Delmarva Review Selects Cover For Tenth Anniversary

Regional photographer Calvin “Cal” Jackson’s color image “Recycle” was selected for the tenth anniversary cover of the Delmarva Review, to be published on November 1.

“We’re excited to feature cover art from the strong work of regional artists, including photography and paintings,” said Emily Rich, editor of the review. “The richness of regional art provides a compelling folio for the quality of stories and poetry we publish annually.”

Cal Jackson’s cover image “Recycle” shows shucked oyster shells, in rustic bushels, to be spread on bay oyster beds, providing a solid hold for oyster larvae to grow into the future.

The photographer, from Easton, is exhibiting at the BWI Airport gallery, by the International Terminal, and in a Maryland Federation of the Arts “Global Perspectives” online collection during August. His photos are among exhibits at galleries in Easton, Cambridge and Chestertown, Maryland, as well as Brooklyn, New York.

Mr. Jackson is a retired accountant and former audit manager for information technology with the U.S. Army.

“Under the Tent” St. Michaels Art League Labor Day Weekend Sales

Painting by Donna Finley “See Forever”

The St. Michaels Art League announces it’s Annual Art Show and Sale Labor Day weekend, Saturday, September 2 and Sunday, September 3, under a tent at St. Luke’s united Methodist Church located at 304 South Talbot Street, St. Michaels.  The show is free and open to the public. Over thirty league artists will display their work. Drop by to see demonstrations featuring various mediums by art league members: Pastel: Jayne Hetherington; Oil: Judy Bittorf and Nancy Lee Davis; Watercolor: Jo Merrill, Marianne Kost, Joan Cranor, and Valerie Sunderland; Colored pencils; Lee D’zmura; Ceramics: Paul Aspell; Pottery. Also, the original framed designs for the “Celebrate St. Michaels” banners that hang on Talbot Street every year will be for sale, as well as actual street banners from previous years.

For more information visit www.smartleague.org or contact Joan Cranor at 410-310-8382 or Janet Prieger at 410-745-2329.

This program is funded in part by a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council, with revenues provided by the Maryland State Arts Council.

Academy Art Museum Announces September Events

Bennett Bean, M# 1806 Triple on Base, 2015 Pit fired, painted and gilded earthenware clay Photographed by Barbara Livar.

EXHIBITIONS

Exhibitions are generously supported by the Maryland State Arts Council, the Talbot County Arts Council and the Star-Democrat.

Bennett Bean: Be Careful What You Fall in Love With
September 16–November 5, 2017
Curator-Led Tours: Wednesday, September 20, 11 a.m. Wednesday, November 1, 11 a.m.
Bennett Bean (1941) is an American ceramic artist best known as a ceramicist for his treatment of vessels post firing. He works in a range of media including stone, precious metals, wool and silk weaving, and painting. The Easton exhibition, his first solo museum exhibition.

David Driskell: Renewal and Form, Recent Prints
September 16–December 31, 2017 (with interruption from October 18–22 for Craft Show)
Noted artist and scholar, David Driskell, PhD, (1931) is widely respected as an artist, curator, educator, and scholar of African-American art. He is Professor Emeritus of Art at the University of Maryland, College Park, and where the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the Visual Arts and Culture of African Americans and the African Diaspora honors his contributions to the field. The exhibition comes to Easton from the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, in Rockland, ME, and was curated by Greenhut Galleries in Portland, ME.

David Driskell, The Hibiscus, Linocut.

Helen Siegl: Fantasy Creatures from the Museum’s Collection
September 16–November 26, 2017
Helen Siegl (1924–2009) used an unusual printmaking technique—often combining various kinds of blocks and plates to create an image, including handmade plaster blocks. She designed these when wood was scarce in Vienna during World War II. Siegl gained a reputation for both her individual signed and numbered prints and for her book illustrations.

Annual Members’ Exhibition
Continuing through September 4 (Labor Day), 2017
The Academy Art Museum’s Annual Members’ Exhibition is an exceptional tradition which represents the best of the region’s artists and offers an opportunity to view the creative talents of colleagues and friends.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Academy Art Museum Instructors’ Open House
Saturday, September 9 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
Come meet the Museum instructors, view their work, watch art demonstrations, and enjoy refreshments while learning about fall courses at the Museum.

Helen Siegl, Goose Waddle, Woodcut on tissue paper, AAM 2012.012.34.

Craft Show Luncheon Lunch with Bennett Bean
Friday, September 15, 2017, Noon–2 p.m.
Scossa Restaurant
$140 per person (Limited Seating)
Enjoy an intimate lunch of classic northern Italian cuisine prepared by award-winning chef and owner Giancarlo Tondin of Scossa Restaurant and listen while ceramic artist Bennett Bean shares his inspiration for his prolific body of work.

