Friday, September 28, 2018

The Music School of Delaware Honors Supporters with a Musical 'Thank You'

This post content comes from a release from The Music School of Delaware...

The Music School of Delaware welcomes a new concert season with its first Music Masters performance, Opening Night - The Magic of Music! A Thank You Concert, on Wednesday, October 3, at 7:00pm at its Wilmington Branch at 4101 Washington Street in Wilmington.

The musical event is a thank-you performance for its families, faculty and donors, with an 'all-star orchestra' of its distinguished faculty as well as guest artists from regional ensembles and orchestras. They will perform noted works by Rossini (String Sonatas #2 in A Major and #3 in C Major), J.S. Bach (Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor) and Mozart (Eine Kleine Nacht Musik). Soloists on the program are violinist Christof Richter and oboist & Meredith Hite-Estevez, who are both on the faculty of the Music School.

The complete orchestra also includes Violins: Amos Fayette, Kate Ransom, Stefan Xhori, Julianne Ruiz, Lionel Thomas and Lingchin Liao; Violas: Maria Rusu, Nina Cottman, and guest Marka Stepper; Cellos: Jennifer Stomberg, Eric Coyne and Lawrence Stomberg; Bass: Arthur Marks; Harpsichord: Tracy Richardson.

Tickets for the event are only $10 or $5 for students and seniors and may be purchased at brownpapertickets.com.

The Music School boasts of busy fall of performances, both student and professional. Additional Wilmington Branch professional concerts will feature the music of the 1930s; the 50th anniversary of Woodstock; and an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Additionally, faculty recitals at both Wilmington and Milford Branches will be presented throughout the season. The Wilmington Community Orchestra, under the baton of Tiffany Lu, will perform works from Mozart to Mahler. Alumni return to share their musical stories in concert. 

And, the school continues to host its Classical Cafe sessions (complimentary coffee and donuts included) where attendees engage in lively discussion with faculty on music-related topics. The Music School also hosts and presents events from classical to rock, including Open Mic Nights, a monthly Bluegrass Jam, and jazz and rock ensemble performances.

ABOUT THE MUSIC SCHOOL OF DELAWARE
It is the mission of The Music School of Delaware to provide excellence in music education, training and experiences for people of all ages and levels of ability. Founded in 1924, The Music School of Delaware is a nonprofit organization that reaches thousands of new people from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland through its instructional programs and over 100 public performances each year. The Music School is the only nationally accredited program of its kind in Delaware and is the only statewide accredited community music school in the nation. The Music School offers standard-setting instructional programs for all ages and has a faculty of nearly 100 expert artists and educators with branch locations in Wilmington and Milford and over 20 satellite and outreach sites statewide. 

For more information, please call the Wilmington Branch at 302.762.1132, the Milford Branch at 302.422.2043 or visit the website at musicschoolofdelaware.org.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cuckoo for Chapel Street's Latest Production

By Carol Van Zoeren

In the program’s Director’s Message, Brian Touchette states his objective is to immerse the audience in the world of the play. He begins even before the play starts by cleverly presenting the curtain speech as a letter from Nurse Ratched, welcoming the audience to participate in this “group therapy session” while also reminding us to turn off our cell phones. 

The cast of Chapel Street's Cuckoo's Nest.
Photos by Peter Kuo.
 
He furthers this with a gorgeous set that evokes a decaying industrial setting, rusty, dirty and dented, with incongruously cheery Christmas lights in the “Control Room”. He pairs Chief Bromden’s monologues with mechanical imagery and sound that augment the Chief’s terror of the destructive machines that consumed his family, his tribe and his sense of self.

Touchette more than succeeded in immersing me in the world of the play. Yes, I was fully invested, but was also especially gratified that these elements highlighted many themes of the play that I might have otherwise missed.

For those unfamiliar with the play, or the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, a brief plot synopsis: Randall P. McMurphy is committed to a psychiatric ward after “a couple of hassles down at the Work Farm and the Court ruled that I’m a psychopath.” The ward is ruled by Nurse Ratched. A war for control ensues between McMurphy and Ratched, with both tragic and uplifting results. But this plot is merely a vehicle for deep examination of how institutions can destroy, how power can corrupt, and how one can both lose and win at the same time.

OK, enough of the English 101 essay. This is a community theater review, so let’s talk about the performances.

