Spy Minute: A Birthday Party for the Academy Art Museum

There was a full day of birthday activities at the Academy Art Museum on Saturday to celebrate sixty remarkable  years of service to the Mid-Shore. As with the actual mission of the museum to teach and show art, the open house allowed visitors to look at paintings from its permanent collection, participate in community art project to produce a commemorative flag, listen in on a class, or simply chit-chat with friends.

The Spy was there to capture some of the fun.

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

Academy Art Museum Crafts Show: A Preview with Alison Cooley and Craig Fuller

For thousands of artists and collectors each year there are a handful of crafts shows throughout the country known for their unique quality, and it is extremely good fate for the Eastern Shore that the Academy Art Museum’s annual crafts show is one of those select few.

With a tough selection process, where only one out of three are chosen to show their work in Easton, the AAM Crafts Show has turned out to be one of the most delightful parts of the busy fall art season for both devotees of American craft but all on the Mid-Shore who appreciate the extraordinary talent it takes to produce these different kinds of work of art.

The Spy sat down with operations director Alison Cooley and Chair Craig Fuller, this year’s chairs, to get a quick debriefing on what to expect when the doors open on October 19th but what will be online here well before then.

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


Chesapeake Film Festival 2018: It Starts with a Trailer by Kindall Rende

One of the great traditions of film festivals everywhere is a trailer produced by either a well-known or inspiring filmmaker every year to encourage attendance. Depending on such things as size and budget, the hope is that the commissioned piece, even as a teaser, becomes a short film unto itself.

And the Chesapeake Film Festival is part of that club. Year after year, filmmakers are selected to entice and intrigue viewers to take a break and come to see the film screenings. And this year it has been produced by Talbot County’s Kindall Rende of 3 More Frames. The Spy received an early preview copy to share for the CFF which starts October 11.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information on the Chesapeake Film Festival for 2018 please go here

Upcoming Jazz Festival Spotlights Easton High School Chorale

It’d be a dream for any high schooler in a choir to share a stage with a professional jazz vocalist. For members of the Easton High School Warrior Chorale, it’s soon to be a reality.

The 20 or so singers will perform an opening set on Sunday, September 2nd, at Brianna Thomas’ matinee performance during the last day of the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival.

“They’re wonderful chorally and they sing four-part harmonies really well. Their timing is really tight and they’re really very professional,” says John Malin, recalling his first time seeing the Warrior Chorale. “I was very impressed with them.”

Brianna Thomas

Over the last few years, Malin and Festival Founder Al Sikes have discussed expanding the Festival beyond its professional bill and extending its community outreach efforts. Each year, MAJF offers 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.

And while that program continues to blossom with exciting performances, like this year’s Saturday morning concert featuring piano prodigy Matthew Whitaker, there was a local element that was missing. That led Malin and Sikes to discuss incorporating a high school choir into the program. When Malin attended a choir competition hosted by Easton High School last fall, he knew he’d found something special.

“They did a sort of gospel number and I thought ‘Wow! They are fabulous,” he says, explaining how he immediately approached director Andrea Davis after the performance about the choir’s participation in the Festival. “It all just flowed from there.”

Comprising high schoolers—from 14- to 18-year-olds—the group will perform about a handful of numbers, Malin says. The setlist includes some relatively traditional jazz numbers, along with a gospel song.

“The kids are really excited,” he adds.

After what is sure to be an incredible set by the Warrior Chorale, Thomas will take the stage. With a soulfully strong voice—often likened to Mahalia Jackson, a comparison only accomplished by the most gifted singers—Thomas has played clubs and festivals for over a decade.

The singer-songwriter made her initial entrance into the professional jazz world with ‘30s-style swing, but later focused her musical finesse on ballad standards, scatting, and blues.

In 2014, Thomas released her debut album “You Must Believe in Love”. Critics alike raved how the album wonderfully demonstrated her impressive vocal range, envy-inducing scat skills, and emotional depth.

“[She] may be the best young straight-ahead jazz singer of her generation,” wrote Will Friedwald in a review for the Wall Street Journal.

Like the Warrior Chorale’s musical selections, Thomas’ performance will blend two genres, gospel and jazz. Titled “Traces of Mahalia and Ella,” it’ll be the perfect accompaniment for a Sunday afternoon.

Catch the Easton High School Warrior Chorale and Brianna Thomas at 2 p.m. Sunday, September 2nd, at the Avalon Theatre. Tickets are $25. To purchase, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.

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.

Review: Tred Avon’s Little Shop of Horrors — A Must-See!

Florist Mushnik (Bill Gross) and his adopted son Seymour (Mike Sousa) sing of their new-found success. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Little Shop of Horrors, performed by the Tred Avon Players, is now playing at Oxford Community Center. Based on an unabashedly schlocky black-and-white horror film by the legendary Roger Corman, the musical takes us to the Skid Row Florist shop, where a low-paid assistant makes a strange new plant flourish – with unexpected results.

