Friday, October 26, 2012

100 Artists for 100 Years

Mediation 38-Healing Energy (detail)
Kentmere Parkway was abuzz last Friday night, lined with cars and people heading toward the glow of the Delaware Art Museum.  Once hubby & I were inside, we were impressed not only by the large-scale installation greeting us on the entryway wall (part of the exhibition), but also the timeline running along the hallway to the Copeland Gallery.  The dual timeline denoted highlights in the century-long history of the Museum as well as pop culture points of interest, such as the moon landing, the first test-tube baby, the death of Andy Warhol, divided by decade “lumps”.  Patrons were encouraged to post their own memories on the wall with sticky notes.  There were plenty of interesting observations, “love notes,” even intricate doodles, provided from art lovers from every age.

The Centennial Juried Exhibition features a variety of media—drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation—and includes artists living either in Delaware or within 100 miles of the Museum.  The exhibition was guest-juried by John B. Ravenal, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and it is available for viewing now through January 2013.

Cauda Equina (detail)
In January 2012, the Museum launched a call for artist entries and received nearly 450 applications of nearly 1,300 artworks by the March 2012 deadline. Twenty Delaware artists, including Michael Kaklmbach, Kevin Bielicki and Ken Mabrey, were in the mix along with artists from Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.  All totaled, 96 works were selected for mounting from close to 100 artists.  Many of the artists were on hand during the evening, and patrons were eagerly chatting each of them up and taking photos with them and their work.

Some of my favorite pieces, in no particular order:
• Meditation 38-Healing Energy, 2009 — Donna Usher
• Political Climates: Delaware, 2011 — Michael Kalmbach
• Venation (Rubber), 2011 — Wendy Ellen Wilkinson Gordon
• Cauda Equina, 2007 — Keith W. Bentley
• Into the Fold, 2011 — Delainey Barclay

It’s an amazing exhibit that shows us precisely what kinds of talent surrounds us in our 100-mile radius and throughout the 100-year history of one of Delaware’s greatest treasures.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Serafin String Quartet Opens The Arts at Trinity's 2012 - 13 Season

WARNING! I’m not a musician and I have never studied music, so this review of Serafin String Quartet will not feature any technical aspects of the concert, just my observations and feelings.

The Serafin String Quartet’s Concert began the 2012 – 13 season of The Arts at Trinity (Trinity Church). Unfortunately, it was a one-night only concert, but don’t you fret, the Quartet will end the The Arts at Trinity’s season with another performance on Saturday, April 20. 

The Quartet includes Esme Allen-Creighton on the viola, Lawrence Stomberg on the ‘cello, and Kate Ransom and Timothy Schwarz on the violins; pianist, Victor Santiago Asuncion joined the Quartet for the second act.  The evening included classical pieces by the renowned composers – Ludwig van Beethoven, Ernst Von Dohnanyi, and W.A. Mozart.

The first act included Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major, K. 136 and Beethoven’s String Quartet in Eb Major, Op. 74 (“Harp”), while the second act featured one piece, Dohnanyi’s Quintet for Piano and Strings in C Minor, Op. 1.

I thoroughly enjoyed the concert at Trinity. The splendid performance was fitting for the 1890 Church with its gorgeous Tiffany stained glass windows. The music ranged from soft and delicate to joyous and loud. At times I would close my eyes and let the music transport me to another place and time, while other times I watched the musicians expertly play their instruments or let my eyes wander the church as it was being filled with the glorious sounds resonating from the group.

I particularly enjoyed Dohnanyi’s quintet. I loved the movements of the music; it went from being pure and jovial to dark and intense. I also enjoyed watching the musicians take on Dohnanyi’s musical journey. They remained in control as the piece ebbed and flowed, each musician masterly playing their respected instrument.

