REVIEW: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s ‘The Sound of Music’ a moving summer gem

The Sleepless Critic has reviewed a few beautiful productions of ‘The Sound of Music,’ a riveting true story set in Austria about the resilient Von Trapp family who not only attempt to resist the Nazi regime in 1938 Pre-war Salzburg, but also attempt to move on without their late mother.  A blend of grace, faith and strength in the face of an indelible sadness, no doubt makes it a stirring classic.  Yet, with the exception of Audra McDonald’s brilliant turn as Mother Abbess in NBC’s 2013’s ‘The Sound of Music Live‘ musical, her extraordinary vocals lifting Fox’s arguably mediocre production with this glorious anthem, Climb Every Mountain, the music to ‘The Sound of Music’ has generally never been my favorite.

Make no mistake, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic, Academy Award-winning musical score is nevertheless respected and appreciated for its mark in musical history.   However, what makes Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s musical, ‘The Sound of Music’ particularly special is its resonant harmonies, a brilliant lead in Aimee Doherty as Maria, and the lively vocals and playful choreography delivered by this wonderful, lighthearted cast.  It convinced me to care for ‘The Sound of Music’ score, which has never sounded lovelier.

With a mix of tradition, opulence, and a few songs not featured in the iconic 1965 film starring Julie Andrews, Reagle Music Theatre’s ‘The Sound of Music’ is the perfect lighthearted summer treat, even in its serious moments.  ‘The Sound of Music’ continues at the Robinson Theatre in Waltham, Massachusetts through Sunday, July 21.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Reagle Music Theatre The Sound of Music Aimee Doherty as Maria Confidence in Me

Aimee Doherty as Maria I Have Confidence Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

The Sound of Music has many highlights, but one of its brightest is Aimee Doherty’s glowing, enchanting turn as Maria.  This Maria is a tad more youthful, boasting flowing dark hair and a wide, playful smile.  Doherty brings light and gravitas to the role, her infectious charm and soaring vocals especially noticeable during the playful, yet pensive number, I Have Confidence.  Paired with Daniel Forrest Sullivan’s buoyant choreography, it is one of Maria’s more subtle, but powerful moments.

Reagle Music Theatres The Sound of Music Von Trapp Children

Emma Heistand as Leisl, Wade Gleeson Turner as Friedrich, Jane Jakubowski as Louisa, Ryan Philpott as Kurt, Fiona Simeqi as Brigitta, Addison Toole as Marta, Libby Sweder as Gretl, and Aimee Doherty as Maria  Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Each of the adorable Von Trapp children featuring Emma Heistand as sweet, but rebellious Liesl, Wade Gleeson Turner as Friedrich, Jane Jakubowski as precocious Louisa, Ryan Philpott as Kurt, Fiona Simeqi as Brigitta, Addison Toole as Marta, and Libby Sweder as Gretl have their moment to shine, and their charming number Do-Re-Mi with Doherty is a delight.  The children’s colorful, identical, and traditional Austrian wardrobe enhance each scene.  Liesl, portrayed by Emma Heistand and Rolf, depicted by Max Currie impressively develop swift chemistry over the playful number, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, largely thanks to Sullivan’s breezy choreography.

Reagle Music Theatre's The Sound of Music Sixteen Going on Seventeen

Emma Heistand as Liesl and Max Currie as Rolf in ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

There is a moment during the production where Doherty states, “When God closes a window” and Mark Linehan completes her sentence with, “he opens a door.”  The expression is actually the other way around, but Mark Linehan as Captain von Trapp instantly picks up on her phrase and completes her statement, indicating how in tune they both are onstage.  Mark Linehan has shown a natural charisma in other productions and there is no shortage of that here, delivering a powerful performance in the dour, firm, but forthright Captain.  However, his biggest strength is in the quieter moments of the show, especially in the moving reprise of the title song The Sound of Music and bittersweet Edelweiss.

