Showing posts from October, 2016

The Wee Trio goes on tour, picking up a fourth player when it can, behind "Wee + 3"

There's nothing especially diminutive about the three men in their mid-30s who make up the Wee Trio, which will play the Jazz Kitchen on Nov. 9. The group chose its name with a touch of humor (including a nod to Nintendo's Wii game, new at the time). The  original billing of the group with the names of its members — James Westfall, Dan Loomis, and Jared Schonig — was too cumbersome to last for long. Rapport from the get-go: Dan Loomis, James Westfall, and Jared Schonig are the Wee Trio. "But I don't know if we ever saw the group from a long-term perspective," the vibraphonist told me in a phone interview last week. "We played together a few times and found we had the same language in common to a T. So we said, 'Let's try to play a few gigs.'" Bassist Loomis and drummer Schonig went back several years — to student days at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. —  before the Wee Trio first got together in Brooklyn, where the

How much more do we need to know to feel OK about a Clinton presidency and the Clinton Foundation?

Another song parody, this time turning toward Hillary Clinton and the fog of war about the Clinton Foundation and what it might owe to donors as well as to explaining why Bill Clinton got richer off it.

Raymond Leppard returns to the podium to conduct a regular-season ISO concert

Apart from an appearance a year-and-a-half ago , Raymond Leppard is rarely evident leading the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in the regular season. Now holding the title of conductor laureate, Leppard is fondly remembered by many for his 14 seasons as the ISO's music director. He was a fixture in a special concert that he created to give the orchestra a respite from about two dozen "Yuletide Celebration" concerts each December, but he decided the 2015 concert in that annual series would be the last and gave it decent burial .  This time around in front of the orchestra he led between 1987 and 2001, "one is the loneliest number," as the old Three Dog Night hit has it. Friday's concert featuring Leppard and guest soprano Rachele Gilmore was a one-off. There is no repeat performance today — rare on the Classical Series season schedule. Though I resist thinking of these blog posts as part of the ISO's marketing efforts, I'm sorry that what fol

Retro technology and the spirit world: Phoenix Theatre premieres Tom Horan's "Static"

Only people absolutely certain of their rational powers can totally dismiss the reality of ghosts. Lacking such certainty, I'm agnostic to this extent: Experience of "the spirit world" must be granted validity as an alternative way of looking at life. If you're in full possession of your faculties, such an alternative may present itself to you in moments of vulnerability. Thus, some are more susceptible than others. To anyone else, including those who come to ghost stories for entertainment, a willingness to suspend belief is as useful as the conventional suspension of disbelief. Walter and Millie engage in a series of tense communication trials. A complicating factor in Tom Horan's "Static"is the presence of a deranged main character. But the genre allows ghost behavior to be off kilter, and Millie is one of two ghosts painfully revealed to Emma, a young woman who, as the curtain rises (figuratively) at the Phoenix Theatre, is unusually susce

The other part of "Finding Home": Indiana's bicentennial has a second, closely related celebration at IRT

Jan Lucas and Tim Grimm lead an ensemble song in "Finding Home." Near the end of John Bartlow Martin's painstaking 1947 study, "Indiana: An Interpretation," the prolific midcentury reporter writes that "America is full of people like the Hoosiers,"and "America is a larger Indiana." That might seem like the sort of sweeping summary authors use to give their books a more comprehensive stance than they would otherwise have.  But I think it applies particularly to an underlying theme I detected in "Gold," the second of two shows called "Finding Home: Indiana at 200," which premiered at Indiana Repertory Theatre Sunday afternoon. A tendency embedded in the American experiment to spoil Paradise finds expression in "Hoosier Cannonball," among many deep-grained songs in old-timey style created by Tim Grimm and performed in both shows by him and his family quartet (with the addition of fiddler Katie Burk). The se

'Rocky Horror Show' gathers the faithful at the Athenaeum

Scott Keith as Dr. Frank 'N Furter. The curtain speech is on the screen high above the Athenaeum's Basile Theatre stage, the iconic scarlet lips mouthing the usual welcome and warnings to turn cellphones to vibrate and place them at the pleasure zones of your choice. Uh...what? OK, that's not quite the conventional pre-show advisory, but then, the presentation is "The Rocky Horror Show." That perdurable send-up of science fiction and horror movies of a couple of generations ago, linked to a pounding rock score and saturated in pansexualism and the pleasure principle, is back. Zach Rosing Productions has again brought the Richard O'Brien musical to the downtown landmark designed by Kurt Vonnegut's grandfather, and so it goes. At the second performance Saturday, all cylinders were firing as the sturdy vehicle roared round its twisted track. It is scheduled to continue in that manner through Oct. 29. The band's volume, with the vocal amplificati

