(Revised) Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 29, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Each Thursday, I list five events that pique my interest,
including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum,
inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Tomorrow at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert HallNOTE: THE SATURDAY TIME IS 2 P.M., NOT 8 P.M. AS ORIGINALLY STATED

Los Angeles
Philharmonic: Gaffigan and Watts

James Gaffigan makes his Disney Hall debut leading a program
of Respighi, Bartok and Grieg. Pianist Andr Watts will be soloist in the Grieg
Piano Concerto. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Friday at 8 p.m. at
Shady Canyon Golf Club; Irvine

Charles Castronovo in
recital

This young American tenor, who was terrific in the lead role
of Daniel Catn’s Il Postino for LA
Opera a couple of seasons ago, joins with Taso Comanescu, guitar, and Austin
Grant, guitar/mandolin, in an intimate recital/reception/dinner at one of
Southern California’s most exclusive country clubs. The program, sponsored by
Orange County Philhuarmonic Society, will feature a selection of Neapolitan
songs. You must RSVP ahead of time for this program and I suggest you do so via
phone: (949) 553-2422: Information: www.philharmonicsociety.org

 

Saturday at 2 p.m.
and 8 p.m. at Ambassador Auditorium

Pasadena Symphony:
Nicholas McGegan conducts

In large measure because of his work leading the
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Nicholas McGegan is best known as an early
music specialist, but this weekend he leads the Pasadena Symphony in a program
that concludes with a much larger work: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). Armenian pianist Nareh
Arghamanyan will be the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20. Information: www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 7 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Master
Chorale: Bach’s St. John Passion

Grant Gershon leads 40 members of his chorale, soloists and
Musica Angelica’s baroque orchestra in a performance one of Bach’s finest
works, St. John Passion. Information: www.lamc.org

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Pasadena

Pipe Organs Inspire
Recital

Three downtown Pasadena churches — First Church of Christ,
Scientist, Pasadena Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church — and
their organists — David Wolfe (FCCSP), Timothy Howard (PPC) and Ae-Kyong Kim
(FUMC) — are collaborating on this three-recital series that features different
programs at each venue. Information: www.pipeorgansinspire.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on February 22, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Each Thursday, I list five events that pique my interest,
including (ideally) at least one with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive
tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Friday and Saturday
at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles
Philharmonic, Osmo Vnsk, conductor

Finnish conductor Osmo Vnsk makes his Disney Hall leading
the Philharmonic in Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier
Suite
and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 6. Friday is a “Casual Friday” concert.
The Saturday and Sunday programs include Kalevi Aho’s 2005 Clarinet Concerto,
with Martin Frst (for whom it was written) as soloist. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Alex Theatre, Glendale

Sunday at 7 p.m. at
Royce Hall, UCLA

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor

The latest LACO “Sound Investment” commission, Old Keys by Timothy Andres, will receive
its first performances at this concert. Also on the agenda are Andres’
“reconstruction” of Mozart’s “Coronation” Concerto and Mozart’s Symphony No.
40. My preview story is HERE. Information:
www.laco.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

Angeles Chorale; John
Sutton, conductor

“American Experience: Spirituals, Gospel and Jazz” will
feature Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass as
the centerpiece of what should be a rocking evening. Information: www.angeleschorale.org

Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Isabelle Demers,
organist

The Canadian organist makes her Disney Hall debut with a
program that opens with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major (St. Anne) and includes her
transcriptions of Wagner’s Prelude to Die
Meistersinger
and music from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. Information:
www.laphil.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Sunday at 4 at First
United Methodist Church, Glendale

Cathedral Choir and
Orchestra: Lenten concert

Nancy Sulahian leads her choir, soloist and an orchestra in
a concert that concludes with the Faur Requiem. Other pieces on the program
are works by Bruckner, Roger-Ducasse, Stanford and Faur, some sung by the full
choir and others by a chamber ensemble. Information:
www.glendalemethodist.org

 

