Elvis is in the Building: TAP Presents Four Weddings and an Elvis

For TAP director John Norton, Four Weddings and an Elvis had so many things going for it to make it the kick off of the 2019 Tred Avon Players season.

The first, of course, was Elvis. The second was that it was funny, and finally, despite great reviews, rarely been performed since Nancy Frick wrote it in 2010. All of which made it a perfect production for TAP and its loyal audience.

But that is only part of the reason that director Norton is excited about the TAP Elvis production. In his short Spy interview, John has added a special twist to each performance with a raffle of a lifesize Elvis to take home with the lucky winner.

The Spy caught up with John at Bullit House last week to talk about the play and the fun that comes when Elvis is in the building.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information and tickets please go here

 

 

David Blight to Speak at Washington College on February 7

Eminent Yale historian David W. Blight’s new book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom is the first full biography in decades of the most famous African American of the 19th century. Born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Frederick Douglass escaped north, and went on to become a celebrated orator, leading abolitionist, brilliant statesman and one of the most significant writers in American history. As Blight demonstrates, throughout his long life Douglass never stopped ferociously fighting with his “voice, pen, and vote” for civil and political rights.

Blight will speak at Washington College on Thursday, February 7. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 5:30 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts. Books will be for sale, and a book signing will follow the talk. The program is sponsored by the Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Department of History, and the American Studies Program.

A New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Time top 10 book of the year, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom captures the complexity of Douglass’s public and personal life with detail and insight. In a recent Washington Post review, Starr Center Director Adam Goodheart wrote that the book “is not just a deeply researched birth-to-death chronology but also an extended meditation on what it means to be a prophet. … In Blight’s pages, [Douglass’s] voice again rings out loud and clear, melancholy and triumphant — still prophesying, still agitating, still calling us to action.”

The author of several other acclaimed works on slavery, race and the Civil War era, David W. Blight is Class of 1954 Professor of American History and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.  His books include American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era; and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which won the Bancroft Prize, the Abraham Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize, among other awards. Last February, Blight received Washington College’s Award for Excellence in recognition of his scholarly work and his work in the world of public history in furthering research and conversation on slavery and its legacy.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 39 states and territories and 25 nations.With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Hush Now: A Poem by Stan Salett

Hush Now

Hush now, listen to the moment,
Hear the silent sounds of memory,
Do not speak, do not think, just listen.

And what may come to you,
After the trumpets and salutes,
After the crowds and hurried movements,
Is the silence.

The moment when past and present
And future are one,
When Aha! has become Ahh.

Swallow deeply, close your eyes,
You are here, you are alive,
You are one.

Stan Salett has been a policy adviser to the Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton administrations and is the author of The Edge of Politics: Stories from the Civil Rights Movement, the War on Poverty, and the Challenges of School Reform. He now lives in Kent County, Maryland. 

Mid-Shore Arts: Composer and Singer Barbara Parker on Being the New Kid on the Block

It is hard to think of another community where such a shockingly large number of people who live here can name at least five of the most outstanding female vocalists in the area. Remarkably different in their gifts and generous in their support, these professional artists have set a high bar for any newcomer.

That is what visual artist and writer Barbara Parker realized when she decided to take her love of words and combine them with music around 2005. That may seem like a long time ago, but in her Spy chat, she still feels she is still just catching up to these masters who she has admired since arriving in Kent County in 1982.

Collaborating with pianist Joe Holt, another great Kent County master, Barbara has started to perfect her performance style. Using a repertoire of her compositions which were developed with Joe’s arrangements, the twosome has steadily grown a following on the Mid-Shore. Many of whom will no doubt be there when the twosome headline a reception and concert at the Brampton Inn on January 19.

In her Spy interview, she talks about her love of lyrics and music, the awe she has the local talent this small rural community has to offer, and how grateful she has been for their influence and guidance.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Additional video generously provided by Steve Payne.  Tickets and information about the Brampton Inn concert can be found here.

 

Mid-Shore Arts: Troika Gallery’s Laura Era on Starting Anew

The common Russian definition of the word “troika” refers to three horses abreast pulling a sleigh. That seemed to be the perfect name for Laura Era, her mother Dorothy, and their artist friend, Jennifer Heyd Wharton, when the trio opened their gallery in Talbottown twenty-one years ago. Since that time, the Troika Galley has become one of the great success stories of downtown Easton with their remarkable display of fine art from some of the country’s leading artists.

