Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sept Offers

Matt Bliton

Two of my favorite people performed on the 10th at Gone Wired Cafe in Lansing.  Matt Bliton has put together his band to include guests on certain songs...all to great effect.  Their harmonies are welcome on these particular tracks.  Matt also has Linda Abar do a lead or two, and she is truly a pleasure to listen to.  There are rumors to a new Matt Bliton CD in the not-too-distant future.  Looking forward to it!
Linda Abar

Monday, January 2, 2012

August in the Basement

Steve w/ The Basement Boys

Introduced at the March 2011 Coffeehouse at All Saints, The Basement Boys are a quartet of local musicians who play folk/country/Americana songs in an easy, laid-back style. They were playing at a house party in August at common friends, Vic Rauch and Ellen DeRosia.  Vic and Ellen were the ones who brought The Basement Boys to us.  I was fortunate to sit in with them at the request of band leader, Mark Manrique.  Those of you who have been to house parties where the music was live can appreciate the fun nature of the event. Everyone os loose and easy-going and it makes the music flow that much better I think!  We had a lot of fun...managed a John Prine tune or two and many others.  I have since practiced and played several times with the Basement Boys, a fun group of fine musicians.  Thanks Vic and Ellen!

What Happens in July?

While finally taking that long-awaited vacation is what we look forward to in the summer, another alternative is to hone a skill or expand your horizon.  During a 6 week period each summer Dr Jonathan Reed, Assoc Director of Choral Activities at Michigan State University, offers local singers an opportunity to sing wonderful choral music with his summer graduate conducting class. I found out about it as a member of MSU Choral Union (a large mixed chorus of 150 to 200 voices designed to bring the campus and community together.
Repertoire focuses on the major choral/orchestral works of every stylistic period, which are performed with the Greater Lansing Symphony Orchestra and university orchestras.) The setup is much like a workshop where the grad students have been given a piece of music to direct (or most likely a section) and it is relatively rapid-fire succession of one conductor to the next. As a singer-participant you get to sing beautiful pieces and as a grad student you have a choir to direct. I have enjoyed a couple years of these rehearsals and feel lucky to have the opportunity.  If you're interested, send me an email or contact Dr. Reed directly (linked above).  
Although Nicky and I attended 2 weddings this summer there were no soloists or choirs involved...a little congregational singing.  The wedding here in East Lansing was held on the 4th Floor of Spartan place for sure.  The live band (thank you Lashbrooks!) was R&B outfit that utilizes (extremely slyly) a synthesized backing of instruments need to "fill out" the sound.  They have a guitarist, bass, drummer and keyboard player, but it is the background sound that polishes the songs to sound like the original.  They were really good.  I will ask Deb Lashbrook for the name of the group as they should be mentioned.

The other wedding in England where my niece got married.  Nicky and I were fortunate to spend a week hiking in the Peak District before descending on the town of Great Missenden where Alsion and Simon were married.  My brother-in-law had convinced the local pub owner (on the edge of town and known for their excellent cuisine) to host the reception on the lawn in their back garden...he had never done that before. They put down a wooden "floor" and assembled the tables and chairs as normal and also installed a stage at the back of the room where a live band "rocked it out" for the night.  They were quite good and definite crowd-pleasers.  It's interesting attending weddings in different parts of the world to see the similarities and differences...and for me, the differences in music choice!  There were many numbers I had never heard of but were well known by the wedding attendees. It was a wonderful, perfectly planned wedding weekend .

Monday, June 27, 2011

U2 Could Have Been There!

Florence Welch
Ah....what a night. As Nicky and I sat in our self-proclaimed, "excellent seats" watching and listening to  Florence & the Machine (opening act) finish their set you really couldn't not notice this amazing stage in front of you.  I have about 15 photos to show this blog I'll try to do them in order.  First off, Florence:

