Friday, March 23, 2018

Spotlight: Singer-Songwriter, Marie Miller

Singer-songwriter Marie Miller recently visited Wilmington, opening for Five for Fighting at The Grand Opera House on March 10. Delaware Arts Info sat down with Marie to talk music, touring, a charity she loves and more. Check out our interview below...

Singer-Songwriter Marie Miller. Photo by Sarah Barlow.
*Since March is Women's History Month, tell us about some of the women who've inspired or mentored you early on.
Yes! So many wonderful women have influenced and inspired me. My female heroes are Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, Sheryl Sanberg and my mom.

*Is there anyone -- female or male -- you've modeled your career after?
I model my career after Sara Barielles. She is so talented, and her lyrics are so raw and real. My goal is to be able to sing her high notes with ease.

*Tell us about your work with the Imprint Hope project. How and why did you get involved?
Imprint Hope is a non-profit that works with children with disabilities and educates their parents on how to care for these special kids. In Uganda, many people see persons with disabilities as 'cursed,' and Imprint Hope is a place where these children are loved and celebrated. I heard about [the organization's] founder Clare Byrne through a mutual friend and had to see her and the work she was doing. I visited Uganda and performed for the children and their families there. I also brought back some beautiful bags and headscarves that the mamas made to sell at my concerts. We donate the proceeds back to Imprint Hope, and we've raised almost $1,000 on this tour alone!

*Congratulations on touring with Five for Fighting. Is there anything you're excited about experiencing during the tour? How did you connect and decide to tour together?
This tour has been amazing! John from Five For Fighting is a killer performer and a wonderful person. It's a blessing for me to watch the show every night and soak up his obvious professionalism and artistry. My awesome manager, Josh Terry, got me this tour though his connection with Five For Fighting's manager.

*How long will you tour? Do you record while you're on the road? This tour is only a couple weeks, but I'll be on and off the road all summer. I haven't! I can't imagine recording while touring, although I know a lot of people do.

*Is there any anxiety associated with touring? How do you manage stress? I don't have very much anxiety on tour. We don't sleep very much, so a ton of coffee is a must! I try to keep up with my workout routine, prayer/meditation time and a healthy diet. I don't always succeed, but I think that makes a big difference. 

*Your label is in Nashville; is that your home base? What do you miss about home when you're touring?
I have a room I rent in Nashville, and I love my life there, but I also spend a bunch of time in Shenandoah Valley Virginia, where my family lives. I love being on the road. Besides my family, I don't miss much! I think I was built for this life.

*Letterbox is your first full-length album. Was the process different for you than producing singles or EPs?
The process of recording the album was uhhhhmazing! I recorded it in L.A. and Nashville with two incredible producers, Eric Rosse and Chad Copplin. Recoding a full-length is really just twice as much fun as an EP.

*What's your favorite song on the new album and why? My favorite song is Glitter Gold. The production is exactly how I wanted it to be, and I felt like it captured the emotion of the song in such a beautiful way. I always seem to like sad songs.

*Where do you get most of your inspiration when you write?My inspiration comes mostly from my own personal relationships either with friends, family, or love interests. My songs are very much like reading my journal. I usually write solo, but I am getting better at co-writing!

*Do you think full-length albums can still be relevant in today's music scene?I think people are always going to want full-length albums — or at Ieast, I know I will.

*What other music do you listen to? Are there any singer/songwriters or bands that you follow now?
I listen to a lot of different kinds of music now, anything from The Lumineers to Thomas Rhett to broadway musicals.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Voices & Viols Filled The Barn at Flintwoods

By Christine Facciolo

First appearing in Spain in the 15th Century, the viola da gamba — or viol — was a most popular instrument in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, holding an honored position even in the court of the Sun King. But by the mid-18th Century, the viol fell out of favor as concert halls grew larger and the more penetrating sound of the violin family became more popular.

The viol attracts little attention today, even though the 1991 film Tous les Matins du Monde about two of the greatest composers for the instrument, Marin Marais and Saint-Colombe, and a number of contemporary composers have written for it.

But the rich sounds of this once princely instrument were duly showcased in Brandywine Baroque’s March 16-18 concerts, “Voices and Viols.”

Joining Brandywine Baroque Artistic Director Karen Flint on vintage harpsichord were violists Catharina Meints, John Mark Rosendaal, Donna Fournier, and Rebecca Humphrey Diederich, flutist Eileen Grycky, soprano Laura Heimes and tenor Tony Boutte.

Meints pointed out that she and Flint had been friends for a very long time because of their passion for collecting period instruments. Meints then proudly displayed her treble viol, which dates back to 1700 and is, remarkably, in virtually the same condition it was when it was first made.

