WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 

Digital Watch

Weston exhibit erases doubts over digital art

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Digital World presents James Duesing and three other artists whose work originates on a monitor via 3-D imaging and other programs. Should this art be viewed as something less because of its origins? I say no.  

Battle of the Abstract Expressionists

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Battle of the Abstract Expressionists, as Mary Ran of Ran Gallery playfully calls her current show, could be a draw between the artists, but color rules in the works of each. Two well-known, deeply committed 20th century Cincinnati artists, Jack Meanwell and Paul Chidlaw, both practiced abstract expressionism — as opposed to non-objective art, in which tangible subject matter has been thrown out entirely — and both used color with visceral pleasure.  

FotoFocus Revisits Rexroth's Classic Iowa

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 10, 2012
When FotoFocus — the new citywide celebration of photography and lens-based art — occurs in October, there will be so many artists and venues involved it will be hard to choose which to see and when. While I am looking forward to all of it, one photographer I am particularly eager to see isn’t that famous, but has certainly made an impact. Nancy Rexroth, who will be presenting new work from her landmark Iowa project, is sharing with Judi Parks and Jane Alden Stevens a show called Landscapes of the Mind: Metaphor, Archetype and Symbol 1971-2012 at YWCA Women’s Gallery. It opens Oct. 5.  
by Rick Pender 07.09.2012
Posted In: World Choir Games at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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World Choir Games: Around the World

Eight riveting performances at sold-out Aronoff Center

I had a trip around the world on Sunday afternoon, thanks to the World Choir Games. It includes stops in South Africa, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Switzerland, and the Chinese cities of Guangdong, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Hangzhou. The program, playing to a completely sold-out house at the Aronoff Center's Procter & Gamble Hall, was a chance for eight choirs, each champions in one or more categories, to briefly showcase a few selections. Singer, performer and Cincinnati native Drew Lachey  hosted the afternoon program. In order, we were treated to performances by the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Girls Choir (Female Choirs champion); the Diocesan Boys' School Choir from Hong Kong (Young Male Chorus champion); Männerstimmen Basel from Switzerland (Male Choirs Champion); the "8 Seconds" Mixed Chorus fa Hangzhou Normal University (Mixed Youth Choir champion); the Children's Choir of the Orchestra of Laraand Camerata Singonica Larense from Venezuela (Folklore champion); Guangdong Experimental Middle School (Youth Choir of Equal Voices champion); Stellenbosch University Choir from South Africa (a double champion for Musica Sacra and Mixed Chorus); and Dekoor Close Harmony from the Netherlands (another double champion, for Popular Choral Music and Jazz). That's too many to offer song-by-song details from the two hour program, but I want to share  some memorable highlights. Perhaps most powerful was the "African Prayer," sung by the Stellenbsoch choir, following a remark from the group;s director about how much they appreciated Cincinnati's hospitality. I head this group sing the same number on Thursday evening's celebration concert, and it was equally powerful — driven by full-voiced female singing, rhythmic clapping and building enthusiasm. What's more, the director sat down and let the choir proceed under its own steam. Demonstrating their varied repertoire, the same group also did a quirky rendition of Queen's "Seaside Rendezvous," playing kazoos for part of the number. The Chinese choruses showed tremendous discipline, carefully following their directors and, especially in the case of the group from Shanghai, creating a pure, crystalline sound that was virtually one voice. Each of those choirs were also stylishly dressed in matching costumes. (I found myself wondering how transportation was handled for these choirs, not just for the singers but for their gowns and other attire. No one seemed to have left anything behind!) The group from Basel looked more like a scruffy Euro band, about 30 men, some with beards, others with wooly heads of hair. Many of them wore knee-length pants and suspenders. But their singing was strong and well-rehearsed. The Venezuelans were in costumes that had a Latin flair, especially the women in white, knee-length dresses with traditional, multicolored ruffles on their hems and necklines. This latter group had a fine sense of humor, especially for its tongue-twisting final number that involved singing faster and faster, then concluding in a sort of faux collapse of exhaustion. Most unlike other choirs I've heard, Dekoor from the Netherlands, which sang in colloquial American English offered three numbers from the Pop repertoire. The group of 30, evenly divided between men and women, opened with "We Are Young," a song about friendship, youth and trust — all qualities represented by their stances and interactions (a repeated lyric: "We are young/So let's the set the world on fire/We can burn brighter/Than the sun"). They moved next to James Taylor's paean to frustration, "Damn This Traffic Jam," and as an encore rendered a funky version of George Michael's "Freedom." Quite a switch from beautifully executed but not so stirring sacred numbers. For my second concert of the day, I was back at the Aronoff for the Energy of Youth" Celebration Concert featuring three groups. The frist was local, the Cincinnati Children's Choir, mostly junior high and high school youths. They were augmented for the second half of their program with a specially formed "Cincinnati Public Schools Honor Choir," a pair of singers selected from each of the CPS elementary schools. They concluded with two numbers commissioned for the event and conducted by composer Rollo Dillworth; the finale, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," had a clapping rhythm that engaged the entire audience. What this group lacked in polish (they had only three rehearsals) they more than made up for in enthusiasm. The next group was the Farnham Youth Choir from Great Britain. Forty singers, mostly girls (there were three boys with voices not yet changed) offered a varied set  that combined some sacred numbers with some folk-inspired pieces (The Piper o'Dundee" and ""Iona Boat Song"). Most interesting was a number titled "Aglepta," that began with a single member reciting this text: "To leave a enemy without an answer, say this words to him: Aglaria Pidhol garia Ananus Qepta" and blow in his direction; then he will not know which way he is headed and cannot answer you." What followed was a strange collection of sighs, whistles, squeals, shrieks, clapping and other odd noises, an odd showcase of discipline that was a long way from the more traditional numbers. It was a bit fearful, and completely captivating. The program concluded with a set by the Guangdong Experimental Middle School Choir that was as much choreography and tradition as it was a choral performance. Native costumes, a Mongolia throat singer, drums, bells, wild dancing — this performance made me think about how little we know about other parts of the world ... and how much an event like the World Choir Games opens us to learning about other cultures. Quite a day.
 
