No matter what side of the wind energy controversy you are on, you might want to take a look at Laura Israel’s feature documentary, “Windfall,” to be shown Thursday, August 4, at 7 PM in the Old Woods Hole Fire Station.
The film looks at wind energy through the eyes of residents of the small agricultural town of Meredith, in upstate New York. Community members initially welcomed the idea of wind turbines, not only because they viewed wind as an environmentally sound option (“We would be doing our part to end the nation’s oil dependency”), but because those who allowed the 400-foot turbines to be constructed on their property would receive a payment from Airtricity, the Irish energy company that was seeking to build the turbines: $12,000 in one case.
The money was badly needed by those trying to keep their farms intact, as the region moves from dairy farming to more lucrative grass-fed beef cattle and organic farms, and to pay bills. The family who would receive $12,000 is facing $12,000 in dental expenses.
Others are not tempted by the money, wanting to preserve the pristine beauty of the hillsides. But the windfall in the title is not the money to be given to the residents and the town, but rather the amount to be gained by big wind energy companies, which stand to reap large profits and benefit from tax write-offs.
Meanwhile, they seek to minimize payments to individual landowners by requiring confidentiality agreements with each owner they negotiate with.
Some residents start researching wind energy: the risks of the huge towers falling over or catching fire, aesthetic impacts, and health issues related to noise and sunlight interruption. The project would be a big one, involving, initially, more than 40 turbines on a swath of land 18 to 30 miles long.
The town becomes deeply divided on the issue, pitting long-term residents against those who recently moved to the town, and members of town government against residents. The film is as much about the way community members respond to complex issues as it is about wind energy.
Though not mentioned in the film, filmmaker Ms. Israel said, in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival that she has a weekend cottage in Meredith, and she, too, was interested in a turbine, until she started her research. She keeps her own opinions out of the film, though, preferring to let the town speak for itself.
Accented with a rootsy-country-bluegrass soundtrack, “Windfall” provides an intimate look at wind turbines through the people most directly affected by them.
And, closer to home, “Cape Spin,” the documentary about the Cape Wind’s offshore wind farm of 130 400-foot tall wind turbines, will be screened tonight on Martha’s Vineyard.
Watching Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s 2006 documentary, “Jesus Camp,” about the indoctrination of Evangelical Christian children to serve as soldiers in the army of God, I was at first amazed that the filmmakers had been able to gain such intimate access to the children, their parents, and their religious instructors, given the filmmakers’ more liberal viewpoints.
Then I realized that what a non-Evangelical Christian might see as something close to brainwashing is viewed by Evangelicals as effective religious training, an appropriate response to Islamic fundamentalist terrorist training.
Becky Fischer, in a scene from "Jesus Camp."
The film focuses on Becky Fischer, a children’s pastor who runs Kids on Fire, a summer camp for Pentacostal Evangelical Christians, ironically located at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. She is very, very good at what she does, training children 12 and under to be soldiers of the Lord. And she is very proud of, and open about, the methods she uses.
A growing percentage of the US population describes themselves as Evangelical, or born-again, Christians, and their political influence in expanding along with their numbers. George W. Bush, who was president at the time this film was made, a born-again Christian himself, had a tremendous influence. As the film opens, Bush has just nominated Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. The evangelicals know that Alito would change the balance of the court, making it possible to repeal Roe v. Wade and pray for his confirmation.
(The issue of abortion taken up in “12th & Delaware,” a 2010 film by Ewing and Grady, also being screened at the Woods Hole Film Festival).
Representing the responses of non-evangelical Christians is radio talk show host Mike Papantonio, who feels that the Christian Right is dividing the country, that church and state must remain separate. “Nothing Christian about them,” agrees one of his callers.
“None of it really makes any sense,” laments Papantonio, decrying the entanglement of politics with religion. He remains frustrated and perplexed throughout the film, while Fischer moves ahead, telling her young and eager students that they hold the key, they can change “this sick old world” by proselytizing and speaking out on behalf of fetuses in danger of being aborted.
She leads them in a chant: “I’m willing God. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll say what you want me to say.”
Becky is asking a little more of these kids than distributing pamphlets door to door. She wants them to participate in anti-abortion rallies and be willing to lay down their lives for the Gospel, “just as they are in Pakistan, Israel, and Palestine.” The children use military language and dance with spears and in camouflage to illustrate their roles as warriors of God.