Great dress for the stage... flowing in the wind

U2 joined the stage virtually spot on time (scheduled for 8:45pm and were all on stage by 8:50).
Fantastic stage...amazing
Edge and Bono
Bono on the "Crosswalk"
It was loud and surprisingly clear, at least as far as hearing and understanding Bono.  But really, it was the "experience" that mattered here.  You were among 65,000 people who universally, pretty much, adored this band and just being part of it.
As the night descended, the stage just became more of a focal point.  Earlier the top part of the stage was a "message board" with world "facts" scrolling across...mostly with socio-political items e.g. how many barrels of oil used today.  Fascinating to watch and debate/chat about.  Pretty sure that was the point of the messages!
"Cigarettes smoked worldwide today"
The music did not disappoint...loud, a little muddy and hit after hit. All with a fantastic light show emanating from the massive stage.  Band members were able to walk around the entire stage...playing to different parts of the stadium...regardless of where you sat.  Pretty cool.
Bono and Edge
Edge and Bono

The "Edge"

Monday, May 2, 2011

April 2011 - Classical and Folk

MSU University Chorale with The Lansing Symphony

There were 2 classical concerts I attended (or sang in) sandwiched around the best-attended Coffeehouse at All Saints we've ever had.  The first performance was MSU's premiere choral group, Chorale, partnering with the Lansing Symphony at St Mary's Cathedral in Lansing with a performance of  the "Lord Nelson Mass" by Franz Joseph Haydn, a gradual by Johann Michael Haydn, an offertory by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Gregorian chant settings of the Introit and Communion.  With solos shared among a variety of the graduate students it was a sublime evening of sacred choral singing.  David Rayl, Director of Choral Activities at MSU, conducted the ensemble to a very high level.  Honestly, you could close your eyes and be was beautiful.


Friday, April 15 -- 7:30-9:30pm

Dr. Chris Scales
The April installment of The Coffeehouse at All Saints includes special guests from MSU's Residential College in the Arts and Humanities...led by Dr. Chris Scales. Look for a variety of traditional folk, probably some bluegrass and whatever else they want to bring.
The wonderful March Coffeehouse debut of The Basement Boys has prompted their return. We are excited they'll be back!
We have some cello and piano as well...
Bring a beverage of choice and a snack to share. It's free and open to all ages. Stop by for as long as you want.
The Basement Boys

It was an exciting, full evening at the April edition of The Coffeehouse at All Saints.  We started with 12 students from the Residential College of Arts and Humanities at MSU and their instructor, Dr. Chris Scales.  They played a variety of folk and gospel tunes with grace and, banjos and fiddles.  It was wonderful!  Their vocals were fine, with sprinkles of harmony.  It was wonderful the hear them and we are grateful they made the trip out to The Coffeehouse and hope to see them (or any of the individuals) in the future.  Thank you Dr. Scales.

A somewhat unexpected delight was the return of Magdalen Fossum from Ann Arbor.  She has been a busy young lady since we saw her last.  She now has a website and at least 11 gigs coming up, one of which is May 11 at The Ark in Ann Arbor...a real honor since she was one of only two chosen for The Ark's Open Stage Showcase.  Magdalen thrilled us again with a few new tunes, including a fun rendition of Del Shannon's, "Runaway". Magdalen will be back May 20, don't miss her!

It's always great to have Matt Bliton back and he joined Bob Kilbridge and me for a pretty good reading of The Band's, "The Weight" and Old Crow Medicine Show's, "Wagon Wheel"...everybody was singing then.  Matt took the stage and did a new tune of his which we all liked and then, again a wonderful surprise, was joined by local favorite, Linda Abar for a couple songs.  Their harmony was rich and beautiful. A real treat for all.

Finally, The Basement Boys performed a few numbers with the addition of a banjoist.  For only their second time out, these fellas have a following!  
Looking forward to May 20 when we'll have a great finish to a wonderful season (next Coffeehouse after May 20 will be Sept 16).  Lisa Findley from Chicago and Emily Findley from New York City will be joining us with sets of their own and together.  Look for the email (not on the list? send me an email at
Verdi's Requiem
April 30 brought the choral music season to a close for me.  I am a member of MSU's Choral Union, a "town and gown" choir consisting of Mid-Michigan singers and MSU students. We sang Verdi's "Requiem" at the Wharton Center for The Performing Arts. The MSU Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale, State Singers, Choral Union and soloists from the MSU voice faculty  – Melanie Helton, soprano; Molly Fillmore, mezzo-soprano; Richard Fracker, tenor; and Rod Nelman, bass – performed. There were over 300 performers on stage including herald trumpets (the ones with loooong necks) and a bass drum that knocked your socks off.  it was thrilling to be a part of it.

