Get ready for a whirlwind concert experience fueled by vocal powerhouses. Having been familiar with the award-winning 1998 The Temptationsminiseries produced by Temptations founder Otis Williams and based on the book featuring a special appearance by Smokey Robinson, it is no secret just how much material this musical had to cover and does so with finesse and upbeat pacing.
Behind every monumental group is a colossal tale. The story behind the Temptations spans decades encapsulating wild drama (some of which seems too incredible to be true) while members of the Temptations changed like a revolving door. Some of these legendary performers haunted by the past wrestled with inner turmoil and demons that indelibly impacted their own lives and with timeless and groundbreaking music comes sacrifice.
Based on the Otis Williams and Patricia Romanowski’sThe Temptations autobiography, the journey began in Detroit. Marcus Paul James is part preacher, part storyteller, and all heart as Temptations founder Otis Williams recalls admiring groups like The Cadillacs in his hometown when he wasn’t getting into trouble. Finding his calling to sing was like ‘the heavens opening up.’ Immediately engaging, James guides the audience through decades of the Temptations musical journey through the losses, the humor, dedication, arrogance, passion, tragedy, and fleeting success to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Most importantly though, it is a rich voyage through the classic Motown tunes that have stood the test of time not just by The Temptations, but the Supremes and other famous Motown classics of that time.
Decked out in suave matching gray suits and ties and launching into The Way You Do the Things You Do featuring the five original members composed of James T. Lane as Paul Williams, Harrell Holmes Jr as Melvin Franklin, Elijah Ahmad Lewis as David Ruffin, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, and Marcus Paul James as Otis Williams, Ain’t too Proud is an interactive, energetic, concert-driven locomotive as sliding vintage black and white photos and film depict the fans, the touring, the injustices, and the milestones through the years. The frequently moving, multilayered set by Robert Brill combined with Howell Binkley’s impressive lighting gives the slick illusion of the quick pace of their lives and the audience riding along for each transforming scene.
Not only does Ain’t too Proud feature Tony award-winning choreography, but some dynamite vocals from start to finish. Traci Elaine Lee delivers a dual role first with brief, but memorable impromptu vocals as fast-talking Johnnie Mae in a spectacular onstage Cadillac as as Mary Wilson of The Supremes. The Supremes, adorned in dazzling gowns by costume designer Paul Tazewell, make brief but memorable appearances with seamless vocals for classic numbers such as You Can’t Hurry Love and I’m Gonna Make You Love Me led by Deri’Andra Tucker as the luminous Diana Ross.
Though each member of the Temptations have good chemistry, baritone Marcus Paul James as Otis and Harrell Holmes Jr as dedicated and forthright bass singer Melvin, have an exceptional brotherly connection. Jalen Harris as falsetto Eddie Kendricks performed a memorable Just My Imagination to an enthusiastic crowd. Elijah Ahmad Lewis portrays complex and sensational tenor David Ruffin with charisma, arrogance, and affliction from the sweet first notes of My Girlto I Wish it Would Rain. The stirring I Wish it Would Rain symbolizes much more than love lost in this particular production.
Ain’t too Proud delves into the lives of the Temptations, the classic tunes, what tears them apart, and what ultimately makes them the greatest Rhythm and Blues group in music history. With a total of 24 Temptations over the years, it is quite the tale to tell.
Lexus Broadway in Boston presents jukebox musical Ain’t too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations at Citizens Bank Opera House in Boston, MA through Sunday, May 1. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Just prior to the pandemic, an award-winning, intriguing production not only made its debut but closed in one night on the Company Theatre stage in Norwell, Massachusetts over a year ago. Onstage as the meaty role of Bruce, Company Theatre’s Director of Development Michael Hammond experienced that incredible and bittersweet night and what it meant to the cast of the musical memoir Fun Home. Click here for our full podcast conversation.
The Company Theatre is offering a chance to see Fun Home for the full run they had originally intended in October. Michael talks about his experience as Bruce, his favorite part of theatre, and a secret upcoming project.
Click here for Sleepless Critic’s Fun Home review and here for tickets and further information about the Company Theatre.
Sleepless Critic: So you’ve been in theatre since you were a kid and now that we have had the pandemic, what was your favorite part of the theatre before and was there a change in your favorite or what you miss the most when we had a break?
Michael Hammond: I think we take a lot for granted in life. We forget how much fun it is to sing with an orchestra or to perform on a beautiful set someone built. Ryan Barrow does amazing sets at Company Theatre and it’s thrilling to perform on one of his sets. It’s thrilling to perform with Steve Bass conducting an orchestra and thrilling to perform Sally Forrest’s choreography under Zoe Bradford’s direction.
