Showing posts from 2017

A Petri dish of a play: Small-town Texas grows a peculiar culture in Beef & Boards' "Greater Tuna"

It's tempting to read into the production of "Greater Tuna" on the cusp of the New Year a politically Townsladies Vera and Pearl look down witheringly on the deceased Judge. tinged scaling back. It feels like a narrowing in ambition, scope, and humanity from the company's counterpart at the turn of last year, the somewhat perplexing but captivating murder-mystery-comedy "Shear Madness ." Seen Saturday night at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, "Greater Tuna" winds down the farcical elements to a couple of virtuoso displays in the realm of caricature, handled with energetic abandon by B&B favorites Jeff Stockberger and Eddie Curry. It's difficult to put aside the play's barrage of comic barbs directed at small-town life, particularly with conventionally benighted Texas as the exclusive target. Urban for almost my whole life, I may appear oddly ill-at-ease about the dismissal urbanites often direct toward America in the boondock

Uncle Dan & Sophie Jam: Talk about the 'big break' for writers and musicians — with musical accompaniment

Students of evolution often focus on apparent "big leaps" in species or generic development. For Sophie Faught, David Linard, and Dan Wakefield discussed "big breaks.' individual human beings, such giant steps forward also attract peculiar focus. Over the course of a career or lifespan, the hugeness of such leaps may turn out to be more apparent than real. Nonetheless, assessments of where and when My Big Break occurred can yield insights as to what constitutes a milestone for each of us. For writers and musicians, identifying the "big break" can prove to be definitive to shaping their public identity. An exercise in this process took place in a comfortable format Tuesday night at t he Jazz Kitchen , when the "Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam" program concentrated on the "big break" theme. Contributing to the discussion were the title personalities — saxophonist Sophie Faught and writer Dan Wakefield — as well as a former colleague of t

Indianapolis Symphonic Choir presents its annual "Messiah" in the Palladium, with four guest soloists and conductor

For certain music-lovers, Handel's "Messiah" can trace and illuminate a lifetime. Its meanings — both musical and religious — are likely to change over many years of exposure. Some of its solos and choruses are staples of Christmas programming in many churches during this season. I first thrilled to "The trumpet shall sound" in the early 1950s when the bass soloist at the church my father served as organist-choirmaster sang it at Easter. Michael Christie led a lively, supple account of "Messiah." Eric Stark, director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir , once told me he had given up trying to schedule "Messiah" in the season for which it was intended. Its bulk and sheer emotional weight is appropriate to spring performance. Well, fans of the piece learn not to be sticklers, and we return to it again and again in Advent, where just the first of the oratorio's three parts is at home. This weekend's two performances by the choir

Eighth Blackbird gets its Irish up for "a cantata in doublespeak" on Cedille Records

Michael Maccaferri of Eighth Blackbird and guest vocalist Iarla O Lionaird Having reached its majority and recently given its name proper capitalization, Eighth Blackbird continues to stake out new musical territory with its recording of "Olagon." It's a cantata by Dan Trueman and Paul Muldoon that bridges modern and ancient Ireland and its two languages of English and Irish. The instrumental ensemble, founded in Chicago in 1996, here forges a mesmerizing bond with Irish vocal soloist Iarla O Lionaird to put the new work across memorably in a two-disc set ( Cedille Records ). The "doublespeak" reference in the subtitle has to do with the the two languages drawn upon for Muldoon's text, reflecting the old European tradition of macaronic poetry most widely known in some of the poetry used by Carl Orff in "Carmina Burana" as well as in the Christmas carol "In dulci jubilo." "Olagon" skirts the boundary of cantata and ora

The Hour When No Sex Comes In: a dystopian anthem spurred by the ongoing sexual-assault crisis

The Hour When No Sex Comes In Make us each a sandwich, please, with lots of ham and cheese, And serve tomato soup from a large bowl, When the devil comes to dine, make sure the long spoon’s mine: I’m told he has designs upon my soul. And when I heard Old Scratch, I knew I’d met my match Because he shared his plan most diabolical; With every word he said, the hair upon my head Was standing at attention — every follicle. He said I’m just in time to counteract the crime Of behavior that’s so often predatory: I’ve a universal drug that will neutralize the tug Of desire that destroys the way to glory. And the whole human race will shelter in place Free from the threat of sexual attraction; The terror of the hunted will be chemically blunted, The hour when no sex comes in. And all the victims laugh as they frolic on the path Once cleared for men with every rub and grope; There’ll be chaste hugs galore, air kisses by the score As libidos sink beyond the range of hope. And the population

'The Ballad of Jimmy Levine" borrows an old Irish tune to address the implosion of a musical career