From MSU's website:
"It is perhaps the most dramatic piece of sacred music ever written," said David Rayl, director of choral programs at the college. "Some have called it a sacred opera but I view it as Verdi's astounding setting of an incredibly spiritual and dramatic text – the Requiem Mass – using all the forces he had at his disposal. For me, it is, in fact, a very spiritual piece: a requiem."
Completed in 1874 to mark the first anniversary of the death of Alessandro Manzoni, a famous Italian poet and novelist, “Requiem” is composed of seven major sections in the setting of a Catholic funeral mass. The 90-minute concert encompasses the emotions Verdi felt after the loss Manzoni. 
"The Verdi Requiem is an emotionally charged production of incredibly beautiful music," said chorister Lorie Barbieri. "The music ranges from joyful and angelic to sorrowful, while at the same time encompassing a human desire for forgiveness and mercy.  As a new member of the MSU Choral Union, I am honored to be a part of this fabulous production."


March 2011...sublime and not-so

Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson
March music began at, I don't mean on Sunday....although that is a topic for another day. No, the music (and wonderful food) I'm talking about is the beautiful, soulful, happy sounds of professional saxophonist, Wess "Warmdaddy" Anderson at All Saints Episcopal Church's annual community-invited event for Shrove or "Fat" Tuesday, March 8. It was a night of Mardi Gras with amazing, delicious "Nawlins" food prepared by the lovely Desi Anderson (Wess' wife) of Gumbo and Jazz fame.  This night was sponsored by (sure there was a donation request, but $5?  Come on now...if you didn't get $25 worth of enjoyment the night was lost) the Parish Life group at All Saints and I think the 80 or so who enjoyed the evening were treated to a rare opportunity...especially since there are rumors Desi is planning to cease operations.   Three cheers for Marguerite Halversen of the Parish Life committee and Pastor Kit Carlson for consistently looking for ways to reach the East Lansing and Lansing communities.

Friday, March 18 - 7:30-9:30PM
All Saints Episcopal Church, downstairs
800 Abbot Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823
Santa Fe, 2009
This month we celebrate the end of winter, kind of. It does not seem to go away. Come hear and sing songs of the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. It's the March edition of The Coffeehouse at All Saints.
You are welcome to perform music or spoken word or just to relax and enjoy what's offered. Any instrument is welcome...we have an upright piano on-site. Bring a drink and a snack. No admission price.
See you Friday the 18th!
The Coffeehouse was a lot of fun this month...better harmony and wide choice of tunes.  We couldn't forget St. Paddy's day so we did a few irish Tunes.  It was a fun night.
March 20 Nicky and I wanted to support the local High School musical production, especially because a few of our friend's kids were in it.  They certainly were the highlight of this Sunday matinee of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Clara Lepard was hilarious as one of the "grandmas" .  It was an ambitious production, one which could benefit from better miking...I'm sure it was challenging...The chorus numbers were great.  These kids were enthusiastic.  The choreography appeared to be fun for the kids to perform. All in all it was an enjoyable afternoon...and our godchildren loved it.


On March 25 we were treated to a wonderful night made possible, in part, by our good friend Martha Lynch having saved a couple seats.  Tonight was a Friday night at The Ten Pound Fiddle, Lansing-area's own "folk club" which provides live performances in an intimate atmosphere...of ten at (and in this case) the Unitarian Church in East Lansing.  Tonight was Seth and May.  What does that mean?  it means 2 young-ish performers who have made an effort to preserve the folk tradition here in Michigan and have written and perform fresh, new material in a variety of settings. Seth Bernard and May Erlewine are Michiganders who reach audiences on many levels with their music (and sometimes their not-so-well-hidden politics).  All is well this night though as we were treated to many songs they have been known for (Shine On) to many new ones.  Seth and May spent January in Kenya and have since written an album and we were treated to several of those numbers.
I have to say, when May Erlewine tilts her head back and sings with joy, it is nothing short of joyful. She is an excellent songwriter and clear singer.  Seth's guitar playing has reached new heights and accompanies May expertly. He adds beautiful fills and solos, and is the harmony we recognize from the recordings. 
Although many of Seth's political songs are part of his repertoire, it is the simple, earthy (heh, heh) songs I think he does best.
I am thrilled we will get the opportunity to see them again at the East Lansing Art Festival May 22.
    See you in April.