Jan Knutson Headlines at the Mainstay

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Jan Knutson

Jan Knutson, the young jazz guitarist mentored by Frank Vignola headlines at The Mainstay in Rock Hall, MD on Saturday, August 19, 2017, at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $15 if purchased in advance and $18 at the door. Knutson will be joined by Grif Kazmierczak on violin, mandolin and trumpet and Eddie Hrybyk on bass. Information and advance ticket sales are available at the Mainstay’s website. Reservations to pay at the door can be made by calling 410-639-9133.

Jan Knutson is a dazzling 18-year-old guitarist who has been playing for 9 years. He has studied with such luminaries as Rodney Jones, Steve Abshire, Paul Wingo, Shawn Purcell, Frank Vignola, Frank Latino, and Heather McKay in addition to online lessons with Martin Taylor.

Knutson has appeared as a guest artist at The Mainstay with guitarists such as Frank Vignola, Bucky Pizzarelli, Steve Abshire and Martin Taylor. In this, his Mainstay debut as a bandleader, Knutson and his trio will be playing music ranging from Django Reinhardt’s gypsy jazz to classic jazz standards. He will be joined by Grif Kazmierczak on violin, mandolin and trumpet and Eddie Hrybyk on bass.

His first performance at The Mainstay was when he was given a solo after a Frank Vignola guitar workshop.

Knutson says, “The Mainstay is a very special place to me. As you mentioned on your website, it was the first place I met and played with Frank Vignola who has been a truly great mentor and teacher to me. It was also the first place I played with Bucky Pizzarelli and Martin Taylor. It is a real privilege to play there again.”

He has performed at many other venues including Strathmore Mansion and the Kennedy Center and with artists such as Frank Vignola, Al Caiola, and Olie Soikelli at The Cutting Room in New York City, and with Frank Vignola at Germano’s in Baltimore, and the Djangoary Festival in Richmond, VA.

Jan Knutson

Jan Knutson was 2016 Artist in Residence at the Strathmore Music Center in Rockville, MD, the guitarist for the 2016 Jazz Band of America, won first prize in the 2015 Shenandoah Conservatory Jazz Soloist Competition and has performed as a soloist with the US Army Blues.  He was a member of the elite Jazz At Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Academy in Summer 2015 and 2016, attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music Summer Jazz program and in May 2016 he was featured with Frank Vignola, Julian Lage, Vinny Raniolo, and Olli Soikkeli at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This past June, he performed at the Syracuse Jazz festival and will be the featured jazz artist at the Richmond Folk Festival in October 2017.

He recorded his first CD, Out of Nowhere, produced by Frank Vignola in August of 2014 at Sweetfoot Studio in Easton MD.  The recording has been played on radio stations across the country and was reviewed in Just Jazz Guitar magazine. His second recording, Looking Both Ways, is on the Patuxent Music label and was released last year. The recording is a mix of standards and originals and includes solo guitar and combo performances featuring some of the finest musicians in the DC area including guitarist Steve Abshire, mandolinist Danny Knicely, and Tommy Cecil on bass.

In addition to the guitar, Knutson plays violin, viola, and trombone.  He now studies at the Manhattan School of Music with Rodney Jones.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Griffith Kazmierczak is a versatile multi-instrumentalist with a unique musical voice on trumpet, violin and mandolin. He has a Masters in Jazz Performance from the University of Maryland, has been recognized for his unique compositions in Capitol Bop’s D.C. Jazz Lofts concert series and is one of the most sought-after trumpet players in the greater D.C. area.

Ed Hrybyk is an upright and electric bassist, composer, arranger, and educator active in the Baltimore music scene. He graduated from Baltimore School for the Arts in has a degree in jazz performance from University of the Arts. He resides in Baltimore, MD and has played and/or recorded with Ultrafaux, The Bumper Jacksons, Hot Club of Baltimore, Sonny Nelson and the Unity Reggae Band, and The Manly Deeds. He made his debut as a bandleader last year with his band, the Bright Moments Sextet which will release an album of his original compositions in September 2017.

The Mainstay (Home of Musical Magic) is the friendly informal storefront performing arts center on Rock Hall’s old time Main Street. It is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit dedicated to the arts, serving Rock Hall, MD, and the surrounding region. It is committed to presenting local, regional and national level talent, at a reasonable price, in an almost perfect acoustic setting. Wine, beer, sodas, and snacks are available at the bar.

The Mainstay is supported by ticket sales, fundraising including donations from friends and audience members and an operating grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.

The Mainstay sells advance tickets online through Instant Seats. Information and advance ticket sales are available on the Mainstay’s website. Follow the Buy Tickets link to buy tickets at the advance price. If you would rather pay at the door, you can make a reservation by calling 410-639-9133 and pay by cash or check at the door.