Directed by Marcia Gilliam, the Tred Avon production does a first-class job with the show’s musical score, which draws heavily on the sound and ambiance of 1950s’ rock ‘n’ roll. With a strong cast and toe-tapping music, Gilliam and the TAP gang have put on a delightful show, well worth a trip to Oxford for playgoers all across the Shore.

The Corman film, which was produced on a budget of $28,000 in 1960, mixed the story of a man-eating plant with a generous helping of dark comedy and satire. With a cast of B-film stalwarts including Jonathan Haze, Jackie Joseph, and Mel Welles – and a very minor part by Jack Nicholson – the film was reportedly shot in only two days, using a left-over set from Corman’s previous horror-comedy, “A Bucket of Blood.” It gradually gained a cult following, with late-night TV showings helping to build its popularity.

“Feed me!” demands the plant Audrey Two – voiced by Kathy Jones.  Note the feet of Audrey’s latest victim as he slides down the plant’s carnivorous maw!        – photo by Jane Jewell

Little Shop of Horrors, the musical, was created in 1982 by composer Alan Menken and script-writer Howard Ashman. Originally an off-off-Broadway production, it moved to the Orpheum Theater where it ran for five years, ending up as the highest-grossing off-Broadway musical to date. However, because it did not appear on Broadway, it was ineligible for the Tony Awards. It finally appeared on Broadway in 2003, in a million-dollar production that ran for 372 regular performances. The musical has also been made into a film in its own right, directed by Frank Oz (of “Muppet Show” fame) in 1986. Bill Murray and Steve Martin play minor roles in the film.

The plot, which is somewhat changed from the Corman film, introduces the Skid Row Florist shop, a failing business in the worst part of town. Mr. Mushnik, the shop’s owner, is ready to close his doors for good when Seymour, his geeky assistant, says he has an interesting new plant that might attract customers. Mushnik is skeptical, but no sooner does Seymour put the plant by the window than a customer comes in and spends $100 on a bouquet of roses.

Down on Skid Row — 2018 Little Shop of Horrors production by the Tred Avon Players – Photo by Jane Jewell

Mushnik decides the business isn’t washed up after all, and with the strange plant in the window, the shop takes off.  Seymour names the plant Audrey Two, after the shop’s other employee, for whom he has a secret crush.  But there’s a downside to everything, as Seymour learns when he accidentally spills a few drops of blood from a fresh cut into Audrey Two’s “mouth.” The plant has a craving for food – human flesh and blood, to be exact – and that discovery propels the rest of the plot. Seymour must keep the plant, which has grown to enormous size, fed – and it will only accept fresh food.

We won’t give away all the twists and turns – which range from gruesome to outright comic. The play has an infectious momentum, helped along by a likable set of songs that draw on the music of the era in which it’s set. The production also has a fair amount of fun with the social milieu of the late ‘50s, as in the song “Someplace That’s Green,” where Seymour and Audrey pine for a suburban lifestyle straight out of the TV sitcoms of the day.

The TAP production’s strong cast presents Mike Sousa as Seymour, the florist’s assistant. Sousa, who has several other credits at TAP, does a good job of portraying the earnest protagonist as well as a good job with the musical numbers. A nice performance in the key role.

Shelby Swann plays Audrey, Seymour’s love interest, and she brings a strong singing voice to the role, along with a nice New York accent to bring out the character. Most of her work at TAP has been backstage, but judging by her performance here, she should be encouraged to take more onstage roles.

The trio of Crystal, Chiffon, and Ronette, played by Rachel Elaina, Beth Anne Langrell, and Erinne Lewis, respectively, are near the heart of the play.  The trio’s names play on the names of popular “girl groups” of the early ‘60s, and that’s a good hint of the nature of their musical contribution. All have fabulous voices and they authentically re-create the music and mood of the ’60s. But in addition to delivering some of the most infectious tunes in the show, they act as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the action and delivering narrative hooks as necessary.  Lewis also created the choreography for the show – a good complement to the overall effect.  They have all the right moves as they shimmy and shake, stepping in time to the music – just like all the popular girl groups of the ’60s.  And their costumes are perfect.  They may live on Skid Row but they are always in style.

Ricky Viranovec gets the role of the play’s villain, dentist Orin Scrivello – Audrey’s sadistic boyfriend. He makes the most of the role, all but chewing on the scenery – a nice piece of casting.  He is a natural comic and his “death by laughing gas” scene is hilarious. Viranoves also plays several other small roles including the various agents who try to get Seymour to sign contracts with them.   Viranovec, who has appeared in a number of roles in Shore theaters, teaches theater at Easton High School.