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW AND LINKS: Sound Investment: LACO to premiere Timothy Andres piece this weekend

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra; Jeffrey Kahane, conductor; Timothy Andres, pianist

Andres: Old Keys (world
premiere); Mozart/Andres: “Coronation Concerto (recomposition for piano and
orchestra; Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550

Saturday, March 24, 8 p.m. Alex Theatre, Glendale

Sunday, March 25, 7 p.m. Royce Hall, UCLA

Information: www.laco.org

______________________

 

Although the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra was founded
nearly half a century ago to focus on the Baroque and Classical music genres,
LACO has also carved an impressive niche in the field of contemporary music,
especially since Jeffrey Kahane took over as music director 15 years ago.

 

One of those endeavors has been with a
composer-in-residence; Andrew Norman assumes this important role beginning in
July, the eighth person to hold the title (and the fifth appointed since Kahane
assumed the LACO reins).

 

59250-Andres.jpg

Another important venture has been the orchestra’s “Sound
Investment” series, which is now in its second decade of commissioning a new
piece each season. This year’s commission highlights this weekend’s LACO
programs: Old Keys by Palo Alto-born
composer Timothy Andres (pictured). In addition Andres performs the West Coast
premiere of his reconstruction of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K.
537, popularly known as the “Coronation” concerto. The concert concludes with
Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

 

An oddity about the concerto is that Mozart wrote down
almost none of the left-hand notes. The program notes by Christine Gengaro,
PhD, relate: “The first 18 measures of the opening passage for the piano
soloist in the first movement, for example, are blank. In the first published edition,
which came out in 1794, three years after Mozart’s death, the missing parts
were filled in, probably by publisher Johann Andr. But why did Mozart leave
them blank in the first place? Judging from the types of parts he wrote in –
the more involved and virtuosic portions — we assume that Mozart left blank the
parts that were easiest to improvise on the spot.”

 

For Andres (who was born in 1985), the puzzle presented a
challenge. “I approached the piece…as a sprawling playground for pianistic
invention and virtuosity,” he says, “taking cues from the composer-pianist
tradition Mozart helped crystallize.”

 

The concerto’s other oddity is its “Coronation” nickname.
Gengaro writes, “Mozart composed the Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major in early
1788, but he did not give it the name ‘Coronation,’ nor was it specifically
written for a coronation. However, he did play it more than two years after he
composed the piece — a year after its premiere — at the coronation of Leopold
II (as Holy Roman Emperor), hence the nickname.”

 

Brian in his Blog “Out West Arts” has posted one of his
informative “Ten Questions” interviews with Andres HERE. Timo (as he calls himself)
also has his own unique Web site; check out the whacky rendition of “At the
River” on the home-page video (LINK)

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

NEWS: Cat lives

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

Two Los Angeles Philharmonic performances appear to have
more lives than the proverbial feline.

 

A video of the Phil’s performance of George Gershwin’s An American in Paris from last October’s
gala concert is now available for free on iTunes through March 26. This piece
is from the concert that was telecast into movie theaters last Sunday; a
truncated version of the program was shown on PBS stations late last year.
Gustavo Dudamel conducted the orchestra.

 

Meanwhile, the “LA Phil Live” performance of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8, which was telecast on Feb. 18 into U.S., Canadian and South
American movie theaters, is crossing the Atlantic. It will be shown in six UK
theaters beginning April 16.

 

Speaking of the Phil, Esa-Pekka Salonen, the orchestra’s
former music director, will be one of 8,000 runners to carry the Olympic torch
en route to London for this summer’s Olympic Games. Salonen, who is now
principal conductor and artistic advisor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra
(and the Phil’s music director laureate), will make his one-mile run on July
26, the penultamate day before the Games begin. (MORE)

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Continue reading

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: Worby and Muse-ique open season with piano fest

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Muse-ique; Rachael
Worby, host/conductor

Monday, March 19, 2012 Pasadena Civic Auditorium

Next event: April 9 at Autry National Center (Griffith Park)

Information: www.muse-ique.com

59226-Muse-ique 2.jpg

Three pianos (and six pianists were at the center

of Muse-ique’s program last night at the

Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

____________________

 

Rachael Worby’s new organization, Muse-ique, began its first
full season last night. This summer they will play three outdoor concerts
(including two at the Olive Garden at Caltech) but the four “Uncorked” events
are the heart of what Worby hoped to accomplish when she founded this new
program last year.