Open MIC
September 11, 7 to 9 p.m.
Theme: Changes
The Academy Art Museum’s Open Mic is a monthly occasion for our community to share and appreciate the rich tapestry of creativity, skills and knowledge that thrive in the region. Contact Ray Remesch at RayRemesch@gmail.com for additional information.

LECTURES

Kittredge-Wilson Lecture Series

These lectures feature an exciting array of speakers who impart a diversity of perspectives on subjects such as art, architecture, history and literature. Series Tickets: (6 lectures) $125 Members, $150 Non-members. Pre-registration is suggested. Register online at academyartmuseum.org.

Museum Instructor

Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry
Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. Curator of Northern Baroque Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Friday, September 29, 6 p.m.
Individual Tickets: $24 Members, $29 Non-members

ARTS EXPRESS BUS TRIPS
Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect
Brandywine River Museum of Art
Wednesday, September 6
Cost: $72 Members $87 Non-members (includes admission, guided tour)

Black, White & Abstract: Callahan, Siskind, White
Baltimore Museum of Art
Wednesday, September 27
Cost: $55 Members $66 Non-members

Vermeer

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING

Mini Masters Academy
An Early Enrichment Program for Children ages 2–4
In Partnership with the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center
Morning or Full-Day Program – Classes begin September 6, 2017
Mini Masters Academy introduces young children to new ideas through a thematic approach to learning that emphasizes relationships and the ability to make meaningful connections. The rich resources of the Academy Art Museum offer a wonderful venue for teaching these sensory explorations. Enrollment is ongoing. Contact Janet Hendricks for program details at jhendricks@academyartmuseum or (410) 822-2787.

Home School Art Classes
Fridays from 1:00-2:30 p.m.

Early Fall Session: September 8–October 13, 2017
Ages 6 to 9 years (Please do NOT register 5-year olds in this class)
Constance Del Nero
Ages 10+
Susan Horsey

Andrew Wyeth Winter, 1946 (detail) Tempera on board North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.

Fall Session: October 27–December 15, 2017 (Note that there are NO classes on November 10 or 24)
Ages 6 to 9 years (Please do NOT register 5 year-olds in this class)
Constance Del Nero
Ages 10+
Susan Horsey
Cost (per session): $90 Members, $100 Non-members
After the first full-priced tuition, siblings attend for $60/67! Pre-registration is advised as space is limited in each group.

After-School Art Clubs
Students Grades 1 – 8
Instructor: Susan Horsey
Students Grades 4–8
Eight Thursdays: September 21–November 30 (No class on October 19, November 9 or 30)
3:45–5:00 p.m.
Cost: $120 Members, $130 Non-members

Mini Masters at the Academy Art Museum

Li’l Kids After-School Art Club
Students Grades 1–3
Eight Fridays: September 22–December 1 (No class on October 20, November 10 or 24)
3:30–4:30 p.m.
Cost: $115 Members, $125 Non-members

ADULT PROGRAMMING

Workshops

Photographing the Log Canoe Races
Instructor: Jay Fleming
1 day: Saturday, September 9
Cost: $335 Members, $402 Non-members (includes the boat fees)

Botanical Watercolor Workshop
Instructor: Hillary Parker
3 days: September 22, 23 and 24 Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Cost: $225 Members, $270 Non-members

Jay Fleming

Adult Classes

Drawing

Introduction to Basic Drawing
Instructor: Katie Cassidy
6 weeks: September 12–October 17 Tuesdays, 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Cost: $185 Members, $220 Non-members

Intermediate Drawing: Interiors and Still Life
New Instructor: Daniel Riesmeyer
5 weeks: September 20–October 25 (no class October 18)
Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Cost: $175 Members, $210 Non-members

Portrait Drawing
Instructor: Brad Ross
5 weeks: September 21 – October 26 (no class October 19)
Thursdays: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Cost: $165 Members, $198 Non-member

Matthew Hillier

Painting

Beginning Painting: Studies in Color
Instructor: Sheryl Southwick
September 12, 14, 19, 21 and October 3 and 5
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9:30 a.m.-Noon
Cost: $135 Members, $162 Non-members

Painting Birds in the Landscape
Instructor: Matthew Hillier
6 weeks: September 16–October 28 (no class Oct. 21)
Saturdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Cost: $190 Members, $228 Non-members

The Next Step – Oil Painting for New or Returning Painters
Instructor: Diane DuBois Mullaly
3 weeks: September 16, 23, October 7
Saturdays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
Cost: $150 Members, $180 Non-members

Sheryl Southwick

Pastels

Still Life in Pastel
Instructor: Katie Cassidy
4 weeks: September 13–October 4
Wednesdays, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.
Cost: $160 Members, $192 Non-members

Watercolor

Watercolor: Beginning Watercolor Painting
Instructor: Heather Crow
5 weeks: September 12 – October 10
Tuesdays, 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Cost: $160 Members, $192 Non-members, (plus, a $10 Materials Fee payable to instructor at first class)

Collage

Mulberry Paper Collage Workshop: Scrap Happy Mornings
Instructor: Sheryl Southwick
1 day: September 20, Wednesday, 2–4:30 p.m.
Cost: $45 Members, $54 Non-members, (plus materials fee of $6 due to the instructor at first class)

Printmaking
Printmaking Exploration Evenings
Instructor: Sheryl Southwick
3 sessions of 4 weeks: Session I–Sept. 12, 14, 19, 21, Session 2–October 10, 12, 17, 24, Session 3–November 7, 14, 16, 21
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30–8 p.m. Cost: $80 Members per session, $96 Non-members per session (plus $25 materials fee paid to instructor on first day.)