Reagle Music Theatre The Sound of Music Captain Elsa and Max

L to R: Mark Linehan as Captain von Trapp, Janis Hudson as Elsa, and Robert Orzalli as Max Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

From the first few notes of the Nuns’ gorgeous, a capella chant, Preludium, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston have certainly outdone themselves.  Their resonant harmonies are among the production’s most beautiful moments.  Mara Bonde delivers an understated performance as patient, insightful, and ceaselessly faithful Mother Abbess, enhanced by a soaring rendition of the show’s inspiring anthem, Climb Every Mountain.  Ever the standout, Yewande Odetoyinbo also makes a remarkable impression as outspoken Sister Berthe.

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston The Sound of Music Aimee Doherty as Maria and Mara Bonde as Mother Abbess

Aimee Doherty as Maria and Mara Bonde as The Mother Abbess Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

Elsa, portrayed with flashy elegance by Janis Hudson, is a sophisticated, marginally manipulative socialite, with a taste for the finer things.  In what could be a potentially unlikable character, Hudson strikes a delicate balance of a woman who struggles with what she wants and yet, wishes to do the right thing.  She and Robert Orzalli as comical and seemingly smarmy Max are quite a comical pair, especially during the little known number, How Could Love Survive.

Reagle Music Theatre The Sound of Music So Long, Farewell

Mark Linehan as Captain von Trapp, Aimee Doherty as Maria and the Von Trapp children Photo courtesy of (C) Herb Philpott Photo/Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

As wonderfully potent to the ears as visually vibrant, experience Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston’s ‘The Sound of Music’ though Sunday, July 21 at the Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street in Waltham, Massachusetts.  Reagle Music Theatre will soon cap off its summer musical season with the comedy classic, ‘La Cage aux Folles’ in August.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Follow Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston on Twitter and Facebook for upcoming events and more.

 

 

 

REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective’s ‘The Three Musketeers’ packs action, comedy, and a contemporary twist

‘The Three Musketeers‘ stands the test of time for a reason.  Full of swashbuckling adventure, revenge, humor, and romance, ‘The Three Musketeers’ has a universal appeal, a historical tale of three not-so-flawless defenders of the crown in dangerous 17th century Paris, a time where an ambush could take place at any moment.

Many different versions of this classic tale have taken over the stage and screen over the years and that is no surprise.  It’s a pliable tale with lots of room for creativity.

The Greater Boston Stage Company, in collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective, creates a re-imagined adaptation for their final production of the season.  This time, from fights to music to storyline to breaking the fourth wall, ‘The Three Musketeers’ weaves in the classic with the contemporary presenting a new twist of how this story could have played out.

Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Greater Boston Stage Company continues ‘The Three Musketeers’ through Sunday, June 30 in Stoneham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets.  Click here for more on the Front Porch Arts Collective.

Greater Boston Stage Company - The Three Musketeers cast

The Three Musketeers cast Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

The last time the Sleepless Critic reviewed a show featuring the Front Porch Arts Collective, it was in collaboration with the Lyric Stage Company for the critically-acclaimed musical, ‘Breath and Imagination’ back in December.  It was a brilliant, dramatic piece with an incomparable performance by Davron S. Monroe as opera great Roland Hayes.

The Front Porch Arts Collective shows its lighter side with ‘The Three Musketeers.’  Though Alexandre Dumas’s novel can be a heavy read, the films and stage productions have always been an exciting romp with some adaptations better than others.  The Greater Boston Stage Company weaves together a wealth of elements, including stylized action sequences, a good dose of humor, eclectic, bolder costumes, and creative casting, but stays pretty faithful to the classic storyline otherwise.

‘The Three Musketeers’ follows Marc Pierre as a fresh-faced country boy named D’Artagnan who wishes to offer his services to the disheveled, world-weary Musketeers.  Pierre portrays D’Artagnan with a love struck charm, wide-eyed wonder, and transparency.  He’s an easy character to root for.

