REVIEW: Walt Disney World at its finest in fall featuring Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Bursts of orange, green and yellows adorn a landscape of huge pumpkin patches on a chilly night.  Vivid mums, harvest wreaths, festive decorations, and fall colors fill the night sky in a special, nightly fireworks celebration.  No, this is not fall in New England, but the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a hidden gem for all the flavors of fall from the end of August through November.  Featuring Disney’s most infamous villains, enchanting characters, and seasonal activities for the entire family, attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume for trick or treating throughout the park.  Click here for more information on Disney’s extensive activities.

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Along with the long list of Magic Kingdom’s wonderful, classic rides such as Pirates of the CaribbeanIt’s a Small WorldBig Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain, take some time to visit some of Disney’s spooky attractions in the spirit of the season such as Haunted MansionMonsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom on Main Street.  A select number of rides are open late into the night.  From August through November 1, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is built for all ages and features an array of Halloween shows, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween ParadeA Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular set up outside of Cinderella’s Castle, and a seasonal themed fireworks celebration.

Fall is also widely known for amazing food festivals around the country.  Taking that idea and expanding it in Disney’s own unique way within Epcot’s famous World Showcase, Epcot is proud to offer their annual International Food and Wine Festival kicking off Thursday, August 29 through Saturday, November 23.  While Epcot’s World Showcase features the rich cultures of 11 countries from Mexico to Tokyo, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival exponentially expands on this idea for a limited time, offering enticing cuisines and beverages from 30 marketplaces.  Explore and dine on fare from the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Australia, Brazil, and more.  Cooking demonstrations from famous culinary chefs, exclusive wine and beers from around the world, concerts, and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the park.  From sweet and fruity Hurricane Class 5 wine and key lime flavored wines sold exclusively in Florida to international wines that suit any palette, attendees can try them first with wine tastings throughout the day.

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This way to more of Epcot’s World Showcase Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

While the festival takes place, enjoy the classic and new attractions such as Norway’s popular ride, FrozenSoarin,’ Test TrackThe Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Mission Space.  Canada and Mexico are among the most popular attractions featured within Epcot’s World Showcase.  With the holidays and the summer months among Disney World’s peak times, attendees can see a bit more without a bigger crowd, though FastPass is always recommended for optimal time saving and planning.

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the sun shines a little brighter than most places around the world.  Having thrilled families for almost 50 years, enjoy shopping, family activities, and spectacular attractions within each of the four parks.  Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all offer exciting adventures throughout the year.  Click here for more information about Walt Disney World, rates, exclusive offers and more.  It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Disney World, no matter what time of year.

REVIEW: Company Theatre’s enhanced, lively production of Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver! ‘kicks this classic up a notch

It was a nostalgic night witnessing Company Theatre’s livelier version of Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver! having performed in the musical production in high school.  While my part was limited to selling roses on a busy London street, the Company Theatre opened up an entire world for the holidays with enhanced flair for Lionel Bart’s Oliver! continuing through Sunday, December 16 at The Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  The production has recently sold out.  Click here for more information on the Company Theatre and their future productions.

Directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman and musically directed by Steve Bass with choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest, Lionel Bart’s Oliver!  is the latest version of this Charles Dickens’ classic.  This family production has enjoyed several tours and revivals in different parts of the world in its close to 60-year history.

It’s is the tale of a workhouse orphan who get entangled in a series of unfortunate events that lead him to face many adversaries, but stays strong in his search for hope and love.  With a large cast featuring memorable numbers such as Consider Yourself, As Long as He Needs Me, I’d Do Anything, and the title song, Oliver, this tale has its share of dark and humorous moments while delivering an important message about humanity that is especially relevant during the holidays.

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Matthew O’Connor as Oliver Photo courtesy of Company Theatre

During the holiday season, the Company Theatre tends to make whichever production they have chosen bigger and more spectacular in line with the spirit of the season.  Lionel Bart’s Oliver! stays consistent with that tradition featuring extended, more upbeat musical numbers, grander sets,  and sharper choreography, especially during the sweeping numbers and quicker pacing of Food, Glorious Food and Consider Yourself.

