REVIEW: Versatile singer Joyce Didonato performed classics with a compelling twist as Celebrity Series presented ‘Songplay’

It is easy to see why mezzo soprano Joyce Didonato has such a following on social media and otherwise.  For one night only, she took the stage to share what she has learned from music and more as Celebrity Series presented Songplay on Friday, March 1 at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall at 8 p.m.  Click here for more information and here for where Joyce Didonato will appear next.

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Celebrity Series of Boston presented Joyce Didonato for one night only on March 1 Photo courtesy of Celebrity Series

Celebrity Series has a knack for welcoming artists that not only show off their talent, but teach the audience a thing or two about their craft, leaving the audience some material to ponder.  With a lively, charming presence and a versatile voice that defies a definitive genre, mezzo-soprano Joyce Didonato shattered a few traditions and came up with a refreshing repertoire that combined opera, jazz, baroque, and other genres making a few classic songs new again.

Emerging from backstage in a shimmering emerald evening gown, this dynamic singer was greeted by a full house.  This particular show seemed to be tailor-made for professionally-trained singers as Joyce shared details of her extensive vocal training, recalling in jest and self deprecation the tools that helped her become the professional singer she is.  She also shared some personal reflections and comical stories between songs about her life and music.

With soaring, soothing vocals and an impeccable range, Joyce’s voice is as sophisticated with an aria as it is playful with jazz and Broadway numbers.  Fans of opera and jazz would especially enjoy the show, but Joyce and her band offered enough variety and humor with each transformed song that most music fans could appreciate it as well.

Celebrity Series Joyce Didonato Robert Torres

Throughout the evening, she introduced her acclaimed band one by one with anecdotes and playful music interludes.  Each band member had their individual chance to shine.  Behind a large Steinway and Sons grand piano sat pianist and arranger Craig Terry with whom she shared more than a few lighthearted moments with.  They kicked off the evening with the Italian aria, Caro mio ben and later Craig performed a captivating rendition of Dizzy Fingers.

Hailing from Buenos Aires, Lautaro Greco introduced the bandoneon, a unique instrument which is played like a piano, shaped like an accordion, but sounds like a horn.  He joined her lively band that included revered double bassist Chuck Isreals, acclaimed percussionist Jimmy Madison, and legendary trumpet player Charlie Porter.  The band’s random, surprising music notes added a few humorous and cheeky moments to the performance, the horn chasing her soaring vocals during a jazz-infused interlude.  All in good fun.

A few of the evening’s highlights included a heartfelt, angst-ridden rendition of Will He Like Me?  from the Broadway show, She Loves Me, a tender, reflective rendition of Gene Scheer’s Lean Away dedicated to Andre Previn, Duke Ellington’s classic Solitude, and a song Joyce always dreamed of singing, Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose.

At one point during the show, Joyce referred to playing traditional music just one way as an emotional straight jacket.  Watching her put a creative spin on these classics with humor, grace, and gusto was a liberating experience.

Celebrity Series of Boston offers a dynamic roster featuring the annual Stave SessionsAlvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Shawn Colvin, and much more.  Click here for more information and for tickets. Tickets can also be obtained at the Celebrity Series of Boston’s box office.  Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: WGBH’s ‘Tis the Night with Ben Folds and Friends’ holiday music special offers some impressive, lighthearted cheer

Ben Folds, award-winning lead singer of Ben Folds Five, rang in the holiday season with some of Boston’s most renowned performers as he hosted Tis the Night with Ben Folds and Friends which has been featured on WGBY Public TelevisionNew Hampshire PBS, and WGBH 2 this month.  Ben has collaborated with many acclaimed artists in his over 20-year career including Regina Spektor, William Shatner, Tori Amos, and Weezer.  He is also known for performing with many orchestras throughout the world.  Take a closer look at Tis the Night here,  click here to find out when WGBH will broadcast this show next, or here to stream it online.

In this WGBH holiday special, Ben hosts for the most part, leaving it to renowned Boston choruses such as the Boston Children’s Chorus, Handel and Haydn Society, the Harvard- Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, and students from the New England Conservatory to bring in the good cheer.  However, in the few times he collaborated with the artists, this concert special became that much more engaging.

Ben Folds and Caleb Teicher perform on Tis the Night (Meredith Nierman - WGBH)

Ben Folds and Caleb Teicher perform on ‘Tis the Night’ Photo courtesy of Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Tis the Night with Ben Folds and Friends offered a selection of well-known holiday songs done in new, insightful ways.  Surrounded by blue festive lights and illuminated snowflakes, Tis the Night opened fittingly with I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day sung warmly by the Boston Children’s Chorus, dressed in red scarves and multicolored shirts as Ben Folds looks on.

