REVIEW: WGBH’s annual ‘A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn’ offered humor, inspiration, and vibrant performances

Lighthearted tales of green porridge, an inspirational insect, a hilarious song about classical Greek to more serious fare such as historical anti-war songs, punctuated with the stirring song, Siúil a Rún, sung a capella, highlighted this year’s WGBH’s A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn.  This captivating show concluded its run at Harvard University’s famous Sanders Theatre on Saturday, March 18.  The majestic stage has been affectionately likened to a “roll up desk.”  The beautiful, dark wooden stage was softly-lit with two stately, marble Greek statues sitting on each end as a grand, dimly-lit bronze chandelier floats overhead.

A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn always strikes a delicate balance between the rollicking and a sweet lullaby.  Wearing coordinated black dresses, Scottish musicians Jenna and Mairi Chaimbeul struck the first chords for an afternoon of celebration, comedy, rebellion, and joy wrapped up in the roots and branches of Irish music.  A high energy number greeted the enthusiastic crowd as the rest of this dynamic ensemble took the stage including returning Music Director and multi-instrumentalist Keith Murphy, The Karan Casey Band, fiddle champion Liz Carroll, and the Miller Family with the Goulding School of Irish Music.  Joined by host WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan, A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn was brought to a thrilling start as it traditionally does each year.

Dressed in a black and red dress, Karan Casey’s vocals soar with a tone a bit reminiscent of Linda Ronstadt.  She embraced Buile Mo Chroí’s passionate lyrics such as “the palm of my hand” and “the beat of my heart” accompanied by a concertina, blues guitar, and piano.   She also gave an enthralling performance later as Brian O’Donovan shared how the Irish spontaneously sings in public places.  Karan Casey then offered an impromptu a cappella version of Siúil a Rún as the audience fell into hushed tones before bursting into applause.

All Ireland fiddle champion Liz Carroll, dressed in a red shirt and black pants, offered some welcome comedic storytelling before each of her performances.  Hailing from Chicago, she humorously named a song she’s written on her slide-style fiddle after her brother’s leading film role in The Relic.  She also talked about composing songs for seven rooms in a Chicago art museum containing ceramics, musical instruments, and metal.  Her dry sense of humor combined with her uplifting, toe-tapping songs were wonderful to witness.

Liz was joined by Keith Murphy, who spoke of green porridge on St. Patrick’s Day, for two songs, one amusingly called Barbara Streisand Trip that had the mounting energy and pulsing rhythms of a moving train.  From Newfoundland, Keith Murphy’s performances are always stellar, with a song named after a Tennyson poem about seafaring and the great beyond. He was accompanied by harpist Jenna Moynihan.  His rich, resonant, smooth sound, which possesses a hint of James Taylor and John Denver, is always remarkable.

As for the inspirational insect, Scottish fiddler Jenna Moynihan and harp player and composer Mairi Chaimbeul, competing in a harp festival in April, judged that a particular song was good by an insect that made its presence known after the song, Dancing in Absence was completed.  With the chime of the harp distinct over the fiddler’s subtle rhythm, the energetic tune built into a quick step.

Sam Miller, athletic and blindingly swift, kept the energy high as he performed solo with high leaps, kicks, and complicated stepping.  The Miller dancers and the Goulding School of Irish Music, in coordinated black traditional garb, offered their own moments of comedy, one involving a hat.  They also skillfully navigated though a slip jig and hornpipe reel, showing just why they ranked 5th place at the Glasgow competition traditional set dance.

 

A St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn

Past photo of ‘A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn’ Courtesy of A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn/WGBH

Keeping up with tradition, Brian O’Donovan, with his wife and the ensemble took the stage to pay tribute to The Clancy Brothers with the catchy tune, The Leaving of Liverpool.

The second half tackled anti-war songs, immigration, and its fair share of comedy mixed in.  Not only did Brian O’Donovan proudly share a comedic song on classical Greek and education at Harvard University accompanied by fiddler Kevin Burke, but on a solemn note, also paid a compelling tribute to the late Leonard Cohen with a song about rebellion called The Partisan.  Brian and Keith Murphy created beautiful harmony, enhanced exquisitely by Mairi Chaibeul’s harp.

The afternoon also boasted collaborative jam sessions that brought the audiences to a stomping rhythm and ending with Karan Casey leading a sing-along on immigration with the entire ensemble, showing how music always makes a difference in the world.

