We’re halfway through the EGOT season now. EGOT, of course, stands for the top four performing arts prizes. T.V.’s Emmys aren’t awarded until September. Of local interest, the recent Grammys included a triumph for Michael Repper, music director of Easton and Delmarva’s Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. The Oscar presentations passed without a major incident. So that leaves the Tony Awards with the top prize of Best Musical. It will be announced on May 2, with the awards show on Sunday, June 11.
If you haven’t already, you can catch up on the big winner from the 2022 Tonys.
“Hadestown,” with music, lyrics, and book by Anais Mitchell, inspired by one of Greek mythology’s greatest hits, “Orpheus and Eurydice.” It tells the story of a hungry girl who seeks nourishment by working in Hell’s underworld, from which her equally impoverished lover tries to rescue her; his ardor expressed in moving songs and ensuing dancing. It’s a love story burnished in Hades. Whether you believe in Hell or not, it’s a damn good tale and has been for a thousand years.
You can still catch the reigning Best Musical Tony winner at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre. But the national tour arrives closer to home – downtown Baltimore – with eight performances April 11-16, starting at 8 Tuesday through Saturday, plus a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee and shows at 1:00 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at France-Merrick Performing Arts Center’s Hippodrome Theatre.
“In the face of severe economic dislocation, widespread civil disorder, and Prime Minister [Margaret] Thatcher’s controversial policies, these artists declared: ‘This is Britain!’”
That’s the concluding statement posted at the entrance to the National Gallery of Art’s photography exhibition, which takes its title from a generation of artists’ symbolic declaration. These are images from the “Iron Lady” period – 1975-1900 – when Thatcher served first as leader of Britain’s Conservative party (the Tories) and, beginning in 1979, as the U.K.’s first female prime minister and its longest-serving PM of either gender in the 20th century. But today, these still images bring to mind current news videos we see from France.
The National Gallery photos are primarily of people coping with poverty, discrimination, but also resentment by a white working class against immigrants of color or neighbors of a different race or religion and even women of their own kind or sons and daughters who don’t believe in love, marriage, and a baby carriage. Sound familiar?
The Thatcher era covered the Catholic v. Protestant “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, record unemployment due to parliamentary cancellation of the “welfare state,” along with mining closures, nuclear power plants, and urban riots. These profound changes inspired such artistic responses as punk rock and a photographic revolution advancing free speech through visual expressions that cannot be censored this side of pornography.
Examples: Vanley Burke’s 1970 black-and-white “Boy with Flag” shot in Handsworth Park, Birmingham, England, site of hellfire riots 15 years later. He’s a black male child sporting a Union Jack on his bike. He could even be one of those pictured strolling down the street in Birmingham with a white friend, passing an overturned burning truck as if it were an everyday occurrence. Apparently, it was in this 1985 shot by Pogus Caesar. Meanwhile, life goes on amid chaos, as suggested in Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen’s “Young Couple in a Backyard on a Summer’s Day.” A naked man approaches a woman known to him who appears apprehensive, perhaps because a child standing next to them tries to look away.
Other images are accompanied by long titles that give away the photographer’s intent, such as a black-and-white image of a man of privilege seated disconsolately in an exclusive members club with a news rag in his lap. It’s Karen Knorr’s 1981 “Newspapers are no longer ironed. Coins are no longer boiled. So far have Standards Fallen.”
Moving on to color photography, Sunil Gupta’s 1988 “Untitled #1” presents a gay couple posing across the Thames from Parliament. Text imposed in a break separating part of the image states: “I call you my love though you are not my love, and it breaks my heart to tell you.” Guess which guy is thinking that to himself. I say the one on the right.
My favorite photo commentary on the Thatcher rule is Chris Steele-Perkins’ color sight gag titled “Hypnosis Demonstration: Cambridge University Ball,” 1989. All those gathered look like standing-dead zombies. Speaking of the truly dead, the most evocative of the wasted lives from “The Troubles” is Pogus Caesar’s 1985 “Belfast Mourners & Press at the Funeral of 3 Republican Servicemen,” a black-and-white of a casket being lowered into a grave. For what? Christians at war with one another? No different, we suppose, than Muslim Shiites and Sunnis.
May France fare better in its current “troubles.”
“This Is Britain: Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s” through June 11, National Gallery of Art’s West Building, Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C., nga.gov
April will bloom with premieres and major concerts, digital and live, for most of the national and regional classical music orchestras near home or within relatively easy driving distance.
* The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra wraps up its 2022-23 season with three concerts beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at Chesapeake College’s Todd Performing Arts Center on the Wye Mills campus, followed at the same hour on April 29 at Cape Henlopen High in Lewes, Delaware, and 3 p.m. on April 30 at Ocean City Performing Arts Center. The program for all three concerts opens with Grammy-winning music director Repper conducting Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major with solo cellist Dominique de Williencourt. Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 from “The New World” follows intermission.
* The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks’ subscription season resumes at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1 at Maryland Hall in the capital city, and 2 p.m. April 2 at North Bethesda’s Music Center at Strathmore. The “Two Romantics” concert features guest violinist Esther Yoo performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Opus 19, followed by Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 73.
* The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presents blockbuster concerts promoted as “Joshua Bell Plays Mendelssohn,” owing to the superstar violinist’s highly deserved reputation for eloquent interpretation of the 19th-century German composer’s poetic concerto. The concerts – 8 p.m. Friday, April 21, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Baltimore’s Meyerhoff Hall, and at the BSO’s second home, the Strathmore, at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 22. Russian-born conductor Anna Rakitina leads the orchestra in a program that opens with “When the World as You Know It Doesn’t Exist” by Pulitzer-prize winner Ellen Reid who, at 40, is young for such an accomplished composer. Next, Bell performs the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto ahead of the concert finale: Elgar’s “Enigma,” Variations on an Original Theme.
* The National Symphony Orchestra presents a special family concert: the world premiere of “This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration” at 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 2, at Washington’s Kennedy Center. Written and narrated by Jacqueline Woodson on commission by the NSO, it’s the story of a little African-American girl who finds a rope under a tree in South Carolina before the family migrates north. She later learns the history behind the rope that will be handed down from generation to generation.
* In a concert that could not be closer to home, the renowned Philadelphia Orchestra performs Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece “Pathetique” (also known as his Symphony No. 6). Nathalie Stutzmann conducts the program that opens with another Tchaikovsky, Polonaise from his “Eugene Onegin” opera. The concert – recorded at the 2022 Bravo! Vail Music Festival in Colorado is offered on the orchestra’s Digital Stage. Streaming starts at 8 and 11 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 through April 19.
For an altogether different musical vibe, Easton’s Avalon Theatre brings award-winning blues and soul artist Shemekia Copeland to its main stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 8. Winner of the 2021 B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Blues Music Award, Copeland is up for four 2023 Blues Music nominations, including Album of the Year for her Grammy-nominated “Done Come to Far.” Hailed as her generation’s “Queen of the Blues,” Copeland’s 2019-22 album trilogy, culminating with “Done Come to Far,” was preceded by “America’s Child” and “Uncivil War.” In them, she tackles sobering human rights issues while mixing in bits of enlightened humor and a sense of hope. The 44th annual Blues Music Awards will be presented on May 11 in Memphis.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.
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