England boasts a very rich history of viol composition and performance, more than likely inspired and encouraged by the royal patronage of Henry VIII, and that tradition was well-represented in the first half of the program as the consort accompanied songs by William Byrd, Henry Lawes and Thomas Morley.

Songs from the French Baroque made up the second half of the program with selections by Michel Lambert, Jean-Baptiste Lully and Etienne Moulinie.

Heimes delivered the clear, unadorned vocal quality and needle-sharp intonation that has earned her respect and admiration. Here in consort with the viol she offered heartfelt, vibrant performances that effectively portrayed the texts without losing touch with the songs lovely vocal characteristics. Standouts included Byrd’s My Mistress Had a Little Dog and Lambert’s Ombre de mon amant.

Tony Boutte’s tenor was pure and emotional, breathing much life into songs like Byrd’s Though Amaryllis Dance in Green and Moulinie’s Enfin la beaute.

Heimes and Boutte delivered some delightful — and expressive — duets, including Henry Lawes’ A Dialogue Upon a Kiss and The Mossy Bank.

The instrumentalists gave imaginative accounts of William Lawes’ Airs in C, Nos. 113 and 109. Flint and flutist Grycky explored the rich textures and dense tapestry of ornaments in the Prelude, Courante and Gaillard in G minor from Jean Henry D’Anglebert’s Pieces de clavecin (1689). The ensemble concluded the concert with a lively rendering of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Concert pour quatre parties de violes.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Candlelight's "Drowsy Chaperone" Will Leave You Anything But

By Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ year veteran of community theater and retired from DuPont.

Remarkably, as a musical theater geek, I was unfamiliar with The Drowsy Chaperone. Sure, I’d heard of it and was aware that the protagonist was “Man In Chair." But I didn’t know the songs, the plot or anything.

Well I’m a good student, so I Googled a synopsis of the plot the day before. I figured, as a reviewer, my responsibility was to review the production on stage, not the show itself. If I were trying to figure out the plot, I might be distracted from the production I was tasked to review. 

Connor McAndrews as "Man in Chair" in The Drowsy Chaperone.
Photo by Tisa Della-Volpe.
As it turns out, the plot is both familiar and joyously random, so one has no choice but to focus on the production and just go along with the ride.

And what a ride it is! The Drowsy Chaperone actually refers to a fictional 1928 show within a show (or rather “a musical within a comedy” as the tagline says) which features a cornucopia of stock characters from the heyday of American musical theater. This includes the self-absorbed romantic leads (Kevin Dietzler and Audrey Simmons); the very wealthy, very dim matron (Lindsay Mauck) and her long-suffering butler (Anthony Connell); the heavily accented Latin lover (Topher Layton); a pair of gangsters straight from central casting (Victoria Healy and Max Redman) and many others.

These characters must be played in broad vaudevillian style, vocally and physically. And every member of this cast delivers. There are invigorating showcase numbers, such as  Simmons in Show Off, Layton in I Am Aldolpho as well as Dietzler and Shaun Yates tap dancing through Cold Feet

Tiffany Christopher shines as the Drowsy Chaperone herself with As We Stumble Along, described as a “rousing anthem about alcoholism." But what thrilled me even more was when the entire ensemble displayed exquisitely coordinated comic timing. These moments were liberally sprinkled throughout, but a particular dropped cane bit in Act II deserves special mention. The choreography is stylistically spot on and superbly executed. My highest compliment to a show is that it is “tight." Kudos to Director/Choreographer Peter John Rios.

And so we come to "Man in Chair" (although, as my companion remarked, he spends very little time actually sitting in the chair). On the surface, Man is the quintessential wide-eyed uber-fan of musical theater, and Connor McAndrews enthusiastically invites us to share his joy and passion. But there’s also a great deal below the surface. While he seeks escapism via his favorite musical, he cannot avoid the encroachment of the less ideal reality of his life. With a masterfully nuanced performance, McAndrews more than meets this challenge. He engenders warm affection for his character, which makes the somewhat surreal final scene all the more affecting.

The production values are impressive. Jeff Reim’s clever set seamlessly transforms from a somewhat dingy New York apartment to multiple rooms of a mansion in the Hamptons. Timothy Lamont Cannon’s costumes and Lisa Miller Challenger’s wigs & hair transport us to 1928 society. Light and sound cues are intricate and demand split-second timing, so hats off to the operators in the booth.

In sum, The Drowsy Chaperonemuch like the Marx Brothers comedies on which it is loosely modelled  is a madcap, raucous laugh-riot not to be missed!