'Finding Home: Indiana at 200' — IRT displays a Hoosier cornucopia of song and vignettes

The niftiest thing about Indiana Repertory Theatre 's bicentennial observance is not that the job of sifting submissions from Hoosier writers has been so smoothly integrated into two shows, but that the balance of celebration and friendly criticism is so keen, affectionate, and deft. Here I cover only the "Blue" show, which opened the run Friday night. The "Gold" version, with 70 percent new material, opens Sunday afternoon. Mentioning everything even one of these shows contains would be cumbersome, but I will say that all the "Blue" sketches "worked," and that balance of pride and finger-wagging was also carried through in the original songs Tim Grimm performed with his family, plus fiddler Katie Burk. Through narrative elements as well as his music, Grimm gives "Finding Home" a solid, inviting continuity. Integrating a show emphasizing Indiana's "who-knew?" diversity and friction-filled history must have been a H

Dance Kaleidoscope opens its season with 'Moving Sculptures'

"Pictures": Statuesque, with a soupcon of risk The Dance Kaleidoscope program title really popped for me in the final appearance of the "Promenade" in Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." That's the episode where the recurrent theme of the suite is recast in a spooky minor mode. In David Hochoy's choreography, there is a stunning parade of couples — the men lifting the women — that moves slowly and individually across the Upper Stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre, where "Moving Sculptures" continues through Sunday. The three-dimensionality of the paired dancers is vivid and monumental under Laura E. Glover's lighting. The movement is stately yet loaded with tension, because the lifts are formed so as to look precarious. They are actually more secure than they appear, given the troupe's usual professional aplomb. Hochoy gives himself the freedom both to stay close to the p

Recipe for excitement: The Cookers play the Jazz Kitchen

What a delicious thing to contemplate and enjoy! — The Cookers at the Jazz Kitchen . I almost had the idea that maybe Jolene Ketzenberger or Liz Biro should be covering the gig. But there I was, so Decades of experience come together around original charts, first-rate together and singly. we'll go with a translation of the appetizing names over to the music right away here. In the first set, while a torrential thunderstorm presided outside, the septet that has energized small-group acoustic jazz anew set out a compact feast for a decent-sized crowd, considering the weather. In his opening statement to the band's enthusiasts, spokesman and trumpeter David Weiss called it "the smallest crowd we've ever played for," which seemed an unnecessarily dour way to begin. It was like a preacher opening his sermon complaining about sparsely filled pews. What are the people in attendance supposed to think? "Are we being bawled out for those who stayed away?&quo

"Everybody Must Get Trumped (Rainy Day Women #8 and #28)": a pre-debate special, interpolating "A Trump Portrait" and a salute to the Nobel lit prize winner

Is there anything the Republican presidential candidate and his adherents won't take offense at? This song runs through a considerable list of how you can get "Trumped," but -- heaven help us! -- it could have been even longer.

"I'll Be Groping You": a song from the rancid perspective of a sexual predator a la Donald Trump

Bard Fest: From Catalyst Repertory, a searing 'Coriolanus'

"When a play has become a classic in drama," Max Beerbohm wrote in 1898, shortly after becoming theater Taylor Cox as Coriolanus, a warrior brought up to cherish his wounds but resist being fawned over because of them. critic of London's Saturday Review, "it ceases to be a play." What he meant by that is partly what drew me to single out "Coriolanus" from among the three offerings in Bard Fest: A Shakespeare Festival, which takes place between now and the end of the month in Carmel. Beerbohm explained that being regarded as a classic in literature can't hurt the work, but if it is frequently staged, the drama is subject to so many comparisons and reminiscences of other performances that everyone involved feels tested and trapped. Its life as a text to be played is sapped in the audience's mind by ghostly repetition. Now, Beerbohm's memory was superior to mine, and he moved in a theatrical environment where seeing multiple producti