A Celtic Sojourn presents their summer Roots and Branches concert in July, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, and other events during the year.  For a taste of Irish and Celtic traditions each Saturday afternoon, click here to tune in to A Celtic Sojourn hosted by Brian O’Donovan on 89.7 FM WGBH from 3 – 6 p.m.  Follow A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn on Facebook for updates and much more.

REVIEW: Cohasset Dramatic Club proves life is too short to miss the insightful musical, ‘If/Then’

Mix in a dash of the Tony award-winning musical, Rent, a hint of HBO’s hit show, Sex and the City, and stir in the thought-provoking film, Sliding Doors, and what emerges is a real treat in Cohasset Dramatic Club’s musical drama, If/Then.  Set in New York City and based on a book by Tom Kitt, If/Then is an unpredictable, immersive tale that explores destiny, love, happiness, and the complexity of navigating through life’s surprises.

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Cohasset Dramatic Club is thrilled to debut “If/Then” through Saturday, March 25 Photo courtesy of Cohasset Dramatic Club

 

Cohasset Dramatic Club is thrilled to be the first in the US to present this stirring, humorous musical after its professional Broadway run and national tour.  Directed by Lisa Pratt and technically directed by Mark Bono, If/Then continues at Cohasset Town Hall in Cohasset, Massachusetts through Saturday, March 25.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Is the path to happiness completely random or is destiny derived from the right choices?  Elizabeth Vaughn, portrayed masterfully by Ann McCoy, is a successful urban planner who decides to make a fresh start in New York City.  Everyone seems to think they know what is best for her, which helps lead Elizabeth onto two, unexpected paths.

Featuring a vibrant cast with realistic conflicts and fleshed out characters, Ann McCoy as conflicted, soulful Elizabeth Vaughn is the heart of the show, a meaty role originated by Idina Menzel on Broadway.  Dressed in a sharp black pants suit, McCoy is more than up to the challenge, portraying a woman who was once certain of life’s direction, but lately, her confidence has waned.  McCoy impressively depicts Elizabeth’s cautiousness through a shift in her eyes and yet, also brings out the character’s lively impulsiveness.  She heeds other people’s advice, but ultimately follows her heart.  A soprano, Ann McCoy’s vocals dip and soar, hitting challenging notes with ease.  This is especially evident in the numbers, You Learn to Live Without and Always Starting Over.

One of McCoy’s greatest strengths is the natural, unique chemistry she shares with each cast member.  Elizabeth is single, but not lonely.  Michelle Margulies portrays Kate’s incredibly charming and outspoken friend.  Margulies as Kate is engaging, fun-loving, and a bit of a scene stealer.  She is Elizabeth’s biggest fan and only has her best interests at heart.  Perpetually optimistic, Margulies offers a soulful and comical rendition of the number, It’s a Sign, playfully engaging the crowd.

CDC If Then Ann McCoy and Michael Warner

Ann McCoy as Elizabeth and Michael Warner as Josh depict great chemistry in ‘If/Then’ Photo courtesy of Cohasset Dramatic Club

Ann McCoy and Michael Warner are local community talents known for various productions on the South Shore, shine in their roles.  Michael Warner is compelling as caring, forthright, and unassuming army surgeon Josh, a man also clearly torn between two life choices.  He delivers a touching rendition of the song, Hey Kid.  Elizabeth and Josh’s chemistry is hopeful and passionate.  They create great harmony together, especially during the song, Here I Go.

While Josh is practical, Ricky DeSisto is a natural as impulsive and endearing Lucas.  With his earnest, idealistic nature and fair share of cynicism, one cannot help but root for him through life.  Through lighthearted teasing and sweet glances, Elizabeth and Lucas have a warm, playful chemistry.    Their song together, Some Other Me is moving.  Rob Buckel-Gillis portrays hopeful, supportive David, a surgeon.  He is hopeful, likable, and optimistic.  Lucas and David share a tender duet, The Best Worst Mistake You Ever Made.

CDC If Then Michelle Margulies Ann McCoy and Ricky DeSisto

Michelle Marguies as Kate, Ann McCoy as Elizabeth and Ricky DeSisto as Lucas in ‘If/Then’ Photo courtesy of Cohasset Dramatic Club

Elegantly dressed in a suit and tie, Mike Nakashima portrays Stephen, a complex character with mysterious intentions.  Determined and serious, Stephen and Elizabeth share a career-minded camaraderie as he encourages her to follow her dreams, seeing her boundless potential.

