RiverArts: “Extraordinary Journey: Expressing Spirit Through Art & Medicine”

Creativity and the healing arts is the focus of two upcoming events at RiverArts Gallery. On Thursday, August 2, at 7 p.m., participants in this collaborative project will present their work in a Creative Lives discussion and live performance. The following evening, Friday, August 3, 5-8 p.m., the exhibit—featuring painting, music, poetry, and a sound healing system—will formally open.


The concept was born out of the desire to gain a deeper understanding of a healing system that integrates sound with Chinese Medicine. The exhibit will showcase the works of painter Marj Morani, poet Meredith Davies Hadaway, and musician Jeff Davis in collaboration with Chinese medicine and Acutonics® practitioner, Valentina Morani. The works on display and in performance resulted from Acutonics (sound) and acupuncture treatments focused on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels, which are meridians that have the potential to access and enhance the creative spirit. The exhibition is on view at RiverArts Gallery through September 2.

Extraordinary Journey Expressing Spirit Through Art & Medicine is funded by The Institute for Integrative Health.

Chestertown RiverArts is located at 315 High Street, Suite 106, Chestertown, MD  21620 – (in the breezeway).  Gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday, 11 AM to 5:30 PM, Saturday 10 AM to 5:30PM, Sunday 11 AM – 3 PM, and open on First Fridays until 8 PM. For more information visit www.chestertownriverarts.org – click on Exhibitions, or call RiverArts at 410 778 6300.

 

Academy Art Museum Capital Campaign: Opens New Doors to the Arts

As the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD celebrates 60 years of service to the community with its anniversary year, the Museum is excited to announce the public phase of its $5+ million capital campaign which will open new doors to the arts and build a legacy for the Museum. The campaign will allow the Museum to build on its achievements by expanding the reach of its educational programs and the excellence of its exhibitions and collections. The campaign’s five initiatives will enhance the Museum’s existing programs and facilities for the benefit of its audiences and the community.

The arts education initiative focuses on meeting the growing demand for the Museum’s educational programs by expanding its offerings.Today, the Museum is the leading provider of arts education in the Mid-Shore region.

Pictured is an aerial view of the Academy Art Museum’s new courtyard entrance initiative.

The museum courtyard entrance initiative focuses on relocating the Museum’s main entrance through a freshly-landscaped pathway from Harrison Street to the current Courtyard. This change will help align the Museum with the cultural corridor of Harrison Street and present a welcoming environment for over 50,000 annual visitors. Ziger/Snead is the project’s architect. The firm’s clients have included the Baltimore Museum of Art, The Maryland Institute College of Art and the Maryland Historical Society.

The art stewardship initiative will enable the Museum to build on its excellent exhibition history and continue to pursue shows featuring leading artists from art history and significant emerging artists, while improving the quality and diversity of its collection and enhancing its care.

The campaign’s building stewardship initiative addresses the Museum’s most urgent program and facility needs.  As a museum that combines historic structures with modern additions, significant capital funds are required to maintain the Museum’s infrastructure.

Finally, the campaign’s museum endowment initiative addresses growing the Museum’s endowment to protect its future.

Pictured is an architect’s rendering showing the relocation of the Museum’s main entrance through a freshly-landscaped pathway from Harrison Street to the current Courtyard.

According to Ben Simons, director of the Academy Art Museum, “We are very excited about the courtyard project. We are working with the Maryland Historical Trust to respect the historical fabric of the building as we put a welcoming face on the organization. We are in the planning and permitting process now for the courtyard entrance and are looking forward to construction beginning in 2019.” He adds, “We are deeply tied into the community with over 75 collaborations with community partners, non-profits and neighbors. We want our physical campus to express our relationship with the broader community.”

In addition to the physical changes to the Museum, several new programmatic initiatives are currently underway reflecting the capital campaign’s goals. These include the implementation of the Museum’s first artist-in-residence program and the hiring of the first full-time curatorial assistant.

Jocelyn Eysymontt, Co-Chair of the Museum’s Capital Campaign Committee, comments, “We are thrilled with the response to the campaign and being so close to our campaign goal. We are excited to invite the public to build on the generosity of our donors to help us in our final stage of fundraising.”