The mad dentist (Ricky Vitanovec) enjoys his work.  Seymour (Mike Sousa) is not so sure. 2018 Little Shop of Horrors production by the Tred Avon Players – Photo by Jane Jewell

Bill Gross, who played the role of Oscar Madison in TAP’s The Odd Couple last summer, takes the role of Mr. Mushnik, the gruff owner of the flower shop. He gives a polish to the likeable curmudgeon who gleefully collects the money as Audrey Two brings in the customers.

Kathy Jones, in heavy makeup and wearing a crown of leaves, voices Audrey Two, the cannibalistic plant, with an appropriately sinister air. An excellent job by one of the regulars at Church Hill and the Garfield.  Her maniacal laughter at the climax of the play is awesome — and chill-inducing

The band for the show is led by pianist Ellen Barry Grunden, who does a great job of recapturing the doo-wop and ‘50s rock feel of the musical numbers. Ray Remesch on guitar and Jon Jacobs on bass add to the mix.

Costumes – including the deliciously period-perfect matching outfits of the trio – are by that fabulous costumer Barbi Bedell. Gilliam and Tom Lemm share the credit for puppet design and construction, and the set was designed by Lawrie Jessup and constructed with help from Lemm.

As already noted, this is a thoroughly enjoyable performance with great music and great acting – kudos to Gilliam and everyone involved.

Little Shop of Horrors runs through August 26, with performances at 7:30 p.m, Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $20 for adults and $10 for students. Oxford Community Center is at 200 Oxford Road, Oxford, MD.  If you come to one of the Sunday matinees, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in the “talk-back” with the actors after the show, meet all four of the Audrey Two plant puppets and their puppeteers, and get a backstage tour.

For reservations or other information, call 410-266-0061 or visit the TAP websitePhoto Gallery by Jane Jewell 

Some more photos:

Everyone wants a piece of Seymour and the exotic Audrey Two — 2018 Little Shop of Horrors production by the Tred Avon Players – Photo by Jane Jewell

Mushnik & Seymour celebrate their success and their new father-son relationship – 2018 Little Shop of Horrors production by the Tred Avon Players – Photo by Jane Jewell

Audrey &  Seymour – oh yes, and Audrey Two — 2018 Little Shop of Horrors production by the Tred Avon Players – Photo by Jane Jewell

“Somewhere That’s Green” 2018 Little Shop of Horrors production by the Tred Avon Players – Photo by Jane Jewell

Spy Minute: A Primer on the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival with Al Sikes

A few weeks ago, the Spy sat down with Al Sikes for a freewheeling conversation about national politics. The former FCC Chair had a lot to say about the subject given his remarkable tenure in Washington, but it was also clear from that discussion that nothing makes Al more excited these days than talking about his passion for jazz.

For almost ten years now, Al Sikes has been the central force behind the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival and its ever-growing reputation as one of the Mid-Atlantic’s top performance series. Al’s recruitment of the legendary Monty Alexander to be its musical director has led to some of the very best musicians in the country making their way to Easton every year.

After we finished our interview with Al on world events, we took a few minutes to talk about what jazz lovers can expect when the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival returns to the Mid-Shore over Labor Day Weekend.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival and tickets please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: Dr. Mel Rapelyea on the Chestertown Jazz Festival

It seems amazing that a jazz festival that was created in 1996 would still be humming along with the same volunteer director 22 years later. That certainly says a lot about how much Kent County and Chestertown loves the musical form, but it also says volumes about Dr. Mel Rapelyea’s devotion in keeping jazz alive for the countless aficionados in the community but has introduced the genre to hundreds of Kent County students over the years.

Started in 1996 as a project of the Kent County Arts Council, Mel and his team of volunteers have built a program that blends the musical  talent of renowned international artists like Cyrus Chestnut and Sean Jones, with the extraordinary local talent such as Karen Somerville and Phil Dutton and the Alligators.

The Spy sat down with Mel at the Spy HQ in Chestertown last week to talk about the festival coming up starting September 5 and his unique vision of how this unique hybrid has now grown to six days of concerts.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chestertown Jazz Festival – 2018 please go here

Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Gets Ready for New Season

The only professional symphony orchestra on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO), is celebrating a new season, offering concerts from Ocean City, MD to Wye Mills, MD and returning this year to Lewes, DE. A number of star performers will be featured throughout the year. Violinist Stefan Jackiw will be featured in September’s opening concerts in Wye Mills, Washington, DC, and Ocean City. He will be playing the timeless Beethoven “Violin Concerto,” followed by Dvorak’s lush “Symphony No. 7,” and complemented along with a piece by one of France’s foremost living composers Regis Campo, who will come to present his masterwork.