But like all things in life, let alone in the art gallery world, things do change, and the Troika Gallery was not spared that fate when Laura Era had to work through the almost simultaneous death of her mother and Jennifer’s decision to give up her share in the gallery since retiring to South Carolina. Within the span of less than two weeks, Troika had actually become a one-horse tarantass or a single horse-drawn carriage in Russian.

Nonetheless, with store manager Peg Fitzgerald at her side, Laura decided to keep Troika Gallery’s doors open. And, as she notes in our recent Spy interview, it was not a hard decision given what the three partners had achieved; a space of unique serenity, a remarkable collection of artists, and a gathering space for collectors and art lovers alike.

The Spy sat down with Laura this week to get an update.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Troika will have a special anniversary group show opening and reception on November 9. For more information please go here

 

Avalon Weekend Marquee with Tim Weigand

The Talbot Spy is sharing with our readers each week the MCTV produced Weekend Marquee with Tim Weigand as host. We hope you enjoy this short two minute preview of what’s coming up over the next few days.

Mid-Shore Arts: Sumner Hall Presents Roots of African American Music

The MSG Acoustic Blues Trio, the opening act for the Sumner Hall concert series

Chestertown’s Sumner Hall begins a new venture this fall with a stellar concert series, “African American Legacy & Heritage in Jazz, Blues & Gospel.” The series, featuring local and nationally-known performers, is produced by Tom McHugh, well known for his work at the Mainstay in Rock Hall.

Since retiring from the Mainstay, McHugh has worked with the arts programs at the Kent County public schools, bringing recognition to the art teachers and students and working to bring in artists to help expand the students’ horizons. Now, working in a volunteer capacity with Sumner Hall, he has drawn on his many contacts throughout the music world to assemble a concert series to represent the rich spectrum of African American music, from spirituals and blues to the giants of jazz. McHugh was joined by Sumner Hall President Larry Wilson for a Spy interview on the concert series.

Musician Karen Somerville with Tom McHugh, producer of the concert series and director of Arts in Motion – Photo by Jane Jewell

McHugh said the inspiration for the series came when he was at Sumner Hall for an event and read a poster on the wall that made him think about the role of music in African American life in Kent County and how that links to the mission of Sumner Hall. “It’s a poster that just makes you think,” he said. The series inspired by it “is intended to be the legacy of African American contributions to blues and jazz and folk music.”

Reggie Harris

The first performer he thought of was Reggie Harris, guitarist, songwriter and storyteller extraordinaire. McHugh said, “Reggie has this reputation of being able to pull all these currents together.” He said that whenever he brought Harris in for a concert, “I just let him roll,” knowing the result would be right for the situation and the audience. When McHugh called Harris – even before contacting anyone at Sumner Hall – to tell him about the idea of a concert series to present “snapshots” of the different musical genres, Harris said, “I’m in.”

McHugh then began looking for other performers, particularly those who could take the history “way back,” which was when he found out about the MSG Acoustic Blues Trio, a Washington DC-based group that presents the Piedmont Blues style associated with such artists as Cephas and Wiggans. McHugh said MSG had performed at Archie Edwards’ barbershop in Washington, which featured live performances while Edwards cut hair. The group was referred to McHugh by Dave Robinson, a fixture of the Washington jazz scene, who brought a DC-area youth band to the Chestertown Jazz Festival a year ago. Robinson referred McHugh to Archie Edwards Barbershop Foundation and they recommended MSG Acoustic Blues Trio. “You have to get these people…they entertain and educate the audience about the Piedmont blues traditions,” Robinson said.

Larry Wilson, president of Sumner Hall Board of Directors – Photo by Jane Jewell

Having secured those two groups, McHugh said, he felt the rest would be a matter of “filling in.” He presented the idea to some of the Sumner Hall leadership, and the project began to take shape. He said that all the artists had agreed to perform for less than their normal fees, many of them because of their previous experience with McHugh at the Mainstay.

Phil Dutton

He talked about the performers, many of whom are already familiar to local audiences – especially Philip Dutton and Karen Somerville. For their performances in this series, McHugh asked both of them to stretch beyond what audiences have come to expect. Dutton, who usually appears with his band the Alligators, will do a solo set, talking about the influences on his playing. McHugh described Dutton as “a scholar” of the different styles of New Orleans piano playing.

Somerville, best known for gospel performances with the Sombarkin trio, will pay tribute to Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin – two of the most revered voices in African American music. McHugh said that he and Somerville have been friends for at least 25 years, and he described her as his main link to the Kent County African American community during his first few years here, introducing him to important members of the community and filling him in on bits of local history.

