Monday, November 30, 2015

SuiteFranchon Goes from Stage to Page with Her New Book

SuiteFranchon (aka Franchon Roberts Beeks) is a prolific poet/performer in the Delaware Valley. She currently hosts her own production in and around Wilmington called "Peace, Love & Poetry," and she just celebrated the release of her first book, Living the Journey. We caught up with this local artist recently to chat about all things art and poetry. 

Do you prefer being called a 'spoken word artist' or 'poet'? Is there a difference?I don't really have a preference. If you are a traditionalist then I would be considered a poet. If you're more contemporary, you may prefer to call me a spoken word artist, mainly because I perform my poetry. In my mind, there is not a difference, but educators may beg to differ. Although "spoken word" predates the written work (aka poetry), I think the only difference is written verse verses the performance of poetry. (If that makes sense.)

What drew you to this art form? What about the medium "speaks" to you (no pun intended)?I have always been a reader and lover of words. Poetry such as Rumi, Nikki Giovanni and Ntozake Shange always moved me. Even Psalms from the Bible attracted my attention. Also, I have always loved soul music because it is like poetry with music and that really influences my style of writing and performing. I have always liked poetry because it tells a story in just a few verses --- that always resonated with me. I began to write verses down just to capture my thoughts, and it evolved from there.

How long have you been performing? My first performance was at an open mic event called "Po-Jazz" about 15 years ago. After a six-year hiatus, I begin performing again about five years ago under my own productions called, Peace, Love & Poetry.

Who were your mentors or inspirations?I have "virtual" mentors such as the late Maya Angelou (poet), the late Teena Marie (songwriter/singer) and Bill Duke (movie director and writer)...and the list goes on! I find inspiration almost everywhere and in many things. In fact, in my book, Living the Journey, you will find a poem called "Surely There's a Poem in It," where I talk about "...can't think of no thing that does not create poetry!" For me, poetry is my life and life is poetry!

What made you want to write a book now? I wanted to be sure to compile my poetry to share with others. Once the book was completed, it inspired me to want to write more and work on the second book immediately.

Do you have a favorite passage in the book?My favorite verse is found on page 43. The poem is "To Remain Righteous." The verse reads:
"I have lived in the belly of the social-economic beast
Among others who have lost their way
Forced to swallow the bile of poverty"

This passage keeps me mindful of my most challenging days. It reminds me that our greatest fault as a country is not addressing the issues of poverty they way we should and that our country is only as strong as our weakest fellow man. I have felt like I was in the "belly of darkness" and resided there with others who were trying to find their way. But, the poem continues to talk about how I always felt hope. I have never felt hopeless. That poem is like my "hope and see the light" poem.

What was the most difficult part of writing a book?Sitting still and organizing it to tell the story the way I wanted others to see it. It was important to me to not just throw a bunch of poems in a book --- It had to make sense.

What do you want readers to take away from your book? Is there an overall message?I hope that those that read it step away with some insight into my values, hopes and dreams and, as a result, they want to dream more --- and bigger. I hope they are inspired to do more, no matter their age or circumstances. I pray that they choose love.

What are your artistic goals for 2016 and beyond? Next year (2016) is already proving to be a busy and exceptional year. I am already booking events into 2017!

I expect (and I say this with clear intentions) to continue to stretch as a performer by booking more performances and speaking engagements. I expect my CD to be completed and released by March 2016. I expect to book a West Coast and South East tours. I expect to publish my second book which will be a combination of short stories and poems. In 2017, I plan to release a documentary called "Living the Journey, Life according to SuiteFranchon" and complete my script called "Scars." I think that is enough to expect from the Universe and myself for now! LOL!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Palooza of Piano Performance at the Music School

By Christine Facciolo

The Music School of Delaware showcased its pianistic talents on November 18 with a concert titled— aptly enough — “PianoPalooza.”

The evening also served to honor faculty members with 20 or more years of service to the School. Artists on this program celebrating that milestone included David Brown (48 years), Donna DeLaurentis (30+ years) and Hiroko Yamazaki (23 years).

Also taking the stage Wednesday night were Jennifer Nicole Campbell, Dr. Oleg Maslov, Liliya Maslov and rising star Douglas Nie, a 10th grader at Wilmington Friends School who studies piano with David Brown.

DeLaurentis and Yamazaki opened the program with a performance of Robert Schumann’s Pictures from the East (Bilder aus Osten) composed in 1848. This is an engaging set of variations on a theme in six consecutive vignettes that share a strong internal infrastructure. This is not a piece one hears often, but DeLaurentis and Yamazaki made a strong case for it with a reading that was full-bodied in sound yet dramatically sublime.

