Monday, March 30, 2015

Maggio & Mélomanie Bring Aegean Airs to the DCCA

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Composer Robert Maggio
Despite rumors to the contrary, modern classical music can be melodic and fun. The lucky audience at Mélomanie’s concert on Sunday at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts got to hear two such works along with some fine representatives of the Baroque and pre-Classical periods.

The program featured the world premiere of Aegean Airs, a piece written especially for Mélomanie by West Chester, Pa.-based composer Robert Maggio. Maggio has been described as a versatile, passionate and eclectic composer. Not surprising since he grew up listening mostly to rock and Broadway musicals. He did not discover classical music or study “serious” composition until college.

Aegean Airs, which takes its inspiration from the composer’s recent trip to Greece, is unmistakably Maggio. The work consists of seven movements, the theme of which is a Delphic hymn the composer discovered on the Internet. The odd-numbered movements are contemporary arrangements and variations of this hymn, while the even-numbered movements draw on the Greek scales, melodies and rhythms of the pop-folk music the composer heard in Athens, Mykonos and Santorini during the summer.

Maggio and Mélomanie are magical. What better way to introduce a piece whose theme is the blending of the ancient and modern in present-day Greek culture than with an ensemble that blends the old and new in performance?

Alec Wilder (1907-1980) is another “fusion-type” composer whose work combines elements of jazz and the American popular song with classical European forms and techniques. His Suite for Harpsichord and Flute provided the perfect showcase for Kimberly Reighley’s superb talents. She produced a full, rich, luscious sonority, ably interpreting the contrasting moods of the three movements, especially the final one, “Keeping the Blues in Mind.”

J.S. Bach’s Suite in G Major for Unaccompanied Cello showcased the playing of Douglas McNames. The Suites for Cello are among the most popular works by Bach and represent a challenge for every cellist. McNames was more than up to the challenge. The Prelude, one of the most recognizable works for the instrument, was wonderfully spacious. But it was in the dances that he was outstanding, full of understated nuances in rhythm and phrasing.

The “style gallant” was nicely represented by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain’s Sonata III in D Minor. The work attempts to create true “conversations” among the instruments and the result was a truly delightful listen.

Speaking of Bach, the concert opened with an engaging and sublime performance of the Sonata in A Major by the pre-Classical composer Carl Friedrich Abel, close friend and concertizing partner of J.S. Bach’s son, J.C. Bach, and one of the last virtuosos of the viola da gamba.


A Musically Nostalgic Trip Through Our Favorite TV Memories

Guest Blogger Rebecca Klug is the Manager of Marketing for the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and an enthusiastic advocate of the community-building power of the arts.

The Rainbow Chorale's As Seen on TV! showcase on Friday, March 27, was an entertaining romp through a range of favorite television theme songs and other classic TV moments. The rustic Arden Gild Hall setting and "heavy hors d'oeuvres"  which turned out to be a table laden with fried chicken, meatballs, mashed potatoes, corn, meatloaf, vegan polenta lasagna and a selection of homey desserts  established a feeling of an old-fashioned community get-together right from the start.

The chorus, under the direction of Elinor Armsby, led off with The Muppet Show Theme and moved on to other iconic openers like All in the Family's Those Were the Days, The Big Bang Theory's History of Everything, the Sesame Street Theme, and a medley of themes from classic shows like Laverne & Shirley, the Brady Bunch, Bonanza and I Love Lucy.

No lyrics, no problem! We heard vocal adaptations of instrumental pieces like the Theme from Star Trek, and — in possibly the strongest performance of the evening — Henry Mancini's Peter Gunn. In addition to full-chorus features, musical numbers ranged from a solo performance of David Bowie's Life on Mars sung by Denise Conner to a female quartet singing I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Wiener in barbershop style, to a rousing rendition of Friends' I'll Be There For You sung by a male sextet, all dressed in their respective Friend's part.

Between musical numbers, chorus members performed costumed skits — a conversation between Archie and Edith Bunker, a gender-bending Star Trek episode — and recreated classic commercials like "Where's the Beef?," "Mikey Likes It!," and even Saturday Night Live's "commercial" for New Shimmer Floor Wax/Dessert Topping.