With music and lyrics by Brian Yorkey,  an intimate band including Music Director Sarah Troxler on piano, guitarist Jack Byrne, percussionist Michael Hobbs, bassist Jon Lay, Clarinet/Flute/Saxophone Glenn Silvia, and Cassie Sulbaran on Viola bring to life this upbeat, contemporary musical with a libretto.  Clever blocking brings part of the band onstage.

Costume and props designer Irene Vifides lend to New York City’s urban vibe and signature style through big, designer purses, fashionable shoes, and impressive, colorful costumes that vary from sophisticated, city attire to a casual night in.  Scenic artist Denise Feeney and Scenic projection designers Erin and Patrick Dzierzak and Dramatic Sounds create urban ambiance with recreated city sounds, black and white city skylines, and a wealth of broad, colorful landscapes depicting a few of New York City’s most famous landmarks.  One of this show’s many highlights is the humorous depiction of NYC’s tiny apartments.  Cohasset Dramatic Club brings to life a captivating musical depicting how complicated life can be and proving it’s also too short to miss If/Then.

Directed by Lisa Pratt, musically directed by Sarah Troxler, and choreographed by Tara Morrison, Cohasset Dramatic Club presents If/Then through March 25 at 7:30.  All performances will be held at Cohasset Town Hall 41 Highland Ave in Cohasset, Massachusetts.   Click here for more information and for tickets.

Other ways to support Cohasset Dramatic Club is to become a volunteer and make a donation.  Sign up for their email list to learn about upcoming events and more.  Click here for more about the Cohasset Dramatic Club and follow them on Facebook.

Flutist Sarah Paysnick delves into Grand Harmonie’s rollicking ‘March Madness’ concerts

For a musician, choosing the right instrument is the key to success.  For Grand Harmonie flutist and co-founder Sarah Paysnick, family and Sesame Street played a big part in her choosing the right one.  When a group of successful musicians got together to pursue something new and exciting, the innovative and eclectic music ensemble, Grand Harmonie was born.

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Grand Harmonie in action Photo courtesy of Sarah Paysnick

Grand Harmonie will deliver March Madness, two exciting and inventive concerts that mixes a little bit of everything.  Featuring conductor Scott Allen Jarrett and soprano Jacquelyn Stucker with horn by Yoni Kahn, March Madness kicks off on Friday, March 24 at Arts at the Armory in Somerville, Massachusetts at 7:30 p.m.  On Sunday, March 26, March Madness will take the stage at the Second Church of Newton in West Newton, Massachusetts at 3 p.m.

Grand Harmonie Scott Allen Jarrett conductor

Grand Harmonie conductor Scott Allen Jarrett Photo courtesy of Scott Allen Jarrett

Sarah Paysnick discusses her music career, Grand Harmonie’s educational outreach, the excitement behind Grand Harmonie, and a closer look into March Madness.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Jeanne Denizard:  What first sparked your interest in music and what inspired you to pursue it as a music career?

Sarah Paysnick:  In kindergarten, many of my friends started learning piano.  They would teach me what they were learning, so I begged my mom for piano lessons. I remember wanting to quit after a short time, but my mom told me I had to finish the year. A few years later, many of my friends started learning string instruments.  I have a cousin my age that played the violin and she’d teach me when we got together. When I told my mom I also wanted violin lessons, she said that I have two cousins who play the violin and I should pick something else. Watching Bob on Sesame Street and because another cousin was learning it, I decided on the flute.

In 4th grade, when asked what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said I wanted to be a cantor because Judaism and music were important to me.  I didn’t have proper training as a singer.  Something told me, over the next few years, it would exclusively become a music career even though Judaism is still important to me. I never really thought about doing anything outside of music, though my music path has taken me in a variety of directions.  Ultimately, it led me to historical performance on flutes and teaching piano to children.

JD:  How did you become a founding member of Grand Harmonie and what do you enjoy most about this group?

SP:  I knew Yoni Kahn, our horn player and soloist for this concert!  With Yoni Kahn and a couple of other founding members, we were interested in starting something new and exciting. Though my favorite music to perform falls a bit earlier than Grand Harmonie’s core repertoire, I am constantly inspired by my colleagues who push me every day to be a better musician and honored to be an organizing member of the kind of ensemble people enjoy working with. Everyone has such a positive, generous attitude and it’s infectious!

Yoni Kahn Horn

Yani Kahn, horn Photo courtesy of Grand Harmonie

JD:  Grand Harmonie is very versatile and can transform from a symphony orchestra to an opera orchestra, or even become a chamber ensemble.  Is the unexpected part of what sets Grand Harmonie apart from other groups?