I think we take that for granted in some ways and as much as I enjoy it and maybe as I got from show to show to show, I think I just liked performing specific roles for the experience of getting to know a new cast. I did a Christmas show at Company Theatre and just recharged my energy to be around such beautiful people and exciting kids and talent. You’re in a flow and you are doing shows and enjoying it.
You get what you get out of it, but when the pandemic was coming, I was doing Fun Home with an extremely talented cast. Riley Crockett was playing the youngest Alison. I was re-experiencing theatre through her eyes and she had never been on a big stage or performed with an orchestra which is shocking because she is so talented. She would ask me, ‘Are you nervous for your solo tonight?’ I would say, ‘I am a little.’ She would say, ‘Good, now you know how I feel.’ Ok, she needs a little more support and encouragement in that moment.
Then we were standing on top of a staircase and we were about to walk down for our first entrance and she said, ‘Michael, I’ve never performed on a set like this. This is a big deal.’ I said, ‘Yes, it is a big deal. You are right. This is a beautiful experience and you’re about to sing live with an orchestra for the first time in a big theatre on a beautiful set.’ It made me look at what we are doing and not take it for granted.
So we were fortunate to open and close Fun Home on the exact same night because the pandemic had really hit. That day everyone was cancelling their performances but we went on because we had a feeling this would be it. I’m so glad we did because it was one of the most exciting and electric experiences of my life. People were rebellious and excited. They knew this might be the last time they ever saw this show and Fun Home is not a super positive and happy experience.
SC: It is melancholy.
MH: Right, but the audience treated it like it was a rock concert!
SC: Yes, I was there to review your first and final performance. I felt so comfortable and wonderful and I had saw this show in Boston before. What I liked about watching this particular show is that you can make it so different every time you perform it. The parts can be portrayed very differently and you can do so much with the show. In a way, if you had to say goodbye to theatre for awhile, I felt like that was such a poignant thing to do in that moment.
MH: It was. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I think I ever had and it was just so bittersweet because it was the last show with Jordie. How thrilled and grateful am I that I got to have Jordie’s final show be Fun Home and I got to be a part of it. It was just such a fantastic experience and she loved the show. It was such a joy to go through that process with her.
SC: It is one of those shows that sneak up on you unexpectedly. You’re experiencing the show and you enjoy it, but once it’s over, it is really thought-provoking.
MH: I saw it on Broadway and loved it. I thought that I don’t necessarily need to see it again. It was beautiful and moving and I think of it like a beautiful film. You watch it and then you watch another film. When this opportunity came around to work on the show, I have such a great appreciation for it. I think it’s just one of the greatest things ever written where you’re dissecting and it personally and really in the trenches on it. It’s so much more brilliant than I realized.
SC: It has such multi-layered performances as well.
MH: I was thinking today that there were so many things about Bruce, I almost feel like I just left my body. I personally couldn’t be any part of this character because it just wasn’t anything like me. Sometimes I think about it and it feels really difficult to do it again because I remember it as ‘What did I even do?’ I feel like something else took over and performed the role for me.
SC: I don’t often see you play parts like that. Not to reveal anything, but your character is very complicated.
MH: Then to hear compliments like you should do roles like that more often is such a compliment because people think of me as a song, dance, and musical theatre man. Not that I shy away from roles like that, but it was very gratifying to play that part especially opposite such a talented cast. It’s unbelievable.
SC: I know you’ve written a few works with Jordie and Zoe over the years. Please tell us how that came about.
MH: I co-wrote Paragon Park the Musical with Zoe, Jordie, Sally, and Michael Joseph for the first production and Steve Bass for the second who worked on the music. I love amusement parks and I loved Paragon Park. I went there so many times in my life.
When I heard that Zoe and Jordie were thinking of writing a musical about Paragon Park, I selfishly just wanted to see it. I had no inkling that I would be involved or that they would want me involved. I just wanted to see that production so it got mentioned many times over the years and one summer I designed a poster Paragon Park the Musical coming summer of whatever year it was. It was a long time ago.
One day Zoe decided years after the poster even to start doing some research. She said, ‘Why don’t you come with me? We’ll get lunch.’ We went to the Hull Library which was incredible. They put us in a private room and provided us with access to microfiche, boxes of memorabilia, and photographs. They were so generous. It just snowballed from there. We just couldn’t stop. We were researching and loved what we found. It did not end up being the musical we thought we were going to write because the ideas we had in mind turned out to be completely not true. It all got shifted.