Throughout the concert, the audience participated enthusiastically, overpowering "Ed Sullivan's" stilted introduction with shrieks and shouts of "Beatles!!" during a recreation of the band's famous performance of I Want to Hold Your Hand and singing along (with more energy than accuracy) with Schoolhouse Rock's Constitution Preamble. By the time the chorus closed with The Golden Girls' Thank You For Being a Friend, it felt like a genuine and heartfelt send-off to a room packed with still-laughing supporters.

The Rainbow Chorale, established in 1999, is an inclusive, nonprofit community chorus that provides LGBT individuals, friends and allies an opportunity to perform choral music while serving as a positive force for change.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hands Applaud Lips Together Teeth Apart at WDL

By Guest Blogger, Hope R. Rose
Hope is a freelance photographer and photojournalist. She has been published in Next Level Magazine,, el Hoy and other regional publications.

I clutched my pearls at the beginning scenes of Wilmington Drama League’s performance of Lips Together, Teeth Apart (LTTA). The actors spewed uncomfortable words. The diverse audience did not know how to react at such horrific words. Most wanted to laugh but saw that we had neighbors that might not find the humor in it.

The play was directed by Rebecca May Flowers and assistant directed by Ivy Brock. LTTA was written by Terence McNally and takes place with two heterosexual couples spending Fourth of July weekend in a beach house on the very gay-friendly Fire Island. Main character Sally has inherited the beach house from her gay brother who recently passed away due to complications from AIDS.

As the play goes on, you laugh at the characters' close-mindedness. You realize that they live their lives as "what is right is who they are."  What’s wrong is people who are gay, other ethnicities, etc. They fail to acknowledge their own fragilities. They all live in isolation. All around them are people who are enjoying the festivities of the holiday weekend, and they are spending a miserable weekend together, isolated, because they are unable to find anything to celebrate about themselves.

The play continues at the Drama League until Sunday, March 29. Check out this introspective performance that examines the lack of diversity that some people live and their (resultant) isolated lives.

Monday, March 16, 2015

DSO Delivers Body and Soul

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Great composers have a gift for looking backward as they push forward.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Music Director David Amado, presented works by three such composers Friday, March 13, at the Laird Performing Arts Center at Tatnall School.

The program featured works by Johannes Brahms (Variations on a Theme by Haydn), Gerald Finzi (Clarinet Concerto) and Jean Sibelius (Symphony No. 2). Brahms knew his Baroque and Classical music well. His love of the old masters was instilled in him by his first important teacher, Eduard Marxsen. Brahms himself would go on to advise younger composers to obtain a thorough grounding in counterpoint. This work frequently refers back to earlier eras of music, using complex counterpoint in places, yet it remains firmly rooted in the late Romantic style.

Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto is everything that the Brahms isn't: Reserved and contemplative. Not surprising, since the composer was seriously traumatized by the deaths of three of his elder brothers in World War I. (He would leave London after the World War II to live in the country, devoting himself to composition, growing rare apples and editing the works of earlier little-known composers.) His work combines influences from the Baroque as well as English folk music tradition, yet like Brahms, his unique personal style shines through.

Sibelius’ Second Symphony is the first major step on a journey that would culminate in the Seventh Symphony which marked his true ambition: The fusing of form and content into an organic and natural unity.

The orchestra was fully engaged from the first note of the Brahms, infusing the graceful march-like theme — which actually is not by Haydn but apparently enough like him to have fooled both Brahms and Haydn scholar Karl Ferdinand Pohl — with a hymn-like solemnity that pervaded the entire work.

Eight compact and wonderfully diverse variations follow, expressing dark brooding mystery in some and joyful exuberance in others. The entrance of the strings in the first variation fast forwards the listener from the 18th Century to late Romanticism. The boisterous variation 6 has all the character of the hunt with horns coming to the fore. The finale is a stirring passacaglia itself a set of variations with the larger variations after which the theme returns triumphantly in full orchestral mode — replete with triangles and piccolos. If ever there was a transcendental moment in music, this is it.