Upcoming Mainstay performances include:

August 21 Mainstay Monday: Joe Holt welcomes Danny Tobias

August 26 Nevin Dawson: The Versatile Viola

August 28 Mainstay Monday: Joe Holt welcomes John Thomas, Saxophone

September 2 The Greg Hatza Organ-ization

September 4 Joe Holt welcomes Beth McDonald

September 7 Katie Thiroux

September 11 Mainstay Monday: Joe Holt welcomes Tom Baldwin, bass

September 16 Melissa Aldana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Whitey burrowed, his son scuttled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best friends, Oscar and Felix, have at it!    

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

The weekly poker game

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

Cast and crew of “The Odd Couple”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check back – we’ll be posting more photos.

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

She likes me!

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

Murray, Speed, and Oscar

Vinnie tries to sweet-talk Felix into some sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call For Artists: Life on and Around Eastern Shore Waterways

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Workboat at Rest, Jack Fancher

RiverArts’ September exhibit is focused on the  Eastern Shore waterways that overflow with history, life and activity. Life on the Eastern Shore interacts with these waterways in countless ways, making this a rich environment for artists of all kinds.

Curators Barbara and Jack Fancher invite artists to share their interpretations of this beautiful, bountiful, unique locality. The show is open to all media, both two dimensional and three dimensional art.

The show opens Friday, September 1 and runs through October 1. Drop off for work is August 27 and 28.  Artists are encouraged to submit online in advance.

For more information and to register work for the exhibit, visit www.chestertownriverarts.org and click on exhibitions, or call RiverArts at 410 778 6300.

Chestertown RiverArts is located at 315 High Street, Suite 106, Chestertown (in the breezeway).  Gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday, 11 AM to 4 PM, Saturday 10 AM to 4 PM, Sunday 11 AM to 3 PM, and open on First Fridays until 8 PM.

RiverArts’ August Exhibits Include NY Artists Guild, Photo Show

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RiverArts’ August exhibits include the annual juried photography show, “The Soul of Photography,” in the Main Gallery and work by the New York Artists Guild in the Studio Gallery. The opening reception for both shows is August 4, First Friday, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Photography curator Steve  Kane challenged artists to transform an inanimate image into a work of art that expresses the passion of the mind’s eye. Juror Jeff Weber selected work that “holds the viewers’ eyes and thought,”….and ..communicates a compelling story.”  The judge is Jay Fleming, a professional photographer based in Annapolis. His work has appeared in National Fisherman, Save the Bay, National Geographic News, and Angler’s Journal.

A Best of Show will be awarded, along with a variety of merit awards, including Nature and Wildlife, Street Life, Human Subjects and Portraiture, Still Life, Black and White, and Creative Digital Enhancement.

The Studio Gallery features work by seven members of the New York Artists Guild, a group of professional artists from upstate New York including  glass artist Sabra Richards, a part time resident of Kent County.  Sculptor and fiber artist Jappie King Black has a mixed media installation, « Disquiet, » plus a series of bronze baskets.

Photographer Howard Koft creates abstractions through digital photography. Bruno Chalifor’s « Le Site Corot » is a series of black and white photographs of a location in France frequented by Corot. g.a. Sheller is a watercolorist and photographer.  Her work is a combination of painting, 19th century and 21st  century photo processes.

The group also includes oil painter Wendy Menzie  and  mixed media artist Alice Gold, who  works primarily in painting, printmaking and collage.

Both exhibits will be up through Sunday, August 27.

For more information visit www.chestertownriverarts.org or call RiverArts at 410 778 6300.

Chestertown’s Bob Chauncey Takes to the Stage as Felix Unger in Oxford

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One of the most challenging aspects of being a community theater actor is to take on a role that is so well ingrained in America’s memory though a hit movie or television show that it becomes nearly impossible to reinvent that character.

And nowhere is that truer than when talking about to roles of Oscar Madison and Felix Unger in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.  With such stunning performances from Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, and later, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, there seems to be little room for interpretation of these iconic characters.

But that hasn’t stopped Chestertown’s Bob Chauncey (Felix) and Cambridge’s Bill Gross (Oscar) from trying. While they are the first to admit that they have studied both the film and TV versions of this stage classic, their years of training as actors have allowed themselves to explore other angles to Felix and Oscar’s personalities through the lens of their own domestic lives and rediscovered the universal themes of the Odd Couple.

The Spy had a chance to sit down with them both at Bullitt House a few weeks ago to talk about their take on The Odd Couple, directed by Ed Langrell, as the Tred Avon Players continues their extraordinary year of comedy productions at the Oxford Community Center starting August 10th.