The Museum supports its annual operating budget of $1.5 million through membership fees annual giving, tuitions, grants, fundraising events, and to a modest extent the income generated from the current Endowment Fund. Board of Trustees Chair Cathy McCoy adds: “Our prior trustees had the wisdom to start the Endowment Fund and support it, putting us in a strong position on which to build. A larger endowment will better protect the Museum’s future.”

For further information about the Museum’s Capital Campaign, contact Damika Baker, Director of Development at the Museum at 410-822-2787.

The Avalon and Chesapeake College to Partner on Big Shows at the Todd Center

The Avalon Foundation and Chesapeake College have announced the beginning of a new partnership designed to bring large-venue music acts to the school’s Rufus M. and Loraine Hall Todd Performing Arts Center (TPAC).

Beginning in the fall, the Avalon will host a series of concerts and events at TPAC. The schedule kicks off with “An Evening with Melissa Etheridge — Yes I Am 25th Anniversary Tour” on Tuesday, October 9. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m., Friday, June 29 at avalonfoundation.org.

“The Avalon Foundation’s team has nearly 60 years of event management experience, deep relationships with artist agencies and a loyal following of music lovers on the Eastern Shore,” Foundation President and CEO Alexander Bond said. “As part of our mission, we are always looking to expand our programming reach and connect more people with easy access to arts programming. TPAC offers a perfect venue for us to do so.”

The 904-seat TPAC expands the Avalon Foundation’s ability to host concerts beyond the historic, 400-seat Avalon Theatre and 60-seat Stoltz Listening Room in Easton.

“From the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to international performance troupes, the Todd Center has long been a cultural hub and important space for bringing larger acts to the region,” Dr. Clifford Coppersmith, Chesapeake College President, said. “Our capacity to host even more shows and events makes this partnership possible and allows our two organizations to combine resources to grow arts audiences, improve arts accessibility and build and connect communities on the Mid Shore.”

Melissa Etheridge has remained one of America’s favorite female singer-songwriters for more than two decades.

Known for her confessional lyrics and raspy smoky vocals, she hit her commercial and artistic stride with her fourth album “Yes I Am” in 1993. The collection featured the massive hits, “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” a searing song of longing that brought Etheridge her second Grammy® Award for Best Female Rock Performance.

In 1995, Etheridge issued her highest charting album, Your Little Secret, which was distinguished by the hit single, “I Want to Come Over.”

Avalon management plans to announce several additional “big shows” that will be held at TPAC in the coming months. The concerts add to the Avalon’s already robust 160-act annual schedule in Easton.

To stay connected with big show announcements resulting from the Avalon Foundation at Chesapeake College partnership, Bond encourages music lovers to subscribe to the organization’s email list by visiting avalonfoundation.org.

The Avalon Foundation is the largest arts nonprofit on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Also regarded for the nationally renown Plein Air Easton outdoor painting competition, the Foundation’s mission is to foster a strong community on the Eastern Shore by creating accessible, uplifting arts, education, and cultural experiences that appeal to the interests of a diverse population and to ensure the long term viability of the historic Avalon Theatre.

A key component of Chesapeake College’s mission is to be a center for personal enrichment and the arts and to sponsor a broad range of affordable civic activities that reflect the college’s role as a community-learning center.

Mark Your Calendar: Monty Alexander Jazz Festival Set for 9th Year

Jazz enthusiasts rejoice! The energetic, ever-swingin’ Monty Alexander returns to Easton this Labor Day weekend for his eponymous festival, featuring an exciting lineup that boasts some—
if not the—best jazz musicians in the country.

The Ninth Annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival will be held Friday, August 31st to Sunday, September 2nd, at the Avalon Theatre.

Dominick Farinacci

The festival kicks off Friday with a favorite, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, who the NY Times calls a “trumpeter of abundant poise”. His most recent Avalon appearance was last November in the theatrical music experience, Modern Warrior Live. The masterpiece wonderfully demonstrated Farinacci’s versatile horn stylings and mix of international rhythms, as well as his mastery of composition and knack for re-imagining familiar songs.