Digital

iPhone Class
Instructor: Scott Kane
Class 1: 2 Days, Wednesdays, September 6 and 13
Wednesdays: 6–8 p.m.
Cost per class: $50 Members, $60 Non-Members

Organizing, Taking, Storing and Sharing Photos with Your Smart Phone
Instructor: Scott Kane
Class 1: 2 Days: Wednesdays, September 20 and 27
Cost per class: $50 Members, $60 Non-members

For additional information, visit academyartmuseum.org or call the Museum at 410-822-2787.

Mid-Shore Art Notes: Notes from Venice

The Spy is always interested in knowing what Barbara Paca is up to.  The Oxford-based scholar, designer, and curator of the recent and highly successful art exhibition celebrating the life and work of the Talbot County artist Ruth Starr Rose has now turned up at the Venice Biennale for a few months to bring a well-deserved spotlight on another underappreciated artist from the early 1920s. In this case, it’s the Antiguan artist, Frank Walter.

Known by some as the 7th Prince of the West Indies and Lord of Follies, Walter born in Antigua in 1926. Tracing his lineage back to the slaves of sugar plantation owners, he produced remarkable portraits of island life as he worked his way into being the first black man there to manage a sugarcane plantation.

Paca’s interest of Walter’s work led to the installation of Frank Walter, The Last Universal Man (1926-2009) in the Biennale this year. Pulling together his paintings, sculpture, audio recordings, and writing, it marks Antigua and Barbuda’s inaugural representation at the legendary Venice event.

The Spy got a few postcards from her to share the other day.

For more information about Frank Walter, The Last Universal Man (1926-2009) and the Venice Biennale please go here

Baltimore’s Sylvia and Eddie Brown attend opening of Antigua & Barbuda’s inaugural National Pavilion at Venice Biennale Left to Right:
His Excellency, Sir Rodney Williams, Governor General Antigua & Barbuda, Bikem de Montebello, Barbara Paca,Eddie Brown and Sylvia Brown

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A Community Concert with the U.S. Navy Band Commodores

For more than 40 years, the U.S. Navy Band Commodores have been performing the best of big band jazz. If you haven’t yet experienced a live concert by this vibrant, dynamic group—or if you’re itching to see them again—look no further than the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, held at Easton’s Avalon Theatre over Labor Day weekend.

The Commodores’ performance, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 2nd.

Formed in 1969, the Commodores—also known as the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Navy—have welcomed a few famous faces into its organization.

“Some of America’s greatest jazz and big band musicians have spent at least a portion of their careers serving as musicians in America’s Navy,” explains Senior Chief Musician William Mulligan. “Artie Shaw, Clark Terry, and John Coltrane to name just three.”

Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy Band Commodores

In appreciation of their former bandmates, Mulligan says the 18-member group often features music from these prominent jazz figures in their concerts. The heart of their style, however, draws from classic American big bands, like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, and so many more.

“The Commodores’ repertoire spans over 100 years of jazz history,” he adds.

With a style that’s rooted in an eclectic mix of the traditional sounds of New Orleans’ jazz through to the swing era, the Commodores also blend more contemporary elements of music into their repertoire and incorporate exciting jazz vocal arrangements. The group composes and arranges a lot of their music library, in addition to performing modern compositions written by its members.

Throughout 2017, the Commodores are celebrating the centennial of Ella Fitzgerald. Mulligan hints that attendees of Saturday’s community performance will quite possibly hear tunes associated with the “First Lady of Song” and the “Queen of Jazz.”

“We also take the opportunity to honor our veterans at all of our concerts,” Mulligan says.

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Becca Newell

Delmarva Review: Clues to John Barth’s Genius: Jimmies, Jazz, and Scheherazade by John Lewis

John Barth wanted to be a jazz musician. He played drums in a combo—with his twin sister, Jill, on piano—that gigged around Cambridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and after high school graduation in 1947, he high-tailed it to New York City to study at Juilliard. “It was an absolutely clear and unambiguous experience to learn that what I had hoped was a pre-professional talent was, instead, a pretty good amateur flair,” he told me, over crab cakes at Easton’s Tidewater Inn. “This was the big band era, and I was studying orchestration. I was a drummer, but I didn’t want to spend my life on the road. Being an arranger sounded more respectable.”