The Greater Boston Stage Company Tonasia Jones as Madame de Treville and Marc Pierre as D'Artagnan

Teaching the ropes. Tonasia Jones as Madame de Treville and Marc Pierre as D’Artagnan Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

Instead of women as primarily damsels in distress, some of the damsels are the Musketeers themselves.  Paige Clark as Aremis and Lyndsey Allen Cox as Athos prove they are more than up to the challenge, showing prowess and agility in their perspective roles.  Cox as witty and sardonic Athos has some great lines in this show and one of the most memorable is “Love is a lottery whose prize is death.”  Along with James Richardo Milord, who gives gravitas to goofy, selfish, but well-meaning Porthos, this trio has good chemistry as they embark on new adventures.

The Greater Boston Stage Company - Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cardinal Richelieu

Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Cardinal Richelieu Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

The humor is there, especially from Maurice Emmanuel Parent, the Executive Director of Front Porch Arts Collective, as dastardly Cardinal Richelieu.  From his raised, mischievous eyebrow to his magnificent, resonating laugh as he occasionally lets the audience in on an elusive inside joke, he steals the show.  Tonesia Jones also gives a charismatic and commanding performance as Madame de Treville.  Her interaction with the Musketeers lands with drive and heart.

Margaret Clark is a spellbinding spitfire as M’Lady while J.T. Turner, wearing an eye patch, portrays shrewd and creepy Rocheford as he lurks in the shadows.

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What also stands out in this production is the exciting action and stellar fight scenes, led by fight director Angie Jepson.  From barrooms to the king’s court, the battles are fought valiantly with a good dose of comedy and high jinks.  This show takes a lot of modern liberties in a good fight and takes a more serious turn in the second half, so like a Musketeer, be prepared for anything.

Adapted by Catherine Bush from the novel by Alexandre Dumas, Greater Boston Stage Company, in collaboration with The Front Porch Arts Collective, continues ‘The Three Musketeers’ through Sunday, June 30 at 395 Main Street in Stoneham, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and tickets and here for a closer look at Front Porch Arts Collective.

REVIEW: Currently on tour, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow raised the roof at Club Passim for album release party

Part of what makes folk music fascinating are the inflections of various genres weaved into each track.  Add some insightful lyrics and it creates its own unique journey.  Unlike other music genres, folk experiments a wide variety of eclectic rhythms.  Currently on tour, rock and roots folk music band The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow does one better.  Each band member writes and performs their own songs, voiced from their own perspectives.

Very much a collaborative band, The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, made up of singer-songwriters and musicians Greg Smith, David Tanklefsky, Billy KeaneTory Hanna, and banjo picker Chris Merenda all have distinctive styles, but when they collaborate, it is spot on.  They have attended songwriting retreats together and collaborate on each of their compositions in various stages of completion, so everything syncs with the band’s sound the way it should.

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow Tour Schedule 2019

The “Band Together” tour schedule Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow returned to Club Passim celebrating the release of their new album, ‘Band Together‘ and played for some familiar faces on June 7.  With band members hailing from different parts of Massachusetts including the Berkshires and Boston, the sold out crowd was thrilled as each of its five members made their individual entrances onto Club Passim’s stage.  Click here to see where The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow will appear next, here for an interview with band member, David Tanklefsky, and here for more on Club Passim.

Sam Chase from Scituate opened for the Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, and there was a brief intermission before the band took the stage.  From quiet, horn-infused reflections in ‘Reasons‘ to the rolling and the ebb and flow rhythms of ‘Jimmy the Whiskey Boy,’ ‘Rock n Roll Déjà Vu,’ and ‘Perfect Day,’ to the lightning-fast, freestyle tempo of ‘Born to Pick Bluegrass’ to observations on the current state of the world with ‘Hey Lady,’ ‘Close to the Edge,’ and ‘Pass the Peace,’ The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow delivered a variety of insightful, optimistic songs as each band member took the lead to tell their story.

Telling jokes, improvising, and revealing some inspiration behind their songs, it is easy to see their breezy camaraderie as they make the most out of Club Passim’s intimate stage.  Dressed casually in jeans and distinctive hats (one band member in a signed tank top), their music travels an eclectic emotional spectrum, from acoustic to electric with lyric-heavy compositions tinged in rock, reggae, roots, country, and blues.  Passersby outside peaked into Club Passim’s lower level concert space as the band performed for an enthusiastic crowd.

