The Cornelius Woodwind Trio at the National Music Festival February 18

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The rich sounds of oboe, clarinet, and piano will fill the parish hall of historic Saint Paul’s Church on the afternoon of Sunday, February 18. The concert, at 3:00pm, is the latest offering of the National Music Festival’s Resonance concert series, which runs from October to April. As one of the Resonance “Fireside Concerts,” you can warm yourself by the fire as you listen to great music, and there will be complimentary refreshments at intermission.

The Cornelius Woodwind Trio combines the talents of Jared Hauser, oboe; Peter Kolkay, bassoon; and Benjamin Harris, piano. All three serve on the faculty at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.

Hauser has served as the Oboe Mentor at the National Music Festival for seven seasons. He is also principal oboe at the Nashville Opera and performs with the contemporary music group Intersection and with Music City Baroque, among others.

Kolkay and Harris are new to Eastern Shore audiences. Harris has served as a staff accompanist at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and as an opera coach/accompanist for numerous productions. Kolkay is the only bassoonist to receive an Avery Fisher Career Grant and win first prize at the Concert Artists Guild International Competition. He is a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

The trio will perform a varied program of music by Francis Poulenc, Alexandre Tansman, Heitor Villa-Lobos, and others.

After February 18, the Resonance season will continue with Poughkeepsie Playlist (featuring several NMF alumni) at The Mainstay in Rock Hall on Sunday, March 25 at 3:00pm.

The season culminates in a performance by the acclaimed Jasper String Quartet (former mentors at the National Music Festival) on April 14 at 7:30pm. There will be a pre-concert party at 5:30pm to support the National Music Festival. Tickets and information are available at http://nationalmusic.us/get-involved/special-events/.

Saint Paul’s is at 7579 Sandy Bottom Road in Chestertown, off Route 20 between Chestertown and Rock Hall.  Single tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or at the door; children and students are $5 at the door. For ticket information, go to http://nationalmusic.us/events-and-tickets/resonance/.

Emmanuel Church Presents Dexter Kennedy, Organist

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The talented organist Dexter Kennedy will perform at Emmanuel Church, 101 N. Cross St., Chestertown, on February 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.00 at the door (Students $5.00).

As the winner of the Grand Prix d’Interprétation at the 24th Concours International d’Orgue de Chartres, Dexter Kennedy has established himself internationally as a leading organist of his generation. Praised for his “prodigious technique and grand style musicality” in The American Organist, his concert programs present performances that are fiery, spontaneous, and historically informed, exciting both music connoisseurs as well as people who have never experienced the organ in concert setting. In addition to concertizing, Dexter Kennedy currently serves on the music faculty of the College of Wooster as Instructor of Organ and Harpsichord.

He has a degree from Oberlin Conservatory in 2012, a Master of Music from Yale in 2014, and an Artist Diploma from Oberlin in 2016. A devoted church musician, Kennedy currently serves as the Assistant Organist of Christ Church Grosse Pointe (Michigan) where he serves as the principal organist for all choral services and concerts and directs the training of the novice boy and girl choristers.

For more information, please contact Emmanuel Church at 410-778-3477, or see www.emmanuelchesterparish.org.

Biloxi Blues: A Boot Camp Hoot!

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Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey (John Haas, left) addresses his boot camp squad in Church Hill Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues” –  Top Bunk – Robbie Spray & James Rank; Middle bunk – Timothy Daly & Troy Strootman,  Bottom Bunk – Anthony Daly & Morgan Jung.  Photo by Steve Atkinson

Biloxi Blues, by Neil Simon, is a semi-autobiographical play about young soldiers undergoing basic training during World War II. Directed by Michael Whitehill, it is currently playing at Church Hill Theatre.

Set almost entirely in an Army training camp near Biloxi, Mississippi, the play focuses on six soldiers in one platoon and their hard-nosed drill sergeant. Like other comedies with a military setting, it gains much of its humor by contrasting the raw recruits — a motley crew with different backgrounds and personalities — with the Army’s demand for discipline and adherence to an apparently irrational set of rules.