Joining Farinacci is his Modern Warrior Live co-star Shenel Johns. With powerful, yet graceful vocals, Johns is known for her distinctive, eclectic style that sways effortlessly from jazz to R&B to gospel. The duo’s performance, aptly named “Lady Sings the Blues,” will celebrate the music of Dinah Washington, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

Shenel Johns

Saturday’s packed program begins with a community concert—a free performance that was originally established to provide an introduction to jazz, familiarizing concert-goers with the incredibly diverse and somewhat misunderstood genre.

Harry Allen

This year, the stage will welcome a young musician hastily making a name for himself in the jazz world, pianist Matthew Whitaker. Blind since birth, the 17-year-old was recently named one of seven rising stars for 2018 by USA Today network’s 201 Magazine. Adding to the long list of accolades, Whitaker’s debut album Outta the Box, which was released last year, was named “one of the best debut albums of 2017” by New York City Jazz Record. This show starts at 11 a.m.

Saturday’s matinee show highlights an extraordinary range of American and Brazilian musicians, featuring tenor/alto saxophonist Harry Allen. With more than thirty recordings to his name, Allen has been called the “Frank Sinatra of the tenor Saxophone,” renowned for his inventive tone that’s rooted in tradition.

It’s only appropriate, then, that his 2 p.m. performance be a salute to Stan Getz and the Getz/Gilberto collaboration with Antonino Carlos Jobim, which resulted in an album by the same name—it’s the first jazz album to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. The album’s single “The Girl from Ipanema” won the Record of the Year.

Monty Alexander

Later that evening, Monty Alexander takes the stage. Considered one of the top five jazz pianists ever, Alexander’s musical expression combines elements of the blues, gospel, calypso, and reggae. Known for his vibrant personality, magnetic charisma, and breathtaking talent, Alexander’s performance is not to be missed.

Unsurprisingly, tickets for this show continue to sell out faster each year, so heed this warning if you want to see this dynamo in action—and believe us, you do.

Brianna Thomas

Wrapping up the festival weekend on Sunday is Brianna Thomas, whose soulful voice is often likened to Mahalia Jackson—a comparison only accomplished by the most gifted singers. The performance will blend two genres, jazz and gospel—a rather fitting theme for a Sunday afternoon.

The Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is partially underwritten by the Maryland State Arts Council and the Talbot County Arts Council. 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.

Spy Minute: The Trippe Hosts Talbot Mentors Photo and Poem Project

The Trippe Gallery is very excited to be hosting the Talbot Mentors Photography and Poetry Project in 2018. And the Spy spent a few minutes checking out these wonderful beginner photographs.

Nine Talbot Mentors youth have been working on a photography-and-poetry project, a six-week affair with mentors and mentees getting together once a week. Each mentee was given two disposable cameras and a “scavenger hunt” list of things to shoot, from family members to representation of the broader communities they live in. Beyond the list, the kids could photograph whatever they like. The purpose of the project, to develop a stronger relationship between mentor and mentee while providing a meaningful focus on self-discovery through artistic expression.

If you are unfamiliar with Talbot Mentors, it is a non-profit, that matches adults with children for a one-to-one mentoring experience. Talbot mentors creates bonds that unleash potential. Every young person has boundless potential. Talbot Mentor volunteers connect with youth to help them unearth the capacity within and to explore and learn from each other’s worlds.

Executive Director, Gerson Martinez states ” “Talbot Mentors exists to support the self-awareness, self-confidence, and growth of our children, and to connect them to our larger community.””

The Talbot Mentors photography-and poetry project is drawing to a close. The pictures taken by the kids will be showcased at The Trippe Gallery in Easton during the First Friday Gallery Walk on Friday, June 1st from 5-7pm. The gallery os located at 23 N Harrison St. For more information, please call 410-310-8727.

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a mentor or would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the work of Talbot Mentors, please visit www.talbotmentors.org ,or call the office at 410-770-5999.