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow band

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow – Billy Keane, David Tanklefsky, Tory Hanna, Greg Smith, and Chris Merenda Photo courtesy of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

Though The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow has an easygoing vibe, they have been hard at work having just released a new album and are currently on a national tour.  They also boast a Berkshire-based, award-winning short documentary, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow:  Of Brotherhood, Music, and Fine Spirits that can be found here.

After a few encores, Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s Billy Keane playfully sung an uplifting love song, Leave Your Light On with lyrics such as “If you admit I try and damn, look how much I’ve done/And my love for you is strong, look at the lengths in which I’ve gone,” a fitting end for a band that you should leave your light on for in the future.

This memorable, fun evening marks my first time concert experience at Club Passim, 47 Palmer Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Convenient to the Harvard Square T stop, Club Passim features daily live concerts from promising to professional artists with some hailing from Passim School of Music.  Concerts are situated with table seating with their own restaurant serving appetizers, sandwiches, and more.  Click here for more about Passim and all the venue has to offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: From the creator of ‘Riverdale’, Flat Earth Theatre delivers a bizarre and suspenseful ‘King of Shadows’

The theme of Flat Earth Theatre’s 13th season has been a thought provoking, mind-bending journey exploring the extraordinary in Delicate Particle Logic, the mythical in Not Medea, and now the mysterious and fantastical in King of Shadows from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the creator of Riverdale. This season’s unique, message-driven productions bend reality to reveal a bigger picture.

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.

Flat Earth Theatre King of Shadows set

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.

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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.

Flat Earth Theatre - King of Shadows Trinidad Ramkissoon as Nihar

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.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Footlight Club’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ clever and comedic fun

It’s the age old question:  “What’s in a name?”  Apparently it makes all the difference in the world in Oscar Wilde’s classic play, The Importance of Being Earnest, a high society romantic farcical comedy written twenty years after The Footlight Club was established in 1877.  Full of adages about life and relationships as well as its fair share of ploys, elaborate scheming, love at first sight, and mistaken identity, The Importance of Being Earnest proves that some things are timeless.

The Footlight Club, the oldest running theatre in the nation, boasts renovations that include new seating and more at Eliot Hall.  Directed by David Marino, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest continues at Eliot Hall in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 15.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

It is amazing to see how far theatre has come over the years.  The Importance of Being Earnest is a lighthearted production told in three acts with each act separated by the drop of the stage curtain.  It is refreshing to see this production in vintage form, especially in a day and age where rolling sets and elevated scenery eliminates the need to close the curtain until intermission.

The Footlight Club The Importance of Being Earnest Michael Jay and Frances Price

Michael Jay as Jack and Frances Price as Lady Bracknell Photo credit to Elizabeth Bean/Footlight Club

Zach Best, David Alger, and Cara Guappone’s elegantly-detailed set, which includes a brass chandelier, seemingly expensive wall hangings, and plush furniture, reflect 1895 London, where high society’s seemingly biggest worries are when to dine, when to have tea, and when to go to the club.  However, even in Audrey Stuck-Girard’s regal costumes, the rich nevertheless have their own relatable issues whether it’s over family, love, and happiness.

What keeps Oscar Wilde’s show so relevant is its witty and hilarious script, showing even the simplest things in life can be the most elusive.  Its comic observations about family, love and society can be scathing, but possess a remarkable ring of truth.

The madcap, clever cast has impressive comic timing, especially Bradley Boucher’s knack for physical humor as Algernon Moncrieff.  Back in 2002, Rupert Everett starred as Algernon Moncrieff at age 43 in the film adaptation joined by a stellar cast that included Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench, and Tom Wilkinson.  At first glance, Bradley Boutcher looked too young to portray the suave and sardonic Algernon, especially as he spends a great deal of the show making quips about life as only a well-experienced individual can.  However, Boutcher’s smug smile and shrewd comic timing gradually won me over despite some misgivings and he became quite a scene stealer.