Pianist Daryl Davis and guitarist Guy Davis (no relation) have been regulars at the Mainstay, with Daryl Davis a frequent performer at Rock Hall Fall Fests. McHugh has known Guy Davis for many years, since inviting him to demonstrate slide guitar at a blues class he was teaching at Vassar. Guy Davis and Reggie Harris played a memorable concert at Sumner Hall a couple of years ago.

Guy Davis – photo by Joseph A. Rosen

One of the less familiar performers is Jason Blythe, a young tenor sax player from the jazz program at the University of Delaware, whom Mchugh heard when the U. Del. big jazz band played at the Mainstay. McHugh described Blythe as “a natural” musician. Learning that one of Blythe’s favorite tenor players is the late Lester Young, McHugh challenged him to recreate Young’s 1946 trio with Nat “King” Cole on piano and Buddy Rich on drums. Blythe recruited two members of the U. Del. faculty to fill out the trio.

McHugh said that each of the performers has agreed to talk about the music with the audience and to answer any questions. “It might have to do with your instrument, or it might have to do with how you got into this music, so people can take those stories out into the community,” he said. In some cases – notably with Daryl Davis, who has made an ongoing effort to meet and engage with members of the Ku Klux Klan – the discussion may range far beyond the music. That’s part of the point – as important as the music is in its own right, it has an important role as part of African American life, and draws on all aspects of the black experience in this country.

Daryl Davis

Wilson reminisced about the music he heard while growing up in Kent County. He and his friends listened to the black-run radio stations, WSID and WEBB from Baltimore and WANN from Annapolis until they went off the air at sundown, then switched to the Baltimore Top 40 station, WCAO – where much of the same music was crossing over into the pop mainstream. He said he hoped the concert series would attract more members of the local African American community – especially young listeners — to Sumner Hall

With this goal in mind, 20 tickets will be set aside for each concert for Special Guests. The concerts’ website notes that there are many members of the community who may be unable to purchase a ticket but who are either a part of the local African American music scene in the region or who are students and youth who would love to attend. Anyone interested in sponsoring one of these community members can purchase a “Sponsor a Special Guest” ticket in addition to their own, and Sumner Hall will make sure that ticket goes to a deserving local music fan. “Sponsor a Special Guest” tickets are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said of the concert series. “Each one is different in its own way but it brings a light to the music.”  The musicians will open the floor for questions and discussion at the end of each concert.  Most concerts are on Saturday, a couple on Friday evenings.  Shows begin at 7:00 pm. The complete series schedule is below.

Everyone involved in the production is spreading the word through email and other media, so anyone interested would be well advised to make advance reservations online here https://aalhconcertseries.eventbrite.com.  The series is supported in part by a generous donation from the Hedgelawn Foundation.

All shows begin at 7 p.m.  Tickets are $20 each.  The hall seats just a little over 100. Advance ticket sales only. No tickets will be sold at the door.See their website for more information on Sumner Hall and other upcoming events.

The complete schedule:

November 10 – MSG Acoustic Blues Trio Showcases the Piedmont Blues
December 8 – Daryl Davis Offers Boogie Woogie and a Message
February 9 – Phil Dutton Plays New Orleans Piano
March 1 – Guy Davis is on the Road with Blues and Songster Ramblings
April 13 – Jason Blythe & University of Delaware Band Re-create the Lester Young Trio
May 11 – Karen Somerville Sings Mahalia, Aretha. . . and More
June 1 – Reggie Harris Wraps It Up

Sumner Hall
206 S. Queen Street
Chestertown, MD 21620
phone 443 282 0023. 

Benny meets Artie: The Anderson Twins bring swing to Oxford Community Center

It was at the surprising age of eight when musicians Will and Peter Anderson fell in love with jazz music. The unlikely culprit of this adoration? A Chips Ahoy! TV commercial, which featured Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” in the background.

“That inspired us to pick up the clarinet,” says Will, with a chuckle.

The two began formal lessons the following year, when they joined their school’s band program. And while their studies focused more on classical training—including a six-year stint at The Juilliard School in New York—jazz was always their passion.

On Saturday, December 1st, the identical twins will perform a throwback to that serendipitous introduction to jazz when they take the stage at Oxford Community Center. Chesapeake Music and OCC have joined together in a harmonious partnership to present Benny meets Artie with Strings.

The show will celebrate the music of legendary big band leaders, Goodman and his widely perceived competitor, Artie Shaw. The acclaimed clarinet prodigies were renowned for pushing the boundaries of jazz, encompassing elements of other genres while maintaining impeccable technique. A feat it seems the Andersons, who the New York Times calls “virtuosos on clarinet and saxophone,” are on track to obtain—albeit without any rivalry!