Mid-Shore Arts: A Chat with Singer Barbara Parker

Barbara Parker has always been a singer-songwriter, but it wasn’t until thirteen years ago that a friend handed her a mic at a party, and after she sang one of her songs asked, “Why aren’t you doing this for a larger audience?” And so she did, starting with Open Mic Nights at the Garfield, to various gigs, and the recording of her first CD. But it was the collaboration with jazz pianist, Joe Holt to whom she credits her current success.

They met two years ago when Parker would come to see him perform. Even before being officially introduced, she knew she wanted to work with him. “I told him: I want to do another project, and I want you to produce it. Joe builds around my music, and makes my music complete.” Holt interrupts, “My role here is one of support. This is a duo, but it’s a duo with a structure on facilitating what Barbara does.”

Barbara Parker and Joe Holt. Photo by Sherrie von Sternberg

Listening to them finish each other’s sentences, is a clear indication of their relationship. Parker and Holt seem to have the perfect partnership of lyricist and musical arranger, allowing both of them to do what they love while encouraging each other’s talents. “I have limited skills musically, and he’s got endless skills musically,” says Parker. “That’s the gift he gives me. He makes me sound really, really good.” “I can only do that,” he retorts, “if there is something there to begin with. Barbara is a complicated person, as any artist is. There’s both complexity and paradox in her life.”

Nowhere is this complexity more evident than in what she sings about. As with many songwriters, Parker is inspired by what goes on around her. “I love to write when driving. You should see the music that comes with that! Thank God for cell phones. I have currently 159 voice memos all of which are snippets of songs that come to me.”

Some of these snippets become songs, and some of these songs become audience favorites. One is Blackbird, written in homage to Robin Williams. “When I heard he died that morning, I sat down and wrote the song in less than 15 minutes.” Another song, Sanctuary, came to her after a phone call from a friend who was feeling sad. Her Dragon of the Chesapeake is relatable locally (and deals with her bridge phobia).

Explains Holt, “That’s how it works when a songwriter is not ‘formulaic.’ It’s like opening up a spigot.” Parker laughs, “I’m like a bucket that has a hole in it; luckily Joe is there with a pan. I’ll give him a melody, and I’ll give him a lyric, and he’ll say, ‘let’s switch the timing up just a little bit,’ or he’ll say, ‘this should be a tango.’ ”

Her ability to accept various styles and suggestions from Holt is another reason they work so well together. “I’m influenced by so much, and I really have no specific musical preference. I listen to everything from classical to jazz to easy listening to pop to rock to country, and when a song comes to me, in the amazing way that it does—this bolt out of the blue, it can be any of the styles. From my standpoint I’m a storyteller, I’m a singer-songwriter.” Holt agrees, “She’s stylistically diverse. Her songs are as much country and as much pop rock as much tango. All while being accompanied by a jazz pianist!”

Parker is also creatively diverse. Successful as a professional painter, her artwork was selected five years ago by the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival for use on the Festival’s publicity materials and poster. She is also a photographer and writer. “Creativity is creativity,” she says. “It’s all about relating a message in an emotional kind of way that doesn’t destroy you.”

Asked what her challenge is as a performer, Parker admits she hopes to “keep producing fresh material, that is not like something else I’ve done. I hear it differently in my head, but with my limited musical knowledge, I can’t make it happen. Having Joe as a resource has been such a gift. I am so grateful. Every day I have the opportunity to create something new and how great is that?”

Barbara Parker will be joined by Joe Holt Thursday, June 7th at the Oxford Community Center. Show starts at 7PM and tickets are $15. For more information please go here. For additional show dates, check out her website.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Spy Review: “Sweeney Todd” at the Garfield — a Review by Peter Heck

Anyone who enjoys the theater should make it a point to see Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler, currently playing at the Garfield Center for the Arts.

Directed by Shelagh Grasso, with musical direction by Julie Lawrence, Sweeney Todd is an intense, sometimes overwhelming, story of murder, cannibalism, injustice – and love.  With a touch of humor. That’s a tall order and the Garfield production comes through.