Children participate in an anti-abortion rally.
The film follows Levi, 12, Rachel, 9, and Tori, 10, three young believers. Levi, who was born-again when he was only 5, has already begun preaching himself. He, like many others, is home-schooled and learns from his born-again mother that evolution and global warming are just plain wrong, and that creationism is correct because it is “the only possible answer to all the questions,” reasoning that pleases Levi.
Rachel is a bright young girl who would like to be “one of those people who paint nails” so she can spread the word about the Lord to her customers in a peaceful setting, with Christian rock music playing in the background. She has the missionary zeal, is moved to tears in charismatic moments, and puts herself in a trance by speaking in tongues.
Tori loves to dance, though she admits she sometimes mixes up “dancing for the flesh” and “dancing for Christ.” She and her family pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and the Bible.
Once at camp, the leaders pray over the seats, the electrical system, the PowerPoint program, and the video projectors and microphones to be sure nothing interferes with conveying the camp message.
Becky remains a strong and resourceful pastor and caring mother figure throughout, firm in her commitment to the Lord herself, and certain that the world can be changed by winning over the children. A former DJ on a country music station, she knows how to handle a crowd. She shows anger only once, in her attack on Harry Potter as a warlock, an enemy of God.
Pastor Ted Haggard teases the filmmakers in a scene from "Jesus Camp."
We also visit the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, which, at the time was headed by Pastor Ted Haggard, whose homosexual relationships and drug use forced his resignation from the church shortly afterward.
In the commentary to the film, Ewing and Grady talk about their desire to revisit these kids 10 years later and see how they are doing. I hope they do.
In the meantime, no matter what your religious affiliation, do watch this film, and also take a look at “12th & Delaware.”
“Jesus Camp” was screened tonight at 9 PM and “12th & Delaware” will be shown Tuesday, August 2, at 7 PM, at the Old Woods Hole Fire Station. “12th & Delaware” refers to an intersection in Fort Pierce, Florida, where an abortion clinic and a pro-life crisis pregnancy center stand across the street from each other. As in “Jesus Camp,” the directors allow the film’s participants to tell their own stories.
And stay tuned for Ewing and Grady’s upcoming film, “Detroit Hustles Harder,” a look at the city’s struggle to transform itself into a new and innovative place.
Falmouth Town Band members prepare for last night's No Place for Hate concert.
Falmouth Affirmative Action Officer George Spivey led the Town Band in a celebration of Falmouth’s designation as a No Place For Hate community last night at the band’s regular Thursday evening band concert at the Music and Arts Pavillion on Scranton Avenue.
George Spivey conducts "Stars and Stripes Forever."
Band director Lin Whitehead had picked a selection of pieces promoting diversity, multiculturalism, mutual understanding, tolerance and acceptance of those who may be different from us.
On the program were “We Are the World,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Hungarian Dance No. 5, “Echoes of Ireland,” “Tijuana Brass,” “Espana Cani,” “Jericho,” ‘Russian Sailors Dance,” “West Side Story,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Mexican Overture,” each representing a different culture or aspect of accepting and welcoming diversity. As a member of the Town Band, I particularly enjoy Lin’s addition of guest conductors, and this particular collection of music from around the world conveyed an important message, as well as being great fun to play.
George Spivey talked to the crowd about tolerance and the No Place for Hate program:
Then he conducted the band, with style and flair, in a lively performance of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” as band announcer Glenn Rowland directed the children in the audience in a march in front of the stage.
Lin Whitehead followed up by singing a children’s song about stamping out hate:
Lin Whitehead reviews the score before leading the band.
FCTV was there to cover the performance, as they are every Thursday evening throughout the summer. You can see the entire band concert on FCTV Channel 13 on Friday and Saturday evenings. Check the schedule at fctv.org for details.
FCTV tapes the Town Band performance every week.
Guest conductors will appear throughout the summer. Last week, Police Chief Anthony Riello conducted the band with exuberance:
Next week, 102-year-old Mildred Allen, a resident of the Atria Woodbriar assisted living center, will conduct. Residents of Woodriar and other residential care facilities attend every week.
Anna Botsford, as Annabella, tells Tom Myers, as Hannay, about the plot to steal secret military documents. The ringleader is missing a digit from his little finger. Photo by Alan Trugman for Cotuit Center for the Arts.
“Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps,” at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, gets off to a slow start, as Richard Hannay (played by Tom Myers), resting comfortably in an overstuffed chair, explains to the audience why he, a Canadian, happens to be in London and why he decided, one evening to do something “something mindless and trivial, something utterly pointless” one night–go to the theater.
The action picks up quickly after that, though, more than making up for the laid-back beginning.
Directed by Mary Arnault, “The 39 Steps” is a wonderfully imaginative show, using only four actors to play 140 roles, quickly and comically switching back and forth between roles, often with the addition of a hat or an accent, sometimes, with an elaborate, but deftly executed, on-stage costume change.
The action shifts from London to the highlands of Scotland, from the theater to a train, to a farm house, a mansion, a police station, and more, with just a hint of props and stage furniture.
While you do not have to have seen the 1935 movie on which the play is based (or read the 1915 novel by John Buchan on which the film was based), some minimal knowledge of Alfred Hitchcock’s spy suspense genre does aid in one’s enjoyment of the film, as there are references to other Hitchcock films, including “The Birds,” “Rear Window,” “Psycho,” and “North by Northwest.”
The show does not make fun of the movie, but, rather, presents it in a different format, the humor arising from the quick character changes and use of minimal props (including some comically large sandwiches) to challenge the imagination.
Photo by Alan Trugman, CCftA. From left, Paul Fendler and Troy Davies share a train compartment with Tom Myers.
Several old trunks, for instance become a train, when the passengers jiggle and joggle over the bumpy railbed. When Hannay needs to escape (he is wrongly accused of murder), the trunks are rearranged, and he is suddenly making his way along the tops of the railroad cars, his coattails blowing in the breeze, his pursuers hot on his trail.
Mr. Myers is excellent at Richard Hannay, which is all the more remarkable because he is a 2011 graduate of Barnstable High School. He easily plays a man in his 30s, while demonstrating his agility as he squirms out of difficult places and hangs from the side of a railroad bridge.
Anna Botsford plays three women. Annabella Schmidt is the woman who drags Hannay into the mysterious world of the 39 Steps, telling him that vital British military secrets are about to be spirited out of the country.
Margaret is the farmer’s wife, Hannay meets along the way, and Pamela is a woman who manages to get handcuffed to him for a good part of the play.
Photo by Alan Trugman, CCftA. Anna Botsford and Tom Myers in handcuffs.
She is versatile and expressive in all roles, and especially funny as Annabella, emitting an infectious high-pitched laugh at one point.
Paul Fendler (Clown 1) and Troy Davies (Clown 2) do the yeoman’s work of playing all the other characters in the play. Both are excellent, and play off each other well.
Not only to they play all the other characters, including, for a time, three characters each at the same time, but they rearrange the set when necessary, and do a little song-and-dance, when called for.
The show makes use of the arts center’s upper level for special effects, and sound effects and musical references add to the fun.
Set design is by Andrew Arnault, costume design by Christy Morris, lighting design by Greg Hamm, and sound design by Daniel Fontneau.
“The 39 Steps” continues through July 17 at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8 PM, and Sunday afternoon at 4. Tickets are $20, $18 for seniors, $15 for members, and $10 for students.
For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 508-428-0669 or visit www.ArtsOnTheCape.com.
Booklovers wandered through the many and diverse tents at the annual Falmouth Public Library Book Sale on Saturday, July 2, browsing the books, audio books, CDs, and other media, finding treasures, chatting with friends, enjoying the blue skies and warm sunshine.
Suddenly, a lone voice could be heard, singing that melody that Falmouth feels such a connection to, especially on this 4th of July weekend: “America the Beautiful.” In appreciation, a man in the crowd gave the singer, John Yankee, artistic director of the Falmouth Chorale, a warm handshake, thanking him for the performance that had only just begun.
Other singers soon joined in, a few at a time, until 90 singers, members of nine Falmouth choruses, filled the air, singing, with spirit, and real feeling, three verses of Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates’ beloved anthem.
Participating choruses were the Falmouth Chorale, Belle Weather, Cantus Novus, the Choraliers, the Greater Falmouth Mostly all-Male Men’s Chorus, Mastersingers by the Sea, Notescape, the Solstice Singers, and the Woods Hole Cantata Consort.