Maestro Julien Benichou of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra

Highlights throughout the year include the November concerts in Easton, Ocean View and Ocean Pines, featuring Mozart’s “Sinfonia Concertante” with the duo Kurt Nikkanen, Concertmaster of New York City Ballet on violin, and Jonathan Carney, Concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony on viola. The holiday concerts in Easton, Lewes and Ocean City will feature the Karpov sisters, combining Opera, Jazz and Pop in a special way. On New Year’s Eve in Easton, Mezzo-Soprano Jessica Renfro and a few other vocalists will ring in the new year in a highly energetic concert. Guest conductor Andrews Sill, will conduct Schubert’s moving “Symphony No. 4,” and the first performance by the MSO’s brand new Young Artist Competition winner in Easton, Ocean View and Ocean Pines in March. Finally, in April, the rising star Irish pianist Michael McHale will be featured by the MSO in Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G major, and for the grand finale the MSO will be joined by an amazing lineup of vocalists, featuring the Southern Delaware Chorale Society and the Carter Legacy Singers in Beethoven’s most epic “Symphony No. 9”. Performances will be held in Wye Mills and Ocean City.

Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra

According to Maestro Julien Benichou, “This year’s season includes an amazing lineup of both musical selections and artists. Our 20th season was such a blast for all of us, and we are so excited to share and grow with our patrons as we enter our 21st season. Beginning and ending with Beethoven, this is a season for lovers of great masterworks, that will also feature star performers.”

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council, the Talbot County Arts Council, the Worcester County Arts Council, Sussex County, Delaware and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Inc.

To watch a video of Maestro Julien Benichou talking about the upcoming season, please go here.

Season subscriptions and individual tickets for the 2018 – 2019 season of the MSO are available online at midatlanticsymphony.org or by telephone (888) 846-8600. For further information, visit midatlanticsymphony.org.

A Salute to Getz: Saxophonist Harry Allen Celebrates Bossa Nova Jazz by Becca Newell

Infectious melodies, understated rhythms, and harmoniously rich tunes—the Monty Alexander Jazz Festival is adding a little samba to its Saturday lineup.

The matinee show, on September 1st, will highlight an extraordinary range of American and Brazilian musicians, featuring tenor/alto saxophonist Harry Allen.

Harry Allen

For those unfamiliar with bossa nova jazz, think of the 1965 Grammy Award-winning Record of the Year “The Girl from Ipanema”. The worldwide hit by American saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist João Gilberto perfectly encapsulates the fusion of American jazz and Brazilian samba, which it inevitably popularized across the globe after its release.

Maucha Adnet

“[Getz] was one of the greatest jazz saxophonists ever and probably the greatest technical saxophonist ever,” says tenor/alto saxophonist Harry Allen. “He had an incredible sound and melodicism and that’s why he was chosen to record with some of the best Brazilian artists at the time.”

Allen refers to Getz as one of his heroes, so it’s only fitting that his performance at the Avalon be a tribute to this pioneer of modern jazz. He’ll be joined on stage by vocalist Maucha Adnet, drummer Duduka da Fonseca, and vibraphonist Chuck Redd. More specially, their “Salute to Stan Getz” will be an homage to the Getz/Gilberto collaboration of which “The Girl from Ipanema” was the first track on the 1964 album.

With more than thirty recordings to his name, Allen has been called the “Frank Sinatra of the tenor Saxophone,” renowned for his inventive, lyrical tone that’s rooted in tradition.

“From the 1930s through the 1950s, saxophonists strived to get a beautiful mellow sound,” he says. “And so, in a way, I’m a throwback because there aren’t many saxophone players today who prefer that older approach to sound.”

Allen’s admiration of jazz’ early sound even extends into the instruments he uses—a saxophone and mouthpiece that were made in the 1930s. According to Allen, his goal isn’t to recreate the sound of that era, but rather incorporate that subtle, more melodic approach in his own playing.

Similarly, vocalist Adnet, drummer da Fonseca, and vibraphonist Redd are deeply familiar with the origins of bossa nova jazz, each having a strong connection to the origins of this music. Both Adnet and da Fonseca worked with iconic composer, Antônio Carlos Jobim, who played piano on the Getz/Gilberto album. And Redd played drums for Charlie Byrd, who was one of the key jazz musicians, along with Stan Getz, to bring Brazilian music to the United States in ‘60s.

A native of Brazil, Adnet spent spent 10 years performing and recording with Jobim before he passed away in 1994. While touring with him, she visited America for the first time, eventually moving to New York City in 1987.

With her plush, soulful tone, it’s unsurprising that Adnet has performed with a plethora of prominent figures in both worlds of jazz and Brazilian music, including Claudio Roditi, Herbie Mann, the late Oscar Castro Neves, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. Critics continually praise the alto for her ability to sing with seemingly effortless intensity.

“A Salute to Getz” is sure to provide the ideal showcase for Allen’s trademark tone and Adnet’s rich and sultry voice. Add to that da Fonseca and Redd, and you’ve got a delightfully rhythmic, sweetly swingin’ treat.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380. 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.


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.