Scott F. Mason is a talented actor with whom I have shared the stage, and I was delighted to see him play McMurphy. Mason portrayed the bravado that has carried McMurphy through every hardship, and also well conveyed moments of doubt when he realizes the power of the forces aligned against him. My only quibble with the entire production is the choice for him to use a deeply gravelly voice throughout. This was distracting, at time made his lines difficult to understand, and generally detracted from the authenticity of the character.

As Nurse Ratched, Shelli Haynes embodied the iron fist beneath the velvet glove (thinking of the cheery Christmas lights in the Control Room). Ratched’s highest priority is control and power. Haynes expertly played Ratched’s repertoire of tools  sing-songy comfort, intimidation, emotional blackmail, flat-out baiting. In the context of Touchette’s design, I realized that Ratched intentionally sacrifices her most vulnerable patient so she can goad McMurphy into an attack that will secure her victory over him. Power corrupts. Yes, it was there all the time. But without the rusty set, I might have missed that.

As Chief Bromden, Arthur D. Paul broke my heart. As mentioned above, the video and sound accompaniment helped reveal the deeper meaning of his poetic monologues. So too did his demeanor  frightened and confused, yet hopeful. In the Act II scene between Chief and McMurphy, when Chief reveals that indeed he can hear and talk, it was simply beautiful to see genuine affection develop between these two flawed men. It set us up to accept Chief’s final act of kindness, not to let his friend live as a vegetable. And, again thanks to Touchette’s overall concept, It is not lost on me that Chief escapes after shorting out the power of the machine, thereby reclaiming his own strength.

In direct contrast how Ratched beats people down to service her need for total control, McMurphy is all about building people up. It is touching that Dale Harding (Alan Harbaugh) eventually finds the courage to convince Chief to leave.  McMurphy convinces the excruciatingly fearful Billy Bibbit (Stephen Ross Ashby) to embrace life, even though this leads to both of their downfalls.

The other patients  Scanlon, Cheswick, Martini (Josh Pelikan, Frank Newton, Andre Wilkins)  are clearly delineated with their own individual quirks, but also serve collectively as a kind of Greek chorus. This was notable in group therapy scenes when the three moved and reacted in sync, and most poignant when they try to convince themselves that the lobotomized McMurphy is just a mock-up, a dummy, and the real McMurphy escaped.

This all sounds like a very depressing evening. Indeed, that was what I expected. So I was pleasantly surprised at how funny the show is. The cast expertly plays up the comedy and was rewarded with raucous outbursts of laughter from the sold-out opening night audience. Coupled with the uplifting elements in otherwise dire circumstances, Chapel Street’s Cuckoo’s Nest offers a deeply satisfying exploration of the worst, and best, of humanity.

See http://chapelstreetplayers.org

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Candlelight's "Brigadoon" Enchants and Delights


By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Candlelight Theatre opens its 50th season with Lerner & Loewe’s classic musical, Brigadoon. As the legend goes, a village called Brigadoon awakens every 100 years in the Scottish highlands and remains awoken for only one day.

Director Bob Kelly does a fine job of bringing this magical story about two current day Americans (Tommy Albright and Jeff Douglas) who are exploring Scotland and happen to be visiting on the day Brigadoon comes to life. They get pulled into the mystery and romance that surround the residents within the fantasy village. 

Brigadoon is whimsical, but the story is slim…it’s the typical boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl in the end. The twist is that the boy (Tommy) has to make a decision within a day…is he willing to give up everything for the girl (his newfound love, Brigadoon citizen Fiona MacLaren). 

According to the laws of Brigadoon, a person can only move into the village if it’s for true love. Once a person comes to Brigadoon, he/she can never leave because if a resident should leave it would cause the village to disappear forever.   

However, the timeless score written by Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics) and Frederick Loewe (music) soars through the historic barn and into your heart. Songs include The Heather on the Hill, Almost Like Being in Love and my personal favorite, Come to Me, Bend to Me.

Kelly has assembled a magnificent cast, that do a great job using a Scottish accent. Sophie Jones is absolutely delightful as Fiona. She has a stunning voice and brings a sweetness to the character that would make a man fall in love with her within 24 hours. The man (Tommy) is played by the handsome Andy Boettcher. With his matinee idol looks and beautiful voice, it’s easy to see how Fiona would be wooed by him.

They are supported by a wonderful cast, that includes Analisa Wall as Fiona’s friend Meg Brockie and Jared Calhoun as Tommy’s friend Jeff Douglas. Both Wall and Douglas bring comedic fare to the show, especially when Meg recounts the many loves of her life to Jeff during her tongue-in-cheek number, The Love of My Life.  