 

Each of these events (don’t call them concerts) will be in a
different, unusual location; last night, everyone — performers and the audience
– was on stage at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. With tables and chairs grouped
around three grand pianos, the venue felt like a nightclub or perhaps a large
living room of a century ago. Worby even encouraged people to turn ON their
cell phones to Tweet or provide Facebook updates and take pictures (she even
announced a video contest) — this is definitely not your standard concert or
recital.

 

Each of the “Uncorked” programs lasts about 90 minutes; last
night began with 30 minutes of cocktails and schmoozing and the musical portion
of the program lasted 75 minutes. Worby (who for 10 years was music director of
the Pasadena Pops Orchestra) acted as host, raconteur (something she does
exceedingly well) and musical guide through snippets of the history about the
piano (thus the title, “Ebony Meets Ivory”).

 

She was joined by six local pianists who performed
individually, in two-piano settings, and using four-hand and even six-hand
arrangements. For the grand finale, all six played on the three pianos in Stars and Stripes Forever.

 

The evening began with writer-actress-pop culture analyst
Sandra Tsing Loh reading Ogden Nash’s sardonic poem Piano Tuner: Untune me that Tune, which morphed (naturally) into
Worby and a youngster playing Chopsticks (if you don’t know why that would be
“natural,” you can read the poem HERE). From there, Worby began with Bach and took the
audience through a quick history lesson, touching on piano music through the
centuries.

 

None of the selections in Worby’s eclectic format are
lengthy but there were pleasures aplenty. Joanne Pearce Martin, principal
keyboardist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and her husband, Gavin, began with
a pristine, graceful two-piano arrangement of Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Joanne returned for a spritely
rendition of Mendelssohn’s Spinning Song.

 

Markus Pawlik played the first movement of Beethoven’s
“Moonlight” Sonata with gentle sonority, and Caltech professor Julia Greer
reprised her performance from last summer, playing Bach while trying to explain
what exactly it is that she does in the laboratory. It’s hard to decide which
is more difficult, although Greer demonstrated anew that she is quite an
accomplished pianist. Pawlik and Greer then joined for a four-hand arrangement
of music by Ravel.

 

Bryan Pezzone and Kirk Wilson offered different styles of
improvisation. Pezzone created his version of We Shall Overcome through the lens of Beethoven with an occasional
foray into jazz, while Wilson played jazz riffs while Loh read Carl Sandburg’s Jazz Fantasia.

 

The highlight of the evening came when the Martins offered a
gripping rendition of Lutoslawski’s Paganini
Variations.
Both Worby and Gavin Martin provided the backstory.

 

To
earn a living during World War II, Lutoslawski played piano-duos in cabarets
with fellow composer Andrzej Panufnik. One of their arrangements was of
Paganini’s famous 24th Caprice (far better known for its inclusion
in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of
Paganini).
When Lutoslawski fled Warsaw just before the 1944 uprising, this
was his only piece that survived the destruction.
Unlike
Rachmaninoff’s dreamy arrangement, Lutoslawski’s version is more jagged and
angular; the Martins played it superbly. Pasadena Symphony concertmaster Aimee
Kreston introduced the tune on her violin, which helped people understand from
the variations came.

 

To conclude the evening, Martin & Martin joined with the
other four pianists for a splashy rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever, which — if nothing else — proved that
Sousa’s piece is indestructible.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

AROUND TOWN/MUSIC: Major concerts on calendar during next fortnight

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

This article was first
published today in the above papers.