Handel and Haydn orchestra and chorus perform on Tis the Night (Meredith Nierman - WGBH)2

Handel and Haydn orchestra and chorus perform on ‘Tis the Night’ Photo courtesy of Meredith Nierman/WGBH 

Handel and Haydn’s Society took on three memorable choruses from Handel’s Messiah, which was a lighthearted take from the classic version.  It was refreshing to hear, though I prefer the classic interpretation.  However, the Handel and Haydn Society’s uplifting, angelic harmony was no less impressive, ending on a triumphant note.

Ben Folds took a break from hosting to join NYC choreographer Caleb Teicher for a catchy version of Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.  They were accompanied by New England Conservatory student guitarist Andres Orco-Zerpa and student bassist Tyler Wagner.  Affectionately calling Caleb’s tapping “drumming for your feet,” Ben Folds drummed while singing a duet with Caleb, whose freestyle tapping got more remarkable as the beat escalated.

Harvard Radcliffe Collegium Musicum performs in Tis the Night (Sam Brewer - WGBH) (1)

Harvard Radcliffe Collegium Musicum performs in ‘Tis the Night’ Photo courtesy of Sam Brewer/WGBH 2

Conducted by Music Director Andrew Clark, The Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum was a particular highlight.  Their peaceful, silvery vocals enriched their first number, In the Bleak Midwinter as picturesque scenes were shown of new fallen snow topped on trees and covered in fields. Sung entirely acapella, that captivating number was followed by a few more impressive classic Christmas carols.

New England Conservatory student jazz vocalist Darynn Dean, decked out in a shimmering dress and accompanied by student pianist Matthew Thompson, delivered a jazz-infused, airy version of Jingle Bells. Darynn’s agile vocals scat and soared while Matthew’s lighthearted piano solo created an exhilarating medley.

vocalist Darynn Dean and pianist Matthew Thomson perform Jingle Bells on Tis the Night (Sam Brewer - WGBH)2

Vocalist Darynn Dean and pianist Matthew Thomson perform Jingle Bells on ‘Tis the Night’ Photo courtesy of Sam Brewer/WGBH 

Under an illuminated starlit sky, New England Conservatory student soprano Saori Erickson accompanied by student pianist Bethany Pietroniro performed a gorgeous, emotionally-rich version of Ave Maria.

soprano Saori Erickson and pianist Bethany Pietroniro performing Ave Maria (Sam Brewer - WGBH)

Soprano Saori Erickson and pianist Bethany Pietroniro performing ‘Ave Maria’ Photo courtesy of Sam Brewer/WGBH

Ending on a bright, inviting note with Ben Folds, the Boston Children’s Chorus, and Caleb Teicher collaborating on We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Tis the Night offered a few great reasons why the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year.

REVIEW: Featuring delicious food and eclectic charm, consider Boston’s ‘The Beehive’ before or after the show

After spending Sunday afternoon at the Calderwood Pavilion for the Tony award-winning musical Fun Home, I had made reservations through Open Table for The Beehive restaurant right next door at 541 Tremont Street in South Boston, Massachusetts.  It’s a charming and convenient place to enjoy after show cocktails, brunch, lunch, or dinner while featuring daily live music including jazz and tribute to famous musicians.  Decorated subtly for Halloween and featuring a lit outdoor patio, The Beehive has unique charm and Bohemian décor in the South End on the orange line off of the Back Bay T stop.

At the time I made the reservation, the live band didn’t start until 8 p.m.  The servers were friendly and asked about the performance I saw at the Calderwood.  Pricing is a bit expensive, but the food is wonderful and can easily be shared.  The artisan sour dough bread was seasoned with sea salt and topped with delicious honey butter.  Our dinner dish, the half chicken was tender, flavorful and juicy mixed with carrot puree, bok choy, rainbow carrots, and olives in a peanut aillade.  It was more than enough for two unless you prefer to take some home.

The Beehive is open seven days a week and located in the Back Bay, an area in Boston that features many theatrical options.  The Beehive offers a special menu on holidays and are open on Thanksgiving.  Take a closer look at the Beehive here for the menu, live music schedule, and much more.