We thought maybe there was this seedy underbelly to the park and that once the park was closed, things happened at night. It was going to be dark and mysterious and then we find out from the park owners that ‘Oh no, we locked that place, sealed it like a drum at 11 pm, and went out for Chinese food.’ Nothing happened at the Park after hours. So much for that, but the Stone Family provided us with so much information that we were able to write a really interesting and factual musical. It was 80% true except for the love story we incorporated.
SC: Not only did you write it the first time around, but when it came back around, you got to star in it too.
MH: I did and it was a thrill! The nicest feeling about that show and being in it is to be putting on a costume and as I’m by myself getting dressed, I would hear people walk down the hallway singing the songs or they would say that they get to do that scene they love now. There was so much positivity and to realize we wrote a show that was really fun to perform. Some of the kids were in Ragtime and we used to make these funny backstage videos. So I said, ‘Why don’t we make videos during Paragon Park?’ They said, ‘Michael, you and Zoe wrote a show where there is no time to make videos. When would we do that?’ It was nice to know we had a hand in creating this really fun experience. It was quite thrilling to be able to perform something that I helped write.
SC: Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
MH: I’m devoting all my time to Company Theatre and Zoe and I thought, ‘Why not write another musical?’ It’s a completely different project from Paragon Park and we can’t quite announce yet what it is, but Zoe is incredibly inspired by this project.
Watching her, it’s almost like she is channeling something like I’ve never seen. She’s a beautiful artist and I’m obsessed with the way she draws and paints. So she just took out a magic marker and a gigantic pad of paper and drew what she saw in her head for the plot of this show and it was quite impressive to watch. Her ideas are flowing through her. It is unbelievable so we’re hoping that will probably be the summer of 2023.
Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, is presenting Fun Home in October as well as devoting a night to their late co-founder, Jordie Saucerman, in November. Click here for more information and check back to find out about Company Theatre’s mystery original production.
Veronica Swift and pianist Julius Rodriguez Photo credit: Robert Torres
John Pizzarelli Trio with John Pizzarelli, bassist Mike Karn and pianist Isaiah Thompson Photo credit: Robert Torres
Veronica Swift and John Pizzarelli are currently on tour. Click here for Swift’s upcoming shows and here for John’s future tour dates. Click here for more on Celebrity Series of Boston and their upcoming events.
Festive purple curtains embellished Sanders Theatre’s beautiful, softly-lit stage. Dressed in an effervescent pink jumpsuit that changed shades in different lighting, jazz vocalist Veronica Swift kicked off the evening with a drum-infused rendition of Cole Porter’s breezy classic, Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love). Each musician had an opportunity to show off their stellar talent which included pianist Julius Rodriguez, bassist Phillip Norris, and drummer Aaron Kimmel.
Swift offered a casual, low key presence as she shared childhood stories of growing up touring with her jazz singer mother, Stephanie Nakasian and her father, bebop pianist Hod O’Brien. Swift’s versatile set had its share of joyous and stirring moments which included a poignant version of Ella Fitzgerald’s Everytime We Say Goodbye dedicated to her father as her voice swelled in quiet emotion. She skimmed the scales in an electrifying version of Billie Holiday’s Come Rain or Come Shine and an anguished Prisoner of Love.
Veronica Swift and pianist Julius Rodriguez Photo credit: Robert Torres
At just 25 years old, she is a spirited and contemplative performer. Jazz aficionados would appreciate her natural ability for scatting showcased in a fast paced, ebullient rendition of Billie Holiday’s I Can’t Believe that You’re in Love with Me. Though I am not a big jazz fan, it is easy to appreciate the liberties jazz takes to transform these classics into a refreshing, eclectic new sound.
With a great deal of humor, a relaxed atmosphere, and in a sharp gray suit, avid storyteller John Pizzarelli delved into the history of Nat King’s Cole music while sharing some of his own history along the way. He revitalized a few of Nat King Cole’s hits and shared a few anecdotes in tribute to Nat King Cole’s centennial. American Jazz singer-songwriter and musician Nat King Cole was one of the most successful artists on Capital Records’ roster and his music has inspired generations.
Pizzarelli is currently on tour for John Pizzarelli Trio’s most recent album For Centennial Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole. The title seems a subtle play on Nat King Cole’s I Love You (For Sentimental Reasons) which Pizzarelli performs tenderly later in the show. Aside from Pizzarelli who can no less shred on guitar, Pizzarelli was joined by spectacular musicians Isaiah Thompson on piano and Mike Karn on bass. The John Pizzarelli Trio’s collective sound had the rhythm of a moving train. Each piece came alive as the instruments seem to “chat” with each other especially during Hit That Jive, Jack and a lively rendition of Honeysuckle Rose.