Although you won’t be able to see this performance, you will have the opportunity to enjoy other great performances at the Church, including: Rivales De La Sierra on November 24, Tiffany at the Organ on January 19, City Theater Company’s A Night at the Improv on February 23, Photography Contest & Exhibit on March 10, and Serafin String Quartet on April 20. Visit for more information about these upcoming performances.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Market Street Music features Organ Recital at First & Central

Gabriel Kney organ at First & Central Presbyterian
When you walk into the First and Central Presbyterian Church at Rodney Square, you walk out of the night and into a brightly lit space.  The organ console is at the very center of the chancel.  The organ case is behind the console with its beautiful white wood housing encasing the massive ranks of the 1989 instrument built by David Kney.

David Schelat started with Dieterich Buxtehude’s  Praeludium in D major and the church filled with sound.  The acoustics  created a swirl of sound as each new line chased the prior one into oblivion.  

Mr. Schelat then played selections from Bach's Orgelbüchlein, choosing several short pieces which demonstrated the range of sounds the Kney can produce such as the Zimbelstern bells for the New Year: In you is joy (BWV 615).

David Schelat, organist &
Music Director, Market Street Music
The Toccata and Fugue in A minor by Johann Ludwig Krebs was the centerpiece of the program.  Mr. Schelat has such technical mastery that the complex pedal lines, the fast scales, contrasting themes played simultaneously and the registration seemed to magically unfold.   The virtuosity of this piece rivals anything by Bach, with whom Krebs studied.

After the intermission, Mr. Schelat played one of his own compositions — an organ sonata in three movements.  The piece is quite melodic, but has innovative ideas such as the melody line played in the pedals for the folk song movement, with the keyboard playing an arpeggiated harmony.  The relatively short piece, with its clear conception, was written for a colleague, Michael Britt, who premiered it in France.

Mr. Schelat used a lot of dynamic variation with the swell pedal for the Cesar Franck Fantaisie in A and the Piece Héroique,  His encore, one of the Noel variations by Charpentier gave us an opportunity to hear the organ’s reed and piccolo stops.  

This was a great tour of an amazing organ led by a local virtuoso, right in the center of Wilmington.


Monday, October 22, 2012

The Newark Symphony Orchestra: A Crowd-Pleasing Season Opener!

What a relief — classical music is not dead! The Independence School's 900-seat auditorium was nearly full for the Newark Symphony Orchestra's season opening concert.  The program, which included Aaron Copland's Fanfare for a Common Man, Antonin Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor, op. 104 and Brahms' Symphony No. 4 in E minor, was a crowd pleaser.
Newark Symphony Orchestra, led by Simeone Tartaglione
The Newark Symphony's Music director, Simeone Tartaglione conveyed his musical ideas passionately and precisely as the community orchestra's leader.   With Copland's Fanfare for a Common Man, he showcased the group's excellent and strong brass section. 

Cellist Ovidiu Marinescu wowed the audience with his virtuosic playing in Dvořák''s challenging and soulful Cello Concerto in B minor.   The concerto, which is not unlike Brahms' concerti and symphonies, is full of longing and tragedy.  Masterfully constructed, the concerto showcases the soloist and allows him to lead the orchestra.
Tartaglione's love for Brahms — and Brahms' Fourth Symphony in particular — was evident in his conducting and in his pre-performance discussion.  An optimist, his discussion highlighted the salvation in Brahms' triumphant themes, which juxtapose the deeply tragic ones.   Once again, the brass, joined by an equally stellar woodwind section, excelled in the performance of this rich symphonic work.   But there is no happy ending with Brahms: A composer who felt more deeply or understood the human condition more thoroughly has never existed.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bootless Gets Rowdy with Jerry Springer

Robert Bove as Jerr
If you’re familiar with Wilmington’s Bootless Stageworks, you know it never shies away from controversial work — and JERRY SPRINGER, THE OPERA (featuring Delaware Arts Info Blog's own Jessica Graae!) is one of the most no-holds-barred shows they’ve done yet. The British opera (based, of course, on the American “trash-TV” show) has met with protests in the UK since it opened in 2003, offending the religious and sensitive while simultaneously racking up awards. The Bootless production takes the relatively large-scale show and capsulizes it into an intimate, almost interactive event in OperaDelaware’s tiny Black Box theater.