From the humble, stone-lined workhouse surroundings with a single banner that reads, ‘God is Love’ to a bright street setting, Ryan Barrow’s impressive, rolling set design details the diversity of 1840’s London.  Set pieces dropping from the ceiling was a particular highlight.

The musical’s classic line, ‘I want some more’ has never sounded more humble than from the adorable countenance of Matthew O’Connor as Oliver, a sweet, naïve, but daring workhouse orphan boy who, by uncontrollable circumstances, has an opportunity to see life beyond the workhouse walls.  He shares some amusing camaraderie with Colin Paduck as the Artful Dodger, portrayed with a thick, regional accent and a charismatic grin.  They stay in time with the children’s ensemble’s compelling choreography, an energetic bunch light on their feet during some of the production’s most challenging numbers.

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The Sowerberrys Christopher Spencer as Mr Sowerberry and Christa Dunn as Mrs. Sowerberry Photo courtesy of The Company Theatre

Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry are wonderfully wicked together.  With a nasal voice and prominent sideburns, Christopher Spencer is quite comical as dour Mr. Sowerberry and Christa Dunn as stern and maybe a bit tipsy Mrs. Sowerberry.  With a prominent stance and a great voice, Francis Sheehan takes on the gruffly bombastic parish beadle Mr. Bumble.

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Colin Paduck as The Artful Dodger, Christopher Hagberg as Fagin, Matthew O’Connor as Oliver and the children’s ensemble Photo courtesy of Company Theatre

With a white beard, black hat, and flowing overcoat, Christopher Hagberg delivers a limber, stealthy performance as Fagin.  Hagberg captures the magic of Fagin, his deceptively good nature and comic greediness put on display in the number, You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two and the fiddle-infused Reviewing the Situation.

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Brittany Rolfs as Nancy, Matthew O’Connor as Oliver, Aliyah Harris as Bet, and Colin Paduck as the Artful Dodger Photo courtesy of the Company Theatre

Brittany Rolfs brings sass and saavy to the role of Nancy, a sweet but tough woman who has mixed with the wrong crowd.  From her passionate, tenacious version of As Long as She Needs Me to the catchy harmony of the playful, rollicking number, Oom-Pah-Pah, Nancy is a force of her own onstage, sweet with the children, but always certain of what she wants.

With a deep seated growl and a menacing stare, Damian Smith steps into the role of troubled Bill Sikes.  In this production, The Company Theatre brings a new dimension and lesser known angle to this character as he stalks the city streets.  Remington is a welcome addition to the cast as scene stealing Bullseye, Bill Sikes’s dog.

The Company Theatre is capping off its 40th season with Lionel Bart’s Oliver! continuing through Sunday, December 16.  Click here for how to support the Company Theatre and here for more on their 2019 season.

 

‘Boston Radio for Zumix’ benefit boasted Boston DJ’s dancing, live performances, and a peek inside the radio studio

Zumix Radio DJs

Photo courtesy of Zumix

Just across the East Boston fire station sits a youth haven for music and much more.  Zumix, East Boston’s non-profit organization geared toward empowering youth through music, has to offer.  On Friday, June 8, music lovers united to celebrate Zumix’s 11th annual benefit, ‘Boston Radio for Zumix’ featured a long list of Boston DJ’s past and present, live performances, silent auction, food, refreshments, and much more.  Hosted by Morning Guy Tai and Adam Klein, this sensational benefit will be held at Zumix, 260 Sumner Street in East Boston.  Click here to learn more about opportunities at Zumix.