Footlight Club The Importance of Being Earnest Elizabeth Loranth as Gwendolyn and Michael Jay as Jack Worthing

Elizabeth Loranth as Gwendolyn and Michael Jay as Jack Worthing Photo credit to Matt McKee/Footlight Club

Boutcher as Moncrieff and Michael Jay as excitable and anxious Jack Worthing share an amusing, competitive camaraderie as they attempt to prove one wiser than the other.  It is fun to see two very different personalities collide over something as trivial as muffins.

In an extravagant feathered hat, Frances Price flourishes as outspoken, society-minded Lady Augusta Bracknell.  Price strikes a delicate balance between well intentioned and intrusive, making distinguished Lady Bracknell likable, even when her lips curve into a judgmental frown.

Kevin Brunton’s droll presence as Lane/Merriman enhances each scene while Gabrielle Jaques as seemingly sweet, wide-eyed Cecily and Elizabeth Loranth as elegant Gwendolyn are fascinating to watch as their characters become increasingly more complicated.  Jennifer Bean as quirky, love struck Miss Prism and Tim Joseph as amiable Reverend Chasuble round out this stellar cast and make Earnest much more than a name, indeed.

Footlight Club The Importance of Being Earnest Jennifer Beam as Miss Prism and Tim Joseph as Reverend Chasuble

Jennifer Bean as Miss Prism and Tim Joseph as Reverend Chasuble Photo credit to Elizabeth Bean/Footlight Club

The Footlight Club presents Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts through Sunday, June 15.  Click here for more information and tickets to Footlight’s Club final show of the season.

Renowned conductor Charles Floyd talks Boston Pops’ annual Gospel Night and how his career began

For 27 years, the Boston Pops have made Gospel Night a highly-anticipated tradition.  A glorious, enthusiastic audience which includes newcomers and returning fans greet conductor, pianist, and composer Charles Floyd, the Boston Pops Gospel Choir, and a selection of guest artists.  This year, award-winning Gospel singer Dottie Peoples headlines this year’s concert for one night only on Saturday, June 15 at Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts.  Click here for more information and for tickets to this beloved annual event.

Renowned conductor, pianist, and composer Charles Floyd talks about his longtime role with Gospel Night, its evolution, and having dreams he never imagined would come true.

Charles Floyd leading the Boston Pops (Stu Rosner)

Renowned conductor, pianist, and composer Charles Floyd leading the Boston Pops Photo courtesy of Stu Rosner/Boston Pops

Sleepless Critic:  The Boston Pops Gospel Night is an incredible event each year.  The last time I went, it seemed like a nonstop celebration, joyfully continuing long after the concert was over.

Charles Floyd:  Everybody looks forward to that part of the program because it is probably the most energetic.  The music can be very exciting and uplifting.  We like to feature something that the gospel choir performs without the orchestra.

The orchestra wants to go into overtime and that gets into an issue, but if the building is still open, there’s no reason why the choir can’t stay to do a couple more numbers if they enjoy singing and the audience is going to stick around.  When the formalities are done, it’s a nice moment when people can just let their hair down.

SC:  The concert is so uplifting, you don’t want to leave.  You have been with Gospel Night for 25 years, almost since its start.

CF:   I appeared the second year.  I was called because the conductor the first year could not do it the second year.  I had to take a year away back in 2004, so this is my 25th and it’s their 27th, but I am celebrating 27 years just like they are.

SC:   It must be amazing to see how it has evolved over the years.

CF:   It’s been an honor to be a part of it.  I was working with Miss Natalie Cole for close to 14 years.  We had done a few concerts with the Boston Pops, and at the time, Maestro Lockhart and I were in the running in some capacity to step in.  Keith got the gig and I was very happy for him.  It was great for the community and I was somewhat new, and so they called and asked if I had done that sort of thing.  I said I have and only had about 6 weeks’ notice to prepare.