“We’re showcasing how special Benny and Artie were to American music,” says Will, explaining how their popularity as jazz musicians was unprecedented and their musical proficiency, uncharted. “They were the pop stars of their day.”

The Andersons, playing reeds, will be joined on stage by 15 string players, along with a pianist, bassist, and drummer for an exquisite evening of imaginative renditions of old favorites.

Conducting the performance, and playing vibraphones, will be Kyle Athayde, who also wrote all the arrangements.

“He has a good sense for all this music and what we’re going for,” explains Will. “We’ve hand-picked musicians who we really know are going to knock this out of the park; who have familiarity with both jazz and classical music.”

While the performance will certainly pay homage to the original recordings, the twins will be putting their own spin on the setlist, which includes classics, like Shaw’s “Begin the Beguine” and Goodman’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy”—and, without question, the one that started it all: “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

“Their repertoire is so vast, it’s difficult to choose only some of them,” says Will, before teasing one of the more unexpected selections, Shaw’s “Concerto for Clarinet.”

“It’s not as often played as some of his other hits, but it’s very epic,” he adds. “That’s going to be a highlight, I think.”

Intentionally steering away from simply recreating the songbooks of Goodman and Shaw enables the ensemble to engage in longer improvisations, particularly when it comes to shedding spotlight on the strings.

“This is brand new, never-before-heard versions of what Artie and Benny played,” Will adds, excitedly. “We can’t wait!”

In addition to Goodman and Shaw, Will says he and his brother were heavily influenced by musicians like Duke Ellington, who broke barriers by incorporating more modern elements into his music.

“We love Benny and Artie, but it’s not all we love,” he says. “And at this concert, we’re definitely going to be bringing more into it.”

It’s that element of improvisation and inclusivity of other styles in jazz that the twins find so fascinating. To them, the genre is more about the way a melody is played, than the notes themselves.

“The defining quality of jazz is the rhythm, the syncopation,” Will says.

Coincidentally, it’s those two notions of performance—the soul versus the intellect—that seemingly shaped the riff between Goodman, known as the “King of Swing,” and Shaw, the “King of Clarinet.” And the Anderson twins’ interpretation of those differing styles is something the duo, along with the entire ensemble, look forward to capturing and communicating to the audience.

“[Jazz music] allows for so much molding and shaping,” says Will. “This show is going to be exciting for us. We’re trying to express ourselves in a different way.”

Catch Benny meets Artie with Strings on Saturday, December 1st at the Oxford Community Center. The performance is presented by Chesapeake Music’s Jazz on the Chesapeake in partnership with Oxford Community Center. Tickets are $50. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Jazzonthechesapeake.com or call 410-819-0380.

The Spy Checks in with Academy Art Museum’s Ben Simons

The Craft Show has successfully come and gone; many of Academy Art Museum’s 60th Anniversary events have taken place; the fall exhibitions have been planned and ready for display, and its capital campaign is near completion; so you’d think it would be the best time for AAM director Ben Simons to take a break from it all and find a sunny beach somewhere.

That turns out to be the wrong conclusion when the Spy started our first periodic check-in with Ben a few weeks ago.  Still very much engaged in documenting the remarkable history of the Academy since 1958, completing a highly demanding national re-accreditation process for the institution, and leading a long-term strategic planning process for this rapidly growing museum and art school, his workdays are very much spoken for in the near term.

In the first of our periodic chats with Director Simons, the Spy talks in this installment about the remarkable history of the AAM, the grueling but highly rewarding success of being re-accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, and pushing hard for the four primary objectives of the Academy’s capital fund drive.

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

 

TAP Preview: Move Over Mrs. Markham’s Ed Langrell and Jess Newell-Springer

Like many Tred Avon productions, cast members and directors are always a bit cagy about discussing the plotline of the plays they perform when talking to the Spy. And this is certainly true in the case of Move Over Mrs. Markham, when we gathered its director Ed Langrell and actress Jess Newell-Springer to talk it at the Bullitt House recently.
Eager to not give away the surprises that awaits the audience when the show starts on October 25 at the Oxford Community Center, Ed and Jess talk more in broad strokes about the shingains that take place when children’s books publisher and his wife decide to have their London flat redecorated.  As the couple prepare to go out for the evening, several couples plan to take advantage of the empty apartment for some madcap rendezvous.
This video is approximately two minutes in length.
Move Over Mrs. Markham opens October 25th and runs through November 4th.
Thursday/Friday/Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sunday matinees at 2:00pm
Thursday the 25th is special 2-for-1 ticket night.
Tickets may be purchased on line at www.tredavonplayers.orgor at the door.
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