Zumix Tune in

Courtesy of Zumix

As a hanging portrait of a boom box perches overhead, announcers and Zumix staff took the stage as they broadcast live on their local youth inspired radio 94.9 FM Zumix.  The evening had many humorous and heartfelt moments as members performed excerpts from their comedic shows, music, and an excerpt from their local Wednesday noon news program, ‘What’s Up Eastie’ featuring a person recounting their experience of the devastation in Mexico City in 2017 from a massive earthquake.  Zumix features all kind of music, comedy, and real life stories translated into radio. Zumix also offers a Sprouts program for the younger generation.   Zumix students, some who have performed with Sting, have gone on to do great things, keeping music in their lives.

 

 

Marcus Evans, a member of Zumix, offered tours of the facility which boasted soundproof rooms, impressive digital equipment, music instruments, a radio station tour by DJ Psychedelic, and a particular highlight, a unique purple room named after Prince.  Plenty of food and refreshments were served including Bart’s ice cream (Try flavors Three Geeks and a Red Head or the ever popular Deep Purple Cow).  Zumix’s silent auction items included Sporty Spice featuring Red Sox tickets and a tour of the broadcast booth, Pirates of the Boston Harbor featuring Rum Tasting for 25 people as well as a cruise on the Spirit of Boston, VIP Experience which offers a VIP experience to a Blue Hills Bank Pavilion show, Eastie’s Finest featuring a sunset sail and dinner, Soup Guy featuring tickets to the Joel McHale Show at the Chavelier Theatre in Medford, 90’s Utopia featuring tickets to the Cowboy Junkies, DJ for a Day, The Tables Have Turned offering a Turntable, Daft Punk, and Vinyl Box set, and Mid Life Crisis featuring an autographed DVD from Alice Cooper, a variety of music lessons, and more.  DJ Nomadix included the night with music and dancing before announcing the silent auction’s big winners.

 

 

Having 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 seven through eighteen and over 1,000 students attend classes. Click here for more information on their upcoming concerts, events, and festivals! Follow Zumix on Facebook and Twitter.

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Renowned singer-songwriter Grace Potter returns for Vermont’s Grand Point North Music Festival in September

Award-winning singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter will make her annual return to her beautiful home state this fall to perform at Burlington, Vermont’s exciting, family-friendly music festival she co-founded with the band, Higher Ground, the Grand Point North Music Festival.  Celebrating their 7th year, the Grand Point North Music Festival highlights local and national artists around New England, enlivening Vermont for one monumental weekend.  Grand Point North Music Festival also includes a VIP tent, with a variety of food, beverages, and more.  Click here for further details and ticket information.  Children under 12 attend for free and the festival will be held rain or shine.

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Grand Point North Music Festival co-founder Grace Potter Photo courtesy of Grand Point North

Performing both nights and headlining Saturday night is Vermont-native rock star Grace Potter with Tony award-nominee and Phish band member, Trey Anastasio and his band headlining on Sunday at Burlington’s Waterfront Park on Lake Champlain from Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17.  Troy Millette and Dylan Gombas have been voted favorite local band contest by Vermont’s renowned alt news weekly Seven Days and have been added to the Grand Point North Music Festival lineup.  Also included in Grand Point North’s lineup is New Orleans folk-blues group Hooray for the Riff-Raff, L.A. rock band Dawes, Detroit boogie band Low Cut Connie, rock and roll band Lake Superior, Portland sister trio Joseph, Philadelphia R&B singer Son Little, and many more.

Details on Grand Point North Music Festival’s after party is coming soon.  Gates open at on Saturday, September 16 at 3 p.m.  On Sunday, September 17, gates open at 2 p.m.  VIP tickets include early entrance into the show, closer view by the soundboard, access to the VIP tent offering shade with discounted food and beverages, and more.