Originally produced at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in 1985, Biloxi Blues ran for 524 performances. It is the middle piece in Simon’s “Eugene trilogy,” featuring a young Brooklyn Jew whose experiences roughly follow Simon’s own early life. The other two segments are Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway BoundBiloxi Blues won Tony awards for best play, best actor (Barry Miller as Arnold Epstein) and best director (Gene Saks); Miller also won a Drama Desk award. Others in the original production were Matthew Broderick as Eugene, Simon’s self-portrait character, and William Sadler as drill sergeant Toomey. 

A 1988 film adaptation, directed by Mike Nichols, brought back Broderick as Eugene and featured Christopher Walken in the role of Sgt. Toomey.

On the train to boot camp in Biloxi! Photo by Steve Atkinson

While there is a great deal of broad, often profane comedy, the play also has at its core a serious story about growing up and learning about the world. The narrator, Eugene, has ambitions of being a writer, and he keeps a journal in which he writes his impressions of his fellow recruits and their experiences. Right at the beginning, Eugene says that he has four goals for the near future – to fall in love, to lose his virginity, (not necessarily in that order), to become a writer and to make it out of the army alive.  Like much comedy, the play draws its materials from events that may seem far from amusing to those caught up in them, but that with time and experience become funny even to those involved.

Recruits Arnold Epstein, Don Carney, and Eugene Jerome are berated by Sgt. Toomey.     Photo by Jane Jewell

At the center of the play is Arnold Epstein, a gentle misfit who draws the wrath of Sgt. Toomey almost from the minute he arrives in camp. Even though he considers Arnold his closest friend in the army, Eugene can do little more than watch as Epstein is assigned endless KP and latrine duty as a result of his failure to meet the sergeant’s standards. Epstein, for his part, continues to assert his humanity, even as other recruits mock him (and Eugene) for being Jewish.

The plot, on the whole, is episodic. We see the recruits’ first reactions to the demands of Army life and learn their backgrounds and quirks. We follow them through confrontations — one soldier in particular, Wykowski, is especially scornful of the two Jews in the squad — though that attitude softens somewhat throughout the play as the six recruits go from being strangers to being a unit, soldiers together.  We see the six going to visit a prostitute for their first sexual experience. Eventually, all of them — even the sergeant, who has a plate in his head where he was wounded in battle — gain a degree of humanity and sympathy by the end of the play.

Whitehill has assembled a cast dominated by young actors —  — just right, given the age of the characters they are portraying. He said after the opening night performance that the youngest cast member is only 13 while the oldest is in his early 40s,  most are in their teens or early twenties. Almost all have some previous theatrical experience, though this is the Church Hill debut for several of them. While there were a few first-night glitches, the performance was, on the whole, up to the high standards local audiences have come to expect.  Be sure to read the Director’s Notes in the Play Bill as he gives some interesting information on the production and using memoir as a narrative technique.

Whitehill also noted that he broke in the young cast by having them do push-ups as punishment for arriving late to rehearsals — 15 push-ups for each minute late! It was all good-natured, Whitehill said, with the young actors often running in just on time, pointing at their watches and shouting “I’m here! I’m here!” Not only did it improve promptness, it got the recruits in shape to perform push-ups at the sergeant’s command during the show! 

Troy Strootman, who has appeared at the Garfield Center and with Shore Shakespeare, makes his CHT debut as Eugene. He effectively strikes the balance between the character’s youthful naivete and his innate intelligence and insight into his fellow recruits — this is, after all, someone who is going to grow up to become Neil Simon. A good job in an important part.

Robert Spray takes the role of Arnold Epstein, in many ways the focus of the play’s main drama. He brings out the awkward recruit’s genuine distaste for the dehumanizing aspects of military training, and makes his confrontations with the sergeant appropriately comic.

John Haas, a CHT veteran, is well cast as Sgt. Toomey, who turns out to be a more complex and sympathetic character than the stereotypical drill sergeant he appears to be when the soldiers arrive at boot camp. Haas is convincing as the hard-nosed drillmaster, but when the opportunity arises for the character to demonstrate genuine concern for his men, he makes the switch believable – not an easy thing to do!