SP:  Yes, Grand Harmonie is a bit of a moving target.  People attempt to put us into a box and we don’t fit into one.  Every performance is different, but it also makes anything possible!

JD:  Grand Harmonie will be touring through Somerville and Newton on March 24 and 26 for March Madness.  Is this Grand Harmonie’s first time performing March Madness?  Where did the idea come from?

SP:  This is our first time doing this performance as well as splitting up the movements of a symphony and sprinkling them throughout a concert. In the 19th century, performances were quite different than they are today. Maybe a full symphony wasn’t performed or it was performed in its entirety but not straight through.  Perhaps a small chamber ensemble gave listeners a break from the big symphonic sound or a soprano would delight everyone with her beautiful voice.

Grand Harmonie Jacquelyn Stucker Soprano

Jacquelyn Stucker, soprano for March Madness Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Stucker

These concerts were a social event and audiences didn’t remain silent as they think they are expected to today. Grand Harmonie wants to break the tension and allow people to clap when they want to, explore the space around them, and enjoy the concert without fear of getting stared down if they clap at the wrong moment or make a noise during the music.

On Friday night, the cash bar at the Somerville Armory will be open all night. Through a generous donation from Aeronaut Brewing Company, the first 30 ticket purchasers will receive one free beer!  On Sunday in Newton, we encourage people to relax and enjoy themselves, but the concert will not include alcohol and will be a more traditional performance.

JD:  This concert will be a particularly intimate and uplifting concert experience since it will take place in-the-round. Additionally, Grand Harmonie will deliver classical pieces in an entirely unique and rollicking way. Putting something like that together must have been a lot of fun.

SP:  Friday’s show is a really exciting experiment in how to make a “classical” concert more accessible and we can’t wait to experience it with our audience! Sunday’s show will be more traditional with the audience in pews and the orchestra in front, but we still expect it will be a rollicking good time!

JD:  For March Madness, Grand Harmonie weaves Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber into one big concert.  You have a unique way of breaking up Beethoven’s First Symphony during this “in the round” concert experience.

SP:  It may sound unique to split up a symphony today but this was not unusual in the 19th century! Sometimes even a single movement was chosen for a particular program.

JD:  Grand Harmonie also participates in educational outreach.  Please tell me about that.

SP:  Grand Harmonie has given master classes at the Longy School of Music at Bard College, MIT, and Harvard, among others. We have also given informational lecture/demonstrations at MIT and Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library. We love sharing what we’ve learned with musicians and music enthusiasts young and old!  Audience members are very curious about our instruments and we are happy to engage with them.

JD:   A few Grand Harmonie concerts are coming up before the end of the season.  Please tell me about Grand Harmonie’s future plans.

SP:  March Madness is the official close of our season, but we have plenty coming up!  We will be performing Haydn’s The Creation with Edward Jones and the Harvard University Choir and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2 Lobgesang with Edward Jones and the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus. We have loved working with Ed at least once a year since we began and it’s fair to say we have a mutual admiration for each other.  In NYC, we will be partnering with On Site Opera to perform a wind octet Harmonie arrangement of Mozart’s The Secret Gardener by our own Yoni Kahn on horn and Thomas Carroll on clarinet. Also, keep an eye out for us during the Boston Early Music Festival the second week in June!

Grand Harmonie Group photo

Grand Harmonie group Photo courtesy of Hannah Shields

Click here for all of Grand Harmonie’s upcoming concerts and here for more on Grand Harmonie’s educational outreach.  Follow Grand Harmonie on Facebook and Twitter for upcoming events and more.

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.

 

Company Theatre proudly presents the uplifting musical comedy, ‘Sister Act the Musical’

With an incredible lineup of catchy, uplifting songs by Academy award-winning composer Alan Menken, Company Theatre proudly presents the hilarious musical comedy, Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, April 9 at the Company Theatre in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Based on the 1992 smash hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sister Act the Musical is a humorous, inspiring story about loyalty, friendship, and discovering what is really important.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Set in Philadelphia, lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier finds herself in a terrible predicament and needs protection.  She finds it in a convent with a group of dutiful nuns led by rigid Mother Superior, but she has never felt more out of place until the power of music steps in.  Featuring a cast that will bring audiences joyfully to their feet, see Sister Act the Musical from Friday, March 17 through Sunday, March 19 then Wednesdays through Sundays through April 9.