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Concert sunset at Burlington’s Waterfront Park Photo courtesy of Grand Point North

Click here for further ticket details, call 802-652-0777, or go to the Higher Ground Box Office located at 1214 Williston Road in South Burlington, Vermont.  Soak in a hint of fall foliage as well as some of the tremendous concert flavor at the Grand Point North Music Festival in September.  Follow Grand Point North Music Festival on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Cohasset Dramatic Club will welcome 4th annual play festival, ‘Briefs’

Why follow one story when Cohasset Dramatic Club offers several stories in two consecutive evenings?  Cohasset Dramatic Club proudly presents their fourth annual show, Briefs a variety of ten-minute plays on February 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m.  Briefs takes place every February with different directors that include drama, comedy, and much more.  Click here for the full list of plays and for tickets.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, Brian Chamberlain, Kelly Hines, Andrew Lemieux, and Barbara Baumgarten, Briefs features a large cast of characters and audiences can enjoy cabaret-style seating serving snacks and beverages included in the ticket price.  All performances are held at Cohasset Town Hall, 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts.  Call 617-922-0280 or click here for tickets, which will also be available at the door.

The Cohasset Dramatic Club’s debut of the innovative, romantic musical, If/Then is coming in March.  Follow Cohasset Dramatic Club on Facebook for more information and updates.

‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Children of Eden’ part of the exciting premiere season of South Shore Theatre Works

From Sondheim’s enchanting fall musical, Into the Woods to the upcoming beloved spring musical, Children of Eden, South Shore Theatre Works (SSTW) in Holbrook, Massachusetts, is having a stellar premiere season.  With a group of dedicated volunteers and Board of Directors, Executive Director and President Richard Bento is thrilled about South Shore Theatre Works’ promising future.  In a “sink or swim” sort of industry, Benton says South Shore Theatre Works is “Michael Phelps-ing” it.  Click here for more information on auditions, how to support and becoming a member of South Shore Theatre Works, and more on upcoming performances.

 Jeanne Denizard:  Your first musical was Sondheim’s Into the Woods.  For a first show, that must have been quite an undertaking.  I understand you had a very good turnout though.

Richard Bento:  Yes, we had about 64 people from across Massachusetts and Rhode Island that came and auditioned. Into the Woods is a very difficult show acting-wise because it’s about relationships. It’s about relationships between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, children and their grandparents, brothers, and new found love.  It’s a very challenging piece, not just vocally, but we wanted to do a production that shows people we’re really out to play. We want to be on the map as one of the best community theaters in the area, and doing a show like Into the Woods really put us out there. You know, it’s one of those “sink or swim” shows and we didn’t just float.  We definitely Michael Phelps-ed it and we swam successfully.

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The cast of ‘Into the Woods’ Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  To start the New Year, you presented the musical comedy, The Big Bad Musical.  Please tell me about that.

 RB:  The Big Bad Musical is part of our junior production season for young performers under the age of 19.  It was a great production. I think it really piggybacked on the production of Into the Woods with some of the characters, like Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, and brought it to a different world.  It had a lighter side that Into the Woods does not necessarily have and brought a sense of humor to the fairy tale stories.  It introduced other characters like The Boy Who Cried Wolf and the Three Little Pigs. The Big Bad Musical was an exciting adventure to work with young children and see how they grow.  It’s amazing how they step up to the plate. With an adult who is performing in community theatre, you expect to have a certain level of professionalism and respect for the craft, but to see these kids who are young adults doing a show unknown to most people, doing music that people don’t know, and having to do a show that has so much dialogue, and really putting it on themselves, is something great to be a part of.  I’m honored to be a part of it.

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Rehearsal for the musical comedy, ‘The Big Bad Musical’ Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  Please tell me how can someone participate in these educational workshops?

RB:  Our Junior Workshop programs are for anyone under the age of 19 who want to participate in a youth production. We not only teach them about the acting side of dramas and musicality of musicals depending on the show, but also what it is like to put on a show and be involved from beginning to end. We are very fortunate for our summer junior workshop. This summer, we’ll be performing Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr.  Keep a lookout on our website, and join our email list for updates.  Auditions would be in the late spring for this August production. It’s open to anyone under the age of 19 who wants to participate, have some fun, learn, and improve their skills.