Daisy and Eugene dance at the USO. (Kendall Davis & Troy Strootman with Carney (Morgan Jung) and hostess Scarlett Chappell dancing in background)    Photo by Jane Jewell

Daisy Hannigan, Eugene’s love interest, is played by Kendall Davis, a 2o16 Washington College graduate who is appearing in her fourth CHT production. She convincingly projects the sweetness and innocence of the Catholic school girl who meets the soldier at a USO dance, winning him over with her knowledge of the literary world he aches to become part of. A very warm performance, given an extra dimension by Davis’s dancing.

Brothers Anthony and Timothy Daly play Roy Seldridge and Joseph Wykowsky, two of the recruits in the squad. The sons of Jeff Daly, who has many CHT credits in his own right, they give solid performances. Timothy’s character, at first a somewhat dim-witted anti-Semite, comes to recognize that he is part of a team, and all the members need to work together if they are to survive the coming ordeal of wartime. Anthony’s character thinks of himself as the comedian of the bunch, though he’s not as witty as he thinks.

Morgan Jung and Jeffrey Rank fill out the boot camp squad with portrayals of Don Carney and James Hennessy. Carney sings — off key! — in his sleep, to the annoyance of his bunk mates. and Hennesey, who is the oldest recruit and who claims to be part African-American, comes across as slightly more attuned to Army life.  Good jobs by both.

The boys are initiated in the mysteries of sex by the local prostitute Rowena , played by Christine Kinlock. Biloxi Blues Photo by Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock, who has become a regular in the local theater scene, has a meaty if brief part as Rowena, a prostitute. Again, the character, who might have been a stereotype, turns out to have depths that Kinlock nicely brings out.

Scarlett Chapell appears as another USO hostess, dancing with the soldiers. The character is not in the original script, but Chapell, who is in her first show at CHT, makes good use of the opportunity to create a character without speaking a word.  Beautiful dancing in a shadowed background.

Given that the majority of the cast is in uniform for the entire length of the play, the only real chance for costuming flash is in the three women’s outfits — which nicely distinguish the three characters.  Both USO girls are wearing distinctive 1940s dress styles. Note that the recruits are all wearing realistic, WWII “dogtags” around their necks.

The sets are quite effective, creating a believable 1940s army camp and surrounding scenes. The main set is a surprisingly realistic two-sided unit with the soldier’s three-tiered bunks on one side and a latrine on the other. The set not only swings around to give two different scenes, it rolls offstage when a less specific scene is needed — for example the open floor of the USO dance.  A side portion of the stage is used for a train car, Toomey’s office, and Rowena’s bedroom. While not as spectacular as some of CHT’s past sets, it does an excellent job of creating the atmosphere of the time and place. Kudos to Whitehill and Brian Draper, who designed and built it.

Not surprisingly, given its subject and setting, Biloxi Blues has its share of adult situations and language — and a good number of the characters share the prejudices of the time and express them in the language of the era. Parents might think twice about bringing very young children to the production. But adult audiences, or even teens, will appreciate the larger message of the play — how growing up involves surviving harsh experiences and making something bigger than any one individual’s feelings or abilities. And there is plenty to laugh about, along the way.

Biloxi Blues runs through Feb. 4, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. The audience was packed on opening night and there were also  sizable crowds for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee of the opening week.  For reservations, call the theater at 410-556-6003 or visit the theater website.