Onlookers and singers alike were moved by the flash mob and glad to be part of the event.
As Pamela Taft of the Greater Falmouth Mostly All-Male Men’s Chorus put it:
“It was wonderful to unite as a community of singers ….The weather was glorious. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. The people in the crowd were pleasantly surprised and very generous with their appreciation. I had a warm feeling in my heart for the rest of the day. I hope they did as well.”
Judy Willis of Mastersingers by the Sea said:
“It was a truly memorable experience. I enjoyed the surprised expression on peoples faces when they realized an event was unfolding. Singing “America the Beautiful” with members of other choruses in the shadow of the Katherine Lee Bates statue made it a picture-perfect day in all respects.”
Singer Marty Tulloch enjoys singing in choruses to hear the beauty of the vocal parts fitting together. The flash mob was a new experience for him because the chorus members were spread out and he had to sing his part independently. He loved the challenge and the experience.
John Yankee, who prepared the singers for the event, was happy with the result:
“There were two important factors for me. First was that almost everyone respected and embraced the idea of personal preparation (practice and memorization) so that the singing would be off-book and thus of higher quality. That, to me, was so important because such a venue–outside, amongst potential noise and distractions–could really be difficult if eyes aren’t up, ears open, and attention focused on unity, expression, and sound. As a result, it made listeners aware that this community’s choruses have high standards.
“Second, it’s just great that the Falmouth Chorale is so proud of themselves and want to do more. To me, it means the singers feel that this is their group (not the director’s). This sense of identity and ownership is very important; it’s rooted in personal confidence, teamwork, and awareness of growth and accomplishment.”
Though it looked spontaneous, the idea for a flash mob came about several months ago, right after the Falmouth Chorale’s Mozart Requieum concert on March 19 and 20.
“For me,” said Kate Housman, general manager of the Chorale, “the Chorale’s performance and the audience reception were on a new level, and I really wanted to be able to share it again we a new (and unsuspecting) audience. Because of timing, it wasn’t going to be feasible to do a flash mob of any part of the Requiem, but the idea stuck and we began looking at a time to do it this summer.
“The book fair seemed perfect venue: John and I were available and there would be a audience of locals and summer residents. The Friends and the Falmouth Public Library were open and excited about the idea.
“With the event scheduled for 4th of July weekend, and this being Falmouth, “America the Beautiful” was the perfect choice for music.
“Once we were sure we had enough Famouth Chorale members who would being coming, we sent invitations to the other eight adult community choruses, telling singers that they could invite other choristers (from church choirs, etc.) so long the event was kept as secret as possible, and people were willing to commit to memorizing the music using the specific version we sent around.”
There was only one rehearsal, from 11 to 11:30 AM on the day of the flash mob.
Asked if this was the first such collaborative event in Falmouth, Kate said,
“It is certainly the first I’ve been involved with in my four years on the Cape. The Falmouth Chorale holds a unique place in this community; our roots are in collaboration (as the former Interfaith Choir, we started in 1964 as a collaboration of church choirs to sing Handel’s Messiah), and while size isn’t everything, as the largest adult community chorus on the upper Cape, we have the resources and connections (through overlap membership, etc.) to bring people together.
“I’m thrilled with how the event went. My goals were simple: surprise the “audience” with a random act of culture, work together with the many choral organizations in Falmouth, and have fun performing music well. And I think we succeeded on all three accounts.”
I do too. Those present clearly enjoyed the event, even those who kept looking at books throughout.
The man at the end of the video expressed the opinion of many when he went up to John afterward and said, “You made my day.”
Kate related, “There was one woman who started crying, a child looked up at one of the singers and asked her “am I supposed to be singing, too?” A veteran who was standing behind John was moved and very thankful.
“I loved that people started to clap after the first verse, and how surprised some seemed when we kept going. Watching the various videos, I love the people who were smiling, but kept trying to browse the books anyway.
“But what I’ve loved most is the reactions of the singers leading up to the event: the quiet buzz about town (within the chorus community) in the weeks leading up to the event and their genuine enthusiasm before, during and after. For me, this represents why the chorale’s mission is not just to “…present fine choral music,” but to “celebrate.”
“A lot of people (including participants) have asked me if and when we’re going to do this again. Probably, though when and where will definitely be a surprise.”
The Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music ‘70 was 41 years ago today. My husband saved the festival flyer I brought back from England and just unearthed it the other day while cleaning the basement.
I had met Glenn six months prior to the summer I spent in England and had been corresponding with him, sending mail from the various boarding houses I stayed in as I explored England, Scotland, and Ireland. We got married about a year after I returned to Washington DC.
I went to England because I thought it might be a kinder, gentler, less materialistic place than the US. I had majored in international relations in college, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and I was not enthusiastic about joining the current administration to in any way support that war. Besides, I would need a masters degree, maybe a Ph.D. to find a job, and I needed just a little break from schooling.
So, I went to England. Shortly after my arrival, I watched, with a group of young people from London, the election returns. Conservative Edward Heath won over incumbent prime minister Harold Wilson. The people I was with were not happy.
“The youth of England are not united, not activists, like they are in the US,” they said. They were almost envious, they said, of that unifying factor we had in the US that inspired and solidified the youth movement: the Vietnam War. “You can have it,” I said, but I did understand what they meant.
Later, I met an American stationed in the military in England. He was against the war in Vietnam too, expressing himself by drawing peace symbols. But he really didn’t have it down exactly. What he drew were Mercedes Benz logos, missing the complete bisecting middle line.
No matter, he knew about this great concert in Bath, so we set off together to go see it.
We took the train to Bath, along with many other people. Over 150,000 people attended the festival. We must have arrived on Friday night for the festival, which was scheduled to run Saturday, June 27, and Sunday, June 28. I think that we slept in the Bath train station that night.
Roman baths, in Bath
We wandered around town a bit. Bath is named for the Roman baths, which we saw from the outside only. The city was established by the Romans in 43 AD as a spa because of its abundant warm spring waters. It is an impressive city, architecturally and historically, but we had come for the music, and in the morning arrived at the festival grounds.
I remember broad rolling hills, many people, and long lines for food and porta-potties. We seemed to have spent a good portion of the day waiting in line that day. We had not thought to bring food, camping equipment, or even a blanket to sit on or a warm jacket for the cool of the evening.
I remember waiting in line for lunch, which turned out to be a half a loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese, and an apple. It was delicious! Still one of the best meals of my life, no doubt because we were famished by the time we ate.
Wikipedia says that the music started Saturday afternoon. My recollection, which must be wrong, but is all I have to go on now, is that it didn’t start until Sunday. I do remember standing in the field, with many others, at night, wondering where to sleep. Finally, we just dropped to the ground were we stood, lay down, and slept where we were. There were no other options—and we slept well.
My friend, the soldier I had come with, had to get back to the base in London on Monday. You just can’t call in sick to the military, so we left Sunday night. Bath is about 100 miles west of London, and we were dependent on the train, so there was no option to stay “just a few minutes more” and hear more bands.
We stayed in London with friends of his in a cheery apartment in Chelsea. So, to quote Joni Mitchell, on Monday morning, I “woke up, it was a Chelsea morning/And the first thing that I heard/Was a song outside my window/….“And the first thing that I saw/Was the sun through yellow curtains/ And a rainbow on the wall….And the sun poured in like butterscotch/And stuck to all my senses.”
I may have missed most of the Bath festival, but, ever since, Joni has sung her song just for me.
Pius Cheung, in the Falmouth Academy library, at a reception following the Simon Sinfonietta concert.
The Simon Sinfonietta ended its seventh season in splendid form on June 4 at Falmouth Academy with just the sort of concert its director, Stephen Simon, is best known and respected for: a combination of infrequently heard musical gems, a fine soloist, and talented musicians, all for the enjoyment and enlightenment of an appreciative audience.
The highlight of the evening was a masterful performance by Pius Cheung, a young Chinese-Canadian marimba virtuoso–in keeping with Mr. Simon’s efforts to share uncommon music and outstanding soloists. Cheung gave an awe-inspiring performance of Paul Creston’s jazzy and technically demanding Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra.
Why the marimba, you might ask, and many people did ask just that of Cheung in the reception that followed the concert. He explained that he started playing the piano as a young child, and then began to play percussion. He was drawn to the marimba for its sound qualities. The marimba is kind of a xylophone with resonators that extend its sound.
