Thursday, February 10, 2011

Longwood Organ Dedication

Normally we don’t blog non-Delaware events, but since this was a DuPont event just up the road from the Delaware border, it would seem churlish not to write about one of the most affable and accomplished musicians around: Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court Organist for the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia who played the re-dedication concert on the restored Aeolian symphonic organ before a sold-out crowd including Maestro David Amado, Nathan Hayward and Governor Pete Dupont. (Tickets sold out the day they went on sale in September 2010.)

Staff at Longwood tell me that in the weeks before the concert, Mr. Conte would come to practice after the restoration team had put away their drills late at night and stay for hours – and then would sneak in at the crack of dawn to play some more before the restorers arrived to work on the project, handing the banished musician coffee as a consolation.

But not only did Peter Richard Conte play an incredibly difficult program on Friday, February 4, having carefully prepared exploited as many of the stops and whistles as possible, but he wrote a brief erudite yet humorous introduction for every piece. He had known Firmin Swinnen, the first concert organist in residence who helped design the Aelion symphonic organ. Mr. Conte played some of his works – and made sure a computerized of an actual performance by Mr. Swinnen was featured.

The highlight of the Friday night concert was Mr. Conte’s performance of an incredibly demanding piece composed by Marcel Dupré, who had actually performed it at Longwood. Mr. Conte’s performance of Variations sur un Noël, opus 20, pour grande orgue and his registration of the piece gave it the texture and variety that it deserved.

But I salute Mr. Conte not just for his mastery of music, but for his outstanding affability. He stayed after the concert, was easily approachable and friendly to all – young and old, allowing them to enjoy the experience of knowing a true artist.

He returned in the morning for a more technical demonstration of the organ and answered all questions from young and old with eagerness, humor and respect.

Bravo, Mr. Conte and kudos to Paul Redman for taking the initiative to invest in restoring Longwood to its former elegance.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Post-Show "YO!" for Five Guys Named Moe

OK, so I'm writing this after the show has closed.  I just wanted to give props to the Wilmington Drama League production that lifted my spirits on a dreary February night and kept my Arts weekend rolling.

With a near-capacity, enthusiastic and diverse house, Five Guys Named Moe gave us quite a show.  And though the storyline was a bit thin---essentially, the "Moes" magically appear to give love and life lessons to lead-character Nomax through song---it didn't matter.  The music kept you rapt.  The play featured the greatest hits of "King of the Jukebox", jazz & blues great Louis Jordan.

Tommy Fisher, in his directorial debut, put together a talented ensemble that kept the audience engaged throughout their performance.  My favorite "Moe" was Little Moe, played by Alvin A. Hall, Jr.  He was equally full of energy and voice, jumping around the stage with verve, especially during his numbers, "I Like 'Em Fat Like That" and "Saturday Night Fish Fry".  A close second were No Moe and Big Moe---played by Jerry Mumford and Andre Dion Wills, respectively---whose performances of "Messy Bessy" and "Caldonia" totally resonated with the crowd.  Mumford's and Wills' rich voices and presences were both lively and fun.

The true highlights, however, were when all five "Moe's" came together for numbers like "Safe, Sane & Single" and "Push Ka Pi Shi Pie".  Their harmonies and on-stage interactions were the strength of the show, and they played the crowd well: Act I ended in a rousing conga-line of audience members.

The show ended with a Standing Ovation from the audience, and the energy traveled into the lobby, where actors and audience mingled.  Five Guys Named Moe provided the perfect remedy for the mid-winter blues, and delivered a production that was a wonderful celebration of diversity in the Arts.

The Drama League's next performance is The Elephant Man, running March 18 through April 2.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Warming up at February Art Loop

I’ll admit the last thing I wanted to do after a long week behind the keyboard (both the musical and non-musical kind) was go to out in the cold. But my winter doldrums vanished instantly as I stepped into the Wilmington Art Loop.

The Delaware College of Art and Design’s 14th annual show features the students’ work. Walking around the gallery, one gains a sense of the enormous variety and scope of the students’ assignments. I was instantly drawn to the masks created in Pahl Hluchan’s Four Dimensional Design class (pictured). Among the exhibits were drawings and mock-ups for an Interior Design class, sample covers for the New Yorker magazine for a Media class and fabulous sculptures created from wood and marble for a Three Dimensional Design class. For more information about the school, go to

My next stop was the CD release party for Mélomanie’s florescence and composer Mark Hagerty’s Soliloquy at the Shipley Lofts. It was a treat to have the opportunity to chat with the composers and musicians involved with the CDs. Mélomanie’s CD features local composers Ingrid Arauco, Christopher Braddock, Mark Hagerty, Chuck Holdeman and Mark Rimple. (All are Delaware-based, except Rimple, who is based in West Chester, PA.) For more information about Mélomanie, or to purchase their CD, go to For more information about Mark Hagerty, go to

On my way out, I stopped to admire the work of Kevin Bielicki, whose paintings and sculpture graced the gallery space at Shipley Lofts. His work Mangrove (pictured) is a startling sculpture, created from a long, twisted driftwood-looking root, with a dried, hardened bonsai, woven into the structure. Bielicki’s works-bold and larger than life-are inspired by nature. For more information about Kevin Bielicki, go to

At the New Wilmington Art Association’s opening, I spoke to artist Kenny Delio. His is one of the most whimsical, clever works of art I have seen. When I asked him what this moving creation was called, he answered, “I don’t know. Dipper?” (Click on link to see video.) A large corner of the gallery’s walls was covered in cups of Plasticine. Small clay shapes suspended by wire and tied with lead fishing weights were being dipped repeatedly in these cups. Of course, the audience has a part in the show: one has to step on a pedal to bring the whole thing in action. Delio’s next step is to fire the objects to finish them. His wacky idea grew out of his fascination with the concept of process, and his desire to cut down on some of pottery’s drudge-work. For more information about Kenny Delio, go to