REVIEW: With comic wit and vintage flair, Boston Ballet’s ‘Genius at Play’ is an exhilarating dance celebration

Honoring the centennial birthdays of legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein, The Boston Ballet opened its 55th season on a joyous, lighthearted note on Thursday, September 6 with Genius at Play continuing through Sunday, September 16 at the Boston Opera HouseGenius at Play certainly lives up to its name, a production with glimpses of Robbins and Bernstein’s signature dance moves, music, and lively banter sure to leave the audience in carefree spirits.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Accomplished conductor Beatrice Jona Affron opened the show, leading the orchestra with Leonard Bernstein’s sparkling and triumphant masterpiece Overture to Candide, first performed in 1957.  Much of Genius at Play celebrates the very nature of dance and its playful competitiveness and Overture to Candide quite fittingly sets the tone.

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Boston Ballet in Jerome Robbin’s Interplay; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

Interplay, with choreography by Jerome Robbins, rewinds the clock as women pile on high ponytails in casual, colorful costumes by Santo Loquasto.  As the mischievous, upbeat rhythm of Morton Gould’s American Concertette plays, dancers Maria Alvarez, Dawn Atkins, Chyrstyn Fentroy, Dalay Parrondo, Isaac Akiba, Paul Craig, Sun Woo Lee, and Lawrence Rines take part in some friendly competition.  Creativity runs wild as dancers perform lifts, spins, and high leaps while also paying subtle homage to Robbins as they rhythmically snap their fingers and playfully shake their hips.

With choreography by Jerome Robbins and jazz-infused music by Leonard Bernstein, Fancy Free is the source material for what became the hit Broadway musical and Academy award-winning film, On the Town, a tale about three sailors portrayed here by Irlan Silva, Derek Dunn, and Michael Ryan, who are on shore leave in New York City.  Taking a page from the old movies with cheerful 40s costumes by Kermit Love, these sailors realize they are in over their head when they meet three passers-by portrayed by Emily Entingh, Viktorina Kapitonova, and Dawn Atkins.  With a multi-dimensional, romantically-lit set equipped with a vivid, leaning lamp post, these sailors depict a wonderful camaraderie as they embark on an amusing night with plenty of surprises.

With music by Philip Glass and choreography by Jerome Robbins, Glass Pieces is quite the gem.  Taking place in what looks like a subway station, Glass Pieces has a palpable rhythm and urgency as dancers are unleashed into a celebration of dance in the city.  From a plain landscape into a spectrum of color, Glass Pieces transforms into a splendid piece of artistry as dancers perform in a variety of styles in silhouette, reflective, and in unison.

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Lia Cirio and Paulo Arrais in Jerome Robbin’s Glass Pieces; photo by Rosalie O’Connor; courtesy of Boston Ballet

With comic wit, vintage flair, and renowned choreography, The Boston Ballet proudly presents Genius at Play through Sunday, September 16 at the Boston Opera House.  Click here for more information and for tickets.  For future events and more, follow Boston Ballet on Facebook and Twitter.

Tickets for 12th annual Duxbury Music Festival, featuring live seaside concert music & more, go on sale June 1

For the past twelve years, South Shore Conservatory’s Duxbury Music Festival (DMF) has welcomed summer with seaside entertainment and extraordinary live music along the South Shore of Massachusetts.  With more than a week-long concert extravaganza exploring reggae, jazz, classical, and blues, the Duxbury Music Festival kicks off their summer series at a seaside tent on Duxbury Bay at Freeman Place for Blues on the Bay Cabaret Concert on Friday, July 14.  The evening offers cocktails and appetizers featuring live music from Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1.  Call 781-934-2731, ext. 11 or click here for the full list of events and tickets.  Follow Duxbury Music Festival on Facebook for updates.

Duxbury Music Festival Logo

Photo courtesy of South Shore Conservatory

Set in in several locations in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the Duxbury Music Festival will be held from Friday, July 14 through Friday, July 28.  On Sunday, July 16, the Duxbury Music Festival continues at the seaside tent at Freeman Place with Festival Overture Concert and Reception featuring works from Haydn and Hurnik at 6:30 p.m.

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Photo courtesy of Kathy Dixon

Founding Duxbury Music Festival faculty member and soloist Oxana Yablonskaya returns to the festival on Tuesday, July 18 for the All-Rachmaninoff Faculty Concert at South Shore Conservatory, Ellison Center for the Arts, 64 George Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m.  This special concert funds scholarships for Duxbury Music Festival students.