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‘Sister Act the Musical’ cast Photo courtesy of Michelle McGrath/Company Theatre

Sister Act the Musical is part of Company Theatre’s stellar 2017 season which includes Disney’s The Little Mermaid with an adult cast this summer.  Auditions will be held on May 3.  Click here for audition details.

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Company Theatre presents Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ this summer. Courtesy of the Company Theatre

Other highlights of the season include the psychological thriller, Lizzie Borden in October and the holiday family musical comedy, Company for the Holidays in December.  All performances take place at the Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts.  Get discount tickets on Family & Friends Fridays. Click here, call the box office at 781-871-2787 for tickets or email sally@companytheatre.com for more information.  Follow the Company Theatre on Facebook.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Brian O’Donovan and WBGH’s ‘A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn’

Revel in rich, Celtic traditions and captivating live performances with WGBH’s 12th annual St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn from Wednesday, March 15 through Saturday, March 18.  Hosted by Brian O’Donovan and touring through Worcester, Beverly, New Bedford, and Cambridge, A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn offers the excitement of Ireland’s history, Celtic traditions, storytelling, and annual concert with a dynamic array of musical guests from all over the map.

A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn kicks off its Massachusetts tour on Wednesday, March 15 at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, for the first time at The Cabot Theatre in Beverly on Thursday, March 16, take the stage at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford on Friday, March 17, and then concluding the tour at the Sanders Theatre, Harvard University in Cambridge for two performances on Saturday, March 18.  WGBH members get a discount on tickets. Click here for further details and for tickets!

Once again musically-directed by Keith Murphy, this highly-anticipated concert features musicians such as world-renowned fiddler Liz Carroll and popular harp and fiddle duo Jenna Moynihan and Mairi Chaimbeul. Karan Casey, Irish folk singer and founding member of Solas, will also appear with the Kara Casey Band.  A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn will showcases local performers such as the Miller Family, featuring guitarist Ruby May, fiddler Evelyn, and multi-instrumentalist Samuel.  Hailing from Smithfield, Rhode Island, The Miller Family are traditional Irish dancers who have toured and competed in dance competitions from Montreal to Rhode Island. Winners at the World Irish dancing championships, the Miller Family are happy to share their upbeat rhythms.

 

St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn 2014

Celebrate ‘A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn’ from March 15-18 Photo courtesy of WGBH

Click here for the complete list of performers to ring in this thrilling holiday.  From Beverly to Cambridge, A St. Patrick’s Day Celtic Sojourn is quickly approaching. Click here for tickets and further details.  For a taste of Irish and Celtic traditions each Saturday afternoon, click here to tune in to A Celtic Sojourn hosted by Brian O’Donovan on 89.7 FM WGBH from 3 – 6 p.m.  Follow A Celtic Sojourn on Facebook for updates and much more.

Massasoit Theatre Company presents the insightful, award-winning play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’

Sometimes waiting for a new life to start can be the most important thing in the world.  Massasoit Theatre Company proudly presents A Raisin in the Sun, an award-winning, insightful play, and chosen for its poignant themes that speak to today’s society.  Adapted into the 1961 film starring Sydney Poitier, a musical, a TV movie, and revived on Broadway in 2014, Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry has made a significant impact over the years since its Broadway debut in 1959.

Massasoit Theatre Company’s A Raisin in the Sun will take the stage for one weekend only from Thursday, March 9 through Saturday, March 11 at Buckley Performing Arts Center in Brockton, Massachusetts.  A talk back will take place after the performances on Saturdays.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

A Raisin in the Sun is hailed for its gripping insight on poverty, racism, and inner turmoil.  Directed by Corinne Mason and produced by Mark Rocheteau, ‘Raisin in the Sun’ focuses on the Youngers, an African-American family who are struggling to survive, but dreams of better things to come.  With the entire family living in a tiny apartment, Amber Smith as Ruth, Keion Lugay as Walter Lee, Kadisha Harris as Travis, and Arial Wigfall as Beneatha all have their own individual dreams of making a new start.  However, life has its unexpected turns.

See A Raisin in the Sun for four performances only on March 9, 10, and 11 at 8 p.m.  One Saturday matinee performance takes place on March 11 at 3 p.m.  All performances will be held at Buckley Performing Arts Center, One Massasoit Boulevard in Brockton, Massachusetts.  Discounted student, senior, and group rates are all available.  Call 508-427-1234 or click here for tickets and further information.  Follow Massasoit Theatre Company on Facebook for upcoming events and more.