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra pays visit to the Viennese classics with two guests

My most recent encounter with the art of Marc-Andre Hamelin was on disc, but it was enough that, taken together with his performance Thursday morning at Hilbert Circle Theatre, to confirm his fitness for any assignment at the keyboard he gives himself. With the Pacifica Quartet, he gives a masterly performance of Leo Ornstein's spiky quintet f or piano and strings (Hyperion). But under consideration here is his latest concert appearance with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra — the first of two in a weekend engagement split in half by the intrusion of "A Tribute to Prince" tomorrow. The Coffee Classical Series concert used a Haydn opera overture as a curtain-raiser for the Piano Concerto in D major, Hob. XVIII:11. Marc-Andre Hamelin continues to show the breadth of his musical interests. Bernard Labadie, a fellow French Canadian, conducted the concert, which also included Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E-flat, K. 543. The founders of what became known as the

Another listen: "Zabur" is now out on CD and about to be performed in Carnegie Hall

The oratorio composer has an advantage over those working in other genres — including himself when he is not Eric Stark will conduct "Zabur" in Carnegie Hall, as he did here. all about oratorio-writing. He can create characters in action who are mainly defined by his music, with hardly any mediation by "staging."A point of view toward his material emerges more naturally as the product of his engagement with the text. The oratorio is a public musical genre loaded with the creator's private concerns. The sacred oratorio addressed the faithful through musical settings of vivid, often familiar, stories and venerated testimony. Maintaining that legacy in the 21st century, the Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz fashioned "Zabur" out of a personal need to express the sorrow of today's Middle East conflict in terms that seek to bridge the three Abrahamic religions, and by implication reach out to all of humanity in a plea for peace, rooted in b

An update of "The Times They Are A-Changing" to help us get through the rest of the 2016 campaign

The Campaign Soon Will Be Ending Come gather, good citizens, and rest from the fray, The election will happen four weeks from today, We’ll cry “Let us vote!” and then “let us pray”: We’re well past the point of offending, So the most welcome word is for this song to say: The campaign soon will be ending! We’ve put up with this nonsense since early ‘15 The surge of each candidate – what did it mean? They made their crude pitches and littered the scene With Facebook rants, ads, and tweets trending: Now just two are still upright, but one is obscene: The campaign soon will be ending! The movement for Bernie was more than a cult Though it sometimes resembled one, stirring tumult Provoked by Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Party fabric sure needed some mending: Still, Dem voters may split off or stay home and sulk — The campaign soon will be ending! The Republican crowd made many jaws clench: Shallow on the field, not too deep on the bench: Their ideas were merde (pardon my French!) The

Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra season-opener: Classical Vienna revisited, with a mashup appetizer

The imperial city of Vienna, reduced in the 20th century to the incubator of Nazism and now a bit player on the European stage, has its musical legacy always at hand to command respect and silence detractors. It's where Matthew Kraemer, entering his second season as music director of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, studied conducting. From its heritage, he drew the ICO's first program of the 2016-17 season, heard Saturday afternoon in Schrott Center of Butler University. The chief examples of Viennese musical culture included were Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, op. 19, and Schubert's Symphony No. 2 in B-flat, D. 125. The key identity goes partway in explaining the resemblance of the two works. Chief is the ebullience and youthful energy evident both in the German transplant Beethoven's concerto and native son Schubert's compact, captivating exercise in symphonic form. Christopher O'Riley was the ICO's first guest artist of the se

All-Prokofiev program highlights interpretive and technical brilliance of guest soloist Hilary Hahn

Not many composers are considered able to hold enough interest to merit a symphony program of their music only, without the flavoring or contrast another composer might provide. Hilary Hahn has figured in some high-profile ISO concerts. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's first classical weekend featured only Beethoven, a choice quite common when one-composer concerts are designed. This weekend's choice — music by Sergei Prokofiev — is more unconventional. Critics and music-lovers generally may have personal limits on how small a circle of composers is worthy for this kind of program. Prokofiev makes it, in my opinion, for his amazing fecundity, his tunefulness, the sprightliness of his rhythms, his adept orchestration and his free and unexpected movement among tonalities. A totally self-assured composer, he was also a somewhat arrogant, unsympathetic man, of which more later. My breadth of interest is pretty wide on the topic of one-composer programs, but it's m