 

Four major concerts occur in our region during the next
fortnight — and that doesn’t count the final two events of the Piatigorsky
International Cello Festival at Walt Disney Concert Hall: a 2 p.m. concert by
the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein (LINK), and a
7:30 p.m. recital by 110 (!) cellists that will wind up the nine-day-long
festivities (LINK).

 

Also on today’s agenda is the final “LA Phil Live” movie
theater telecast: the season-opening all-Gershwin concert with Gustavo Dudamel
conducting and legendary jazz pianist Herbie Hancock as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue. (LINK)

 

And then comes:

 

MUSE-IQUE ON MARCH
19 AT PASADENA CIVIC AUDITORIUM

Rachael Worby begins this group’s second season with a
typically cheeky program entitled “Ebony Meets Ivory.” Six pianists, including
the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Joanne Pearce Martin, will perform on three
Steinway pianos in a program that ranges from Baroque to jazz, rap to classical
(Moonlight Sonata), and the spoken
word. The program takes place on stage — literally — as both performers and the
audience will be on the stage and a loading bay of the Pasadena Civic
Auditorium. This is the first of seven performances on Muse-ique’s 2012 season.
Information: muse-ique.com

 

LOS ANGELES CHAMBER
ORCHESTRA ON MARCH 24 (Alex Theatre, Glendale) AND MARCH 25 (Royce Hall, UCLA)

Music Director Jeffrey Kahane leads his ensemble and
pianist-composer Timothy Andres in the world premiere of Old Keys, the latest installment in LACO’s “Sound Investment”
commissioning program. Also on the concert is the West Coast premiere of
Andres’ “reconstruction” of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26, K. 531 (Coronation). Mozart wrote only a few
measures for the left hand of this work although the first published edition
was complete, possibly from Mozart’s publisher. In this new version, Andres has
replaced those left-hand sketches with his own creation; how this “mash-up”
works will be part of the concert’s intrigue. Information: www.laco.org

 

PASADENA SYMPHONY
ON MARCH 31 AT AMBASSADOR AUDITORIUM

Nicholas McGegan, known worldwide as one of the premiere
interpreters of Baroque music, takes on a larger task as he leads concerts at 2
p.m. and 8 p.m. in Ambassador Auditorium that conclude with Beethoven’s
Symphony No. 3 (Eroica). Prior to
intermission, Armenian pianist Nareh Arghamanyan will be the soloist in
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, K. 466. Information:
www.pasadenasymphony-pops.org

 

LOS ANGELES MASTER
CHORALE AND MUSICA ANGELICA ON MARCH 31 AND APRIL 1 AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL

LAMC Music Director Grant Gershon conducts 40 singers of his
Chorale, soloists and one of the nation’s premiere period-instrument ensembles
in the first performances of Bach’s St.
John Passion
to be played at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Information: www.lamc.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW: “Pipe Organs Inspire” opens tonight in Pasadena

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Pipe Organs Inspire:

Ae-Kyong Kim, David
Wolfe, Timothy Howard, organists

Saturday, March 17, 2012 First United Methodist Church,
Paszdena

Free Admission

Information: www.pipeorgansinspire.org

______________________

 

Churches often tend to be protective of their turf but three
of Pasadena’s oldest and largest churches — First United Methodists, First
Church of Christ, Scientist, and Pasadena Presbyterian — are combining on a
unique trio of free organ recitals that begin tonight at First United Methodist
Church, 500 E. Colorado Blvd.

 

Full disclosure: I
belong to PPC, sing with and am close friends with Timothy Howard. I like to
quote the late, great Molly Ivins in this regard: You’re free to take what I
have to say with grain of salt or a pound of salt).

 

59183-AeKyongKim.jpg

Each of the church’s organists — Ae-Kyong Kim (FUMC), David
Wolfe (FCCS) and Timothy Howafd (PPC) will play on all three programs. The
music was selected with the unique qualities of each church’s organ (in the
case of this evening’s program, FUMC’s organ is an E.M. Skinner model that was
originally built in 1924).