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Two Harpsichords, Two Guest Artists, One Premiere & "Catch 1"

By Christine Facciolo

Mélomanie’s concerts just keep getting better and better. Not that this innovative ensemble — that looks both to the past and to the future — ever delivers anything short of sheer excellence. But Sunday’s concert at The Delaware Contemporary knocked it out of the park with a World Premiere, the graphic notation of Polish composer Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, two guest artists as well as some delightful selections from the Baroque era.

The ensemble opened the concert with an extremely well-polished and impeccably precise rendering of the Chaconne from Marin Marais’ Suite 1 in C major (from Pieces en trio 1692).

Mélomanie performs with guest artists Matthew Bengtson & Chris Braddock.
Photo by Tim Bayard.
Harpsichordist Tracy Richardson then joined composer Christopher Braddock on the octave mandolin for a performance of Pluck, a piece that Braddock wrote in 2009 — a time when Braddock said he had far less personal responsibilities.

Braddock explained that he chose the instrument because it produces some of the low-end heft of the guitar along with the fiddle-like bounce of the mandolin, making it the perfect vehicle for Pluck with its idiomatic folk-style writing.

It was most interesting and entertaining to hear Richardson and the harpsichord take to the folk medium like second nature.

The highlight of the first half of the program, though, was Haubenstock-Ramati’s Catch 1 (1968) for two harpsichords adapted in Caught (2018) by Mark Hagerty. It’s doubtful that many in the audience ever heard anything by this composer since discs documenting his work are quite rare.

Haubenstock-Ramati’s aim was to move musicians far beyond what he perceived to their comfort zone of conventional notation. Yet the question of how to interpret his pictorial images remains. Hagerty’s realization features notated passages and snippet that can be freely selected and varied by the interpreters — in this case, Richardson and guest artist Matthew Bengtson — in response to the graphic notation.

It’s doubtful that anyone in the audience had ever heard music like this before. The experience would have been complete had there not been a technological glitch that prevented concertgoers from seeing the actual notation. Nevertheless, this was truly “music for the moment,” as Hagerty urged audience member to listen without regard to what came before or what was to follow.

Following intermission, Bengtson offered two selections from Pieces de Clavecin by Armand-Louis Couperin, cousin of the more famous Francois. Armand-Louis’ work is generally not considered as sophisticated as Louis’ but it is attractive and full of personality. Bengtson interpreted “L’Afflige” and “L’Intrepide” with sensitivity and intelligence. He was particularly successful in keeping Couperin’s rhythms flexible without distorting them and without sacrificing spontaneity.

Bengtson then rejoined Richardson for a vivid, imaginative performance of the Duetto I in C major for two harpsichords by Christoph Schaffrath, an important harpsichordist and composer in the court of Frederick the Great. Both were impressive in their execution of these demanding keyboard parts.

The concert concluded with the World Premiere of Braddock’s Hooks & Crooks, which the composer explained was written during a series of family vacations at various locales. Scored for flute, violin, viola da gamba and guitar, the work showed Braddock to be a flexible, eclectic composer with a sense of humor. The ensemble played with customary vitality and color as the music faded like a summer memory.


"Mary Poppins" at MPHS: A Spoonful of Sugar for the Eyes, Ears & Heart

By The Good Girls
The Good Girls appreciate the rich arts scene in Wilmington. Brenda is passionate about volunteering, food, the outdoors and learning tennis. Brynn, a 4th Grader, enjoys horses, traveling, singing and learning to crochet. Brynn's friend Madison joined us for her first theater experience. She is a 1st Grader who likes dancing, playing outside and solving math problems. 

Drama is serious fun at Mount Pleasant High School, with a year-round program featuring a fall play, student-directed (and many student-written) one-act festival and the spring show.

The cast of Mary Poppins at Mount Pleasant High School.
Photo courtesy of MPHS Drama.
This year’s spring show is the timeless Mary Poppins, based on the stories of R.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film. The expansive cast, orchestra and crew includes a record 24 seniors involved in the production. Many of the players have roots in prior Mount productions as well as those of other local performing arts staples, like Wilmington Drama League.

Drama is a community endeavor at Mount. While the school funds the staff, many other daunting expenses — such as securing the rights to perform the plays, costume rentals, lights and other tech — are all underwritten by volunteer fundraising efforts (raffles, concessions, program ads, etc.). Many, many volunteer hands join together to present these gems to us.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious showcased the captivating costumery and choreography, and the catchy classic had parents and children in the audience irresistibly singing and bobbing along. 

Brynn’s first experience with this mouthful was a delight to share in! Throughout the play, she bonded with child characters Jane and Michael Banks and quietly encouraged their father that Mary Poppins was in fact teaching them manners...with fun!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Eighth Blackbird Soars in Museum's Performance Series

By Christine Facciolo
Let’s get right to the point: eighth blackbird is the best contemporary classical chamber ensemble on earth. Maybe even in the universe.