Bassist Mike Karn, John Pizzarelli, and pianist Isaiah Thompson Photo credit: Robert Torres
The trio explored Lorraine as Pizzarelli shared a legendary story about how the song turned Nat King Cole from a pianist into a singer, though it is a rumored tale. Nat King Cole was part of the Nat King Cole Trio and it was nice to see Pizzarelli reflecting that with his own John Pizzarelli Trio, each member getting their own chance to shine.
Pizzarelli’s delivered an uplifting set which included a few love songs. His guitar hummed during a cheerful rendition of Nat King Cole’s Make Believe as lightning fast pianist Isaiah Thompson commanded the keys. Pizzarelli showed off his side winding guitar style in his own song titled Nat King Cool and his scatting skills during Nat King Cole’s Frim Fram Sauce. The evening’s lighthearted vibe continued with the humorous Save the Bones for Henry Jones, the vibrant I Would Do Anything for You, and one of Nat King Cole’s most popular singles, Straight Up and Fly Right.
John Pizzarelli, bassist Mike Karn, and pianist Isaish Thompson Photo credit: Robert Torres
Swift returned to the stage for a few Gershwin classics that included a wistful Someone to Watch Over Me. She and Pizzarelli delivered a wonderful rendition of They Can’t Take That Away from Me, I Got Rhythm, and their lauded encore Route 66.
As a big Nat King Cole fan, I would have liked to have heard Nat King Cole’s Stardust and his mega-hit Unforgettable, but it simply didn’t fit into an evening consisting of mostly the brighter side of love and its boundless possibilities.
Is it worth seeing him when he comes back to Boston? Is he the Greatest Showman?
One thing is certain – Hugh Jackman is the genuine article.
Some actors who decide to go on tour put on self-indulgent shows of their history in show business and share their general musings about life to promote their next album or film. They might even sing a song or two. However, outside the studio, they can’t really sing or dance. People cheer, even if the show isn’t what they were expecting, but they remember that guy in that film or show who was so great in those roles, and that is enough.
Hugh is one talented guy. He is a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy award-winner as well as a Golden Globe and Academy Award-nominee. He has also been on the other side of acting as host of the Academy and Tony Awards. For his 50th birthday, he wished to go on a world-wide tour.
Hugh Jackman’s ‘The Man. The Music. The Show’ will continue through October 20, 2019. Click here for show dates. He’ll also return to Boston’s TD Garden for one more performance on Tuesday, October 1.
Photo credit to Hugh Jackman The Show
The morning of Hugh’s appearance on Thursday, June 27 at the TD Garden, Hugh Jackman made a surprise appearance serving coffee from a coffee truck in Boston to promote his charity work with ‘The Laughing Man Cafe and Foundation.’ A loyal Bruins fan, he called performing in Boston one of his big dreams.
As superhero Wolverine (in which he demonstrated an onstage pose or two), he showed his dynamic range. Decked out at first in a white tux, he ran the gamut of styles from flashy costumes to more casual attire with no ringleader costume in sight. Though he reminisced about his career with a realistic look at his dogged pursuit to find success as an actor, he seemed like a humble, funny, and approachable guy.
A family friendly show, he kept the crowd moving with a broad range of music. From reaching into an old school vibe with selections such as I’ve Got Rhythm and Mac the Knife to tap dancing to AC/DC to performing a vast selection of musical theatre including lighting up the stage with selections from ‘The Greatest Showman,’ the show had a universal appeal though especially tailored for the theatre buff. He joined Kaley McKnight onstage to perform a stunning, powerful rendition of This is Me and a sweeping ‘Les Miserables‘ medley. He also joined members of the Boston Children’s Chorus for a stirring rendition of You Will Be Found from the hit musical, ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’
Hugh Jackman at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
The second half of the show did not outdo the first, but he demonstrated his range further in the second. It actually became a bit trippy during his ode to his Australian idol, Peter Allen in which Hugh won a Tony Award for his portrayal as Peter in ‘The Boy From Oz.’ Peter was not only known for songs such as Don’t Cry Out Loud and Arthur’s Theme, but for his over-the-top stage performances. He also welcomed the audience into his native Australia by recreating the outback, claiming it as one of his most out-of-this-world experiences he has ever had.
So, to answer those questions, I prefer Hugh in his epic films, but he is undeniably a wonderful performer. The very best is a lot to ask, but his dynamic range is truly great and worth watching on tour or when he returns to Boston in October. You will no doubt recognize the sheer talent that he has developed over decades of being a singer, a dancer, theater actor, movie star, and a hero.
As a fan of the twist-ending, they have been nothing short of fascinating. Directed by Michael Hisamoto, Flat Earth Theatre continues King of Shadows through June 22 at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets. This show may be haunting for children.