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South Shore Theatre Works dress rehearsal for youth production, ‘The Big Bad Musical’ Photo courtesy of Rachel Nope Beasley

JD:  Now, South Shore Theatre Works is producing the lauded play, Steel Magnolias, a classic story featuring a much smaller cast.  When does that show kick off?

RB:  We had auditions for that show right after Into the Woods in November and we’ve been rehearsing throughout the holiday season. We’re really focusing on it now that it is the New Year. It’s a great, well-known show, not just for the play, but also for the movie. They’re very similar to one another, but also extremely different because the play only takes place at Truvy’s Hair Salon. It really involves the six actresses on stage connecting with the audience on a different level that they would be if it was a different type of show. The show is about emotion, the interaction between friendships, and also the interaction between all different kinds of relationships. I think the motif of South Shore Theatre Works 2016-2017 season has been about relationships.

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‘Steel Magnolias’ from Friday, February 17 through Sunday, February 19

JD:  South Shore Theatre Works runs fundraising campaigns, most recently with the restaurant, Not Your Average Joes.  In what ways can people support South Shore Theatre Works?

 RB:  We partner up with local restaurants and local businesses throughout the year.  We’re very fortunate to have the support of The Chateau in Stoughton, who held a fundraiser for us last year. Uno’s Chicago Bar and Grill helped us out as well. We had our good friends at Five Below on the Stoughton/Brockton line continually help us out with our endeavors by holding numerous fundraisers for us, which is greatly appreciated. Not Your Average Joe’s, the last one we just did in the month of December, was a great way for people to be able to go out to eat like you normally would and support a great cause. We’ll be continuing to do this with other restaurants in the area. Another one is scheduled for February in Holbrook. It is a great way to get some extra revenue in and for people to participate without having to do lot of work while you are putting on a full season.

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South Shore Theatre Works Play Reading Committee led by Richard Bento Photo courtesy of Kelly Webber

We here at SSTW are very ambitious!  We technically have been putting on a main stage and junior season, two seasons simultaneously.  To be able to do that financially, we need the support of the community.  Not just by supporting us on these fundraising events, but helping us with sponsorships and ads.  If there’s someone in the community who would like to support the arts and see it continue in their community, check out our website to see how they can assist us, whether it’s a program ad or a sponsorship.  Someone once told me it takes a village to raise a child. It’s the same thing with a community theater. It takes the town and the surrounding communities to raise and bring up a successful community theater.

Volunteers are always needed, whether you can sew, help with the box office, hang up or design a flyer or a poster, or with media.  Volunteer your talents, whatever that talent may be.  You can start off assisting a stage manager or helping on a crew and by the next show, you can get more and more involved.  We would greatly appreciate it.

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South Shore Theatre Works present the beloved musical, ‘Children of Eden’ Photo courtesy of South Shore Theatre Works

Click here to get involved with South Shore Theatre Works, join their mailing list, and learn about their upcoming productions.  South Shore Theatre Works is also on Facebook.

Cohasset Dramatic Club will hold auditions for captivating musical, “If/Then”

Starting over isn’t easy, especially in the Big City.  Cohasset Dramatic Club is thrilled to debut a remarkable musical about a single woman moving to New York City to make a new start.  From the producers of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team behind the show, Next to NormalIf/Then is an insightful, contemporary musical about Elizabeth, a recently divorced woman and all the endless possibilities that lay before her in the Big City.

Originally starring Idina Menzel and based on a book by Brian Yorkey, If/Then contains musical numbers including A Map of New York, You Never Know, and Surprise.  Cohasset Dramatic Club presents If/Then for two weekends only from Thursday, March 9 through Saturday, March 18.  Click here for more information about the show.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Sarah Troxler, and choreographed by Tara Morrison, Cohasset Dramatic Club is holding auditions for the musical, If/Then on Wednesday, January 18 at 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts at 7 p.m.  Auditioners should prepare 24-36 bars of a song from the show and the evening will also consist of cold readings from the script.  Rehearsals will begin on Sunday, January 22.  Click here for further details and character descriptions.