The Ballad of Jimmy Levine Jimmy Levine was a prodigy born, A musical rose with no evident thorn, But as his career was on the incline A secret life led Jimmy Levine. So Jimmy Levine as a rising star Goes to music camps where young men are: He knows so much, his art is so fine: “I’ll use it to advantage,” says Jimmy Levine. He joins the Met, a conductor of taste; The baton he favors is below the waist. He gives old operas a bright new shine: “I’m a golden boy,” says Jimmy Levine. Jimmy Levine has the singers’ love: “So sensitive, we just work hand in glove.” Another sensitivity he works to refine On the bodies of boys, does Jimmy Levine. When the Brahmins in Boston wanted somebody new They had to have Jimmy, though the rumors flew. “If we offend the maestro, he might decline!” So the symphony board went with Jimmy Levine. Old Jimmy Levine won’t do what he oughta: He’s gone to the bridge, and jumps in the water; Denying it all, gives the downbeat sign: “There’s mud on the botto

'Fellow Travelers' recording confirms my positive impression from its staged premiere

Given that the romantic emphasis of opera tradition needs new arenas if the genre is to have current vitality, "Fellow Travelers" stakes out a strong claim. First performed in Cincinnati 18 months ago, the opera now enjoys public permanence in a sensitive new recording on Fanfare Cincinnati (the recording wing of Cincinnati Opera, the work's producer). Adapted by Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce from a 2007 novel by Thomas Mallon, "Fellow Travelers" tells the story of a promising but doomed love affair between two men in an era when homosexuality in government was among the red flags lofted by Cold War paranoia. Hawk (Joseph Lattanzi) eyes Timothy (Aaron Blake) on park bench at Dupont Circle. Sometimes called "the lavender scare," the labeling of homosexuals as security risks was part of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's intense campaign against communists and others thought to be undermining the republic. "Fellow Travelers" views the peril t

Bloomington visitors celebrate Reformation anniversary with examples of its musical legacy

Concentus, a choral and instrumental ensemble of Indiana University, capped three performances labeled simply "Reformation" Sunday afternoon at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, supplemented by Alchymy Viols and special guest, cornetto Dana Marsh led Alchymy Viols and other Early Music Institute musicians last year at a courthouse concert in Bloomington virtuoso and scholar Bruce Dickey. The concert here, conducted by Dana Marsh, was a well-assembled sampler highlighting milestones of early Baroque music as developed by German Protestant composers. Protestantism turns 500 this year. This program's  music reflected the influence of Italian masters  — much of it firsthand in a tradition notably extended through Handel and Mozart — of choral and instrumental textures and expressive splendor on musicians from the other side of the Alps. Indiana native Bruce Dickey now lives in Italy. Foundational at the start, the concert opened with Martin Luther's "Ein

The rogue who celebrated himself as Master of the House in 'Les Miz' can't hold a candle to Time's wannabe Person of the Year

Person of the Year Welcome to all, losers as well: Salute the President, isn’t he swell! As for the media, fakers and crooks: We sure don’t need ya, we hate your looks: As for this gent, it’s quite evident No American should resent that he should be… Person of the Year! Why not jump the gun? He knows he deserves it more than anyone. Person of the Year! Wants that cover slot: Time has featured him before, so now, why not? Everybody loves an Alpha male, Every woman’s groping friend: He’ll do just what he pleases, And Jesus! He won’t need ‘em in the end. Person of the Year! He’s the people’s choice In some echo chambers he’s the only voice: He alone can fix it: make the nation great. Taking care of poor folks? — that’s the nanny state. The Times and CNN’s the enemy: But they hang upon his every tweet: Though he’s gotten twice as wordy, Lordy, how he knocks them off their feet! Person of the Year! Why not jump the gun? He knows he deserves it more than anyone. Person of the Year

With distinction, Dance Kaleidoscope joins other performing arts organizations in mounting a seasonal program

The mystery and the fun of the season make up Dance Kaleidoscope' s new program, which marks a return for the contemporary-dance troupe to a Christmas show after many years. "A World of Christmas" opened Thursday evening on Indiana Repertory Theatre' s Upperstage and plays there this weekend and next. Irresistible: The exuberant company representation of a Hawaiian song. It was gratifying to see a work revived from David Hochoy's early years in his fruitful tenure as DK's artistic director. His setting of Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" was first staged 20 years ago. As he told the audience in a question-and-answer session during intermission, "there's a lot of Martha Graham in it." He was not far then from his employment as a dancer and rehearsal director with this seminal figure of his art form, and her enthralling gift for representing ritual has come down to Hochoy as part of the Graham legacy. Britten's se

Escher String Quartet ascends to the heights of Beethoven in Ensemble Music concert

The Escher String Quartet offered two Viennese classics plus Ades. "Allegro con spirito" is the movement direction that was clearly embodied as the Escher String Quartet played the first measures of Haydn's String Quartet in G, op. 76, no. 1, on Wednesday evening. There was plenty of spirit, plus an admirably robust sound, which prevailed throughout the work. Presented by Ensemble Music Society , the American ensemble, in residence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, projected a variegated, sympathetic concept of Haydn at the top of his form in the genre he practically invented. The large audience in the Basile Auditorium of the Indiana History Center took to the Eschers immediately as a result. The warm rapport thus established helped sustain its obvious fascination with the late-20th-century piece that followed, "Arcadiana" by Thomas Adès. The English composer wrote this at the beginning of an illustrious career that has carried him to the fore