The setting of Flat Earth Theatre’s ‘King of Shadows’ Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre
Much like Riverdale, an ordinary setting withholds extraordinary secrets. Grounded in the reality of missing children in San Francisco, King of Shadows delves into the lives of four distinct characters, all affected by their dark past. The haunting set and intimate, encompassing staging, especially PJ Strachman’s light design, Bram Xu’s sound design, Stage Manager/Puppeteer Amy Lehrmitt, and scenic designer Ryan Bates, create an immersive, unsettling atmosphere for what is about to unfold.
Compassionate and ambitious Berkeley graduate student Jessica, portrayed with finesse by Laura Chowenhill, may be in over her head when she meets Nihar, a mysterious, wise-beyond-his-years homeless teenager portrayed by Trinidad Ramkissoon. Ramkissoon’s penetrating gaze and inquisitive nature give Nihar an edgy charisma. He has a fuzzy past, but that does not stop Jessica from her perpetual desire to help others.
Logical and protective policeman Eric Saunders, portrayed impressively by Matt Crawford, is suspicious that Nihar may have a dangerous agenda. Crawford’s Eric is a great foil for Chowendill’s pensive and conflicted Jessica, setting the stage for some sparks. Jessica’s resentful and impulsive younger sister Sarah, portrayed with sarcasm and sass by Abigail Erdelatz, is capable of anything as she longs for a different life.
Flat Earth’s multi-layered production, King of Shadows is best seen without revealing too many details. Though it’s an increasingly outlandish tale, King of Shadows has more than its share of suspense, leaving the audience constantly wondering where each character’s loyalty truly lies.
Trinidad Ramkissoon as Nihar Photo courtesy of Flat Earth Theatre
Flat Earth Theatre’s final production of its 13th season, King of Shadows continues through Saturday, June 22 at the Black Box at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street in Watertown, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
Partially surrounded by a lush green lawn that gives it a campus feel, The Mosesian Center for the Arts houses a number of productions, concerts, and exhibits during the year. Offering free parking and next door to Panera Bread, Earful and Gilly Assuncao are among the featured concerts this month while The Wizard of Oz and the opera, La Cenerentola, are among the upcoming theatrical productions. Click here to see all that Mosesian Center for the Arts has to offer.
Kicking off with the familiar drumbeat of the 20th Century Fox fanfare performed live before the film’s opening credits, The Boston Pops presented Home Alonein Concert with style and a few surprises as this popular 1990 Christmas comedy film returned to Symphony Hall from December 29 and 30. Much like the Boston Pops’ ‘in concert’ predecessors featuring classic films such as West Side Story, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nosferatu, Singin’ in the Rain, and Psycho, the Boston Pops enhances the unique tone of each film from score to sound effects, making it an unforgettable cinematic experience. Led by Keith Lockhart, it doesn’t get much better than watching a feature film on the big screen alongside the Boston Pops’ clever orchestration. Click here for more information on the Boston Pops.
It was a particular treat to be greeted by the Wellesley High School Keynote Singers and Rice Street Singers who performed a few lighthearted a capella holiday hits as the audience filed into the Symphony Hall lobby before the film started. The anticipation of Home Alone in Concert was palpable, heightened by an uproarious applause as the film started and enthusiasm that continued throughout the performance.
A heartwarming film full of high jinks and relatable family humor, Home Alone features the McAllister family as they prepare to embark on a Christmas trip to Paris and through a series of unforeseeable circumstances, leave their youngest child, Kevin, portrayed by Macaulay Culkin, home alone. Directed by Christopher Columbus, Home Alone features a hilarious cast that includes the late, great John Candy, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, and John Heard.
From heartwarming to hectic to haunting, Academy award-winning composer John Williams offers a bit of everything in Home Alone’s multi-faceted score. Songs from the film’s soundtrack such as Run Run Rudolph by Chuck Berry and I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas by the Drifters are left to the original artists, but John Williams’s compelling score featuring the Academy Award-nominated song, Somewhere in My Memory were performed by the orchestra.
Home Alone writer John Hughes was gifted with the ability to capture the voice of a young generation and he does a remarkable job depicting the perspective of mischievous and utterly adorable Kevin McAllister as he attempts to fend for himself. Though some of the movie is a bit far-fetched, it remains as enjoyable as it was close to 30 years ago before cell phones were a daily part of life.
Holiday Pops presents ‘Home Alone in Concert’ Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard
Not only is Home Alone on the verge of celebrating its 30th anniversary since its release, but Macauley Culkin is all grown up and has reemerged recently in a reenactment of pivotal scenes from the original film to demonstrate the magic of Google Assistant. With the same twinkle in his eye, Culkin adds a new dimension to those film scenes while keeping the spirit of the original film intact.