Duxbury Music Festival - Tent crowd shot

Photo courtesy of Kathy Dixon

Travel to Duxbury Town Green and enjoy Reggae on the Green featuring the Berklee Reggae Ensemble with opening act and South Shore Conservatory rock band, Toast on Friday, July 21 at 7 p.m.  Other events on the Duxbury Town Green include Rhythm and Blues on the Green Dinner Dance with party band In the House Saturday, July 22, Family Fest with plenty of kids entertainment and interactive activities featuring South Shore Conservatory’s ImagineArts band followed by Picnic in the Park featuring live entertainment from DMF students, lobster roll, and concessions on Sunday, July 23.  Back at South Shore Conservatory in Duxbury, take in Duxbury Music Festival’s All That Jazz featuring quintet Elan Mehler and a Duxbury Wine and Spirits tasting on Wednesday, July 26.

The Duxbury Music Festival concludes with a Winners Concert and Farewell Reception including a Duxbury Wine and Spirits Tasting on Friday, July 28. Tickets go on sale June 1, but subscriptions are now available.  Call 781-934-2731, ext. 11 or click here for tickets, see the full schedule, and all that the Duxbury Music Festival has to offer.

 

 

Beehive of Boston’s 10th annual ‘Erin Go Beehive’ features Irish comfort food, live Celtic music, and more

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and the Beehive is encouraging revelers to start celebrating a day early with their 10th annual celebration, ‘Erin Go Beehive’ on Thursday, March 16 at the Beehive of Boston at 5 p.m.  ‘Erin Go Beehive’ will last into the early morning hours and boasts a special menu of authentic Irish comfort food by Executive Chef Gregory Torrech, holiday festivities, cocktails, live music, and much more.  Click here for further details!

Hailing from Galway and residing in Boston, the Beehive once again welcomes Celtic singer-songstress Katie McD and other special guests.  Katie McD’s soothing Celtic vocals and insightful lyrics have captivated audiences from Boston Symphony Hall to the Guinness Fleadh and she’ll perform selections from her debut album, I Know You Know and her sophomore release, Angel Baby.

The Beehive of Boston, 541 Tremont Street in Boston, Massachusetts, will offer a wide range of festive entrées by Executive Chef Gregory Torrech including traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage, Fish and Ships with tartar sauce, and Shepherd’s Pie along with their usual fare. Sponsored by the Harpoon Brewery, pair the meal with a festive cocktail.

Listed as one of the “100 Jazz Clubs in the World” by Downbeat Magazine, The Beehive boasts nightly live entertainment featuring a dynamic array of music genres throughout the year with an extensive menu. Dinner reservations are highly recommended and there is no cover charge. Call 1-617-423-0069 or click here to reserve a table! Click here for more information and follow the Beehive on Facebook.

 

South Shore Conservatory offers spring classes for young students in March

From learning music instruments to singing, dancing, exercise, theatrical play and more, South Shore Conservatory has a stellar reputation of immersing students of all ages in a wide spectrum of exciting activities as the spring warmth approaches.  Ranging from basic to more advanced skill levels, spring registration is now open for young children with Music Together and Music Sprouts programs starting on March 13. South Shore Conservatory is located at convenient locations on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Click here for a list of classes available.

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Young students enjoying Music Together class at South Shore Conservatory, image by Michelle McGrath PR

A few of the classes offered for children ages 0 through 9 are Time TrainMusic SproutsDrum and SingCreative DanceHip HopTot YogaBallet, Move and Groove Music Therapy Group, Piano FUNdamentals, Curtain Going UpPrimo Voice Class, and Let’s Put on a Show.  South Shore Conservatory also offers classes for ages 10 through 18 such as Rock BandFiddle ClassSaturday Stage ClubPop Rock Vocal Tech, and Let’s Put on a Show.  Take part in adult classes such as Adult Rock Band, Golden VoicesSSC Community VoicesAdult Jazz Workshop, and Shake Your Soul. Classes are also available for dance and musical instruments at beginner levels.

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Drum class at South Shore Conservatory Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath and South Shore Conservatory

South Shore Conservatory has created a comfortable, inspiring, and exciting learning environment for students at all levels at their Duxbury and Hingham campuses.  Satellite classes are offered at the South Shore Community Center in Cohasset, Massachusetts. South Shore Conservatory also offers financial aid. For further details and to register, call Early Childhood Program Coordinator Jana Kahn at 781-749-7565 ext. 33 or online at sscmusic.org.

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South Shore Conservatory partners with the American Ballet Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Michelle McGrath and South Shore Conservatory

Click here to learn about all of South Shore Conservatory’s upcoming events.  Follow South Shore Conservatory on Facebook and Twitter.