The show also boasts both exuberant and passionate dance numbers by choreographer, Jody Anderson. Deirdre Treacy as Maggie mesmerizes in her solo dance to mourn the death of a Brigadoon resident who accidently dies while trying to leave the village. Her subtle and exquisite moves express the love and sadness felt by all the villagers.

Tara Bowers has created gorgeous period costumes that allow the dancers and cast to move freely on the beautiful set by scenic designer, Jeff Reim. Bowers’ tartan patterns on the wool clothing perfectly compliment Reim’s stoned outlined set with a sumptuous Scottish landscape that sits in the distance.

I say treat yourself and your family to an enchanting night at Candlelight Theater and see Brigadoon before it disappears on October 28. 

For tickets visit www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org or 302.475.2313. 

DTC Presents A Bruce Graham World Premiere in "Sanctions"


By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) opens its 40th season with Sanctions, a World Premiere play by Bruce Graham. This timely piece touches upon controversial topics discussed daily in the news.

Graham focuses on the darker side of college football — revealing the questionable business decisions that occur off the field and behind the scenes.  It’s a gritty inside view of the challenging choices that some people make to ensure a successful team, regardless of the cost.

Catharine K. Slusar and Edward O’Blenis in Sanctions.
Photo by Matt Urban.
Graham has written a gripping play with four layered characters challenged by ethical and moral dilemmas about gender, race, and sexual assault. The superb cast features Catharine K. Slusar, in a terrific DTC debut, as the tenured English professor Claire Torrance, who is not only a great fan of the university’s football team, but is also the players’ educational supervisor.

While Claire has recently lost her beloved father, with whom she attended football games throughout her life, and is grappling with a personal scandal in her marriage. Now, she faces a choice of what is more important  the love of the game, educating students or protecting the welfare of the student body.

Slusar gives a textured performance. She’s able to bring a vulnerability to the strong role, delivering a completely formed character. The superb supporting cast includes Susanne Collins as the na├»ve freshman; Abby Barton, who works for Claire’ tutoring program, but also befriends Clair; Kimberly S. Fairbanks as the stern head of Claire’s department; Tonya Mann, who is not phased by Claire’s previous accomplishments, but is concerned about her current actions and comments; and Edward O’Blenis as the university’s go-getting recruiter, Ronald Hitchens, who works closely with Clair.  

O’Blenis is quite engaging as the ruthless Ronald, who will stop at almost nothing to form a winning team. He and Graham’s interactions intensify to a point that is easily palpable.

The stirring cast is led by director (and DTC Producing Artistic Director) Bud Martin who has created a pace that never lulls but continues to reveal unexpected twists and turns. He’s able to do this with the help of the exquisite set by Dirk Durossette, which provides the scenes for Claire’s and Tonya’s offices; seats in the stands; and Claire’s living room, and the play moves seamlessly without having to move sets and reconfigure the stage.

Graham has done a fine job of capturing the senstive issues and themes around the #metoo movement and university scandals that have recently and sadly continue to make headlines.

Sanctions closes on September 30 2018. For tickets, visit delawaretheatre.org or 302.594.1100.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Concerts on Kentmere: 10 Years IN & Stronger Than Ever

This post appears courtesy of inWilmDE.com...
By Christine Facciolo

The Delaware Art Museum INvites you to join in celebrating the 10th anniversary season of its’ Concerts on Kentmere series, featuring performances by Pyxis, Wilmington’s premier piano quartet.

The ensemble — Luigi Mazzocchi (violin), Amy Leonard (viola), Jennifer Jie Jin (cello) and Hiroko Yamazaki (piano) — will perform three concerts during the 2018-19 season, the final event featuring a commissioned work by David Schelat.

Commissions are playing a greater role in the Museum’s offerings. “That’s something the Museum is doing across all programs, trying to respond in the moment to art and to current times,” said Jonathan Whitney, performance & community engagement manager at the Museum. “So we’re bringing Pyxis in on that because they’re one of our ensembles.”

The milestone season will also see a closer relationship between Pyxis’ repertoire and the exhibits.

“We met with all the curators last spring before we planned our season because we wanted to see what we had to work with,” said Leonard.

The first concert which takes place on September 27 provides the musical response to the work of conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas. The commissioned exhibit — “Black Survival Guide, or How to Live Through a Police Riot” — tells the lesser-known stories of the 1968 riots and occupation of Wilmington through a series of fourteen retro-reflective prints drawn from the photographic archives of the Delaware Historical Society and The News Journal. Viewers become “activists” when they apply light to the prints revealing hidden images.