The result was a transparency of sound which kept all the parts in balance and playing off each other nicely.

In the end, the work does have a direct link to Haydn: In the code of the finale, Brahms quotes directly from the second movement of Haydn’s Clock Symphony which he regarded as one of the greatest symphonic movements of the Classical period.

The Finzi Clarinet Concerto was the astute choice of DSO’s principal clarinetist Charles Salinger. His virtuosic playing did this imaginative but rarely performed work proud, being properly assertive in the opening movement and delightfully playful in the rondo-finale. Both soloist and strings were most impressive in their execution of the concerto’s beautiful second movement.

The highlight of the evening was a glorious rendering of the Sibelius Symphony No. 2. In accordance with the composer’s intentions, Amado kept themes restrained in the first three movements, including the touching elegy embedded in the third movement, beautifully introduced by principal oboist Jeffrey O’Donnell.

This restraint gave way to the rising power of the finale, sending the orchestra soaring with a pronounced sense of majesty and bringing the audience to its feet.

Rock, Rap and a Guy in Sheep's Clothing. Just Another Night in Wilmo

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can.

We’re just over half way through Gable Music’s Singer Songwriter Showcase at World Café Live at the Queen when Rick Sabatini looks out at the audience and says, “You just watched a white guy in a sheep costume play a rap song with an acoustic guitar.”

Go ahead, re-read that statement.

Rick Sabatini was that performer, and he was one-sixth of the entertainment provided.

The format — gathering six quality performers to play two 15-minute sets each — has been used and perfected by Gable co-founders Gayle Dillman and Jeremy Hebbel over the past few years.

“The whole thing is a mix of meticulous planning with a good amount of serendipity,” said Hebbel, who has been reviewing applications from musicians from around the country trying to decide which performers to bring to the area for which venues. Hebbel says he and Dillman are now getting more than 50 serious applications a week.

As a prime example of serendipity — the fact that Rick Sabatini was booked at the last minute after another performer fell ill.s

All of the performers Friday traveled some distance to play for the Wilmington audience – Nelly’s Echo, Danny Whitecotton, Brian Dolzani, James Hearne and Stewart Lewis came from places like Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Texas.

Throughout the evening, we found ourselves entertained by a variety of musical styles, stories, observations and group dynamics as each musician seemed to be encouraged by the others.

What the audience gets from a Gable Singer Songwriter Showcase is a night of great entertainment from a mix of seasoned professionals and promising newer artists who all seem to be committed to providing a quality show for an appreciative audience.

The next Singer Songwriter Showcase is coming up on Friday, April 17. Do yourself a huge favor and get your tickets now

Monday, March 9, 2015

Striking Performance, Powerful Subjects Found in "Searching for Self"

By Guest Blogger, Hope R. Rose
Hope is a freelance photographer and photojournalist. She has been published in Next Level Magazine,, el Hoy and other regional publications.

A past performance by Pieces of A Dream dance company.
Expectations and assumptions were not just what I found, as I rushed down to Wilmington Drama League to catch “Searching for Self,” performed by Pieces of a Dream modern dance company.
I assumed and expected to see the athleticism, skewed forms of ballet, along interpretation of some familiar music. I assumed it would be some familiar protagonist, supporting dancers, lights, fabric and all that other good stuff seen in other past dance performances.  What I did NOT expect was the challenge of taking on hidden topics of suicide, depression, along with current social issues that we as a society are “dealing with.”  It was definitely a performance that I am still “thinking” about and how I wish more youth had an opportunity to see.
The choices of music spanned from jazz, folk, hip-hop, rock. The performance was the eighth annual concert performance for Wilmington, hosted at the Wilmington Drama League on March 6 & 7, 2015.
Ashley SK Davis is the Executive and Artistic Director and brainchild for this premier modern dance company. She continues to grow and exceed my assumptions and expectations, every time I witness their performances.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Check out the Chorale Scene Across All Three Counties (VIDEO)

Content originally posted by

The Delaware Division of the Arts is dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts to enhance the quality of life for all Delawareans. 

