Monday, September 22, 2014

Bravo to the 'Heroes and Heroines' of the DSO!

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, and music for film.

The Delaware Symphony kicked off its 2014-15 season Friday evening at Wilmington's Grand Opera House. Board chair Charles Babcock — thrust into his role by the sudden death last summer of then chairman Bruce Kallos — gave a light-hearted (if lengthy) welcome to the near full house.

Music Director David Amado led the orchestra and audience in an enthusiastic rendition of our national anthem. Those of us who attended the pre-concert lecture had already met the soloist for Beethoven's 5th piano concerto — Venezuelan Gabriela Martinez, a charming and lovely young woman, is a graduate of Juilliard and winner of the Anton Rubenstein competition. Her conversation with Amado revealed her strong feelings for the music of Beethoven and her ability to learn concertos quickly — her budding career has included filling in for indisposed soloists.

While their discussion prepared us for a concerto of heroic dimension, the performance by Martinez and the DSO seemed to be propelled instead by lyrical sweep. Martinez plays with a clarity that communicates with great immediacy to an audience. I also enjoyed her use of the pedals, which colorized her sensitive phrasing. While she could always be heard over the orchestra, she nevertheless finessed her approach with daring pianissimos. She and Amado suggested that the second movement was the opposite of the first, introspective as opposed to heroic, yet they chose a tempo a little quicker than some, emphasizing the congenial rather than the mystical. Martinez had spoken of the chamber music implication of Beethoven's detailed writing for the orchestral instruments. Her obvious intense listening to those voices produced a beautiful unanimity, also enhanced by the sensitivity of conductor Amado, himself a pianist. The brilliance of the finale was as much due to Beethoven's witty side as to the composer's heroic strokes. I much preferred to take this concerto on its own terms, rather than be put in the frame of mind of Beethoven's publisher, who dubbed the piece "Emperor." I think for Beethoven, it was just music.

The second half gave us Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov's suite Scheherazade, based on this heroine's endless spinning of tales during 1,001 nights, successfully fending off the threat of the murderous Sultan. As a musician myself (a former bassoonist in the DSO), I realized I had performed this piece much more often than I had actually heard it from the audience. What a brilliant masterpiece it is! Most of the piece plays itself: the rich Arab-tinged harmonies, the memorable tunes, the rhythmic propulsiveness, the striking instrumental solos.

As in their lyrical approach to Beethoven, Amado and the orchestra relished the sweeping melodies, the swells of Rimsky's ocean. The only place that may not have worked quite so well was in the second movement, The Kalendar Prince, which is highly sectionalized. Yes, a good story has many fascinating episodes, but there must be a dramatic tension binding them — as with comedy, it's in the timing, which might have been more dramatically satisfying in this performance. I cannot fail to mention many of the featured musicians, quite a few of whom were my colleagues when I was in the orchestra. One who came after me is the youthfully ebullient concertmaster David Southorn, who shown brightly in Rimsky's numerous violin cadenzas, representing the storyteller, also functioning as a unifying motif. An older musician might display a broader range of expression, especially in the intimate direction, but the audience responded to Southorn's drama, command, and beauty of tone with hearty shouts of 'bravo' during the concertmaster's many bows at the conclusion.

Similar command was shown by my longtime colleague, bassoonist Jon Gaarder, whose pacing and virtuosity were just terrific. Charles Salinger's clarinet and Kim Reighley's flute sounded as lovely and apt as they always do, and Stephanie Wilson, taking the principal oboe role, made a strong impression every time she entered. I can tell you that for double reed players, who generally make their own reeds, the mark of having a good night on stage is having a good reed. Stephanie, nice reed!! Trumpeter Brian Kuszyk, wow, what triple tonguing. And those solos for second trombone, bravo Richard Linn. There was plenty for both first and second horn, bravi Karen Schubert and Lisa Dunham. And thank you, Doug McNames, for those particularly generous glissandos on the 'cello.

Amado and all the strings deserve high praise for the third movement, The Young Prince and Princess. The sound was lush and the ultra-romantic interpretation was remarkably complex, and everyone managed to do it together! One colleague I missed is cymbal-player Tom Blanchard. Rimsky, like many Russian composers, wrote a lot for the cymbals, and Blanchard is a player who can actually build a phrase with this crashing instrument. I like a loud cymbal, but the substitute last night tended to just play loud.

It was indeed a very beautiful concert with an especially large and vocal audience, a terrific launch to the new season by The Delaware Symphony Orchestra! The next program will be given on October 17 & 19 at The Tatnall School.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Love is in the Air at The Delaware Theatre Company!

Michael Learned and Daniel Davis in Love Letters. Photo by Joe del Tufo, Mobius New Media. 
You can take a trip to New York City to see the latest starry Broadway revival of Love Letters, but there is no need to travel to the Big Apple when we have our very own starry production right here in the First State! Last night the Delaware Theatre Company opened its 36th season - with A.R. Gurney's sentimental two-character play starring Michael Learned and Daniel Davis - to a standing ovation.

Love Letters is a unique play because the two actors never physically interact; instead, they sit at separate desks reading letters their characters have written to each other over the course of about 50 years. Since there is no blocking, sets or props, the play depends solely on the strength of the actors. Thankfully, we have two veterans in the roles who can certainly handle the challenge.

The two characters come from waspy New York families. They both spent their formative years in boarding schools and summer camps, but the families couldn't be more different. Melissa Gardner (Ms. Learned) grew up with divorced parents who used their wealth to keep their daughter happy rather than give her the attention she longed for, while Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (Mr. Davis) grew up in a conservative household with loving, supportive parents. The play begins in the 1930s when they meet in second grade, and thus starts their lifelong love affair. We learn about each character's personal and professional successes and failures through the letters they write to each other as they attend out-of-state schools and continue their very different lives.