Barth had hoped to emulate Billy Strayhorn and Pete Rugolo, his heroes. “But I knew from the first week at Juilliard that the young woman on my left and the young man on my right were going to be the professional musicians of their generation,” he recalled, “and I was going to have to look for something else to do.”

Barth actually has the angular and craggy appearance of a jazz musician, a look that’s accentuated by a closely clipped, white beard and the occasional beret atop his bald pate. But his personality is infused with professorial confidence and sharp wit, a testament to his rapport with the fiction muse he tapped after transferring to Johns Hopkins and finding “something else to do.”

“It was the opposite of what happened at Juilliard,” he said. “When I stumbled into fiction, I had the unequivocal feeling that this was my true calling: all I had to do was learn it from scratch.”

Barth felt the Cambridge education system left him largely unschooled. In fact, he has said “nothing since kindergarten prepared me for [college]” and noted that, despite being on the academic track in high school, his career counseling amounted to a 10-minute talk with the phys ed teacher.

I’ve heard folks question how a “backwater” like Dorchester County produced such a keen intellect, and—if you ignore the inherent snobbery of such a comment and consider Barth’s claim that his formal education was lacking—it is a mystery. Lord knows what it was like between the Depression and World War II, when Barth called Cambridge home. But he obviously got something vital from the Shore that informed his writing and worldview. And, it turns out it was

the perfect incubator for an autodidact with a pen- chant for brilliant meandering. In fact, meandering is something of a refined art in that part of the world, and it’s key to getting at the essence of Barth’s particular type of genius.

Meandering permeates just about everything in Dorchester County—from the unhurried and digressive conversations taking place on the street and in country stores to the flatness of the landscape itself, which is characterized by its tangle of curving roads and bending shoreline intersected by cuts and creeks and other bodies of water that rise and fall with the moon.

Coupled with the flatness, such undulating and fluid geography is endlessly fascinating, though it can be downright disorienting, and it’s no wonder Barth had to look beyond the horizon to his “navigation stars” for direction. Barth told me he considers Scheherazade—the female storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights—one of his “principal navigation stars.”

“With her life ever on the line, only as good as her next piece, Scheherazade remains for me the most piquant emblem of the storyteller’s lot,” says Barth.

These days, Barth, whose noted books include The Sot-Weed Factor, The Tidewater Tales, Giles Goat Boy, The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, and the Scheherazade- inspired The Book of Ten Nights and a Night: Eleven Stories, is now a navigation star in his own right. He gets mentioned in the same breath as Thomas Pynchon, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce and is considered one of the greatest figures in world literature. He’s swooped in and out of the mainstream, won the National Book Award (for Chimera in 1973), and influenced the likes of David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem. He’s actually achieved adjective status— Barth-ian, or Barth-like is synonymous with intelligent, metafictive, postmodern literature.

Thinking a map might be useful in navigating around Barth’s hometown, I was in luck: the Cambridge library has put together a Barth walking tour. With commentary from the author himself, a map directs pilgrims to sites of interest, which include his boyhood home on Aurora Street, his grandparents’ house on the corner of Maryland Avenue, and, according to Barth’s comments, “East Cambridge Elementary school, where I once got paddled for writing a naughty poem about our teacher, my introduction to the pleasures and pains of authorship.”

The tour leads down to the river—again, in Barth’s words—“The Choptank rivershore at Aurora Street’s foot, where we kids [including my twin sister, Jill] played year-round, and the Route 50 bridge nearby, where we swam and dived among summer sea nettles.”

More than a baptism, Barth equates his immersion in these waters with life itself. “I never tire of remembering that the salinity of these waters is about the same as that of the amniotic sea that we all first swam in,” he told the Dorchester County Friends of the Library during a 2005 talk. A copy of Barth’s text is on file there.

At the riverfront—which is still accessible, although you’ll have to maneuver around a hospital that’s been built in the intervening years—it’s easy to see what captivated Barth and fired his imagination. From this spot, small waves approach from the horizon to lap against a shoreline that stretches out on both sides. Looking up, you’ll see the Choptank River Bridge leading north to Baltimore and Washington. Looking down, you’ll find teeming life at your feet, an entire ecosystem just below the surface: minnows, patches of sea grasses, jellyfish, and the occasional blue crab.

The Maryland blue crab remains a potent symbol of the region, and it flourished in the bay’s brackish waters when Barth was a boy. In the summertime, the Choptank’s waters were teeming with hard crabs, soft crabs, and peelers— jimmies (males) and sooks (females) alike—scurrying sideways across the river bottom. They not only caught Barth’s eye, they subtly influenced his approach to writing. In fact, Barth tells me he comes at subjects sideways, “as blue crabs incline to do.”