Take a whirlwind tour of the thriving community chorale scene in all three counties in Delaware, with behind-the-scenes visits to the Delaware Choral Society, Rainbow Chorale, and the Southern Delaware Chorale


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bootless Stageworks' "Bug" is a Creepy-Crawly Experience!

Melissa Kearney, Geremy Webne-Berhman,
David Hastings and Heather Ferrel in Bug.
I LOVE Tracy Letts! He’s a masterful playwright who’s biting humor peeks through the dark depths of his plays. His psychological thriller, Bug is quite an experience. The play is an engrossing piece of theater -- questioning how far someone will believe in another person’s distorted reality, because of the need to connect with another human.

Director and Scenic Designer Rosanne DellAversano has created a grim environment, which is needed for this ominous tale. Her vision keeps the audience engaged and questioning what will happen next.

Set in a Motel 6-like room in Oklahoma, where a honky-tonk waitress, Agnes White (Heather Ferrel) lives, drinks and does drugs with her friend, Roni (Melissa Kearney), and hides from her abusive ex-husband (David Hastings) who has recently been released from jail. One day Roni visits Agnes and brings a man, Peter (Geremy Webne-Berhman), whom she has recently met. While Roni leaves, Peter stays and begins a fast and tumultuous relationship with Agnes.

Peter has a questionable past. He believes the military has contaminated his body and is now conspiring against him. He draws the lonely and vulnerable Agnes into his twisted world. His reality becomes an escape for Agnes, who is trying to forget her melancholy past and connect emotionally and physically with a new man.

Ms. Ferrel and Mr. Webne-Berhman are compelling as Agnes and Peter. She evokes great sadness and despair, while he evokes madness and fear; think Norman Bates, appearing innocent, but truly menacing. Mr. Webne-Berhman’s glaring eyes easily make the skin crawl -- like feeling a bug walking up your arm. However, it is hard to understand him towards the end of the play, due to his lisp caused by his character’s self-induced mouth-infliction.

Bug is not for the faint of heart, but it is a unique play that will ignite great conversation after leaving the theater. Bug runs through March 14, at St. Stephen’s (1301 Broom Street, Wilmington).


Monday, March 2, 2015

Angela Sheik Rocks the Queen

This post appears courtesy of IN Wilmington's blog - view the original post here...

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant

Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics, and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can.

If the only thing Angela Sheik had to offer was her vocal range, it would be worth going to her show.

If the only thing Angela Sheik had to offer was her quirky-yet-profound songwriting style, it would be enough to draw an audience.

But, when you add in the talent of playing multiple instruments, both performing and engineering magical soundscapes while engaging the audience with fun asides and deep revelations, then you find words like “genius” and “brilliant” woefully inadequate to describe the talent of Angela Sheik...

Sheik started her concert Saturday evening at World Cafe Live at the Queen without introduction, fanfare, or words. While the overflowing crowd was caught up in conversation, Sheik made adjustments to her instruments and microphones, then started tapping her microphone in rhythm, laying down the first track of what was soon to become a multi-layered musical piece that silenced the crowd as they realized an alchemist was on stage adding ingredients to a formula that transformed seemingly simple sounds into auditory gold.

The last time Sheik played material from her latest project before a Wilmington crowd, she did so with the help of more than a dozen other musicians. This time she was trying to produce the same sounds solo – playing all of the instruments and feeding them through her loop machine, then adding her rich vocals.

The question is, how many instruments does Angela Sheik use in a performance like this? And the answer depends on your definition of instrument. Keyboard, accordion, xylophone, flute, auto harp, triangle, theremin – yes, those count. But what about the tapping on the microphone that sounds like a bass drum? What about the loop machine? Is that an instrument? What about when all of the music is fed through the theremin? Does it become a different instrument? And what about the point where Sheik instructs the audience to get out their smart phones, go to, scroll down the right column and click on the red box that says “play along” so they can pick a track to play while she sings “Evening Calls”? Does each phone count as an instrument?

Sheik's music explores a variety of themes, from love and loss to the struggle with ego – all in a way that forces the listener to engage as more of a participant rather than passively listening. Sheik takes the audience to new and different places throughout her show – and the audience seems to enjoy every turn and discovery.