Photo Credits: Steve Atkinson and Jane Jewell

Biloxi Blues second side of reversible, rolling set.         Photo credit: Jane Jewell

At the USO dance.         Photo by Jane Jewell

Biloxi Blues – curtain call on opening night. Photo by Jane Jewell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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U. S. Naval Academy Organist to Perform at Christ Church Easton

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This Sunday, January 21, at 4 pm Monte Maxwell, principal organist for the United States Naval Academy, will present a concert on the four-manual console of Christ Church in Easton. Mr. Maxwell holds degrees from Texas Christian University, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music where he studied with John Weaver. While at Curtis, Mr. Maxwell was an Associate Organist at the John Wanamaker Store playing the famed six-manual organ, the largest playing organ in the world. Later, he received an Artist Diploma, Curtis’ highest degree. At the Naval Academy, Mr. Maxwell commands the five-manual, 268-rank organ in the main chapel, which has recently undergone substantial enhancement under his direction and design. His annual All Saints’ Day Organ Concert has become a staple of the Naval Academy and greater Annapolis cultural community. The standing-room-only event drew some 3,000 people into the Naval Academy Chapel in 1998, breaking all records in attendance for any event throughout the Chapel’s history.

Sunday’s concert will be comprised of a host of works composed by Richard Wagner, J. S. Bach, Charles-Marie Widor, John Phillip Sousa, Anton Dvôrak and others.  Also known for his improvisational prowess, Maxwell will conclude the performance with an improvisation on submitted themes.  The concert is part of the Christ Church Concert Series and is underwritten in part by the Talbot County and Maryland State Arts Councils.  Doors open at 3:30 pm, and the public is invited.  A freewill offering will be received.  Christ Church is located at 111 S. Harrison Street in Easton.  For more information, call 410-822-2677 or visit www.christchurcheaston.org.

The Chester River Chorale 20th Season Begins

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The Chester River Chorale invites all who love to sing to join us for our spring season as we begin rehearsals in Heron Point’s Wesley Hall at 6 p.m. Monday January 15 for our mid-April spring concert.

We welcome all adult voices to join with our ninety-plus members—ranging in age from 18 to over 80—for our 20th consecutive season as the Upper Shore’s premier chorus. No audition is required. Dues are $50 with students free. The dues help pay for the music we provide.

Artistic Director Doug Cox has put together another spring program that promises to be great fun to sing. It is called “Leaves of Bluegrass,” and is centered around a cantata-length Te Deum backed by The High and Wides bluegrass string band.

Rehearsals will be every Monday evening at Heron Point.

A bonus for Chorale members is a chance to sing the Mozart Requiem with the National Music Festival orchestra in June.

Chorale members are amateur singers drawn mainly from Kent and Queen Anne’s counties.

The Chester River Chorale is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization funded in part by the Kent County Arts Council and by an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive.

The CRC’s mission is to provide opportunity, education, and inspiration for amateur singers to strive for artistic excellence. CRC performances entertain diverse audiences and enrich the cultural life of the community. For more information, visit www.chesterriverchorale.org or call 410–928-5566.

Special Trumpet and Organ Concert Jan. 12 at Emmanuel Church

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Join us for a special Trumpet and Organ Concert at 7 p.m. on Friday evening, January 12, 2018! Renowned musicians Paul Neebe, Benjamin Lostocco, and Timothy Robson will join forces to present an evening of wonderful music with all proceeds going to support the Emmanuel-sponsored lunch program held each June for the National Music Festival students, mentors, and Washington College student workers. Tickets are $20 at the door for adults, $5 for students with ID.

Trumpeter Paul Neebe returns to Emmanuel for his second Benefit Concert to support our lunch program and to Chestertown where he has served as a trumpet mentor for several years as part of the National Music Festival. Paul has performed as a soloist for the Goethe Institute Cultural Program in Rothenburg, Germany and across the Eastern United States, Bavaria, Norway, Portugal and Slovakia.  He currently serves, as principal trumpet of the Sarasota Opera, the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Wintergreen Festival Orchestra in addition to his solo engagements. He has taught at the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Elon University and the Summer University in Bayreuth, Germany.  Paul holds both the Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, as well as a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the Catholic University of America.

Ben Lostocco is a freelance trumpet player and teacher based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. He regularly performs in a variety of settings and styles, including orchestral, chamber, jazz, theater, church, and solo. Groups include Symphony of the Potomac, the Tryos Ensemble and National Christian Choir, plus a feature with Jazz One in “A Tribute to Miles Davis” at An Die Musik in Baltimore. Originally from Newington, CT, Ben received his first musical training at the Hartt School of Music Community Division.  He graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.M. in trumpet performance in May 2017, where he was a member of the symphony orchestra, wind orchestra, jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, repertoire orchestra, and several chamber groups. He  attended National Music Festival in 2016, and 2017, and played prelude and postude pieces at Emmanuel at the conclusion of the 2017 NMF.