 

Kim will open the evening with Mozart’s Fantasy in F minor,
K. 608 and will conclude with three movements from Symphony No. 6 in G minor by
Charles-Marie Widor. Wolfe will play October
Interlude
by Clarence Mader (who once taught at Occidental College) and
three Chorale-Preludes by Johann Sebastian Bach. Howard will play Mendelssohn’s
Sonata No. 1, Op. 65, and Buxtehude’s Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne in C Major,
BuxW 137.

 

The recitals give you an opportunity to hear three fine
organist on three significant — and quite different — instruments in three
buildings from different architectural ages, all for no admission charge.

 

The second recital on the series will take place March 31 at
First Church of Christ, Scientist. The final program will be April 14 at
Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Programs, program notes, bios and information
about each of the organs can be found HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

Five-Spot: What caught my eye on March 15, 2012

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Each Thursday, I list five events (six this week — it’s a
very busy weekend) that pique my interest, including (ideally) at least one
with free admission (or, at a minimum, inexpensive tickets). Here’s today’s grouping:

______________________

 

Today and Saturday
at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Los Angeles Philharmonic:
Piatigorsky International Cello Festival concludes

This nine-day celebration of the cello (named in honor the
legendary cellist and teacher Gregor Piatigorsky) concludes this weekend as
Neemi Jrvi conducts the Phil in programs with three different cellists.
Tonight it’s Ralph Kirshbaum, who will solo in the Dvorak Cello Concerto
(LINK). Saturday night Misha Maisky plays Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1
and a transcription of Lenski’s Aria from
Eugene Onegin (LINK). On Sunday,
Alisa Weilerstein takes center stage in Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme and Respighi’s Adagio con variazioni (LINK).
Each program begins with Dvorak’s Carnival
Overture
and concludes with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. Piatigorsky Festival Information: www.piatigorskyfestival.com

 

Saturday at 4 p.m.
at Whittier College

Chorale Bel Canto
sings Bach’s Mass in B Minor

Stephen Gothold directs his chorale (which is celebrating
its 30th anniversary this season), soloists and orchestra as it
concludes the 75th annual Whittier Bach Festival with a performance
of this monument of choral literature. Information:
www.choralebelcanto.org

 

Saturday at 8 p.m.
at Zipper Hall (The Colburn School)

Vox Femina

Iris Levine conducts her women’s chorale as it continues its
15th season and celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a concert of music
from the British Isles and Ireland. Singer-composer Moira Smiley will be the
guest artist. Information: www.voxfeminala.org

Sunday at 2 p.m. at
local movie theatres

Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Herbie Hancock, piano

No, the Phil has not mastered the trick of bifurcation. The
final event in this season’s “LA Phil LIVE” telecasts into movie theatres isn’t
live. Instead, it a recording of the all-Gershwin concert that opened the
2011-2012 season last October. This isn’t the truncated version that played on
PBS in December; it’s the entire concert. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Phil in
rousing performances of Gershwin’s Cuban
Overture
and An American in Paris. Jazz
legend Herbie Hancock joins the orchestra as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue and also plays improvisations on two Gershwin
songs, Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me. There will
also be an interview with Hancock in his home and the usual sort of rehearsal
footage shots that makes these telecasts must viewing, even if you saw the
original concert. Information: www.laphil.com

 

Monday at 7 p.m. at
Pasadena Civic Auditorum

Muse-ique: “Ebony
Meets Ivory”

Rachael Worby begins Muse-ique’s second season with the
first of four “Uncorked Events” featuring six pianists in music that’s all over
the lot. My preview story is HERE. Information:
muse-que.com

 

And the weekend’s
“free admission” program …

 