It was a little bit nerve-wracking to put together an entire program, write orchestration that didn’t exist, and then learn the classics and light classics on top of having to cater to guests artists.  We balanced out the program with Keith conducting the first part of the program and I conducted the third part of the program, Rhapsody in Blue.

Keith had to be at Tanglewood and other places as the date of Gospel Night moved around.  That’s kind of how it happened.  When the door opens, you walk through or the door might not open again and here we are.

Dottie Peoples Headshot 1

Award-winning gospel singer Dottie Peoples Photo courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra

SC:   Some of the best things happen spontaneously.  This year, Dottie Peoples will be the featured artist on Saturday, June 15.  Do you have a hand in who performs each year?

CF:   I am involved in the process.  I don’t always have control over who the artist will be because a certain artist I may want to work with may not be available, but they are nice enough at the Pops office to ask who they could look into.  They come up with their own ideas too.   We all put our cards on the table and explore the possibilities.

SC:  You have been part of the Gospel Night tradition for so many years and you have performed all over the world.  Music has been a part of your life since you were 4.

CF:  I used to bang on cables and pretend like I was playing.  Everybody thought it was cute.  By the time I got to a piano, I was 4 and I was already taking out melodies and ordering things by year.  It was another six months before I started taking formal lessons, but yeah, music has been a part of my entire life.

You never know what life is going to hold when you are young.  Just because you start playing the piano no matter how good or bad you are at it, there is no guarantee of what the future will hold.  I took physics and journalism as a back up in high school, but once I got to college, I dedicated myself completely to music and didn’t try to be a master of all trades.

All through 10 years of conservatory and grad school, it was all piano.  I was not a conducting major and I found myself in a situation where a conductor was needed.  I was the only person who could step in at the time, so I got serious about conducting.  I started studying all kinds of things such as opera, had to go through all the symphonies and all the major works of all the major composers.

I learned so much about accompanying singers with the baton from listening and attending operas.  I played for singers my entire life, but to watch a conductor accompany a singer is something I don’t think a lot of people really appreciate at least the way that I did and what I learned from it.  It’s been fun and as long as the work keeps coming in, that’s the greatest thing.  Just to keep going.

SC:  What have been your career highlights?  I understand you also performed Howard Shore’s ‘The Lord of the Rings Symphony‘ at his request.  That must have been tremendous.

CF:  I was trying to explain it to my sister and family not long ago.  People talk about having their dreams come true.  My situation is a little backwards.  It’s not a question of my dreams not coming true, but most everything that has transpired in my career were things I never dreamed of in the first place.

If I had said when I was eight years old that I would be at Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops or working with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall with James Taylor and Sting or sitting at an event next to Harry Belafonte or conducting orchestras for Natalie Cole or playing the piano for somebody else.  These are usually once in a lifetime events and I’m grateful that they continue to happen.  New things are coming in all the time and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful.

Click here for Gospel Night tickets, call SymphonyCharge at 1-888-266-1200, or visit the Symphony Hall box office during business hours at 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts.  Follow The Boston Pops on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow’s David Tanklefsky talks songwriting and the band’s touring adventures

The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, who recently released their live debut album, The Heart of the Run is returning to Club Passim for a sold out CD release party in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Friday, June 7 at p.m.  Sam Luke Chase is opening for the group.  Click here to learn where Whiskey Treaty Roadshow is opening next on their ‘Band Together’ tour and here for future performances at Club Passim.

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 on Friday, June 7 and are currently touring.  You have also performed at Club Passim for their bi-annual interactive ‘Campfire Festival‘ which features an interactive concert experience on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend.

David Tanklefsky:  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 transactional.  Passim is the opposite. They are unique and truly care about developing musicians and giving them a platform for being heard.

SC:  How did 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.

Whiskey Treaty Roadshow band

With Chris Merenda, David Tanklefsky, Greg Daniel Smith, Tory Hanna and Billy Keane Photo courtesy of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow

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 Beatles 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. We loved the Northampton Academy of Music 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 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.  Theatres and dive bars are both okay in our book.

Click here for more information about Whiskey Treaty Roadshow and  and here for future concerts 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.