Organist Tim Robson is well known at Emmanuel as both a substitute organist and an occasional visitor. He was Director of Music at Euclid Avenue Congregational Church in Cleveland for 27 years. Since then he has become an in-demand substitute organist in many churches in northeast Ohio. During the 2017/18 program year, he is serving as the Interim Director of Music at Fairmount Presbyterian Church in Cleveland Heights. In recent years he has been a regular assisting organist at Trinity Cathedral, Cleveland. He has performed many recitals in the area, most recently at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights. He has made a specialty of performing music from our time and has played world premieres of several works written especially for him. Tim is the current Dean of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.  He holds degrees in music and library science from Drake University. Tim recently retired from Case Western Reserve University where he was a librarian and administrator for almost 37 years. His final position was that of Associate Director for Academic Engagement Services in the Kelvin Smith Library.

 

 

Cast Set for Church Hill Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues”

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Fresh recruits on their bunks in Church Hill Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. Clockwise from the top left: Robbie Spray, Jeff Rank, Troy Strootman, Morgan Jung, Timothy Daly, Anthony Daly.

Director Michael Whitehill has announced the cast for Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues, the lead off production in Church Hill Theatre’s 2018 season. The Tony Award winning play is set at boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War II. Loosely autobiographical, the comedy pits the cruel and caustic Sgt. Toomey against the draftees, especially the sensitive Arnold Epstein. His friend Eugene Morris Jerome channels Simon’s own memories of military service as a fledgling author. This classic coming-of-age tale includes danger, sex, love, prejudice, bravery and some pretty salty army talk.

Arnold Epstein will be played by Robbie Spray and Eugene Morris Jerome by Troy Strootman. Other draftees are Anthony Daly as Roy Selridge, Timothy Daly as Joseph Wykowski, Morgan Jung as Don Carney, and Jeff Rank as James Hennesey. John Haas takes the role of their nemesis, Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey. Kendall Irene Davis is the sweet Daisy Hannigan and Christine Kinlock is the not-so-sweet Rowena. Scarlett Chappell completes the cast, playing a USO dancer.

Whitehill, one of Church Hill Theatre’s most experienced directors, most recently directed the thought-provoking Doubt: A Parable.  His production team for Biloxi Blues includes Sylvia Maloney, Laura Crabtree, Steve Atkinson, Katie Sardo, Douglas Kaufmann and Brian Draper.

Biloxi Bues will open at Church Hill Theatre on January 19, 2018, and run through February 4, with weekend performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.  Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for members, and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. CHT offers two for the price of one tickets on opening night, Friday, January 19, to those who reserve by phone. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online here.

 

Holiday Programs at the Garfield Center

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Come spend the holidays at the Garfield Center for the Arts with two family friendly programs! On December 16th at 3:30pm bring a comfy pillow and blanket to snuggle and listen as Kent County Public Librarian Annie Woodall reads holiday stories for the annual Gather ‘Round! Cookies, cocoa and candy canes provided! Admission is FREE, with donations supporting the Kent County Public Library.

This is also the final weekend of the Garfield’s holiday show, Miracle on 34th Street. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at 410-810- 2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown.

Come Sing with Us

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If you love to sing, the Chester River Chorale wants you!

Come join us at 6 p.m. Monday January 15 in Wesley Hall at Chestertown’s Heron Point as we begin our 20th season. Our ages range from college student to octogenarian. Our voices range from soprano to bass. No auditions required.

Dues are $50 with students free as we begin to practice for our annual mid-April spring program. Its title—Leaves of Bluegrass—should give a hint of the original oratorio that we will sing backed up by a bluegrass band.

Those singing with the Chorale will also be eligible to join the National Musical Festival orchestra in June for the Mozart Requiem.

See our website for more information.