Cheung explains it more precisely on his website (piuscheung.com ): “The word marimba means ‘singing wood.’ Something about the natural resonance of wood and how the sound floats in the air makes my entire body vibrate. It’s not only an instrument that you hear, but it’s also like a living musical being that you feel in your heart and soul.”
There is not a large repertoire for marimba and orchestra; Cheung is seeking to remedy that by composing his own works for the instrument, several of which have won awards.
This evening, though, he wowed the audience with Creston’s concerto.
Creston (1906 to 1985) was an Italian-American composer; he was born Giuseppe Guttoveggio in New York City to Sicilian immigrants. His music is considered classical, but it includes the unusual: concertos for alto saxophone, for accordion, and for tap dancer and orchestra. His marimba concertino, written in 1940, shows off the many capabilities of the marimba and reflects his deep understanding and mastery of rhythm.
Using a variety of mallets, sometimes one in each hand, sometimes, two, Cheung was fluid and graceful in his motions, eloquently expressive, and precise, almost as if he were dancing with the instrument. He was at ease with the jazzy syncopated rhythms. His technical ability, his control of the instrument, is clearly high, but it is his ability to play with his heart and soul that made him stand out and makes him a pleasure to listen to.
The concerto, in three movements, began with an agitated orchestral introduction, accented by rhythmic cello, lively and compelling, leading up to the marimba entrance.
Cheung entered, matching the vibrant spirit of the orchestra, but soon led it in a more lyrical theme, but only briefly, as the moods changed quickly, and the driving force of the movement was Vigorous, as it is named.
The second movement, Calm, was introduced by a solo flute (Claude Cobert), gently accompanied by the marimba, horns, and strings. Cheung produced some beautiful shimmering sounds on the marimba, which the strings echoed. A plaintive flute returned toward the end, joined by oboe and other winds, and the movement ends in a long final chord.
Lively, the final movement, combines a scherzo and the finale. This is a very high-energy movement, and Cheung gave it his all, playing quickly, almost frenzied, but always in control.
The audience rewarded him with a standing ovation, and many callbacks for both him and Mr. Simon.
Cheung has recorded Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which was praised critics for technical and expressive excellence.
His second CD, “Symphonic Poem,” released in 2009, is his own composition. Several videos of Cheung’s performances of his own music, and that of others, can be found on YouTube.
Here is his Etude in c minor:
And here is the aria from his Goldberg Variations:
Also on the program, was Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 90 in C Major. Haydn wrote 104 symphonies, and not all are frequently performed. No. 90 is one of those rarely played gems.
In four movements, the symphony began slowly, with a long opening chord, in Adagio, before coming alive in a spirited Allegro. The horns were vibrant, the flutes melodic, and the intensity palpable.
The second movement Andante was soothing, meditative, but not lacking in energy, while the third movement, Menuetto/Allegro, a traditional waltz began in a majestic mood.
The fourth movement is noted for its false ending, proof that Haydn had a sense of humor.
The final work on the program was my favorite, Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir of Florence,” Opus 70, despite its technical difficulty for the orchestra, which led to an imperfect performance.
On the whole, though, it was spirited and, as Mr. Simon put it in the program, possessing a “decidedly Russian musical soul,” despite its name. (The name comes from the fact that Tchaikovsky composed the second of the four movements on a visit to Florence.
Written for string sextet (two violins, two, violas, and two cellos), the piece was played by string orchestra, necessitating one additional cellist to provide a balance: Sam Ericsson, the son of principal cellist Bo Ericsson, and second cellist Elizabeth Schultze. Michael Czitrom played third cello, as usual.
Sam, a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, also played in the other two works.
The first movement, Allegro Con Spirit, began with turbulent energy, leading into a calmer mood, accented with pizzicato, carried, in turn by the violins, violas, and cellos, sometimes graceful and fluid, sometimes tempestuous. There was a nice trading back and forth between the concertmaster, Charles Sherba, and his wife, Consuelo, principal violist, followed by rapid acceleration toward the invigorating ending.
The slow movement began with a violin solo, supported by cello pizzicato. Then the melody quickly moved from one instrument to another, one section finishing the sentence of the last.
Midway through, Sherba and Bo Ericsson shared a lyrical duet, both instruments lovely and expressive.
The final two movements had a more distinctly Russian style, the third providing some very rhythmic sections, with an appealing blend of bowing and pizzicato, and the fourth, an extremely fast display of driving Russian dance themes.