Need proof? Since its formation by six Oberlin Conservatory students 20 years ago, it’s captured four Grammy Awards, issued seven acclaimed recordings and successfully commissioned and performed new works by composers such as David Lang, Steven Mackey, Missy Mazzoli and Steve Reich. The blackbirds also received the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2016.

Eighth Blackbird contemporary classical chamber ensemble.
Photo from
The musicians are products of some of the country’s most prestigious music schools, including Oberlin Conservatory, the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute, Northwestern University and the University of Cincinnati-College of Music. The current roster is made up of Nathalie Joachim,  flutes; Nick Photinos, cello; Michael Maccaferri, clarinets; Matthew Duvall, percussion; Yvonne Lam, violin and Lisa Kaplan, piano.

The blackbirds didn’t need to present any credentials to please the audience at the Delaware Art Museum on Saturday, though, where they offered a program of six pieces complementing the Museum’s collection and current exhibition Eye on Nature: Andrew Wyeth and John Ruskin.

Listening to these selections was a bit like walking through a museum: In fact, many of the pieces were composed by members of the Sleeping Giant musical collective, the works having been inspired by the art featured in the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art. Eighth Blackbird applied the aural landscapes to the works of Wyeth and Ruskin.

Timo Andres’ Checkered Shade (2015) showed how tiny fragments of repeated material resolve into a larger pattern, in this case, an expressive chorale. Similarly, Jacob Cooper’s Cast (2015) built an aural analogue to an artistic process of absence with nostalgic gestures that trail off into a sonic encasement of Messianic-like piano chords, scratchy violin phrases and a repetitive vibraphone riff

John Luther Adams’ The Light Within (2007) offered an alluring sensory experience of the interplay of light and color through luxurious layers of sound and whimsical harmonies.

Furthering the nature connection, Duvall communicated with a tree in Matthew Burtner’s Song for Low Tree (2011). This was by far the most interesting piece on the program as evidenced by the number of concertgoers who gathered around Duvall to ask questions at intermission. Scored for a kit of wood blocks, log drum, low drum and bass drum, the piece uses interactive software to process the voice of the performer and the percussion sounds, merging these signals with tree exhalation ecoacoustics.

Robert Honstein explored the merger of the human body with the computational process in Pulse (2015) (from Conduit). Expansive lines in the flute and cello move through a cloud of asynchronous repeated notes, taking the listener right into the unseen world of the computer itself.

Duvall and Photinos gave a nod to acclaimed composer Steve Reich with a rendering of Clapping Music (1972) which sounded as fresh and unpredictable as it did when it was composed almost 50 years ago.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Wonder of "Wonderland" in Wilmington

Wonderland at Delaware Children's Theatre.
Photo by Mike Malaney.
By Guest Bloggers Traci Murphy and Mallory Murphy. Traci Murphy is editor & co-founder of Brandywine Buzz, a free weekly email and blog for parents in the Brandywine Valley. Her daughter Mallory, age 12, is a theatre enthusiast, actor and 6th Grader at Brandywine Springs School.

Fighting siblings. A dog that only listens sometimes. Questionable food and drink. Insane acquaintances. Picking your battles. A leader that has no patience left. If there was ever a theatre metaphor for parenthood, this mom thinks it’s Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, running at Delaware Children's Theatre February 24 through March 18.

Wonderland reminds us that "children and unicorns are fabulous monsters” — and together they have fabulous fun together onstage. Perfect for the "curiouser and curiouser” kids and tweens you’re corralling, Wonderland has fun music, plenty of dancing and audience participation to engage even the youngest theatre-goers (some parts are a smidge dark), and clever lines will amuse the adults that are tagging along.
After all, we are all the Queen of Hearts sometimes — particularly when she tells Alice to “ do what I say just because I said” — who can't relate to that? And while Alice and the Queen command your attention, your heart will be stolen by the little Dormouse who naps the scenes away.

Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure raps and rhythms its way into stealing your heart while it rocks your socks off. 

The 'flowers' in the cast of Wonderland at Delaware Children's Theatre.
Photo by Sheena Brooker.

I really enjoyed going to see 
Wonderland at the Delaware Children’s Theater! I was an actor in Madagascar at this theater this season, so it was very fun to get to see people that I work with performing in a new show. 

The show was really fun, and the actors were very talented. I think my favorite part of the show was the music  it made the play a lot different than the animated movie. The costumes were beautiful, especially the flowers. Good job, cast and crew! 
- Mallory