Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Theater Fun at Arden!

The Gift of the Magi and A G&S Christmas Carol opened December 17 at Arden’s historic Gild Hall. A joint effort of the ArdenSingers and Thespis Etc., the performances showcase local talent. The productions, which premiered two weeks ago in Media, Pennsylvania, are sure to bring holiday cheer.

Jerry Goldberg and Seymour Reiter’s musical version of O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi is a sweet Christmas tale of young newlyweds’ quest for the perfect gift. The show, which features some sweet melodies and touching scenes, takes us through the day before Christmas in the lives of Della and Jim.

Gayden Wren’s G&S Christmas Carol is a witty adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ chestnut, set to music from favorite Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Not only are tunes like “Three Little Ghosts for Scrooge” (“Three Little Maids from School” from The Mikado) lifted right from the beloved operettas, so are many of the references and lines. The show is very entertaining, even for those uninitiated in the world of Gilbert and Sullivan patter-song and ensembles. Shows are Friday, December 18 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, December 19 at 2:00 and 8:00 pm.

Jessica Graae

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Newark Symphony Orchestra at the Independence School

Bad weather did not keep a large crowd from coming to the Independence School to hear musical director candidate Simeone Tartaglione conduct the second Newark Symphony Orchestra concert of the season. Tartaglione told the audience, “If I get the job of directing this wonderful orchestra, I would like to know what you [the orchestra] want to play and what you [the audience] want to hear.”

His version of Smetana’s The Moldau (Vitava) from Ma Vlast (My country) was quite fast. Crystal Norman’s flute brought the symphony in with gusto, but softly enough that the string pizzicato line came out delicately. The woodwinds excelled as both flutes (adding Dorothy Boyd) and two clarinets (Anthony Wastler and Shao-Tang Sun) played together in thirds and sixths.

Jeffrey Lang, Associate Principal Horn of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was able to show his beautiful French horn tone as the acoustics of the hall were great for the Horn Concerto in B-flat major by Reinold Glière. The violas deserve special praise for their clear melodic lines (how rare that they get any) and Anna Montejo played a haunting oboe melody. The soft dynamics the orchestra was able to achieve meant that everything could be heard clearly.

The Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor was the pinnacle of the concert. Tartaglione introduced the piece as a story of Johannes Brahms’ unrequited love for Clara Schumann which made it all the more vivid for the listener. Sally Cornell’s oboe playing was clear and smooth. Having four excellent horns was also a great bonus for an amateur orchestra. Mordecai Furhman’s timpani entrances were clear and rhythmic, spot on. And to have the alto (James Olson), tenor (Frederick Unruh) and bass trombone (Phillip Hessler) parts played that well in the chorale was quite an accomplishment.

The audience demanded an encore and got one: the Brahms Danza Ungarese No. 5, conducted with giant retards and accelerandi, making it a lusty end to a great concert.



Calvary Community Series: Nourishment for Your Brain and Soul!

Once again, I am completely bowled over by the talent in our small state. Calvary Hillcrest Episcopal Church, located on Lore Avenue just off of Philadelphia Pike in North Wilmington, holds an exciting Arts series that showcases artists and scholars in a rich array of events, and brings them to the public free of charge! The Episcopal Church, known for its accepting and welcoming tradition, is also a place where intellectual growth and ideas are encouraged and nurtured. Calvary’s rector, J. R. Keith Hudson, PhD, led a fascinating acting workshop using materials from Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party”.

Professor Hudson, who holds degrees from Oxford University and SUNY Buffalo, explained to the group that theater was broken down into movement/stillness and light/darkness. Both church and community members, the participants thoroughly enjoyed watching their friends act out Pinter’s husband and wife scene. Hudson encouraged the actors to be meticulous in observing the scene’s notated pauses and stage direction, demonstrating how essential they are to its meaning. As we experienced the dialogue going from simple reading to staged play, its elements and motives and shifts of power were illuminated. Hudson’s directives were both gentle and expeditious, helping the both the actors and “audience” come to better understanding.

Some other programs coming up in the Calvary Series include concerts by The Delaware School of Music faculty members, an annual photography contest and exhibit, a choral festival and an exhibit by artists with special needs.


Jessica Graae