Saturday at 7:30
p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

Pipe Organs Inspire
Inaugural Concert

Three Pasadena churches — First United Methodist, First
Church of Christ, Scientist, and Pasadena Presbyterian — are combining on this
series of three free concerts. The churches’ organists — Ae-Kyong Kim (FUMC),
David Wolfe (FCCS) and Timothy Howard (PPC) — will perform on all three
programs with music selected specifically for the instrument. Saturday’s
inaugural program will be played on FUMC’s E.M. Skinner Organ. Information: www.pipeorganlsinspire.org

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

PREVIEW: Muse-ique launches new season Monday, March 19

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

59140-Worby Image.jpg

When Rachael Worby — who for 10 years was music director of
the Pasadena Pops Orchestra — unleashed her new organization, Muse-ique, last
year, she promised a radically different programming concept. Last year’s
events (she doesn’t call them concerts) offered a tantalizing taste of her
eclectic vision. The 2012 season — four “Uncorked” events and three summer
programs — fleshes out that vision.

 

The first “Uncorked” event takes place Monday onstage at the
Pasadena Civic Auditorium — literally. Both the performers and the audience
will be on the stage and a loading bay (everyone will enter from the loading
door to the right of the auditorium; the audience is limited to 300). The
evening begins at 7 p.m. with cocktails and the actual event kicks off at 7:20
p.m.

 

As is the case with each of the “Uncorked” programs, Monday
will be unscripted to a degree because they involve conversations between Worby
and her colleagues, in this case, six pianists (thus the title “Ebony Meets
Ivory”): Joanne Pearce Martin, principal keyboard player for the Los Angeles
Philharmonic; Markus Pawlik; Julia Greer; assistant professor of materials
science and mechanics at Caltech; Bryan Pezzone; Kirk Wilson; and Gavin Martin
(Joanne’s husband). They will perform music ranging from Moonlight Sonata to Coltrane, bebop Bach to a 12-hand arrangement
of Stars and Stripes Forever. Also on
the agenda is pop culture analyst/ writer/ performer Sandra Tsing Loh.

 

The only thing that’s a given about Worby’s programs is that
nothing is a given, but the concept is intriguing. Information: muse-ique.com

 

Among the innovative aspects of Muse-ique are the locales.
The April 9 event — a Western theme featuring a Worby regular,
singer-songwriter Michael Murphy and several others — will be at the Gene Autry
National Center in Griffith Park. The Oct. 8 program at the Rose Pavilion will
be a mash-up of Beatles’ music including Sgt.
Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
(the album celebrates its 45th
anniversary on June 1). The fourth program, Nov. 12, will be held amid the
paper rolls of Castle Press (the latter two locales are repeats from the 2011
locales — Rachael loves recycling something or someone that clicks with the
audience).

 

The summer series begins with a free concert June 23 on the
steps of the Pasadena Civic Center. The other two events will be outdoors at
Caltech’s outdoor Olive Garden, which proved to be a terrific venue last year.
Latin Jazz Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval will return to headline the evening on
July 14; details of the August 18 program have not been announced.

 

Information: muse-ique.com

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: An Enchanted Evening with Brian Stokes Mitchell

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell

Friday, March 9, 2012 The Broad Stage

Next performance: Tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Information: www.thebroadstage.com

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell is a true Renaissance man: children’s
book author (On Broadway, with Brian
Stokes Mitchell)
, TV star (Trapper
John, M.D., Fraiser, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,
and most recently, Glee), among other talents. However,
he’s still best known as an iconic, Tony Award-winning Broadway musical theatre
star, a worthy successor to baritone legends such as John Raitt.

 

Now age 54, Stokes (as he prefers to be called, as opposed
to Mitchell) has forsaken the eight-shows-in-a-week grind of Broadway in favor
of concert and semi-staged performances of musicals, but he has also created a
90-minute long, stylishly crafted, winsomely performed show that made its local
debut at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica last night.