A couple of things to know about JERRY SPRINGER: First, it’s a true 
opera -- almost. All of the characters sing all of their lines in operatic style with two exceptions: Jerry himself, and his Security guy Steve. And second, there is more profanity, sexual innuendo, culturally insensitive language and stereotyping than any other show I can think of off hand. And that doesn’t even include the portrayals of God, Jesus and Satan in the third act. Expect it to be extremely funny, expect it to be dark, expect plenty of social commentary, but don’t expect political correctness.

As Jerry, 2012 WMGK Comedy Contest winner Robert Bove effectively 
takes a central role in the middle of the madness that is his show, with its frenzied audience and parade of lying, cheating guests, all of whom are on the show to reveal a dark secret (or two) to their partners. Catfights, pole-dancing, and emotional solos ensue. When one guest is revealed to be a member of the KKK, things turn violent, moving the action to Purgatory and, eventually, Hell.

The stellar casts features some of the region’s brightest rising opera  singers, including Jessica Graae, Elizabeth Zell, Michael Popovsky, Kimberly Christie, Michael Gamache and Cynthia Ballentine, as well as local musical theater denizens Colleen McGinnis, Nichalas Parker, Geoff Bruen, and Robb Russ. Every character (and each actor plays at least two) has their “Jerry Springer Moment” where he or she gets to steal the scene — or at least co-steal it.

The live orchestra, led by James W. Fuerst, blended with the voices 
without overpowering them nearly perfectly — no small feat in such a small room, with actors who are not mic’d.

Hearing beautiful singing voices use extremely profane language is a 
big part of the show’s appeal — it’s a juxtaposition that never fails to entertain (though a lot of classic operas are full of similar scandals, so it’s both modern-day parallel and juxtaposition). For this, alone, I would recommend the show. But the JERRY SPRINGER is also more than a freak show — it’s an honest commentary on the cult of “junk” culture that goes deeper than you might expect.

Jerry Springer, The Opera runs through Saturday, October 20. Reserve tickets at

(This review also appears in Stage Magazine)

TV Stars Grace the Delaware Theatre Company's Stage

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) opens its 2012 - 2013 season with the Delaware premiere play, The Outgoing Tide, by Bruce Graham and directed by Bud Martin, who is celebrating his first season as the Executive Director of DTC.  The three-person play stars three celebrated television actors: Michael Learned (The Waltons), Ian Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun), and Peter Strauss (The Jericho Mile).
The three actors make up the Concannon family; Mr. Lithgow plays Jack, the grown son of Gunner (Mr. Strauss) and Peg (Ms. Learned). Gunner, the now retired South Philly, blue-collar worker who later owned his own trucking business and married his teenage sweetheart, has summoned Jack to Gunner's and Peg's retirement home on the Chesapeake Bay. Gunner has a proposal to make to both Peg and Jack that will forever change their lives.
The three actors are stellar in this thought provoking dramedy. Mr. Lithgow gives a subtle, but effective performance as Jack. Through flashbacks during the play, the audience gains a better understanding of Jack's inner turmoil and Mr. Lithgow handles the role beautifully. Ms. Learned gives a commanding performance as Peg. Peg, a devout Catholic, is dedicated to her family and their wellbeing. She's trying to keep everyone happy and healthy, while maintaining her sanity. However, with a husband like Gunner, that's not always easy. Gunner, like Peg, is also dedicated to his family, but he's confronted with a life-altering dilemma that can't be ignored.
Mr. Strauss gives a dynamic performance as the family's patriarch; a one time city boy who is now an aging fisherman. Mr. Strauss fully captures Gunner's South Philly background, perfectly adopting the accent and movement of the character. He may be known for his television and film work, but in this play Mr. Strauss proves that he belongs on the stage! Besides the three exemplary performances, Scenic Designer, Dirk Durossette, creates a gorgeous set that serves as the interior and exterior of the Concannon's residence. The set truly evokes a cottage-like home on the Chesapeake (my Dad owns a home in that area)! 