The Simon Sinfonietta returns to Falmouth on September 17, 2011, with a program featuring violinist Jorge Avila performing the Mendelssohn violin concerto. Three more concerts are planned for February, March, and June 2012. See simonsinfonietta.org for details.
Pius Cheung, with his friend Eriko Daimo, also a very talented young marimba player, and Stephen and Bonnie Simon at the reception following the concert.
The Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra’s Music Memory program has high aspirations: to introduce children to great works of music and inspire in them a life-long appreciation of music.
Now in its second year on Cape Cod, the program seems to be working. On Wednesday, 144 students from 10 of the 16 schools involved in the program gathered at Barnstable High School’s Performing Arts Center to test their knowledge of 16 pieces of music that they have been studying since last October.
Guest conductor Joan Landry led 40 members of the CCSO and four vocal soloists in the performance of short excerpts from the pieces the students have been learning about. The students, in teams of 6 to 12 students, had 30 seconds to identify each piece–and the composer of each piece.
George Scharr, education director for the CCSO, emceed the event, and, after the students gave their answers, three judges let them know whether they were correct. As the judges repeatedly pointed out, the kids were amazing. These were third and fourth graders from elementary school and fifth and sixth graders from middle school identifying complex classical and jazz pieces: Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in d minor, “The Dance of the Clowns” from Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “12 American Preludes: No. 9, Tribute to Aaron Copland” by Ginestera, and many more.
Here are a couple of examples:
This, the last one, was particularly challenging:
The orchestra treated the kids to a full performance of the first movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5–you know, it is the one that goes dah-dah-dah-daaaah. And ends with the two chords that most of the kids knew so well.
The students have clearly learned their music and had fun at the competition. More importantly, they seem to take great pleasure in the music itself and appreciate the skill of the musicians. The program opens their ears to new music and new ways of listening to music; it should go a long way toward instilling in them a lifelong appreciation of music.
All the students received red or blue ribbons for their accomplishments.
Stephen Simon asks the musicians to to stand, following their performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
It was an extraordinary experience. Even from outside the Parish of Christ the King in Mashpee this past Tuesday evening, you could tell something special was about to happen. The parking lots were full, both at the church and at the library across the way, the adjacent streets were lined with cars, and people were hurrying, dodging raindrops, toward the Parish Hall.
Inside, there was an air of festive anticipation, as people lined up for tickets and programs. The large hall was packed with people who had home to hear Ludwig von Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, his choral symphony, to be performed by three much-loved and well-regarded Cape Cod musical institutions: the Simon Sinfonietta, the Falmouth Chorale, and the Chatham Chorale, and the fresh young voices of the Falmouth Academy chorus; all joined by four outstanding vocal soloists.
Altogether there were 52 instrumentalists (Mr. Simon had added several more players to his chamber orchestra, which normally numbers 40) and 143 singers, almost 200 musicians in all, led with a keen respect for the music and an abundance of enthusiasm by conductor Stephen Simon and, one can imagine, in spirit, by Beethoven himself.
The capacity crowd welcomed Mr. Simon’s arrival with loud and prolonged applause, in appreciation, it seemed, not only of Mr. Simon’s decision to perform the Ninth, but, also, in recognition of what the Simon Sinfonietta means to music lovers on Cape Cod. Now in its seventh year, the chamber orchestra is know for it varied and interesting programming and high-quality performances.
The Parish Hall was an elegant venue for the concert, with its high ceilings and spacious seating on three sides of the orchestra. The only drawback was the lack of a formal stage, so that, depending on where one was sitting, the full orchestra was not entirely visible.
From where I sat, for instance, it was difficult to see all but a couple of the violins, violas, cellos, and string basses, but several of the woodwinds where in prominent view. Yet, the concert had an intimate feeling, and the music drew everyone in.
Beethoven’s Ninth, which he completed in 1824, is one of the best-known pieces of classical literature, particularly the fourth movement, the “Ode to Joy” choral movement, the theme of which most people have heard in multiple formal and popular culture settings. Mr. Simon’s presentation of the work, which he has loved since he was a small child, was a wonderful gift to the community, and those in attendance surely gained an increased appreciation and understanding of the symphony.