 

The show was entitled “From Broadway to The Broad,” ignoring
the fact that the name of the stage is pronounced “brode” (the hall was funded,
in part, through a gift from Eli and Edythe Broad). There was, of course, a
generous helping of powerfully sung Broadway favorites sprinkled throughout the
program (Stokes opened with Some
Enchanted Evening
from South Pacific
and encored with The Impossible Dream from
Man of La Mancha).

 

59035-Mitchell family.jpg

Stokes really connects with the audience (at one point, even
getting them sing the responses in It
Ain’t Necessarily So
from Porgy and
Bess)
and his diction was excellent throughout the evening. Along the way, he wove stories about
his childhood, his performing life, and what it’s like to be the father of a
precocious eight-year-old son (the image pictured right is obviously several
years old) — along with other musical genres — into the fast-paced show. He
even managed to graciously hawk his book, proceeds of which benefit The Actors’
Fund.

 

He was backed by a sensitive accompanying quartet: Jeff Colella
(who doubled as music director) on piano; Chris Colangelo, bass guitar; Rod
Harbour, drums; and Bob Shepherd, who sparkled on several different wind
instruments throughout the evening.

 

After the Some
Enchanted Evening
opener, Stokes sang material from George Gershwin (songs
and two selections from Porgy and Bess), the
Brazilian hit Waters of March, Stars (aided by a sensitive lighting
scheme by Michael Flowers) and a poignant medley of It isn’t Easy Being Green and Hooray.

 

Along the way, he slipped in a couple of pointed political
jibes; he applauded the number of states that have passed gay-marriage laws and
followed that by singing Hello, Young
Lovers
from The King and I — the
context gave the familiar lyrics quite a different spin. 

 

Before encoring with The
Impossible Dream,
Stokes paired an a cappella rendition of the first and
last verses of America the Beautiful (singing
the last refrain as God shed her grace on
thee; and crown thy good with sisterhood …”)
with Wheels of a Dream from Ragtime.

 

For many people in attendance, the show’s highlight came in
the middle. After recounting the back story of how he became involved with the
2005 concert performance of South Pacific
in Carnegie Hall (a performance captured, tbankfully on DVD) and noting
that the musical was originally performed in 1949 and 1950 without
amplification (“cheaters” he called it), Mitchell honored that tradition with a
gripping rendition of This Nearly Was
Mine
sung “au naturele” (without a microphone). His powerful baritone carried
wonderfully in the flattering acoustic of the intimate Broad Stage; indeed, at
least this critic wished the entire show had been done without amplification. This Nearly Was Mine received an
eminently deserved standing ovation from the capacity audience, and there were
more than a few tears flowing.

 

Stokes represents an earlier era of Broadway musicals, one
that young people today rarely get the chance to experience. However, this show
is deeper and richer than mere nostalgia, so if you can get a ticket for
tomorrow’s final performance, grab it.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

One kvetch about Stokes’ commentary: South Pacific was not the first Broadway musical to tackle racism. Show Boat in 1927 had the same theme as
part of that landmark show.

If you’ve never seen The Broad Stage, that’s another
reason to see this show. With just 499 seats and plenty of wood accents, the
acoustics are intimate and flattering and the seats seem wider than normal, in
part because of the low arms.

Another bonus: parking is free and the theater (which is
part of the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center) is accessible via
public transit (Metro’s 704 Rapid Line stops two blocks from the hall and Santa
Monica’s Big Blue Bus runs on Santa Monica Blvd., as well). Some day, Metro’s
Expo Line will be within walking distance.

The hall is a short walk from the Third Street Promenade
and the beach, so if you’re going tomorrow, make a day of it.

Last night’s show was followed by free wine and hors
d’oeuvres, a nice touch that other halls would do well to emulate.

* The Broad Stage is quite a busy spot with six more
programs scheduled during March. Broadway music lovers will want to mark March
31 on their calendars because Jason Robert Brown, whose songs in the musical Parade won him a Tony, comes to the hall
with the Caucasian Rhythm & Brass Kings and Anika Noni Rose. Information: www.thebroadstage.com

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.