All performances take place at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets, through SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, Massachusetts.
David Tanklefsky of the band Whiskey Treaty Roadshow is just one in a wide array of dynamic musicians making their way to Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the 19th annual Memorial Day campfire.festival from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, May 29. An interactive music festival presented “in the round,” featured artists interact with each other and the crowd, often improvising and exchanging songs during the weekend. What often results is the unexpected. Click here for the full list of featured musicians and for tickets.
The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s David Tanklefsky talks about Whiskey’s unique songwriting, the Beatles, and their touring adventures. Click here to see their award-winning, short documentary and follow them on Facebook.
Sleepless Critic: You’ll be at Club Passim for the campfire.festival Memorial Day weekend before the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will make an appearance at Club Passim on Friday, July 14. You’ve played the venue as well as campfire.festival before. I understand it is quite an improvisational, interactive music experience.
David Tanklefsky: I’ve done campfire a few times. This will be my first time playing there with my friend Hayley Sabella, who is terrific. Passim is a special place and we are lucky to have it in the area. It seems like as less money is available to go around in the music world, the relationship between musicians and venues has become more of transaction. Passim is the opposite. They are unique and truly care about developing musicians and giving them a platform for being heard.
SC: How did the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow form and how did you meet?
DT:Tory Hanna is really the conduit through which the band came together. One of my best friends, who I was in a band with for years growing up, was living in a loft in Brooklyn with Tory and we started hanging out through him. His wife Susie went to high school with Greg Smith and Tory knew Billy Keane through the Berkshires music world. Billy had played a few shows with Chris Merenda and was a big fan of his old band, The Mammals. It happened very naturally, which I think is the best way for creative groups to get together.
The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow on tour Photo courtesy of Tim Bradley
SC: Whose idea was the award-winning, short documentary and how did you decide on the details to the documentary? It features lots of scenic, peaceful views of different areas of Massachusetts.
DT: Tory grew up with a filmmaker named Tim Bradley who was looking for a new documentary project. Tim captured our rehearsals for a four night tour we had organized through Massachusetts. It was our first time playing together as a group.
Watching it now is such fun because it’s a snapshot of a band just starting out without any expectations beyond playing four great shows. Tim meticulously planned out all the locations and the amazing videography. When Tory mentioned his friend wanted to film us, I trusted his judgment but never imagined Tim would come up with such a well-crafted film. It really helped catapult us into being a real band.
SC: You have a relaxed sound, a rhythm likened to a drive down a peaceful country road. You have a bit of a country tinge to some of your music. Was that planned? How did you end up conforming to a sound?
DT: In folk music, there are songs and chord progressions that become seared into your soul over time. We’ve never had a discussion about it, but everyone brings songs to the table that we think will work with our instrumentation and vocal abilities. I think the folk/country/Americana textures come from having many stringed instruments on stage and the collaborative spirit of just sitting around, passing the guitar, and sharing songs.
SC: Folk music is full of rich stories and each of you has a distinct style. How do you come up with your songs? Do you write a song together or are the songs bits of each songwriter or one song written by one another?
DT: In this project, everyone writes independently and then brings songs to the table in various forms of completeness. We’ve been tinkering with different instrumentation and having some songs with more minimal arrangements as it has evolved. We ask ourselves, ‘Do we need five people strumming away like mad men through this whole song?’ Often the answer is no. In the next few months, we’re planning to do a little songwriting retreat where we write more actively together for the first time, which will be new, exciting, and hopefully fruitful.
SC: Where did your love for songwriting start? Your particular songwriting style has a bit of humor with some rich lyrics and a bit of an unpredictable tempo at times.
DT: When I was 10, I had an unhealthy obsession with the for three years straight. I thought they were a perfect band. My friends and I went as the Beatles for Halloween every year between ages 10 and 13. No one wanted to be Ringo and no one was left-handed like Paul so we were four kids with mushroom cuts and right-handed cardboard guitars.
Later I became inspired by songwriters that are always growing, pushing, and challenging their listeners. I think Paul Simon is the gold standard for that. I’m in awe of the insatiable curiosity he taps into and I try to write from a position of newness like that. Being unaware of where my curiosity will take me but trying to just follow it through.
SC: I understand you are touring. What kind of venue would be an ideal place for you to play?
DT: It was a huge thrill to perform with Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter Sarah Lee. That’s way up on the list.
We’ve had the opportunity to play some amazing old theatres over the last year or so. We loved the Academy of Music in Northampton and the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. It was total thrill to sell out Mass MOCA, but some of our best shows have been in how-did-we-end-up-here type places too.