David Brown offered works by Beethoven, Brahms and Brown, apologizing to Mr. Bach for the apparent slight. Brown gave a clean and well-articulated reading of Beethoven’s Seven Variations on God Save the Queen, the British national anthem. Most impressive was his ability to make the melody “come alive” while bringing out the secondary notes in the left hand.

Brahms described the intermezzi of Op. 117 as “three cradle songs for my sorrows,” and Brown is brilliant as he brings out the inventiveness and sublime lyricism of the third Intermezzo in C-sharp minor with an ease that belies its technical difficulty.

Brown kicked things up several notches with a performance of his Rondo Fantasia, a piece of rapidly changing moods and wild arpeggios.

Dr. Oleg Maslov’s prodigious gifts allowed him to excel in the pyrotechnics of Liszt’s two concert etudes: La Leggierezza and Waldesrauschen. The former — Liszt’s most Chopin-esque work — was played with a feverish ardor while one could hear the rustling of the trees in the piano work of the latter.

Douglas Nie took the stage following intermission, capably demonstrating why he has earned the reputation of the School’s “rising star.” The fifteen-year-old offered works by Griffes (Lake at Evening) and Rachmaninoff (Polichinelle). Lake at Evening is not an easy piece to play without getting excessively Romantic. But Nie’s judicious reading conjured up all the exotic imagery suggested by the title, filling the concert hall with mystery. By contrast, his performance of Rachmaninoff was appealing and passionately Romantic, marked by a technical fluency beyond his years.

Jennifer Campbell’s superior technique and interpretation was most evident in her performance of Chopin’s Ballade in G minor — one of the most difficult of the repertoire. Her attack was strong from the first bold chords and built to a series of climactic arpeggios that brought the haunting central melody to life.

Dr. Oleg and Liliya Maslov explored the rich diversity of sound possible with two pianos. Both pianists executed the virtuosic figurations of Ravel’s La Valse with ease. As the waltz continued, becoming jarring and almost barbarous in intensity, Dr. Maslov took the lead, steering the frenzied dance through sudden, impulsive spasms. The duo succeeded in adding a thunderous splendor to the sensuous theme. Equally impressive was Liliya Maslov’s ability to turn her own pages while in the throes of this thrilling performance.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Music School Kicks Off Alumni Concerts with Noted Philadelphia Musician

Violinist Barbara Govatos and pianist Marcantonio Barone
By Christine Facciolo
The Music School of Delaware spotlighted one of its most talented and accomplished alumni when violinist Barbara Govatos and duo partner pianist Marcantonio Barone took the stage to perform a concert of Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms.

It’s a rare treat to hear Govatos solo in such an intimate — and familiar — setting. Normally she’s either concertizing as first violinist with The Philadelphia Orchestra (where she holds the Wilson H. and Barbara B. Taylor Chair) or collaborating with other talented instrumentalists as music director of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival.

Govatos is known for her well-curated programs, and this concert did not disappoint.

The first half opened with Beethoven’s chirpy Sonata No.2 in A Major and closed with Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major, a virtuosic work of complex and contrasting moods. The optimism of this half contrasted well with the fury of Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3 in d-minor in the second half.

What is remarkable about Govatos and Barone is their shared sense of musical vision, something that was amply demonstrated throughout the concert. The duo reveled in the good-natured bantering that characterized the opening movement of the Beethoven work. The antiphonal phrases of the second movement were shaped with a delicacy that invested the music with a sense of peace. The concluding rondo banished this atmosphere, replacing it with one of playfulness. The arpeggios in violin and piano were effortlessly tossed off while Barone offered sparkling accompaniment throughout.

The dominant work of the first half of the concert was Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major. Though less familiar than the composer’s later masterpieces, this single-movement work is just as extraordinary for its telescoping of musical form as the more celebrated Wanderer Fantasy for piano. The music is crammed with notes. More importantly, Schubert uses the music quite carefully to decorate crucial elements in the relationship between violin and piano. The heart of the work is its central set of variations on the tune of a song Schubert wrote in 1821, “Sei mir gegrusst” (“I greet you”). But it is the slow introduction which is recapitulated in the second and fourth movements (and fully in the third) which casts a shadow over the work.

Govatos’ delivery was extraordinary, full of imagination and profound intelligence. It was worth the admission just to hear the way she colored the opening line, reducing her tone to the slenderest thread, minimizing her vibrato and breathing life into the work.

Brahms’s third violin sonata in d-minor concluded the concert, and Govatos and Barone gave it a fiery, gutsy treatment. There was a constant pining in Govatos’ playing during the first movement, as she showed a range of colors — practically screaming at times — but never choking the sound. One indeed got the sense that a weighty statement had just been made and much energy expended.

A blissful Adagio followed; full of emotional joy but not without bursts of passion. The duo sparkled in the sprightly tempo of the Scherzo but the finale was all fire — noble at first but growing more and more manic as it unraveled.

This was an utterly compelling partnership of equals.