Originally a 1973 play by Christopher Bond, Sweeney Todd takes its material from the Victorian “penny dreadfuls”– one of which introduced the murderous barber Todd in a serialized thriller, “The String of Pearls” in the late 1840s. It was so popular that it was turned into a play even before its final installment, and numerous spin-offs followed. Bond added a level of psychological sophistication to the Victorian original, and the London production of the play inspired Sondheim to adapt it as a musical in 1979.

The sailor Anthony rescued and befriended barber Sweeney Todd.      Photo by Carmen Grasso

The original Broadway production featured Len Cariou in the title role and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, with Hal Prince directing. It ran for 557 performances before going on a national tour. It won an astounding eight Tony Awards, and followed up with nine Drama Desk awards – including best musical, best male and female actors, best director, and best score. Not surprisingly, it has been revived numerous times, with a 2007 film adaptation starring Johnny Depp.

The plot revolves around a London barber banished to the penal colonies of Australia on trumped-up charges by a crooked judge who had designs on the barber’s wife. Now fifteen years later, the barber has returned to England, accompanied by a young sailor, Anthony Hope, who rescued him at sea. After telling Anthony a version of his tale, Todd goes to a meat pie shop on Fleet Street, where the proprietress, Mrs. Lovett complains about how hard it is to find meat. He asks her about her upstairs apartment, which he reveals that he himself used to rent under his former name before he was arrested. She tells him, in turn, that his wife committed suicide and that the crooked judge adopted his then-infant daughter Johanna.

Mrs. Lovett agrees to rent him the apartment and promises to keep his secret. She also gives him back his old set of razors which she has kept all these years, so he can go back into business as a barber again. But Todd has sworn revenge on the judge, and that decision shapes everything else that happens.

Meanwhile, Anthony has seen a beautiful young woman singing out of her window, and falls instantly in love with her. Her name, he learns, is Johanna – then the judge and his beadle chase him away, threatening bodily harm if he returns. Unwittingly, he has fallen in love with Todd’s daughter.

Back on Fleet Street. Todd wins a shaving contest against an Italian barber, Pirelli, allowing him to call himself the best barber in London. The judge’s beadle, impressed, makes an appointment to come back for a shave – which Todd sees as a chance for revenge on one of the men who framed him. When Anthony then appears and tells of his love for Johanna, Todd promises Anthony he can use his shop as a meeting place for their elopement.

But before that can happen, Pirelli and his assistant Tobias appear and Pirelli asks for a shave. Mrs. Lovett takes Tobias downstairs for a meat pie, and Pirelli reveals that he knows who Todd is and tries to blackmail him. So Todd slits his throat and Mrs. Lovett makes Tobias an assistant, pretending that Pirelli has been called away on business. And she sees the need to dispose of the body as an opportunity – after all, she still needs meat for her pie business!

From there, the plot moves inevitably toward its conclusion – a dark and bloody apocalypse in the great tradition of the “penny dreadful.” Needless to say, this is not a play for young children – perhaps not for anyone disturbed by the sight of stage blood, or who thought Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was too gross. However, it’s important to note that while the plot has numerous on-stage murders, there is really not a lot of blatant on-stage gore. But there’s no excuse for anyone else to miss this production – one of the most powerful in the local theater in recent years.

Grasso has assembled a top-notch cast, with many who are making their first local appearance.

Christopher Wallace, who directed CHT’s recent production of Witness for the Prosecution, plays the title role. He does a nice job walking the fine line between Todd as a victim of injustice and as a monster – both aspects of which come to the fore at different times. A memorable performance in a difficult role.

Jane Copple, who has a long string of credits in Church Hill Theatre musicals, is a good fit for the role of Mrs. Lovett. Her voice is one of the best in the cast, and she conveys the comic aspects of the character well.

Max Hagan, who has a theater degree from Sewanee, gets to show off a nice voice as Anthony Hope. One of the most sympathetic characters in this generally dark play, he could be seen as the moral center of the play.

Thwarted lovers Anthony and Johanna in “Sweeney Todd” at Garfield Theatre        Photo by Carmen Grasso

Natalie Lane, who previously appeared in the Garfield production of My Fair Lady, plays Tobias, the young boy who becomes an apprentice to Mrs. Lovett in the pie shop. Her voice is excellent and she is convincing as a London street urchin.