We played a last minute show in Cambridge in March at a really tiny place in Central Square and it was packed in with people standing on tables, total chaos. The bouncer was adamant that no one else could come in because it was too packed. One person left outside was our drummer, Jimmy. He came in the back door and was kicked back out onto the street. We said, ‘But that’s the drummer!’ The bouncer replied, ‘I don’t care, I said no more!’ Eventually we brokered a deal and Jimmy was allowed inside and the show went on. Theatre and dive bar are both okay in our book.
SC: What are the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s future plans?
DT: Our new EP is almost done and we are in high-level band discussions about a run of shows in the fall to support its release. We did it with an awesome engineer named Marc Seedorf at Barnhouse Studios in Chicopee, Massachusetts. We had to take a month break from recording because he was on tour with Dinosaur Jr. as their guitar tech and he got to play a few songs each night with them. He’s our new hero.
Click here for more information and tickets to Passim’s campfire.festival at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, conveniently located in Harvard Square. Not only a haven for music lessons, Passim offers live concerts nearly 365 days a year featuring Grammy winners to musicians with a dream. Click here for their music schedule and follow Passim on Facebook and Twitter.
Music lovers unite! Zumix, East Boston’s non-profit organization geared toward empowering youth through music, has saved the best for last. Featuring 20 Boston DJs past and present, live performances, special guest sets, silent auction, and much more, Zumix brings their 25th anniversary year to a grand close with ‘Boston DJs for Zumix’ on Friday, March 31 at 8 p.m. This sensational benefit will be held at Zumix, 260 Sumner Street, East Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets and more information.
New radio station 94.9 FM Zumix Radio Photo courtesy of Zumix
After streaming online for 10 years, the evening benefit will also celebrate their new, growing community station, 94.9 FM Zumix, a station that serves a bilingual audience and features a wide range of programming. All proceeds of ‘Boston DJs for Zumix’ support Zumix’s dynamic, free teen music programs in songwriting, community radio, creative technology, instrument instruction, and performance. Click here to make a donation.
Youth DJ on the mic Photo courtesy of Zumix
The featured DJs are as follows: Adam 12, Akrobatik, Baltazar, DJ Bean, Jim Braude, Julie Devereaux, Fast Freddy, Mike Gioscia, Lori Grande, Merilee Kelly, George Knight, Carolyn Kruse, John Laurenti, Dana Marshall, Jess Phaneuf, Matt Phipps, Morning Guy Tai, Nancy Quill, Neal Robert, Nomadik, and Zumix DJs.
Zumix accepting an award from Michelle Obama Photo courtesy of Zumix
Winner of the National Arts and Humanities Youth Programs Award from the White House and providing music lessons and other technology to lower income families, Zumix’s mission is to empower youth to express themselves through music and make positive changes throughout their community and the world. At first started as a songwriting program, Zumix students enjoy in-school and after school events throughout the year. Songwriting, radio, audio technology, and performance are among the renowned programs offered by Zumix for youth ages 7 through 18 and over 1,000 students attend classes.
Annual Walk for Music community event Photo courtesy of Zumix
For tickets to ‘Boston DJs for Zumix,’ click here or call (617) 568-9777. Click here for more information on their upcoming concerts, events, and festivals. Follow Zumix on Facebook and Twitter.
Led by Maestro Richard Pittman, the New England Philharmonic (NEP) has a stellar reputation for bringing magnificent works and uncovering promising masterpieces in each of their meticulously crafted concerts. Music Director Richard Pittman is celebrating his 20th anniversary with the orchestra as New England Philharmonic presents its 40th anniversary concert featuring Michael Tippett’s stirring and thought-provoking AChild of Our Time with Chorus pro Musica under the direction of Jamie Kirsch. This exciting concert will be held at Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m. A number soloists and musicians are slated to perform at this special celebratory concert. Click here for more information and for tickets.
New England Philharmonic President Ann Teixeira offers an inside look at how each season’s works are selected, their annual Call for Scores competition, and how to celebrate two anniversaries in one extraordinary night.
Jeanne Denizard: How did this 40th anniversary season come together and how were the works selected? I understand part of the process is NEP holds an annual Call for Scores competition. Was there a specific theme involved this year?
Ann Teixeira: Music Director Richard Pittman is responsible for the music selection each season. Once the orchestra and Board know what he has chosen for the next season, the season’s theme is identified and each concert is given a title based on the relationship among the pieces. When he selects a program’s theme in advance, it is almost always selected for the family concert. This year’s family concert was called, The Big Bad Wolf.