The symphony began with murmurings among the strings, growing louder and accented by dramatic chords, creating an intensity of feeling and power from the beginning. Claude Cobert provided some lyrical flute solos in the calm amid the rising drama of the work. Led by Mr. Simon’s vigorous conducting, the orchestra expressed the stormy emotions of this movement eloquently.
The second movement, the Scherzo, was played with wonderful energy and speed, driven with insistent rhythms, yet under control. Here, the flute and oboe (Betsy Doriss) solos had a gritty edge to them. The movement ended in a big, satisfying flourish.
The Adagio, the third movement, began dreamily, with long notes in the winds, lyrical contributions by the violins, and a shimmering horn solo. The plucked strings were particularly effective. After a last dramatic soaring, there was a gentle and moving dying away of sound.
After a brief pause to assemble the chorus and soloists and retune the orchestra, the much-awaited fourth movement began, the main theme first expressed resoundingly in the cellos and basses, moving to the violins, and back to the low strings, with kind of a subdued grandeur, building to a grand display of the full strength of the orchestra, and Beethoven’s simple, but powerful theme.
Bass-baritone Nathan Bahny then stood, introducing the choral section of the movement. His deep and expressive voice carried throughout the church. The chorus answered him, and he was soon joined by the other three soloists, Jason McStoots, tenor; Mary Thorne, soprano; and Mary Westbrook-Geha, mezzo-soprano. The four voices were elegant and vibrant together.
The chorus was awe-inspiring, strong, and confident in the fast passages, and impassioned in the slower, dramatic sections.
Though the words were in German, written by Friedrich Schiller in 1785, the theme of the symphony, universal brotherhood, resonated throughout the hall. It could be felt not only in the music itself, but in the grand collaboration of 195 devoted professional and amateur musicians, and the warm appreciation of the audience. Bravo!
When Bill Harley appears tonight at the Lawrence School in Falmouth, he will be performing for the children of some of the kids he entertained when he first began sharing his songs and stories in Falmouth in 1982.
And parents and children are likely to enjoy the show with equal enthusiasm. His stories are about the everyday life of children and growing up, told with warmth, humor, and a touch of magic, stories children can relate to, stories you can listen to again and again. Harley understands well the many roles of storytelling, not only to entertain, but to transport, teach, inspire, and illuminate new ways of thinking about the world.
Harley has twice won Grammys for his CDs, the latest of which is “”The Best Candy in the Whole World” (his 11th Grammy nomination), which five satisfyingly long stories, some told in song. The title story, over 20 minutes long, tells the story of a boy whose mother picks him up from school and insists on just stopping off at the grocery store, as she does nearly every day. He doesn’t want to go, he just wants to go straight home for once. He decides to wait for her outside, and, there, meets and helps an old woman, who rewards him with a piece of candy, the best piece of candy in the world.
The candy has magical powers, of course. Harley told me in a telephone interview that that woman, seemingly a minor character in the story, is one of those characters in a story who, though inconspicuous and ordinary, a crucial to what happens next, because they introduce the magical element, even though the listener might not realize it at the time.
And so she does. Being a kindly child, the boy does not eat the candy himself, but puts it in his pocket and later offers it to a friend, who immediately pronounces it the “best candy in the whole world.” Curiously, when the boy puts his hand in his pocket later, he finds another piece of candy. Confused, he thinks, maybe the old woman gave him two pieces. . . .
It is a wonderful story, and Harley tells it with multiple voices and expressions, painting a vibrant picture with words and stimulating the imagination. A nice alternative to the video barrage that children (and adults) are often surrounded by.
Harley’s stories and songs are original, but he often uses folk tales and constructs to inspire his own. And his stories may change in the telling over time, as all good folk tales do. Harley doesn’t just tell stories; he wants to enlighten children and others about the human condition, to let kids know that others have experienced their problems and joys, to build community, and to reflect on what we have in common.
But his messages are subtle, woven into the stories and songs, and they are open to interpretation, encouraging creative thought. Above all they are fun, and so is Harley.
In addition to producing his 28 CDs, Harley has written numerous children’s books and is working on a new project relating to school culture. He is also a regular commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and featured on PBS.
Lawrence School is at 113 Lakeview Avenue in Falmouth, and the show is at 7 PM. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children and may be purchased at the door or, in advance, at Eight Cousins and Booksmith book stores on Main Street in Falmouth. The event is sponsored by the Falmouth Schools Arts Council and local school PTOs.