See The Outgoing Tide now through October 28, at DTC before it moves to 59E59 Theaters in New York. For tickets, visit or call 302.594.1100. 
Pictured: Ian Lithgow (Jack), Michael Learned (Peg) and Peter Strauss (Gunner)
Photography by Matt Urban

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Revival of the DSO

No, it was not the usual Hotel Dupont Gold Ballroom Chamber Series. The champagne was not free, nor were the soft drinks - but the music was first rate.

General Manager Diana Milburn was vigilant – making sure every aspect of the concert went smoothly. She was well-versed about which performers and pieces were in the future chamber concerts. She also made sure there was a beautifully printed program listing the performers and the pieces. On the program was a long list of all of the faithful donors who have been supporting a Delaware Symphony which has not performed since July 4, 2012. If Ms. Milburn has managed to do all of this so quickly, perhaps there will be a chance for the symphony to survive.

And survive it should. The Mozart Divertimento for Strings No. 3, K138 in F Major was as smooth as silk. Violinists Luigi Mazzocchi and Lisa Vaupel, violist Elizabeth Jaffe and cellist Naomi Grey played together as if they had been working together for years. Every phrase and nuance of the Mozart was magically melded with dynamics and articulation falling into place enabling the subtle musical colors to fill the room.

The Beethoven String quartet No. 9, Opus 59, No. 3 is a very complex piece which became a showcase for each of the four players. The rich support of Lisa Vaupel’s violin was so together with Luigi Mazzocchi’s that it was difficult to tell who was playing which line at times. Elizabeth Jaffe’s rich, dark, melodic lines on the viola created an inner voice that made the music rounded and full of harmony. I had heard the former players in chamber concerts, but this was the first time I had an opportunity to hear the amazing virtuosity of cellist Naomi Grey. She had some very difficult passages in the Beethoven which she played as if they were easy. Her tone, intonation, pizzicato and her ability to project were remarkable. This made me realize that there is so much talent in the Delaware Symphony that we just don’t hear individually. What a perfect occasion to do so.

The second half of the concert was much lighter fare for the listener, but certainly not light for the players. The Giacomo Puccini Three Minuets for Strings are really vocal writing and the quartet took this challenge quite lyrically. The Lullaby for string quartet by George Gershwin is a lush arrangement by the composer of a long piano solo piece which had extensive exposed parts for each instrument.

The concert ended with some fun Latin tangos and dances. Luigi Mazzocchi introduced them as dear to his heart and proved it by his energetic playing. The concert was a great taste of what we could have if we continue to support our endangered symphony. Bravi to all the players and to Diana Milburn who has boldly taken on the challenge of righting the ship.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Time travel with Brandywine Baroque

Karen Flint, the artistic director of Brandywine Baroque goes to great lengths to create an authentic program with period instruments in a room small enough to hear baroque instruments, yet large enough to hold about one hundred people. That alone is reason to attend a concert at the Barn at Flintwoods.

Martin Davids and Edwin Huizinga, violins in rehearsal

The minute you sit down, you have the feeling you have travelled in time back to the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is impossible to resist looking at the brilliant colors and detail on the lid, soundboard and edge of the virginal which was the star of the concert. The virginal is actually a one-year-old reproduction by John Phillips, but that does not in any way dilute the intense feeling that you have travelled back in time.

When Ms. Flint started the concert with a solo piece from Elizabeth Rogers’ Virginal Book published in 1657, I was transported to another era. The rich tones and astounding depth of sound from the tiny decorative keyboard instrument were a great surprise. Ms. Flint has an ease of mastery and feel for the keyboard.

