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.

February Mix

Mid-Winter Singing Festival 
February always begins with the amazing community event, The Mid-Winter Singing Festival.  The brainchild of musician, organizer, teacher Sally Potter who envisioned a place and time where locals could meet to interact with music on its basic in which you participate.  The Festival, in its 10th year, is a testament to "folk music'. Sally and her team map out a 2-day event (Feb 4-5 this year) with nightly sing alongs at the Hannah Community Center in East Lansing, Michigan.  The Saturday afternoon is dedicated to a variety of workshops...instrument playing, how to write a song, the music of... It is unique in Michigan and we are lucky to have it in our area.  The nightly sing alongs are "led" by professionals who have done a consistently excellent job of engaging the audience, making sure everyone is welcome to participate.  Add to this a "festival choir"...a pick-up group of people who spend 2 hours on the Saturday afternoon rehearsing music they've never seen before and performing it that night under the skillful direction of Rachel Alexander...director of Sistrum and quite a musician in her own right.

Magdalen and Miko Fossum (courtesy of MWSF)
This year Nicky and I attended Saturday night and were led by a cross-section of Michigan folk scene leaders, Joel Mabus, Frank Youngman, Claudia Schmidt, Rachael Davis, Seth Bernard & May Erlewine.  I have to say, I have been to 9 of the 10 festivals and this group of leaders was the best. Youngman was funny and poignant with a story from his high school band class. Claudia Schmidt is a powerhouse on many levels.  We are in very good hands with Rachel Davis, May Erlewine and Seth Davis as they carry on the folk tradition and expand it with their own style.  These are impressive people! Many of you know how I feel about Joel Mabus, he is quite the entertainer and has taken on the mantle of folk historian so we always get a little background on the tunes he brings to play. And his playing is excellent.  If you get an opportunity to see any of these performers in your town, they all come highly recommended.


Next we were treated to:

The Acting Company/The Guthrie Theater: The Comedy of Errors

February 11, 2011 | Pasant Theatre
Nicky and I tried something new for this evening, we attended a Wharton Center "Preview Dinner" held before the performance in the Christman Lounge at the WC. The buffet dinner was enjoyed by about 50 of us who were then treated to a talk by John Neville-Andrews, Professor of Theatre, University of Michigan. Neville-Andrews is an apparent expert on Shakespeare and he was somewhat amusing in describing what we were about to see...a play of twins separated and birth who grow up and meet later...complete with mayhem, murder and mistaken identity.  What was notable about the evening was the Acting Company's performance...accentuated by excellent characters in the twins especially.  We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and thought the Acting Company were top notch.

Not at all sure our next venture was going to be much fun.  I am pleased to say I was pleasantly surprised. The Wahrton Center brought, "Shrek The Musical" for its Broadway series and we took the tickets as they were part of the package. I'll say this, the singing was very good, all night and Shrek and his bride-to-be were wonderful.  Much was written in advance about the role of the Prince (partly because of the gimmick enlisted by his playing the character on his knees the entire time) and certainly he was very good, but as sometimes happens in theater...he knew he was very good and made sure we knew it. It was an enjoyable night at the theater...but NOT, as one commenter said on the Wharton Center website, better than Wicked.
February 18th saw a low-key Coffeehouse at All Saints...and the introduction of an email service I'm using to put a little "order" to its marketing.  The first posting looked like this:
More to come in March...see you then