 

The Foreigner (Review)

Still fresh after 30 years

0 Comments · Sunday, July 8, 2012
I’ve seen Ken Shue’s 1984 comedy The Foreigner in several good productions. It’s one of the funniest plays I know, a well-oiled laugh machine, but if you anticipate what’s happening, you’d think it would diminish the humor.   
by Rick Pender 07.07.2012
Posted In: World Choir Games at 12:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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World Choir Games: 'Voices of Gold'

Hot night at the School for Creative and Performing Arts

Despite the 100-plus heat on Friday evening, on my way to a World Choir Games concert at Over-the-Rhine's School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) I took an extra half-hour to wander through the renovated Washington Park, which officially opened earlier in the day. What an incredible scene! Hundreds of operagoers were streaming through the park on their way to see Porgy and Bess at Music Hall, while kids from the neighborhood — young and old, I must add — were playing in the people-friendly fountain. Everyone was strolling around admiring the views and the colorful "OTR Flags," another festive element of the park's opening. On from there to SCPA's Corbett Theater for another sold-out "Celebration Concert." This one used the theme "Voices of Gold," because each of the three choirs have won multiple honors in past World Choir Games and other choral competitions. SCPA seemed like the perfect setting, since each group was made up of youthful performers: Zvonky Praha is a school group from a school in Prague in the Czech Republic and some of its singers were obviously elementary school age kids; SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School were high schoolers; and the Mansfield University Concert Choir was a mixed choir of young adults from the university in Pennsylvania. It's fascinating to observe the differing personalities of the choirs, here a product of age but also of directors with very different styles of leading the singing. Zvonky Praha begain with its 19-member chamber component, separately named "Abbellimento," all high school age girls clad in black pants and shirts, with scarlet sashes, some worn as belts, others as scarves and one as a head band. Their female voices were reedy but strong for their program, virtually all sung in Czech, so I can't tell you much of what the music was about. But I can say it was delivered with passion and clarity, accompanied in most cases by a blonde-haired pianist who played with expressive emotion. Several numbers were enhanced by one of the singers picking up a clarinet and offering soulful punctuation. When the balance of the choir came on to join Abbellimento, the numbers were roughly doubled, but again almost all girls wearing red choir capes. (There were two young boys, but I suspect their voices had not yet changed, and the feminine quality of the singing did not change.) Director Jamila Noveknová kept the ensemble in tight control, but for several final numbers had some soloists step forward, including one of the younger performers with a gorgeous soprano voice. Their final number, a choral replication of bells, was especially memorable. Lam Woo's director, Siu Mei Lee, is a petite, beautiful woman with shining, black hair. She conducted with the expressive grace of a ballerina, using large gestures and physical movement to inspire her very focused choristers. This was a big group, roughly 80 singers, wearing school uniforms: The boys had white shirts with a school emblem and ties while girls wore knee-length pale blue dresses with white "sailor" collars and white knee socks. This group were serious in their demeanor, totally focused on their animated director. Their wide ranging program encompassed works by Mendelssohn as well as Asian composers; their concluding number, "Zum Gali," was a rhythmic traditional number from Israel that swung between soft and loud passages and up and down energy, but with a beautiful fading elevation of tone as its conclusion. The intense singers maintained their demeanor as the audience gave them a standing ovation, but when a little boy entered from the wings to hand a bouquet to Siu Mei Lee, the entire chorus burst into applause. Their affection for her was evident. Peggy Dettwiler is clearly a veteran conductor (she teaches the craft to others at Mansfield University) and her work with her more mature singers was the most satisfying component of the evening. A balanced choir of about 60, the men wore traditional tuxedoes and black ties, while the women were attired in floor-length gowns all cut the same way. (The women also wore identical sparkling necklaces and earrings.) According to the introductions made for this group, their repertoire is generally drawn from religious works, but that did not mean it was a lot of the same thing: They offered a beautiful piece with German lyrics and music by Mendelssohn, followed by a solemn, stately song by Stephen Paulus, "The Old Church." Next was a traditional Gospel number, "Hold On!," delivered with relaxed energy. For a traditional Appalachian hymn, "Every Night When the Sun Goes Down," the group formed an unorthodox circle around Dettwiler, who conducted the entire program without music from a small, square platform about six-inches in height. That meant that some had their backs to the audience, but at one key moment, they turned toward us, which elevated not only their volume but the intensity of their heartfelt performance. Their finale, "Pal-so seong," was a humorous number in which various solo singers burst into giggles, hoots and chortles, culminating in gales of laughter — a truly unusual piece. The group's encore, an infectious "Alleluia," had them file up the aisles at Corbett Theater, surrounding the audience with joyous song. It was a perfect conclusion to the varied program.
 