Before If/Then, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents their fourth annual festival consisting of 10-minute plays, Briefs on February 3 and 4.  This festival will feature cabaret seating, food, and beverages.  Click here for more about the Cohasset Dramatic Club and follow them on Facebook.

Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker talks Salem, new dance sound, and upcoming concert at Club Passim

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Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marchand

Award-winning, Boston based singer-songwriter and dynamic, multi-instrumentalist Sarah Blacker is always listening for a new beat.  Her most recent album, In Waves, experiments with new rhythms and is a departure from her usual sundress rocker fare.  Her energetic, live performance is encouraging people to the dance floor and just may be the basis for her next album to be released early next year.  She will perform with the New England Groove Association at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street on Saturday, January 7, just a few days shy of her birthday.  New Jersey based Greg Townsend of Perilune opens.  The concert starts at 8 p.m.  Click here for more on Sarah and here for ticket information!

Sarah Blacker, who also works as certified music therapist, talks about the inspiration behind In Waves, her exciting new sound, and why her music should not be referred to as folk.

Jeanne Denizard:  Before we talk about your latest album In Waves and your upcoming appearance at Club Passim on January 7, tell me about touring and what you did for the holidays.

Sarah Blacker:  We’ve been taking it a little slow around the holidays.  Since our last album In Waves was released in spring 2015, we’ve done some recordings for a new album in our music room.  We want to capture a live and comfortable homey vibe, something I haven’t really done yet besides demo and free downloads.  We’re doing an entire album like that.

I was recently in Beverly, Massachusetts and I sat in and sang with the Percy Hill Choir at the Paradise in Boston.  That was a real blast.  My touring partner and my sweetie, Aaron Katz and his band, Percy Hill had reunited.  I got to sing in their choir which was a lot of fun since I used to go see them in high school.

JD:  I understand you are currently living in Salem, Massachusetts and you are a talented multi-instrumentalist.

SB:  Yes, I play the ukulele, guitar, piano, and a little bit of percussion.  I used to play a little mandolin, but it’s been a while and I stopped writing on that.  Whatever I can write on is really the idea.  I usually travel with an electric and acoustic guitar and my ukulele.  Varying it up makes things a little more exciting for people in the audience, hearing different sounds, vibes, and styles.

JD:  Variety is always best for a live performance.

SB:  Exactly!  Aaron and I have been playing together a little over a year now and he plays drums and djembe, but we will do a lot of improvising live depending on who is playing with us.  We’ve been playing with this amazing keyboard player and calling ourselves Sarah Blacker and the New England Groove Association.  Lots of improvising and if people want to dance, we try to keep the music going.

JD:  You will be changing it up again for the next album.

SB:  A lot of people have requested an album that sounds live because so much of what we do is based around the energy that we capture live and people can experience the music at a physiological level.  Sometimes getting into the studio and doing so much flavoring and production and compression can take away the human element to it.  We’re trying to make something raw, human, and that represents a mission about that live music, the energy that we really believe in.

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Sarah Blacker with her electric guitar

JD:  Your latest album, In Waves, was a bit of a departure from your well known sound.  What inspired that?

SB:  I think you get pigeonholed if you play an acoustic guitar.  A lot of people tend to think that I play folk music and I never felt like my music is classified as folk.  My sound has roots in classic rock, jazz, and a lot of pop music, and grunge from a lot of singer-songwriters from the 90s.  I’ve been trying to steer away from that.  I thought maybe I should put something out that shows another side to what I do and where I came up as a musician.

JD:  The title track, In Waves, has a rich, rhythmic beat to it.

SB:  Thank you.  My on and off bassist and producer, Sean McLaughlin, was a key element in coming up with that driving rhythm track behind it.  We modeled it after the Radiohead album, In Rainbows which is that poly-rhythmic base part and really makes it sound like a wave.

JD:  The album is called In Waves. Is there significance to that?