Here, the crab becomes symbolic of postmodern literature, with regards to crafting Barth-ian metafiction in which the storyteller moves sideways through streams of information to systematically and subtly change perspective along a narrative bend. That’s the way Barth thinks, writes, and speaks.

In conversation, he can sound downright annotated, as I learned during lunch. When discussing novellas, for instance, Barth noted, “The market for them is gone.” He added commentary, “an interesting form that was popular from the time it was invented,” along with when (the 18th-century), where (Germany), and who popularized it (Goethe). He opined that it is “a lovely narrative space.”

He then playfully defined a novella as “a work of fiction too long to sell to a magazine and too short to sell to a book publisher.”

And finally, he offered advice: “When you perpetrate one, you usually need to add on a few short stories [in order to sell it].”

An Eastern Shore native would recognize, if not the subject matter, the measured pacing and wry tone of such comments. It’s the same sort of discursive storytelling that’s been going on for generations around potbellied stoves, across shop counters, and on docks and wharves throughout Dorchester. Barth relishes being that sort of meandering storyteller, (not so) plain and (not so) simple.

The locals say he got the storytelling gene from his father, Whitey. At the house where he wrote his first novel, The Floating Opera—it’s part of the walking tour— the current owner was out sweeping the sidewalk when I visited. At the mention of the Barth name, he lit up. “He was a natural storyteller, the best you ever heard,” he said, leaning on his broom. “He was extremely erudite.”

But this guy wasn’t talking about John Barth, who’s known as “Jack” around town; he was talking about Whitey. “If Jack could write as well as his father talked, he’d really be doing something,” he added. “It seems like Jack takes ten pages to tell something that could be told in one.” He set the broom aside and lauded Whitey’s storytelling prowess, noting that he had owned a popular soda fountain, called Whitey’s Candyland, on Race Street. Although the building has been torn down, the location is noted on the walking tour, and Barth recalls that it’s “where we all occasionally helped out but mostly hung out.”

Hanging out, he was exposed to storytelling as a lively and witty art courtesy of Whitey, who also served as judge of the Orphans Court for 44 years, worked with the volunteer fire company, was a devoted American Legion member, and was an in-demand after-dinner speaker at functions throughout the county. “By comparison to his life,” Barth has written, “my own (literary and academic) seems almost reclusively detached, its radius much wider but its roots far less deep.”

Where Whitey burrowed, his son scuttled.

Besides passing along the storytelling gene, Whitey helped expose his son to popular and modernist fiction. Barth devoured the paperbacks his father stocked at the shop, and it was there that he first encountered books by Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and H.P. Lovecraft, along with William Faulkner’s Sanctuary and John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer.

He’d go on to devour books in the Hopkins library, where he shelved classics as a part time job and spent countless hours browsing the stacks and discovering the vastness and diversity of world literature. Like his Cambridge days, it left an indelible mark on his body of work. “If you happen to be a refugee from the Dorchester County tide marshes, as I was and remain,” Barth once told a Washington College audience, “and particularly if you aspire to keep one foot at least ankle deep back in your native bog while the other foot traipses through the wider world, it is well to have such an off-the-cart smorgasbord under your belt, for ballast.”

Barth returned to Cambridge for the unveiling of a historic marker honoring him, and, perhaps most tellingly, he’s set his last few books on the Shore.

His 2008 book, The Development, was comprised of nine related stories set in an Eastern Shore retirement community where “a failed old fart fictionist” (Barth’s words) named George Irving Newett lives. G.I. Newett. You can practically hear Whitey chuckling at that one.

Barth tells me, via email, that his forthcoming book features Newett as its narrator: “The novel’s full title is Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons. Title borrowed from Prospero’s remark in Shakespeare’s Tempest, of course (`Every third thought shall be my grave’); subtitle from the five seasons of the story’s present action (First Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, Last Fall) and the corresponding `seasons’ of the narrator’s life.

“After an accidental trip-and-fall head-bang while [Newett and his wife] are touring Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, he experiences a series of five seasonal dreams/visions/hallucinations/whatever that trigger recollections of his boyhood, young manhood, maturity, and later age in `Bridgetown’ and adjacent `Stratford,’ in `Avon County’ on MD’s Eastern Shore.”

Barth, now 81 years old (in 2011), seems intent on coming home, again and again. When asked if this will be his last novel, he writes that “time will tell. Since its completion, I’ve written no further fiction.”

But Barth says he has started writing a piece about his years as a jazz musician— presumably doing so while keeping one foot at least ankle deep in his native bog.

John Lewis is editor at large at Baltimore magazine and teaches writing in the Curatorial Practice MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art. This story was published in Volume 4 of the Delmarva Review, in 2011. His work has appeared in The Oxford American, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post Magazine, and many other publications. He lives in Cambridge, MD with his wife and two children.

The Delmarva Review is a nonprofit literary journal publishing compelling new poetry, fiction and nonfiction from writers within the region and beyond. It will celebrate its Tenth Anniversary edition in November. The Review is supported by the Eastern Shore Writers Association, private contributions, and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For more information, please visit: www.delmarvareview.com.