Pyxis will complement the exhibit with a performance of Alfred Schnittke’s Prelude in Memoriam Dmitri Shostakovich. “There are many layers involved and secret meanings and things that aren’t immediately apparent,” said Leonard. “And we’ll be performing it in a very kinetic way, spreading ourselves out in the space.” The program will also feature a performance of Debussy’s cello sonata, a work written as the composer struggled under the physical and psychological oppression of terminal cancer.

The artistic accomplishments of women will be the focus when Pyxis performs on January 10, 2019. “The Feminine Mystique” honors the work of pre-Raphaelite artist and mid-19th Century feminist and women’s rights activist Barbara Bodichon. Leonard and company will offer a musical response with works by such trailblazing composers as Germaine Tailleferre, Rebecca Clarke, Dora Pejacevic and Gwyneth Walker whose “Letters to the World” reflects on the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

“Tailleferre was the only female member of the group known as Les Six and Rebecca Clarke was one of the first women to play in a symphony orchestra,” said Leonard.

Pyxis’ final concert on May 2 will explore the relationship between color and sound. The ensemble will perform vibrant works by Brahms (Piano Quintet in F minor featuring guest violinist Dara Morales of the Philadelphia Orchestra) and Beethoven (the String Quartet in E-Flat Major nicknamed the “Harp” for its use of pizzicato).

The concert will also feature a newly commissioned work by David Schelat. Leonard doesn’t know much about it yet but hopes it’s challenging. “I hope it’s really hard and that he gives us plenty of ‘crunchy’ harmonies.”

Concert dates: Thursdays, September 27, January 10, (Snow date Sunday, January 13), May 2. Prior to each concert, the museum's curator will offer a brief personal insight.

Curator talks begin at 7:30 p.m. Performances begin at 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Two Organizations to Call The Grand Home This Season

This post content courtesy of a press release from The Grand Opera House...

 In front of The Grand. Pictured clockwise, top left:
Melissa Bernard, actor & Fearless Improv member;
Grace Tarves, actor; Jana Savini, Fearless Improv Director;
Kerry Kristine McElrone, CTC Interim Artistic Director;
Joe Trainor, CTC Music Director. Photo by Joe del Tufo.
Mark Fields, Executive Director of The Grand, is pleased to announce the addition of two new resident companies to The Grand’s roster of artistic partners in the building. Effective immediately, City Theater Company (CTC) and The Rock Orchestra (TRO) will perform their mainstage seasons at The Grand at 818 North Market Street.

“The non-profit Grand Opera House is a shared asset that we manage on behalf of the residents and citizens that we serve,” says Fields. “Having The Grand now be the artistic home for these organizations gives us the opportunity to more fully connect to the community and share the joy of the performing arts with more members of that community.”

"The Grand Opera House has been the heart of the performing arts scene in Wilmington for as long as I can remember," says The Rock Orchestra co-founder, Matt Urban, "Having TRO present our shows in partnership with this treasured community organization is an incredible opportunity." Co-founder Joe Trainor concurs, "Not only is it an honor to perform in these spaces, but it allows us the flexibility to develop our productions into 'must-see' events and make them available to a wider audience."

"As we head into our 25th year of programming, and my first as Interim Artistic Director, I am excited for the possibilities ahead for City Theater Company as we move to a resident space within The Grand,” says Kerry Kristine McElrone, CTC’s Interim Artistic Director. “The Grand is a community built on relationships, and I'm thrilled to be renewing ours so that our patrons can continue to remain an integral part of the art we do. Our brand of up-close-and-personal theater will be well-served in Studio One, where we can create worlds that immerse our audiences in the emotion and the action right alongside our actors.”

Resident companies are local or regional performing arts groups that make The Grand their primary artistic home, sharing their art on The Grand’s stages and collaborating on marketing initiatives and other projects. City Theater Company and The Rock Orchestra join the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, First State Ballet Theatre, and Opera Delaware are all resident companies of The Grand.

“The Grand is all about partnerships,” says Fields. “We partner intensely throughout each season with numerous arts organizations, individual artists, and other types of business to advance our own mission and benefit the entire community. Our resident companies are even more in-depth partners since we share these stages and this wonderful building.”

Patrons can purchase tickets to upcoming performances of The Rock Orchestra, City Theater Company, First State Ballet Theatre and The Grand’s own music, variety, comedy and Broadway seasons:

Online at TheGrandWilmington.org 
• 302.652.5577 • 818 North Market Street, Wilmington.