Monday, December 20, 2010

It's The Most Wonderful Time...

So many opportunities for live music in December it is overwhelming.  On a regular night we have several options for attending a performance but in December it revs into high gear.  This year we took a wide-angle view and saw several different types of talented souls.

December 5 we joined Kate and Jim N. for the delightfully playful romp, "Robin Hood: The Holiday Panto".  This was performed in the charmingly small (54 seat) Piccolo Theatre in Evanston, Illinois.  Our very own Lisa has been reviewing plays for, "Centerstage" ( a Chicago Sun-Times-owned website) and I think she does a much better job here than I could.  I'll say this, my sister and brother-in-law hooted and howled along with us at this campy, holiday fun!


Saturday the 11th brought the very fine, Steiner Chorale.  This group, about 35 singers, are on the more accomplished end of the choral scale with many fine individual voices who come together at concert time to produce a beautiful sound.  This Christmas program was varied and strong with beautiful pieces performed well...mostly a cappella.  Here's the program:

  • Gloria in Excelsis, Franz Joseph Haydn
  • Virga Jesse, Anton Bruckner
  • O Little One Sweet, J.S. Bach
  • Three Latvian Carols, Andrejs Jansons
  • E’en So Lord Jesus, Paul Manz
  • Magnificat, Halsey Stevens
  • The Three Ships, Eric Thiman
  • Salvation is Created, Pavel Chesnokov
  • There is No Rose of Such Virtue, Robert H. Young
  • We Wish You A Merry Christmas, John Rutter


Sunday brought the 2nd Annual Holiday Show of John Latini and Jamie-Sue Seal. This benefit (the Housing Assistance Fund...Homeless shelters in East Lansing [Haven House] and Lansing [Loaves and Fishes] was severely impacted by the first big snowstorm in the Greater Lansing area.  We were to be treated by the entire Flying Latini Bros band, but the bassist and keyboard fellas coming from Dexter and Ypsilanti were stuck below I-94.  Not to be thwarted, John brought his actual brother, Jim, who was a wonderful addition to the fun, funny and lively show.  John and Jamie-Sue are seasoned performers who playfully work with each other providing a first-class show, enjoyed by all. Personally, I like all the original tunes they do (e.g. John's, "Merry Christmas From The Holiday Inn" and Jamie-Sue's, "Northern Lights") as we get inundated with the same Christmas songs over and over again each holiday season.

Another highlight was Jim Latini  doing lead vocals on Robbie Robertson's, "Christmas Must Be Tonight"...catchy tune, perfectly laid down by Jimbo. For those that braved the stormy night, it was a real treat.  Plenty of time to chat with the musicians afterward around a punch and cookie table...made for a fitting end to a wonderful night.  Thanks for coming back Jamie-Sue and John...we raised some important funds for the shelters too.


On our drive down to Kalamazoo I said to Nicky, "Are we crazy going to see a Kalamazoo (hour and 15min drive) on a weeknight!" Boy am I glad we did.  December fills up every year and this was the only time we could make it to this exciting musical.  I suppose it didn't hurt to be sitting in the first table, center to enjoy the 4-member ensemble cast.  

This production was provided by Farmer's Alley Theatre...and from their website: "The Farmers Alley Theatre is a professional ensemble based non-profit performance company dedicated to producing popular and new work in the Downtown Kalamazoo area in a unique and intimate setting."  I would say they scored 110 on all items because this work was popular and new and with waited service for coffee and drinks and dessert it was an intimate and unique setting.

Our daughter's friend, Amanda Martin was in the cast so we were excited to see her.  She, and her castmates were splendid!  This is a funny, irreverent romp with the first half set in 1958's Prom night and the second half at a reunion 10 years later.  The music was well known and so much fun to see how the script brought each performer in to the song.  Here they are:

"Welcome"/"Mr. Sandman"
"Allegheny Moon"
"All I Have to Do Is Dream"/"Dream Lover"
"Stupid Cupid"
"Lipstick on Your Collar"
"Lucky Lips"
"Secret Love"
"Mr. Lee"/"Born Too Late"/"Teacher’s Pet"
"Sincerely"/"Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight"
"Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me"
"Welcome Back"/"Heat Wave"
"It's in His Kiss"
"Wedding Bell Blues"
"You Don’t Own Me"
"With This Ring"
"I Only Want to Be With You"
"That's When the Tears Start"
"It's My Party"
"Son of a Preacher Man"
"Leader of the Pack"
"Maybe I Know"
"Needle in a Haystack"
"Rescue Me"
"Thank You and Goodnight"/"Sincerely"

Amanda was brilliant as the catty Cindy Lou and best friends with Betty Jean (and not-so-secretly making it with BJ's boyfriend!).  They all sang so well, it was a delightful night.

The poor guy at our table (about 45 yrs old...there with his mother) was pulled up into the play twice as the  high school teacher point of affection for Missy (the ironic thing was that he is, in fact, a high school teacher form Muskegon!).  I think Nicky was pretty glad I wasn't that guy (not so sure I am... ;o)   ).

Great fun.  I understand it is sold out but if you do get a chance...GO SEE THIS SHOW.   5 stars!!


Friday, Dec 17 brought the 5th annual The Coffeehouse at All Saints...the most fun of the year.  We had an awesome variety of performers this year including 2 pieces nicely played by Haley Helm.  Pastor Kit Carlson rolled out her reading of, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" to everyone's enjoyment (Kids on the floor looking up with fascination and scary anticipation).

Several folks from All Saints had a hand in making the night interesting and fun from piano accompaniment by Carol Baker and Jack Minton to readings by Carol Swinehart and Dedria Barker to cello solos by Kathy Burgess.

Guests included the return of Maggie Fossum and her sister, Ellanor Digo.  They performed individually and then brought the house down with a duet that was simple beautiful.  We are most fortunate to have them come to The Coffeehouse...thank you Maggie and Ellanor!

Another guest was Augustine Jay who played a couple originals ...Augustine used to work at Magdalena's Tea House (what Maggie and Ellanor's mother used to own).

The sing alongs were fully participated and great fun to lead.  If you haven't been to a Coffeehouse yet, please stop by on the 3rd Friday of the month sometime between 7:30 and 9:30pm (the next one is January 21).

The surprising hit (surprising to me anyway) was the lively performance by the Broadway cast of "9 to 5" playing at the Wharton Center on MSU's campus.  Nicky and I saw it last night and were delighted with the 3 principals.  They had excellent voices and were damn funny!  I was pleasantly surprised...and having 4 women in my house for the last 26 years was pretty good training!


We still have Christmas Eve and all things New Years...but that's for next time.  2010 was an excellent year for live music in the Mid-Michigan area...we are fortunate to have so much going on.  Here's to 2011 !