JD: On March 4, the NEP will hold an anniversary concert celebrating two anniversaries at Tsai Performance Center at 8 p.m. A number of musicians and soloists will be returning for this big night. What inspired highlighting these two significant anniversaries in one evening?
AT: The orchestra is primarily celebrating NEP’s 40th anniversary, but this is also the first of Richard Pittman’s 20th year as Music Director. We are fortunate to have a number of musicians who are long time members of the orchestra on stage for the 40th anniversary concert, including violinist Louise Myers, who joined it as early as its third concert in 1977, and 30-year NEP cellist Jennifer Snodgrass among others.
As the NEP did for its 30th and 35th Anniversary concerts, we will once again perform a vocal work that includes a chorus and vocal soloists. For the 30th anniversary, it was Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck and for the 35th anniversary, Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.
The 40th Anniversary concert features Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time with Chorus pro Musica and soloists soprano Sarah Pelletier, mezzo-soprano Krista River, tenor Charles Blandy, and bass Sumner Thompson. The NEP celebrates another anniversary as this same piece, also with Chorus pro Musica, was performed 25 years ago this season under Ron Feldman’s music direction.
JD: This year also marks NEP’s 20th anniversary under the direction of award-winning Music Director and Maestro Richard Pittman. Not only has he led the orchestra to a number of honors, but he has conducted orchestras all over the world and founded a distinguished ensemble, Boston Musica Viva. Please tell me about how his presence enriched the NEP over the years.
AT: Dick is a widely recognized and often honored conductor both in the U.S. and Europe. He founded the Boston Musica Viva, an ensemble widely regarded as one of the best contemporary music ensembles in the world, 47 years ago. He has enriched the NEP with his broad and deep knowledge of contemporary classical music and the high standards he applies to his repertoire selection. He selects only the ‘best’ of contemporary classical music which not only utilizes as many instruments and musicians within each piece, but accommodate our part-time musicians. Program selection is a balancing act! The programming and training he provides leads to the orchestra’s musical growth and retention of them as well as higher quality performances often recognized by reviewers as equivalent to professional orchestras.
Composers are happy and honored to have the NEP select their compositions for performance due to Dick’s relationship with them. The composers often attend the performance and speak to the audience about their composition and sometimes the process of composing it, enriching the concert experience. Composers also sometimes attend a rehearsal, which further enriches the musicians’ experience and training.
JD: This season features fanfares from former composers-in-residence. This particular concert features Melospiza melodia from two-term composer-in-residence, Richard Cornell, who wrote this specifically for the anniversary.
AT: Yes, Richard Cornell used song of the sparrow as his inspiration for this piece.
JD: NEP features Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, which is inspired by what happened in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and is a significant work against oppression in the world. Why this particular work? I understand that it resonates especially with today’s world.
AT: When Maestro Pittman selected A Child of Our Time a year ago, he had no prescience for how relevant its statements would be to the current political environment. While it is explicitly a statement against oppression, it also progresses into a statement about tolerance, thus making it currently relevant on both dimensions. It is serendipity, it is so relevant, and we hope it will leave its impact on the audience.
New England Philharmonic presents the 40th Anniversary Concert: A Child of Our Time at the Tsai Performance Center at Boston University on Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m. Click here for tickets, how to become a subscriber, and more information.
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On Thursday, February 23, the Boston Ballet begins another magnificent spring season and simultaneously launches a five-year partnership with brilliant dancer and world-renowned choreographer, William Forsythe. As part of Forsythe’s five-year partnership, William Forsythe and Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen work together to establish each season’s performances, highlighting one of Forsythe’s stunning works each year.
Choreographer William Forsythe and Misa Kuranaga in rehearsal for Artifact; photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet
William Forsythe’s full length masterpiece, Artifact, a revelation in the art of dance and has thrilled audiences since its stage premiere in 1984. Artifact continues through Sunday, March 5 at the Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Take a closer look at William Forsythe’s Artifact here.
The Boston Ballet boasts a monumental lineup for its 2017-18 season including timeless romantic classics such as Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty from April 28 to May 27, 2017 and John Cranko’s Romeo & Juliet from March 15 through April 8, 2018. This season is also filled with masterful works such as Kylian/Wings of Wax from March 23 through April 2, Robbins/The Concert from May 5 through May 27, Obsidian Tear from November 3 through November 12, and the return of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday classic, Mikko Nissinen’s The Nutcracker from November 24 through December 31, 2017. Click here for a closer look at all of Boston Ballet’s 2017-18 season highlights.
Click here for tickets, call 617-695-6955, or visit the Boston Ballet box office at 19 Clarendon Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Subscriptions and group rates are also available. Follow the Boston Ballet on Twitter!