Matt Folker is cast as Judge Terpin, the main villain of the piece, and Nic Carter plays Beadle Bamford, his unsavory henchman. Both do fine jobs of embodying the entrenched evil that ends up creating a serial murderer, the “demon barber of Fleet Street.”

Jane Copple as Mrs. Lovett, Christopher Wallace as Sweeney Todd, and Melissa McGlynn as the Beggar Woman/Lucy in “Sweeney Todd”, a 2018 production at Garfield Theatre.      Photo by Carmen Grasso

Melissa McGlynn plays a beggar woman who turns out to have a more significant role in the plot than first appears. A solid performance from one of our local theatrical stars.

Shannon Whitaker is well cast as Johanna, Sweeney’s daughter. She displays a beautiful singing voice in her featured number, “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.”

Zack Schagg, Howard Messick, Zac Ryan and Kendall Davis round out the list of characters with speaking parts, and all do good jobs. Likewise the chorus – which includes a large number of familiar on-stage faces – is an impressive presence, acting, as Grasso said after the opening night performance, almost as a Greek chorus, telling the story in operatic style. There is a wonderful “madhouse” scene in which Anthony goes to rescue Johanna from the lunatic asylum.  The lunatics–in particular, Marcia Gilliam–are delightfully mad. And then there is the “more pie” scene where the local townspeople wipe their lips and swing their mugs of ale while calling for “more pie”.  All in song!

The set, designed and built by Carmen Grasso, is astonishing in its own right. The main piece, sitting at center stage, swivels around to show two different fronts – one Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop, the other a generic street scene. On a second level, it shows Todd’s barbershop – including a chute down which he drops the victims of his butchery so the “meat” can be used for pies.  A very clever and useful feature!  And this is just the centerpiece – there are levels upon levels all around it, with chorus members lurking to observe and add their voices where the score calls for it. There’s even scaffolding out in the audience, behind the orchestra pit. Be sure to look all around you as the play goes on – there’s a lot happening!

“Sweeney Todd” performance at Garfield Theatre          Photo by Carmen Grasso

The costuming convincingly recreates the look of 1840s London working and middle class.  In the early scenes, both Lovett and Todd’s clothes are worn and not of the highest fashion.  But as the “pie” shop prospers, both characters sport a posher look, with Todd in a good-quality suit and Mrs. Lovett wearing a fashionable dress with a beautiful–and obviously expensive–embroidered shawl. Johanna, the barber’s daughter, looked lovely in a white gown and long flowing tresses.  A great wig!  Good job by costume designer Barbi Bedell and her crew.

In fact, despite the complexity of the choreography and blocking and the large number of characters onstage at any given time, the play feels very tight. Grasso has done an impressive job bringing everything together into a unified whole. This only adds to her already high ranking among directors in the local theater community.  A special mention should also go to choreographer and assistant director Greg Minahan.  Minahan comes to the Garfield with an impressive list of credits that include singing, dancing and choreography on Broadway in such productions as CATS and Peter Pan.  Locally, Minihan has acted and directed for both Shore Shakespeare and Church Hill Theatre.

A couple of quibbles. The dialogue was sometimes hard to understand – especially with characters singing in Cockney accents. Occasionally, lyrics were covered up by the orchestra – especially in some chorus pieces. This may improve as the cast settles in. And the lighting seemed dimmer in spots than it might have been.  There were also a few opening-night glitches such as when actors moved out of their spotlights.  But nothing that really detracted from the enjoyment of the production.

“Sweeney Todd” performance at Garfield Theatre      Photo by Carmen Grasso

Sondheim’s music is complex and challenging.  Some songs are gentle and sweet, expressing themes of love and loyalty, such as the duet “Not While I’m Around” between Mrs. Lovett and Tobias.  But Sondheim also uses dissonance–sometimes high-volume dissonance–to convey the more shocking emotional elements of the story.  This is, after all, a story of murder and mayhem! And the music reflects that.  Those who are more attuned to the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Loewe may want to adjust their expectations accordingly.   I myself lean more toward Gershwin and Porter but found the music in  Sweeny Todd to be both powerful and dramatically effective.