Happy reunion: Ronen Chamber Ensemble meets UIndy's Faculty Artist Series

The  sizable 20th-century ensemble pieces that ended each half of Monday night's collaboration between University of Indianapolis and the Ronen Chamber Ensemble presented a polarity that might be found throughout the history of music. On the one hand, the exploratory, extroverted muse of Luciano Berio was represented by his "Folk Songs" (1964). On the other, there was the focused expression of singular personality in Francis Poulenc's Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet (1931). It's almost tempting to put forward an analogy to the ancient Greek aphorism made popular by the 20th-century thinker Isaiah Berlin: "The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing." The fey charms of Poulenc's music don't sit easily with the idea of knowing "one big thing," but the variety he pursued thrives within a small range, bound on one side by his religious devotion, with its touch of sentimentality, and on the other by his insouciance a

Funnier by the dozen?: Phoenix Theatre adds to its 'Xmas' legacy with the final Park Avenue installment

This is an era of disbelief and unbelief, much of it political. A certain Twitter user can't be believed any more in 280 characters Paul Collier Hansen's Santa casts a skeptical look. than he could in 140. Tax reform that is purported to help ordinary people but glaringly favors corporations and the very rich ratchets up the general skepticism. But the difficulty of holding onto something enduring is part of the age-old Christmas brand, so the holiday fits right in. The challenge extends from "the reason for the season" that's often thrown in our faces right through the values that are wrapped up in gift-giving — a legacy aimed at our wallets as much as our hearts. So it's little wonder that "A Very Phoenix Xmas," the Phoenix Theatre comedy-variety show that just entered its 12th season, puts a lot of the fun it stirs up squarely on the problem of whom and what to believe in. To start with, there's the inevitable encounter with the illu

Delfeayo Marsalis has a pal (or two) in Kalamazoo

Delfeayo Marsalis is the third-best-known Marsalis brother, and that seems a Paisley on steroids: Sharp dresser Delfeayo Marsalis distinction worth having. As he and his first-rate siblings settle comfortably into middle age, they still benefit from the early tutelage they received from their father, Ellis, who has frequently joined them onstage and for recordings. In "Kalamazoo," ( Troubadour Jass Records) , we get to hear what happened when the trombonist-bandleader, now 52, took his quartet to Western Michigan University for a concert in April 2015. Besides his dad on piano, he brought along bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Ralph Peterson. In the course of the concert, Marsalis has a couple of WMU jazz students sit in on an original blues, "Blue Kalamazoo" — vocalist Christian Diaz and drummer Madison George. The comfort level is high. It's an ingratiating set, full of well-known pieces, except for that localized blues and Delf's "The Secre

Time for a song to celebrate courage and assign shame: Charlie Rose is the latest in astonishing celebrity free falls of male celebrities

Sean Chen explores some musical byways in solo recital for APA at Indiana Landmarks Center

An out-of-the-way first half set the stage for more familiar repertoire by Maurice Ravel in the second half of Sean Sean Chen brings the little-known to light. Chen' s recital Sunday afternoon at Indiana Landmarks Center . The popular 2013 winner of the American Pianists Association' s classical competition began with little-known, substantial works by two unconventional, early 20th-century composers: Nikolai Medtner of Russia and Federico Mompou of Spain. Catalonia has been much in the news lately with an independence movement that has roiled Spanish politics. Mompou was a Catalan who seemed independent of everyone, countrymen or not. An entry in the 1954 edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians makes him seem like a mystical hermit out of J.R.R. Tolkien.  There may not be any account of a composer in that venerable reference set more bizarre, in which Mompou's music unleashes a host of literary references from the writer, including Robert Browni

A new U.S. senator?: Shelter from the storm is the offer Alabama seems to have extended to Roy Moore

Come In, Roy Moore, We’ll Give You Shelter from the Storm ‘Twas in another lifetime, while building his career He got no satisfaction without a nymphet near. It only came out later he was running true to form. Come in, Roy Moore, we’ll give you         shelter from the storm. So many teenage girls he tended to appall They banned this creepy lawyer from the Gadsden shopping mall. Do you think he was a predator? Well, you’re getting warm! But ’Bama voters want to give him       shelter from the storm. He grew his base when he defied two orders from the court Not to make the halls of justice a Ten Commandments fort. There’s nothing that can stop him, no matter how he’s warned. So Alabama’s poised to give him         shelter from the storm. Of politician sex offenders, he’s offended most: His victims’ testimony was printed in the Post, But that’s just propaganda, made up, it don’t inform, Us Alabama voters offer him