 
by Rick Pender 07.06.2012
Posted In: World Choir Games at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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World Choir Games: 'Global Harmony'

Masonic Center performances high quality and appreciated

On Thursday evening I slogged through the humid, 100 degree soup of downtown Cincinnati to hear a World Choir Games concert at the Masonic Center on Fourth Street (next door to the Taft Theatre). I've lived in Cincinnati for 32 years and covered lots of arts events, but I've never set foot inside this honeycomb of stages, halls and meeting rooms. The sold-out event I attended, "Global Harmony," was in a steeply sloped, floridly decorated auditorium that seats approximately 1,000 people. A four-step set of risers was set up in front of a proscenium with a curtain; the scenery was provided by three choirs, two international groups — the Diocesan Schools Choral Society from Hong Kong and the Stellenbosch University Choir from South Africa — both highly recognized ensembles at the 2010 World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China. The third choir had a shorter trek to Cincinnati; the Capital University Chapel Choir, about 80 singers strong, came from Columbus and held its own with the two groups from other continents. The Hong Kong group, roughly 120 high school boys and girls, offered a beautiful, restrained program of earnestly conceived works performed with polish, some religious and some literary (the latter included a piece based on Robert Burns' poem, "My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose"). The singers from Capital University had the men attired in black suits, shirts and ties, the women in long dresses with identical bias-cut necklines but in varying colors, bright blue, maroon and navy. Their program was an interesting mixture of pieces, with several uptempo numbers — a lovely song by Dolly Parton, "Light of a Clear Blue Morning," that featured a crystalline solo by Annie Huckaba, and several rhythmic works, "Hehehlooyuh" and "Tshotsholoza," both of which evoked strong responses from the audience. The latter, a South African number, featured two forceful soloists, Chris Bozeka and Nicholas Klein, as well as percussive accompaniment on African drums by Emily Riggin and another chorus member (not named in the program). The Stellenbosch choir, constituted of approximately 120 white and black college students and which earned three gold medals in the 2010 World Choir Games in China, presented a half-dozen songs plus an encore. "Kiasa-isa Niyan," described by conductor André van der Merwe as a counting song from the Philippines, used catchy choreography and motion, including chest thumping, vocal clicking, head snapping and a sharply executed bow at the end. The most moving number of the program, a traditional Zulu song, "African Prayer." It pulled six strong-voiced soloists (again, not named in the program) to the front of the stage and placed two more among the audience for an emotional call-and-response counterpoint that evoked a standing ovation. In fact, each group was greeted with sustained applause as its singers filed on stage and cheered with a standing ovation after their performance. The audience was appreciative and wildly enthusiastic; some were parents of the Capital University performers, but many others were clearly people who simply love choral performances that are delivered with finesse, creativity and enthusiasm. Fifth Street was choked with buses bringing people from various hotels beyond downtown, here as tourists to listen to these performances. Oh, yes: The auditorium was comfortably air-conditioned, a fact appreciated by those in attendance as well as the singers. It was a fine way to be introduced to the possibilities of the World Choir Games, here in the United States — not to mention in Cincinnati — for the first time ever. I was proud to be in attendance.
 