Monte Maxwell in Concert August 26

Monte Maxwell, Organist, will perform at The Church of the Holy Trinity (Oxford MD) on Saturday evening August 26, 2017 at 7 p.m.  Mr. Maxwell presently serves as Chapel Organist, Director of Chapel Music and the Midshipmen Symphony Orchestra at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis MD.  One of Mr. Maxwell’s annual events is the standing room only All Saints’ Day Organ Concert, a favorite of the USNA and greater Annapolis Community.  In addition, Mr. Maxwell performs during the year in concert during Commissioning Week, for Protestant and Catholic services, weddings, memorial services, funerals, and manages the Chapel Organ Concert Series, featuring guest organists from around the world.  Performing in numerous concert halls, churches, and cathedrals, Mr. Maxwell dazzles audiences with his ability to bring the audience and music together as one.  Innovative use of sound, superb technique, and amazing audience rapport leaves the audience spellbound.  Mr. Maxwell shares the highest level of music teachings from The Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia), The Juilliard School of Music (NYC), and Texas Christian University, Fort Worth.   During his performing career, Mr. Maxwell has performed throughout the United States, South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Canada as a concert artist and with Broadway artists, members of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra.Special venues have been Lincoln Center (NYC), St. Patrick’s Cathedral, The Kennedy Center (DC), St. Peter’s Basilica (Rome), and Spreckels Organ Pavilion (San Diego CA).  In his free time, Mr. Maxwell enjoys the world of rollercoasters!

The Church of the Holy Trinity is excited to present Monte Maxwell in concert.  Please come and experience this amazing musician.  Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.  A free will offering will be taken to defray concert expenses.  All are welcome.  We are located at 502 South Morris Street, Oxford MD.  Please contact 410-226-5134 with any questions.

Threatre Review: Wacky Neil Simon Classic ‘The Odd Couple’ at TAP

Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple,” produced by Tred Avon Players (TAP) and currently playing at Oxford Community Center, may be one of the most successful of Simon’s plays – and considering his long and fruitful career, that’s saying a lot.

The basic concept is simple – two friends who are very different and the conflicts that occur when they become roommates.  One is fastidious, the other a carefree slob. But how many Broadway plays of any era have spawned not only a hit movie but three TV sitcoms – plus various other spin-offs including an animated cartoon and a TV sitcom version (by Simon himself!)

Simon’s play, which premiered in 1965, features mismatched roommates Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison – the one an uptight “neat freak,” the other an easy-going slob.

The original production starred Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix. The play took home four Tony Awards: Best Actor (Matthau), Best Author (Simon), Best Director (Mike Nichols) and Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith). Matthau reprised his role in the 1968 film, with Jack Lemmon taking the role of Felix. And in the long-running TV series (1970-75), Matthau was replaced by Jack Klugman and Tony Randall played Felix. For some unknown reason, the TV series changed the spelling of Felix’s name from “Ungar” to “Unger.”  At TAP, they stick to the original.

In this female version, the fastidious roommate was played by Sally Struthers of “All in the Family” fame where she played Gloria, the ditzy daughter of Archie and Edith Bunker and “Meathead’s” wife.  Rita Moreno, who is well-known for her role in “West Side Story” played the messy roommate.  Moreno is one of only twelve performers who have won an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Tony.  This is definitely a story concept with characters that have drawn major talents over the decades.

The plot revolves around the personality clash between the two roommates – Oscar’s life, like his apartment, is a shambles, with unpaid bills, broken appliances, and a failed marriage, but he takes it all in stride, although he gets a bit misty eyed when his five-year-old son calls him on the phone. Meanwhile, his fellow journalist Felix is a hypochondriac who fusses over every detail of his life.  Everything must be  just so! Felix upbraids himself – and everyone around him – when things are not up to his impossible standards.  Every glass must have a coaster. But he’s a terrific cook!  The situation is ideal for comedy – in fact, it’s been used or adapted many times, including in the current TV hit, “The Big Bang Theory.”

Best friends, Oscar and Felix, have at it!    

The play opens at the Friday night poker game in Oscar’s apartment in New York City, sometime in the early 1960s. Four of the six regulars are at the table. The interplay between the characters and several comic bits – the soggy potato chips and “green” sandwiches Oscar brings the other players, due to a broken refrigerator – make it clear that Oscar is a complete slob and living on the edge of financial disaster.  As the evening goes on, it becomes evident that one of the regular players, Felix, is missing – and then they find out that Felix and his wife are getting separated.  Now they’re really worried.

The weekly poker game

But then Felix shows up, quite late, and everyone feigns indifference as he wanders about the room, clearly at his wits’ end. Oscar offers him a bed for the night, and Felix accepts – and after the other players leave, he offers him a place to stay. The basic premise of the play is now set up – in effect lighting the fuse for an explosion the audience senses is bound to happen. But, of course, it would spoil the fun to give much more away.