They both journey into adulthood in separate directions. Andrew becomes a Washington, DC lawyer and later a republican New York senator, while Melissa becomes a free-spirited artist who uses her family's money to travel the world. Although both have multiple relationships and marry others, with whom they have families, they never stop corresponding.

The beauty of the play is that it comes to life through Mr. Gurney's words. The audience gets an opportunity to mentally visualize the action rather than have it played out for them. It's a play about these two people, but it's also about the art of letter writing, which today has been mostly replaced by technology - emails, texts, social networks, etc. As Melissa becomes dissatisfied with writing, Andrew reminds her of the beauty of it and how it's an extension of him. He feels that his letters are gifts. The two do correspond at times by phone, which we learn of their conversations through their letters, but they always return to the art of letter writing.

Ms. Learned and Mr. Davis both give exceptional performances. Their delivery is captivating and engaging. They have the difficult task of bringing these characters alive through only their vocal and facial expressions.

Stay in our great state to see this wonderful production. Love Letters runs through October 5. For information and/or to purchase tickets, visit or call 302.594.1100.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Auditions, Auditions!

It's audition time in Delaware ArtLand, folks!  Here are a few auditions happening in and around the Wilmington area. 

The Rainbow Chorale of Delaware: Open Call
Monday, Sept 15, 2014 • 6:00–7:00 pm
Westminster Presbyterian Church • Pennsylvania Avenue & Rodney Street • Wilmington DE
Friendly Joining Process & No formal audition. Non-Singers & Volunteers welcome!
Visit the RCD's website for more details, or send an email to the Artistic Director.

Wilmington Drama League: Auditions for Waterspout Hero
Chrysalis, Youth Theater at the Wilmington Drama League, will hold auditions Monday, September 15, 2014, 4:30–6:30pm & Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 4:30–6:30pm for this Pillow Play that will run November 1-9, 2014 at WDL. Age range is 7 to 12 years old.  Auditions are cold reading from the script. Get more information about our free Pillow Play shows by kids for kids.

Wilmington Drama League: Auditions for Big, The Musical
Auditions Sunday, September 14, 2014, 7:00–10:00pm & Tuesday, September 16, 2014, 7:00–10:00pm. Callbacks, if needed, will be on September 29, 2014, 1:00-4:00pm. 

All auditions will be at the Drama League. All roles are open, no appointments are necessary.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CheckIN’ Out the Brandywine Festival of the Arts

The full article can be found on's blog HERE...

By Tee Alexander, Wilmington INBassador
Fly Home Birdhouses
It was 85 degrees at 10:00am, but that didn’t stop thousands of visitors from attending the annual event that is the Brandywine Arts Festival. In Brandywine Park, at the bottom of Monkey Hill, over 250 artists put up tents and tables in order to showcase their unique talents. They come from different locations across the country, and so do the patrons who travel to the festival to find that perfect “one of a kind” item for their home, or that special gift for someone else.

The variety of art is impressive. There are paintings, photographic works, sculptures, metal art, hand-crafted jewelry, personalized art, clothing, woodworking, blown glass, and so much more.

Wine Barrel Designs offers one-of-a-kind furniture made from recycled wine barrels. Some items displayed were a bistro table with stools and a wine rack in the base, as well as a coffee table with a wine rack in the middle.

Fly Home Birdhouses caught my attention with their bright colors, whimsical designs, and copper roofs atop their hand-crafted creations. Artist Clark Hansberger traveled 4 hours for the festival and shared that “Wilmington is a nice little town.”


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Governor Markell Announces 2014 Govenor's Awards for the Arts

Article originates from content borrowed from The full article can be seen here.

The Governor's Award, created by Michael Quattrociocchi of Milford
Governor Jack A. Markell will honor the recipients of the 2014 Governor’s Awards for the Arts at a presentation starting at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, October 6, 2014 at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware. The event, co-chaired by First Lady Carla Markell and Delaware State Arts Council Chair Lise Monty, will include videos celebrating the work of the winners, as well as performances by two young professional Delaware musicians: 2014 Emerging Artist Fellow Matthew Smith (guitar) and 15-year-old Pyerce Lateef Oates (piano). The event is free and open to the public. RSVP required: or 302.577.8278.

“I’m thrilled to join with the Delaware State Arts Council in recognizing the outstanding work of these eight Delaware artists and arts organizations,” said Governor Markell. “Through their art as well as their leadership, education, innovation and advocacy they have had a significant and profound impact on the artistic and cultural life of Delaware.”

The awards are being created by Milford, Delaware artist Michael Quattrociocchi, an award-winning wood craft artisan. “Treasure Box” is an Asian design made of wood with applied panels on front and back. The front and back panels are made of spalted maple in a “Landscape” design reminiscent of the Delaware shore. Landscapes may be a shoreline with fog, marshland scene, or estuary.

Individual Award Winners (alphabetical order):
David Amado • leader
Sharon Baker • independent filmmaker Xiang Gao • innovator
Eunice LaFate • advocate
Evelyn Swensson • lifetime achievement - Peggy Amsterdam Outstanding Achievement Award
Billie Travalini • educator
Organization Award Winners (alphabetical order):
Joshua M. Freeman Foundation • presenting
VSA Delaware • inclusion

The Delaware Division of the Arts is an agency of the State of Delaware. Together with its advisory body, the Delaware State Arts Council, the Division administers grants and programs that support artists and arts organizations, educate the public, increase awareness of the arts, and integrate the arts into all facets of Delaware life. Funding for Division programs is provided by annual appropriations from the Delaware State Legislature, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.