SB:  The title track is based around a really challenging year that I had.  I won’t go into too much detail, but I realized that someone I had been dating turned out to be a sociopath.  Everything I had been experiencing turned out to be a complete lie which is one of the reasons I decided to move up to Salem and rebuild my life from a place where I thought everything had crumbled.  That was part of it, just learning to ride the waves of emotion and know that everything happens for a reason.  If you can just move through it, everything will be alright.  I also spent a lot of time on the ocean during that year, which is where the oceanic theme came from.

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Sarah Blacker overlooking the ocean                                Photo courtesy of Kimberly Marchand

JD:  Listening to you, it sounds like things are looking up.

SB:  Absolutely!  It was really a blow to the heart and reality, so I’ve just been rebuilding.  I love living in Salem by the ocean.  I feel like I can be myself, learning to trust in the process, and maybe not rush things so much.  As a young musician, you want to push to make everything happen yesterday, but I find it important to really take care of yourself along the way.  I’m ready to experience this in as many ways as possible and I think evolving as an artist is just part of the journey.

Sarah Blacker and the New England Groove Association perform at Club Passim on Saturday, January 7.  Click here to learn more about Sarah and her music.  Click here for tickets as well as Club Passim’s full concert schedule.  Club Passim is located in Harvard Square and easily accessible by public transportation.

Accomplished bandleader Bo Winiker talks his return to Symphony Hall for thrilling New Year’s Eve concert

Swing into 2017 once again at Symphony Hall! Brimming with spectacular live entertainment and a full menu of scrumptious cuisine led by returning bandleader Bo Winiker, the New Year looks bright with an elegant evening with Boston Pops New Year’s Eve December 31 at 10 p.m. The doors open at 8:30 p.m. Click here for tickets to this exciting evening and more information.

Accomplished bandleader Bo Winiker talks about preparing to join the Boston Pops for a monumental sixth time, his future plans, and his biggest wish for 2017. Click here for a closer look at Bo’s jazz band, Winiker Music.

Jeanne Denizard: How does it feel to be invited back to Symphony Hall on one of the biggest nights of the year? It must have been a wonderful surprise.

Bo Winiker: In one of his last and greatest speeches, the late Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of having ‘been to the mountaintop.’ To me, standing on stage at Symphony Hall and performing with the finest musicians in the world is making it to the top of that mountain. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I remember the feeling of walking out on stage for the very first time and being completely overwhelmed with emotion. It is a feeling I will never forget, and I can hardly believe that I was asked back once, let alone for a sixth time. It is an incredible honor.

JD: New Year’s Eve is quickly approaching. Do you feel ready for it? How do you prepare for such a high-profile performance? I know your band is consistently updating your music repertoire.

BW: My son Kim, when asked a similar question, once answered that he was born ready. In a sense, I feel this way now. I have been a professional musician for more than 50 years so I have been preparing for this assignment my entire life. All the hours of practice, rehearsals, and the thousands of performances have given me the confidence to stand on one of the most important musical stages in the world with one of the world’s finest orchestras and still feel as relaxed as if I were playing alone in my own living room. That being said, I do spend a considerable amount of time studying the scores and practicing my solos.

JD: How do you usually spend New Year’s Eve?

BW: Since I was ten years old I have always performed on New Year’s Eve. In fact, I have performed on just about every major holiday my whole life. The idea of staying home on a holiday is impossible to imagine!

JD: How has Winiker Music been this year? What new projects or events coming up?

BW: This has been one of our best years ever. My brother Bill and I measure our success by how many people we make happy. Based on that fact, this has been one of our most successful years yet. We have performed at multiple weddings, quite a few corporate events and fundraisers, and keep up a regular weekly performance at a local Brookline restaurant called ‘Brothers’ in Brookline. This December has been especially busy with holiday parties!

JD: What are your future plans and your biggest wish for 2017?

BW: My plan for the future is to keep swinging on the bandstand and on the golf course for as long as the good Lord will let me!