Cast and crew of “The Odd Couple”

The Tred Avon Players’ production, directed by Ed Langrell, assembles a reliable cast of regulars from local theater productions. Click on link for a Spy interview with the two lead actors, Bill Gross as Oscar and Bob Chauncey as Felix.

Bill Gross takes the role of Oscar,  Loud and physical, he is convincing as a macho ‘60s sportswriter. He does a good job of portraying the character’s growing annoyance with his fastidious roommate, despite his carefree attitude toward most of the rest of his daily life.

Oscar, Vinnie, and Murray the cop listen at the bathroom door, ready to bust in in case Felix tries to “harm himself.”  

Bob Chauncey projects a nice nervous energy as Felix, capturing the suggestions of femininity as the character cooks, cleans, and performs the other duties of Oscar’s missing wife – and reveals an emotional softness that must have seemed far stranger in 1964 than it does now. He is a snappy dresser and his hair looks perfectly sculpted. Chauncey is hilarious when he loudly attempts to clear his sinuses,

While Felix and Oscar get star billing, the rest of the ensemble plays an important part in the play. The four poker buddies – all recognizable New York character types – are very well cast.

Patrick Fee does a fine job as Murray, the street-wise cop with a heart of gold. His mobile face and physical presence are just right for the character. A solid job by one of the Shore’s more versatile character actors.  Most recently, he played Bottom the Weaver in Shore Shakespeare’s production of “Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.”

Felix makes sure that each poker player has a napkin and a coaster – and uses them!

Roy, Oscar’s accountant, is played by Paul Briggs who deftly shows his character’s exasperation and concern about Oscar’s irresponsible finances. Briggs holds his nose and drops the stinky garbage out the window.  But he keeps his feelings  in check when Felix appears, becoming reasonable and pragmatic when it is needed, just like an accountant.

The cynical Speed is played by Brian McGunigle, who is now completing  an impressive run of five roles in a row in plays varying from Shakespeare’s “MacBeth” to Tred Avon’s “A Man of No Importance.” His character’s feigned indifference is well conveyed. But of course, Speed really does have compassion for Felix and McGunigle makes these two seemingly opposite emotions believable.

Zach Schlag is cast as mild-mannered Vinnie, whose henpecked home life is a contrast to the broken marriages of the two main characters. The character’s pliability is the source of several entertaining bits, providing great physical comedy as Vinnie slips and falls while frantically racing around the room to help save Felix.  Although he doesn’t have as many lines as some others, his expressions can be hilarious as he reacts to the other characters.

Felix and the two sisters have a good cry. He’s such a sensitive man!

Lisa Roth and Anna Kusinitz-Dietz play the Pigeon sisters, Gwendolyn and Cecily.  The sisters, a divorcee and a widow,  are originally from England and now live in a neighboring apartment.  They have taken quite a shine to the roommates. Their interactions with Felix and Oscar are a fine bit of Neil Simon comedy, well acted by the sisters as they flirt mischievously or cry copiously.  Their giggles and glances are infectious and the audience loved them. On Thursday night when we were there, the audience broke into spontaneous applause as the sisters left the stage.  It was not the end of the scene.

The set, consisting entirely of Oscar’s living room, is worth walking up for a closer look at intermission or after the play closes – details such as an old manual typewriter and a beat-up baseball glove are letter-perfect. The subtle changes in the room as Felix’s “neatnik” influence begins to be seen are nicely done, as well. The costumes are also right on – especially the Pigeon sisters’ early-‘60s colorful dresses with bright, shiny pocketbooks and knee-high boots, Oscar’s #7 Yankees jersey and Speed’s Hawaiian shirts. The soundtrack – designed by Fee – has a nice selection of period-perfect music. A pleasure to see the little touches so well taken care of.

The 50-plus years since the play was written are evident in many details of the plot and dialogue. For example, it’s no longer that unusual for a man to be a good cook – as Felix is. The sums of money mentioned – 34 cents for a pack of cigarettes, for example — are vivid reminders of what inflation has done, while the characters’ concern over the cost of a long-distance phone call is a historical curiosity in today’s era of unlimited cell phone plans.

And hints – quite humorous hints! – that the relationship between Felix and Oscar echoes their failed marriages, probably seemed edgy if not outright taboo in the early ‘60s.  The uptight culture associated with the 1950s lingered into the early ’60s. Hippies hadn’t happened yet and the sexual revolution was still on the horizon. Simon was exploring new territory. He used comedy to explore relationships and situations that would raise few eyebrows today but were uncomfortable for most people at the time. Divorce, separation, alimony, all these were looked upon very differently then than now. Those who lived through those times will find the contrast from today both interesting and amusing; younger audiences may find it an entertaining history lesson. But this is all subtext, the play is a comedy about relationships and surviving breakups, whether it be with spouses or friends. It asks whether people can change and grow. And it ends with hope and a laugh.

