday music jam sessions from 2 to 6 p.m. This month they have an exhibit of their members’ works and, as usual, have jewelry, art and handmade stationery for sale.

Out in the sunlight of the market, Captain Blue Hen Comics had set up their rows of items any Star Trek groupie would be proud to own.

In the background, Kevin Neidig was performing on guitar – singing his personalized brand of folk music which was amplified just enough to be heard but not enough to annoy. His gentle strains made me think of James Taylor, with that soft but piercing message in his music. Perhaps Mr. Neidig would have had more attention had he been louder, but the music resonated on this gentle wave of sound and I enjoyed standing nearby, listening to the music as I shopped for the perfect peaches, berries and green vegetables.

Of course, a trip to the Newark Farmers’ Market also means a meet and greet with all of the more hip population of Newark. An Alexander Technique teacher was relaying philosophies from a recent workshop in Virginia and a Transition Town enthusiast was planning their fall concert/lecture series intended to draw attention to the crisis of peak oil.

And all of the solar heating vanguards, organic vegetable enthusiasts and slow food promoters can be seen and heard at the Coop as well.

For a total world change, nip into Wang’s Oriental Market where you can find everything Asian you ever wanted, including fresh vegetables and prepared e dishes.

The Newark Farmers’ Market runs until fall; trust me, you should get there. Buying local and celebrating life, friends and music doesn’t get much better than this.





Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Interview with a Delaware Author

By Guest Blogger, JM Reinbold
JM Reinbold is the Director of the Written Remains Writers Guild and the co-editor of Stories from the Inkslingers, a collection of short fiction by Delaware authors. Sherry Thompson is the author of the recently published epic high fantasy, sword and sorcery novel, Earthbow.

JM Reinbold: Sherry, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Sherry Thompson: I’m in my sixties, retired, and fairly unconventional. Storytelling is my second career but my first love. I’m servant to two cats: Khiva, the seal-point Siamese, and Vartha, a black foundling with Maine Coon mixed in. I have a variety of hobbies, including jewelry-making. I love filk (folk music of the science fiction and fantasy community), world and folk music. I also enjoy virtually all forms of guitar music, Celtic music and most Christian music.

JMR: Your book, Earthbow, has received excellent reviews. What is it about?

ST: Earthbow Volume 1 has gotten great reviews, because only half the book is out. Gryphonwood Press decided that Earthbow was too long to be published as a single book. Earthbow Volume 2 will be published later this summer. Earthbow tells the story of the 2nd Narentan Tumult, just as Seabird, my first book, related the story of the 1st Narentan Tumult. Tumults are cataclysmic periods of plotting, murder and battle during which parts of Narenta, my fictional world, are threatened by various forces of evil. Frequently, these include sorcerers, and the 2nd Tumult is no exception. Madness, the blind striving for power, the possible destruction of whole ecosystems are also involved. Because the Earthbow story is so complex, parts of the tale are experienced by certain characters, while other parts are experienced by others. Consequently, Earthbow has an ensemble cast and several plot threads. It all comes together near the end of Earthbow Volume 2.

JMR: Earthbow is a high fantasy work. Describe what that genre is for those who may not know.

ST: Backtracking to my first book, Seabird is high fantasy because it is set in a fictional location. In the case of Seabird, this other world of Narenta may or may not be part of our universe. Occasionally, Earth inhabitants or people from other worlds are brought to Narenta—otherwise Earth would know nothing about it. Seabird is also “epic” in that a major part of the plot involves two or more forces struggling against each other. Earthbow certainly fits these definitions up to a point. That particular point is when the sorcerer, Mexat, and a young fighter named Coris strolled into my group of characters. Coris took a nearly instant dislike to Cenoc (Lord of Latimus) and Beroc (leader of Cenoc’s guards), while they didn’t much like him either. In the meantime, Harone (an initiate enchanter) caught on to Mexat’s machinations and knew he had to be stopped. Voila: Sword and Sorcery. So, just to confuse things, I look at it like this: the world of Narenta is definitely an epic high fantasy setting. However, the plot of Earthbow has strong characteristics of Sword and Sorcery, in which individual battles between wizards and/or fighters take place.

JMR: What other authors or books have significantly influenced your writing?

ST: My influences have been George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Also, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series. Barbara Hambly’s excellent and out-of-print fantasy series, Lewis Carroll and Poul Anderson.

JMR: What inspired you to write Earthbow?

ST: I was inspired to write Earthbow at the same time I was inspired to write Seabird. I had finished reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and C.S. Lewis’ the Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy. I was just starting on the other Inkling, Charles Williams, with his seven urban fantasy novels and his Arthurian poetry. But I was running out of fantasy to read. In danger of running out of subject matter, I wrote some for myself at first, just as I used to tell myself stories. I very specifically began with an audience of one, then expanded to see how other people might like theses stories, too.

To learn more about Sherry Thompson and her books, visit her website at

Read an exclusive extract from Earthbow: and an interview with Sherry Thompson discussing the Art & Symbolism of the Earthbow covers on the Written Remains Writers Guild blog:

Jazz at the Newark Free Library

E. Shawn Qaissaunee and Sharon Sable gave a beautiful jazz concert at the Newark Free Library on Wednesday, June 30.

The two work seamlessly together, Qaissaunee’s beautifully lyrical guitar introductions can be so fanciful that it is hard to know which tune he is introducing. But Sable seems to like that fine and knows just when to bring in her cooing jazz lyrics and when to stop for more of Qaissaunee’s interludes. Their music is quietly melodic, yet they step out of the box whenever they can.

Qaissaunee’s guitar work is highly polished technical finger work with a jazz spin or even a hint of blues and country. He seems to let his fingers do the wandering which makes his performance unpredictable and exciting. For example, when he played his introduction to the Beatles’ song And I love her, he managed to work in a quote from Blackbird.

Sable’s voice is rich and yet she holds back just enough to keep you on edge. She has that cool, quiet jazz style which is like a feather in your ear…you just have to pay attention. She is solid on her lyrics and is able to bend the lines in a funky way. Her delivery of the ridiculously erudite lyrics of You fascinate me was smooth and unpretentious.

The library was one of the more formal settings for the duo, who have just made a new CD together called Comfort Me, and the quiet and formal setting was a new experience for them and a nice thrill for the audience.