As for my biggest wishes for 2017, I hope that this year brings me the opportunity to keep making people happy with my music. I try to do good deeds that build up the people around me and make them feel good about themselves. There are so many people in this world who do not think about the impact their actions have on others. I wish more people walked the earth with love in their hearts.

I hope 2017 will allow me to continue learning new music every week, something I have strived to do throughout my entire career. I am always excited by new music, from the Great American Songbook classics to the newest hits from America’s Top 40. I love to follow new artists who are constantly bringing innovation to the industry with unique melodies and rhythms and I listen to everything I hear very closely. Learning and performing this music is the best way for me to connect with younger generations and I love surprising people from the bandstand when I switch from Louis Armstrong to Taylor Swift. It keeps me on my toes and young at heart! I may have been performing for over 50 years, but there is always something new to learn. My work is not done yet!

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has an incredible lineup of live performances coming up including a thrilling presentation of Back to the Future with live music from the Boston Pops on Friday, December 30 and Saturday, December 31. New Year’s Eve with the Boston Pops featuring vocalist Cyndy Gayle and special guest Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will take place on Saturday, Dec. 31 at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts at 10 p.m. Click here for more information and for tickets.

Walt Disney World at its finest in fall

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Mickeys Not So Scary Halloween Party

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Epcot’s Botanical Gardens

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Key Lime Wine and a dish from Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival 2016

 

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Cinderella’s Castle in October

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Spaceship Earth at Epcot

 

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Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival

Bursts of orange, green and yellows adorn a landscape of huge pumpkin patches on a chilly night.  Vivid mums, harvest wreaths, festive decorations, and fall colors fill the night sky in a special, nightly fireworks celebration.  No, this is not fall in New England, but the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a hidden gem for all the flavors of fall from September through November 2016.  Featuring Disney’s most infamous villains, enchanting characters, and seasonal activities for the entire family, attendees are encouraged to dress up in costume for trick or treating throughout the park.  Click here for more information on Disney’s extensive activities.

Along with the long list of Magic Kingdom’s wonderful, classic rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Space Mountain, take some time to visit some of Disney’s spooky attractions in the spirit of the season such as Haunted Mansion, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom on Main Street.  A select number of rides are open late into the night.  From September 2 through October 31, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is built for all ages and features an array of Halloween shows, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, A Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular set up outside of Cinderella’s Castle, and a seasonal themed fireworks celebration.

Fall is also widely known for amazing food festivals around the country.  Taking that idea and expanding it in Disney’s own unique way within Epcot’s famous World Showcase, Epcot is proud to offer their annual International Food and Wine Festival from September 14 to November 14.  While Epcot’s World Showcase features the rich cultures of 11 countries from Mexico to Tokyo, Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival exponentially expands on this idea for a limited time, offering enticing cuisines and beverages from 30 marketplaces.  Explore and dine on fare from the Caribbean Islands, Africa, Australia, Brazil, and more.  Cooking demonstrations from famous culinary chefs, exclusive wine and beers from around the world, concerts, and cultural demonstrations take place throughout the park.  From sweet and fruity Hurricane Class 5 wine and key lime flavored wines sold exclusively in Florida to international wines that suit any palette, attendees can try them first with wine tastings throughout the day.

While the festival takes place, enjoy the classic and new attractions such as Norway’s new ride, Frozen, Soarin,’ Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure.  Canada and Mexico are among the most popular attractions featured within Epcot’s World Showcase.  With the holidays and the summer months among Disney World’s peak times, attendees can see a bit more without a bigger crowd, though FastPass is always recommended for optimal time saving and planning.

At Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the sun shines a little brighter than most places around the world.  Having thrilled families for over 45 years, enjoy shopping, family activities, and spectacular attractions within each of the four parks.  Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all offer exciting adventures throughout the year.  Click here for more information about Walt Disney World, rates, exclusive offers and more.  It’s never too early to start planning a trip to Disney World, no matter what time of year.