There were plenty of laughs in the large audience for Thursday’s performance, which director Langrell described as a “pre-opening” opening. If you’re in the mood for a classic comedy, with  nostalgia for a different time, it’s well worth the trip to Oxford Community Center, 200 Oxford Road. It’s about an hour from Chestertown or 15 minutes from Easton. The play runs just over two hours.  Remember it starts at 7:30 not 8 p.m.!

“The Odd Couple” is playing through August 20. Shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for students. Call 410-226-0061 for reservations – which are strongly recommended, judging by the sizable audience Thursday.  This Sunday’s matinee, we are told, is practically sold out already!

Photos in this article are courtesy of Randy Bachand. Thank you, Randy!

Check back – we’ll be posting more photos.

Felix straightens a picture. It was just a tiny bit off-kilter. And it was driving him crazy!

She likes me!

L-R Standing: Speed, (Hawaiian shirt), Murray, Vinnie, Briggs, Oscar,  Seated – Felix

Murray, Speed, and Oscar

Vinnie tries to sweet-talk Felix into some sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bria Skonberg: Shaking Up the Jazz World

As one of the most influential artists in jazz, Louis Armstrong helped shape the swing era. Though arguably all musicians within the genre draw influences from his sound and style, trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg is steadily earning the reputation as Armstrong’s modern-day counterpart.

The Canadian-songwriter opens this year’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival with Shaking Up the Jazz World on Friday, September 1st.

From an outsider’s perspective, a female trumpeter might seem unusual, given the fact that it’s such a male-dominated field. But not for Skonberg, who says she was surrounded by female trumpeters since she first picked up the brassy instrument in seventh grade.

“I didn’t honestly think it was that strange,” she says. “I understand that there’s an imbalance for sure, but the ones that are out there are really good.”

Although the modest musician wouldn’t exactly place herself in that category, it seems others are happy to do it for her—and justifiably so. Most recently, Skonberg’s rising-star status was confirmed when she received a 2017 Juno Award for Jazz Vocal Album of the Year for her 2016 crowd-funded album, Bria.

“Basically, it’s a Canadian Grammy,” she explains, adding that she also released an album earlier this year, shortly after signing with Sony Music Masterworks’ OKeh Records. “It’s been a wild ride.”

Skonberg will reflect on that musical journey during her upcoming concert, in which she’ll undoubtedly showcase her notorious “trad fusion” sound. She’ll be joined by what she affectionately calls her “A Team” of musician-friends.

Her specialty, she says, is old jazz—proven by her solid repertoire of 1900s to 1940s tunes—but her songs draw influence from a variety of genres, from blues to Dixieland to pop.

“I like to be influenced by what’s around me,” she says. “That’s jazz. You listen and react.”

A newcomer to the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, Skonberg says she is excited to be involved with such a respected endeavor and was honored when Alexander, whom she refers to as a “giant in jazz,” invited her to participate.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she adds. “Having played at hundreds of festivals, ultimately the vibe comes down to the people that are presenting them and the people that are there. And I get a good feeling about this one.”

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

By Becca Newell

Mid-Shore Arts: Monty Alexander Reflects on Jazz, Easton, and Hope

If Chesapeake Music’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival was just named to honor Alexander’s significant and lasting legacy as a jazz pianist over the last sixty years, that would be justification enough.  Monty’s accomplishments are well documented in the annals of jazz history, and the cumulative impact of his career would lend any jazz festival some important “street cred” with those that follow regional festivals around the world.

But when the Jazz festival’s founder, Al Sikes, drove up to New York City eight years ago to ask Monty if he would lend his name to a fledgling jazz festival in a pretty remote part of the Mid-Atlantic, Sikes knew that having a connection with the Jamaican-born musician was much more than honoring Monty’s performance career.

In many ways, it is Monty Alexander’s arc of experience in jazz over the last fifty years that makes it such an honor for Easton to host this annual event. Starting with small bars in Miami as a teenager, when he was first noticed by Frank Sinatra, and later been witness to every phase of jazz from the Mid-Century forward with friends such as Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, and or even Ravi Shankar.

The Spy caught up with Monty at Patsy’s, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite joints in Manhattan, to talk about his Jazz Festival, but also about where jazz is these days. In particular, his observations on the early roots of jazz, where its disciples would learn on street corners from the masters, to the current world of contemporary jazz artists, many of whom are more likely than not hold degrees from such famous conservatories like Berklee and Juilliard.

Monty also talks about the theme for this year’s festival, which, to his own surprise, focuses on spirituality. In this case, it is his attempt to amplify the important role of hope in our complex world, or, in his own words, his effort to, “see the donut and not its hole.”

Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Music. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit here or call 410-819- 0380.