 
by Anne Arenstein 07.05.2012
Posted In: World Choir Games at 09:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
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World Choir Games Underway

Opening Ceremony involves welcoming by U.S. officials and lots of singing

It was quite the spectacle and in a good way. As I, along with other members of MUSE, approached Great American Ballpark around 4 p.m., there were already hundreds of World Choir Games participants thronging the entrance, and despite the stifling temperature, the excitement was palpable. All the hype about this being an international event was no hype at all. For the first time I can remember, Cincinnati looked like an international city.  Choirs from West Chester, Loveland and Pleasant Ridge chatted with groups from Japan, Colombia, Canada and Australia. Cheers erupted from all parts of the plaza, spontaneous singing and dancing were everywhere. The plaza was a riot of color: the Colombians in vivid red, orange, and yellow; Japanese women in blue and pink kimonos; the Nigerian choir in bright green dashikis and caps; and the Costa Rican women's choir in flowing white dresses embroidered in bright red. With no signage but a multitude of helpful volunteers, 5,000 of us were mustered into holding areas before marching over to U.S. Bank Arena. Bottled water and mist sprayers relieved the heat, and when the water ran out, there plenty of ice cubes — putting them down my back never felt better. We found ourselves in a shaded area along with a youth choir from Erie, Pa. Suddenly they started chanting, "Sing! Sing! Sing!"  As we launched in the South African Xhosa song "Bambelela," their eyes lit up in recognition and suddenly we were one big chorus. They answered us with "The Storm is Passing Over," and this time, our eyes lit up. Same arrangement we do. They sang a beautiful arrangement of "As I Went Down to the River to Pray." When we sang Bernice Johnson Reagon's "I'm Gon' Stand," with Lois Shegog belting out the solo, they were riveted.  Once inside the arena, more cheering as groups saw themselves on the JumboTrons. The soundtrack took in The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Gloria Estafan, The Monkees, and I think Neil Diamond was in there somewhere. The Aussies sitting below us started a beach ball toss that would have gone on longer if an arena-wide wave hadn't taken over. I didn't see many empty seats. WCPO's Clyde Gray and Carol Williams were affable emcees and the opening remarks by Mayor Mallory and Interkultur head Gunther Titsch were mercifully brief (Titsch spoke in heavily accented English and then reverted to his native German. That was fine — I'd rather look at his translator any day. Williams read greetings from President Obama — the letter was projected on the video screens to the accompaniment of hundreds of camera flashes. Rob Portman didn't applaud. But he recovered to declare the games open. Cincinnati Pops conductor John Morris Russell paid tribute to the late Erich Kunzel, who was the driving force behind bringing the WCG to Cincinnati. And it was his vision to include the traditional July 4th concert as part of the opening ceremony. I think he would have been delighted and not at all surprised at the power of singing to bring people together. Choruses rose with pride as their nation's flag was announced, but they also cheered on their peers. I'll never forget the group from Namibia turning to cheer South Africa. As we left, I couldn't help singing India Arie's "There's Hope." MUSE sang that, too.
 
 

It's All Just Singing, Right?

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Opera always struck me as a strange, overblown cousin to musical theater. I told people that I had to “turn off my theater filters when I went to see opera.” But then I spent several seasons working for Cincinnati Opera, and my eyes were opened to the reasons people react so strongly to that art form.  

Kind of Blue

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Hot on the heels of Monet in Giverny, this summer the Cincinnati Art Museum showcases the life and legacy of pioneering African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner in Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit. A full-scale retrospective, Modern Spirit is a provocative examination of one man’s journey to discover a pictorial language capable of expressing an intense religious feeling.  

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