The two gamba players, John Mark Rozendaal and Donna Fournier, two violinists playing viol parts, Martin Davids and Edwin Huizinga played both chamber pieces - some of which were wildly complex. A fantasia in c minor by William Lawes was an extremely complex contrapuntal piece which had eccentrically interpolated rhythms.

Donna Fournier and John Mark Rozendaal gambas

Laura Heimes, soprano and Tony Boutté, tenor sing baroque styles with such purity and clarity and have such technical mastery of the style that they are able to really portray a song with gesture, humor and grace. Ms. Heimes’ singing is always delightful, but when she sings baroque music, her vocal line is pure and simple with minimal vibrato and magical ease on the high notes.

Each of the performers seemed to exude a playfulness and joy in the music that made the entire concert a pleasure. The physical expressions of all the players and singers and their ability to truly touch another style and time made this a moving experience. And the program itself was so beautifully written and researched by Ms. Flint that it became a great ready reference tool for those of us who did not know about the instruments.

After the concert, Ms. Flint was more than ready to show us the instrument and talk about the exquisite illustrations and decorations and where and how it was made.

When concerts are that thoroughly prepared, they change your entire perspective on music.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mėlomanie plays at Immanuel Highlands

The Immanuel Episcopal Church, Highlands has begun a Music at Immanuel program featuring a great fall calendar of performances starting with an evening of Mėlomanie. The program featured a world premiere by guitarist/composer Chris Braddock called Grease in the Groove which was a delightful mix of country music and jazzy sounds for mandolin, twelve-string guitar, harpsichord and cello. Doug McNames, cello, took Braddock’s brash bass line and ran with it, creating a fun and almost washtub effect while Tracy Richardson played a series of delicate scales and arpeggios on the harpsichord. Braddock played his mandolin part which he had made the lead voice dominating the trio. Then he switched to the twelve-string guitar against which he created a very high cello part which took over the dominant voice for the end of the piece — evocative of Scheherazade rather than the country style in which the piece began.

Two baroque pieces introduced each half of the program. The Paris Quartet No. 4 in B Minor, TWV 43: h2 featured Chris Braddock playing an additional continuo to Richardson’s harpsichord and the Concerto No. 3 in D Major by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier which featured Eve Friedman (baroque flute) and Priscilla Smith (baroque oboe). Both pieces were lively and light; not at all out of place with the contemporary pieces on the program.

Mėlomanie also presented excerpts of four pieces they had commissioned in the past decade and invited each composer to speak about his or her piece. Not only was it a treat to have the composers be present for the concert, but it was interesting to compare the acoustics in Immanuel to those of Grace Church.

Violinist Christof Richter
Chuck Holdeman said his Quarter note = 48 was written in 5/4 time to make sure there was no recognizable downbeat, but the impeccable coordination between flutist Kim Reighley and cellist Doug McNames made it seem more strictly laid out than he led us to believe. Ingrid Arauco’s Pavane opened with the harpsichord’s sparkling high register and melted into a fugal resolution picked up by the modern flute, gamba, cello and violin. Mark Hagerty’s Trois Rivières excerpt was very jazzy with a 5/8 meter creating a dance feel which he felt was influenced by his time spent in Brazil.

Flutist Kimberly Reighley

The two excerpts from Kile Smith’s The Nobility of Women were brilliantly played by his daughter Priscilla, for whom he wrote the piece. Her baroque oboe sound is so incredibly smooth that the listener might forget it is a double reed instrument – the baroque oboe being more temperamental even than its prima donna modern cousin. The Sarabande is slow and sad and the oboe voice pierces plumbs the darkness with its soulful sound and the Canarios, which featured all of the Mėlomanie players, was written in a traditional baroque style, yet it still evokes a very swinging and modern dance, especially when the oboe is playing long dotted rhythms over the other voices.

Mėlomanie will continue their residence at Grace Church on Washington Street in January.