 

Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra Celebrates 20th Anniversary Season

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The only symphony orchestra on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (MSO), is celebrating 20 years of bringing enchantment to audiences from Ocean City, MD to Wye Mills, MD. This year, in celebration of its 20th year, the MSO will also host a special performance at the French Embassy in Washington, DC and at the Todd Performing Arts Center at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. In addition, the orchestra will perform across the Eastern Shore at the Historic Avalon Theatre, Christ Church and Church of God, all in Easton, MD; the Community Church in Ocean Pines, MD; the Mariner’s Bethel Church in Ocean View, DE; and the Ocean City Performing Arts Center within the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD.

Maestro Julien Benichou

According to Maestro Julien Benichou, “The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra is on the move and we are proud of the program we have developed for our 20th Anniversary, ‘Reaching Ever Higher!’ season. Our fall program kicks off with ‘East and West of the Rhine’ concerts in late September and early October, featuring the music of Ernest Chausson, Camille Saint-Saéns, Maurice Ravel, and Johannes Brahms.”

Highlights throughout the year include an “Autumn Legends” concert in early November showcasing the works of Vivaldi, Haydn, and Alwyn. Audiences can ring in the holiday season with “Holiday Joy,” in early December celebrating the spirit of the holidays with traditional seasonal favorites. The orchestra’s “Toast to the New Year” will celebrate the New Year with revelry and music on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For the first year, the MSO will present a February concert, “A Roaring Movies Valentine,” featuring music from the Roaring Twenties and silent pictures. In March, the orchestra will premiere a commission from composer Camila Agosto, a highly inspiring and creative young artist whose music blends acoustic and multimedia elements, in “In Their Twenties,” along with the music of Mozart and Bizet composed when they were also in their twenties. The season finale in April, “Heavenly Music: Mahler, Janice Chandler, and Leon Fleisher,” is a concert not to be missed, including a culminating performance featuring pianist Leon Fleisher.

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra

Jeffrey Parker, President of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, comments, “Few communities our size can boast, or sustain, such a cultural undertaking, and although very challenging, we have managed throughout the years with the continuous support of our dedicated and growing audience.”

The MSO’s mission is “to enrich life in the Mid-Atlantic region through the power of live classical music.”  The orchestra performed its first concert, under the direction of founder and Music Director Donald Buxton, at the Ocean City Convention Center on November 21, 1997.  Maestro Buxton conducted the orchestra until June 2005.  Under his tutelage, the MSO established itself as the provider of quality symphonic music throughout the multistate peninsula.  In September 2005, Maestro Julien Benichou assumed the role of MSO Music Director. Benichou, a native of France, has been thrilling audiences with his innovative programming, graceful and expressive style of conducting, and spontaneous communications from the podium.  As a testament to the caliber of the orchestra today, in June 2008, the MSO was invited to perform a pops concert sponsored by the Freeman Foundations.  Since then, the MSO has opened the Freeman Stage’s performance season every year in June and performed the closing concert of the Freeman Stage season on Labor Day weekend. 

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.

Season subscriptions for the 2017 – 2018 season of the MSO are now available online at midatlanticsymphony.org, or by telephone (888) 846-8600.  For further information, visit midatlanticsymphony.org.

August Fun at RiverArts – Drawing, Leaf Platters & Fairy House Workshops

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Leaf Platters

Ready to explore more of your creative side? RiverArts has a variety of workshops and classes of offer this August- as well as weekly life drawing sessions and a monthly photography club.

RiverArts Clay Studio potter Wanda Brumwell is teaching two classes, a whimsical Garden Fairy House Workshop -2 days, August 30 and September 13, and a perhaps more practical but no less fun one-day Leaf Platter Workshop on August 9.
For those of you who are tempted by the potter’s wheel, the Clay Studio has a two hour Try It! class Friday, August 18, specifically designed for you to play with clay on the wheel. There are also Beginner and Ongoing Potter’s Wheel class starting in September.

For those interested in learning to draw, or practicing drawing from observation, Raven Bishop is offering her popular, 4 week, Drawing From Observation Class, beginning Thursday, August 10.

Not interested in a class but want to practice technique?  RiverArts also hosts weekly Life Drawing sessions with a live model, Tuesday evenings from 5- 8 pm, and every 4th Monday afternoon from 2 – 5 pm.

To register for classes, and more information, visit the RiverArts website and click on Education, or call RiverArts at 410 778 6300.

Chestertown RiverArts is located at 315 High Street, Suite 106, Chestertown, MD  21620 – (in the breezeway).  Gallery hours are Tuesday – Friday, 11 am to 4 pm, Saturday 10 am to 4 pm, Sunday 11 am to 3 pm, and open on First Fridays until 8 pm.