There’s plenty of energy, and the orchestra seemed to be very tight. The quality of the singers’ voices is universally high. There were a couple of points where two singers in a duet appeared to be in different keys – but without having the score right there, it was hard to tell if this was intentional or not. Again it was not enough to detract from the overall excellence of the music.  Of course, given the theme of the show, it is consistent for the music–though quite lyrical at times–to also be uncomfortable at other points.  Kudos to Julie Lawrence who brought it all together.

Sweeney Todd, as noted above, is an intense, gripping theatrical experience, and Grasso’s production pulls no punches.  Note that it is a long show, running just under three hours.  The local theater community deserves high marks for bringing this show to the Garfield and bringing to it such an effective performance. Go see it.

Sweeney Todd runs at the Garfield through May 13, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sundays. For reservations, call 410-810-2960 or visit boxoffice@garfieldcenter.org.

The local beggar and mad woman confronts Anthony.  Sweeney Todd at the Garfield Theatre. Photo by Carmen Grasso

Another victim of the Demon Barber meets his fate in “Sweeney Todd” at Garfield Theatre.      Photo by Carmen Grasso

Mrs. Lovett and her assistant Tobias in “Sweeney Todd” at Garfield Theatre.     Photo by Carmen Grasso

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Vibraphonist Chuck Redd brings his “New York All-Stars” to Easton

At just 23 years old, Bebop darling Veronica Swift is rapidly gaining recognition as one of today’s best young jazz singers.

And she’s got the accolades (and awards!) to prove it, including a second-place win at the prestigious 2015 Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition and stage credits, like a solo performance at NYC’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center in 2016, followed by a headlining spot at the Telluride Jazz Festival.

Catch Swift

“She’s really taken off,” says Al Sikes, Chesapeake Music’s Jazz Committee Chairman (and producer of the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival).

From swingin’ to soulful, Swift’s flawless vocals naturally demonstrate her passion for, and innate understanding of, jazz standards—a talent that translates into mesmerizing performances.

Catch Swift on her rise to the top, when she shares the stage with renowned jazz vibraphonist Chuck Redd on Saturday, May 12th. The show, Jazz Impressions of Wonderful Melodies, takes place at 8 p.m. at the Academy Art Museum in Easton.

The performance promises to be one of Jazz on the Chesapeake’s most interesting and lively shows yet. In addition to Swift’s guest appearance, Jazz Impressions will feature some of New York’s best talent—aptly dubbed for this performance the “New York All-Stars”—pianist Larry Fuller, saxophonist Will Anderson, and bassist David Wong.

A familiar face to fans of the annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, Redd is a seasoned performer on the vibraphone and drums. In addition to his musical finesse, Redd is the mastermind behind many of the makeshift ensembles that grace Easton’s jazz scene, often at the behest of Sikes.

Chuck Redd

According to Sikes, Redd’s ability to seamlessly integrate musicians, who sometimes have little experience playing together, is impressive.

“I tell him I’ve got an open date, we’ll discuss themes, and he’ll pull it together,” he says. “Chuck’s never failed.”

Yet, how do a handful of musicians who’ve barely met produce such a wonderful and seemingly well-rehearsed performance?

“They have a language they share that transcends the technical explanation,” says Sikes, adding that familiarity with the Great American Songbook is key.

Along with jazz fundamentals, another essential element that provides these musicians the ability to perform together with little practice time is jazz’ improvisational nature, explains Sikes.

Still, it remains a marvel to witness on any occasion.

Unlike other Jazz on the Chesapeake concerts, Sikes approached Redd with the suggestion of adding Swift to his “All-Star” lineup.

Sikes first saw Swift perform more than a decade ago, when the then 10-year-old joined her parents—her father, the late bebop pianist Hod O’Brien, and mother, vocalist Stephanie Nakasian—on stage in Western Maryland.

Last summer, he caught a performance of hers in New York, which demonstrated Swift’s mastery of traditional swing and left Sikes determined to bring her to Easton.

And while Redd and Swift have yet to share the stage, Sikes isn’t nervous. If anything, he knows it’ll give to a more exciting, fiery performance.

“The band will swing and the vocalist will soar,” he says. “What a wonderful combination.”

Presented by Jazz on the Chesapeake, a program of Chesapeake Music, Jazz Impressions of Wonderful Melodies will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12th, at the Academy Arts Museum in Easton. General admission tickets are $40. To purchase, call 410-819-0380 or visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com.

Author Kevin J. Hayes Wins 2018 WC’s George Washington Prize

Author and historian Kevin J. Hayes has won the coveted George Washington Prize, including an award of $50,000, for his new book, George Washington: A Life in Books. One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious literary awards and now in its 13th year, the George Washington Prize honors its namesake by recognizing the year’s best new books on the nation’s founding era, especially those that engage a broad public audience. Conferred by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and Washington College, the award will be presented to Hayes on May 23 at a black-tie gala at Mount Vernon.

In George Washington: A Life in Books, Hayes presents an intellectual biography of Washington that should permanently dispel popular misconceptions of America’s leading Founding Father as a man of all action and no ideas. Washington scholars have long known that he owned an impressive library of more than 1,300 volumes. Hayes has gone further by meticulously paging through Washington’s surviving books held at the Boston Athenaeum, the Washington Library at Mount Vernon, and other collections, as well as nearly 900 pages of Washington’s notes on his reading, to create a portrait of him as a reader. By closely examining Washington’s notes, Hayes has uncovered an intellectual curiosity that dozens of previous biographers have missed. As a young man, Washington read popular serials such as Gentleman’s Magazine and The Spectator, which helps to bridge the long-imagined gap between him and his learned contemporaries like Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams.

Hayes’s project began with a fellowship that he received in 2008 from Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. The award allowed him to spend a month working with rare volumes at the Boston Athenaeum, which holds a large portion of George Washington’s personal library.

“While Washington never attended college and felt self-conscious about his lack of formal education compared to some of his peers, he was a broadly inquisitive man who found pleasure as well as instruction in books,” said Adam Goodheart, the Starr Center’s Hodson Trust Griswold Director. “At his plantation along the Potomac River, remote from the intellectual centers of the Enlightenment, the volumes on his shelves formed his high-speed internet connection: the gateway to a global community of thinkers, writers, and leaders.”

Established in 2005, the George Washington Prize has honored a dozen leading writers on the Revolutionary era including, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical Hamilton. For this year’s prize, a distinguished jury comprised of notable historians Denver Brunsman, Flora Fraser, and Peter Onuf, selected the seven finalists from a field of more than 50 books.

Mount Vernon’s event on May 23 will also honor the six finalists for the 2017 prize:

S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press)
Eric Hinderaker, Boston’s Massacre (Harvard University Press)
Jon Kukla, Patrick Henry: Champion of Liberty (Simon & Schuster)
James E. Lewis, Jr., The Burr Conspiracy Uncovering the Story of an Early American Crisis (Princeton University Press)
Jennifer Van Horn, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press)
Douglas L. Winiarski, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (University of North Carolina Press)

Mid-Shore Arts: AAM’s 1st National Photo Prize Awarded to Antonio McAfee

Recently, photographic artists of all walks and every part of the country were invited to submit their latest works to a new national juried show at the Academy Art Museum this spring.  The exhibition, now on display, highlights the current state of photography across a broad spectrum with artists submitting all types of photographic works including digital, analog, and other alternative processes.

The juror for the igural program was Sarah Stolfa, C.E.O. and Artistic Director of the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. Sarah is a working fine-art photographer herself,  and educator with over eight years of experience in photography, education, curatorial work and digital lab creation and management.

The first winner of “Best of Show” was awarded to Baltimore-base Antonio McAfee for his unique use of oval formatted portraits from The Exhibition of American Negroes presented in 1900, organized by W.E.B. Du Bois and Thomas Calloway.

The Spy captured a few moments of the Saturday afternoon event.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here