, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Autumn is my favorite season for a number of reasons, one of them being that many fall days are just the perfect temperature. It’s colder than the summer, but not cold enough to bunker you into your home. On the colder days of the fall, especially in October, everyone starts to thrown on a light jacket or scarf to keep warm while picking pumpkins or wandering through haunted corn mazes. But now that it’s November, we’re probably going to be spending more time inside than outside. Luckily, there are still plenty of local art events to keep us entertained!

Last month I spoke about The Thurmont Thespians, their history, and their upcoming show God’s Favorite. Beth Watson, co-founder of the Thespians, Matthew Bannister, director of the show, and the entire cast have continued working exhaustively on the upcoming show, and are excited to share a stageplay comedy based on the tribulations of the Biblical Job in a modern context. It should be a fantastic event, and is certainly worth attending. The show will be performed on the first and second weekends of this month at The American Legion building in Thurmont, MD. On the 6th and 7th, as well as the 13th and 14th of November, curtains rise at 7:30 pm. There will be an additional rendition conducted on Sunday, the 15th, at 2 pm. If you’d like to make a reservation, feel free to contact the Thespians at (301) 271-7613.

In addition to the upcoming show by the Thespians, I also gave attention to Mount St. Mary’s classical music concert which took place on the 4th of October. It was an incredibly engaging evening, with violinist James Tung and pianist John Wickelgren putting on an excellent show playing some of the most challenging compositions by Claude Debussy, Camille Saint-Säens, and Henry Vieuxtemps. I wrote a commentary on the event, including the pieces that were covered, on the Emmitsburg Art Scene webpage.

The Fine Arts Department at Mount St. Mary’s has been working tirelessly on three major events for its Fall 2015 showcase. Included in this showcase is another classical music concert, which will have a more directed focus on the voice, a Wind Ensemble & Lab Band concert that will emphasize music via instrumentation, and their stage production Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Let me share some detail about what you can expect from each venue, and why each event is worth your attendance and interest.

The first concert for MSMU’s academic year was a harmonious interplay between the violin and the piano, and the only words spoken were background notes from the composers and bravos from the audience. The next concert, planned for the 11th of November, will emphasize the human voice more than the Mount’s last musical event. The upcoming Wednesday show will be an evening of Grand Opera, featuring Soprano Francesca Aguado, tenor Andrew Rosenfeld, tenor Nicholas Simpson and pianist Scott Crowne.

From the top-left: Andrew Rosenfeld, Nicholas Simpson, Scott Crowne and Francesca Aguado

Each performer in this evening of grand opera has impressive and extensive backgrounds. Nicholas Simpson is one of America’s rising opera stars, who just recently returned from an engagement in London to take part in an opera in New York City just this summer, which was covered in The New York Times. Francesca Aguado also has international credits, as does Nicholas Simpson. According to the Italian Newspaper Corriere di Rimini, Simpson “possesses a voice that is flexible, but powerful… he literally stunned the public with his technical and expressive capability.” Andrew Rosenfeld was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Frederick Symphony Orchestra just this year! He has also served as musical director and conductor of Maryland’s Hub Opera Ensemble in the very recent past.

This evening of opera will feature some of the most well known, yet also some of the most demanding arias and scenes from the grandmasters of opera Giacomo Puccini, Richard Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, and Ludwig van Beethoven. More specifically, you can expect arias and scenes from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1903), Wagner’s Tännhauser (1845) and Siegfried (1876), Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra (1857), and Beethoven’s Fidelio (1805).

(This is a famous moment from Simon Boccanegra most often remembered as Come in quest’ora bruna)

Another reason to consider attending this concert, if you have not attended an opera in the past, is that this event is both accessible and local. Other opera houses in Maryland have an expectation for dress and are often quite expensive, which can be a serious disincentive for anyone uncertain whether he or she would like to spend a night watching opera. Neither condition is present for this upcoming show. There is no mandatory dress code, it won’t cost you a thing, and it’s open to all! It will be held in the Knott Auditorium on Wednesday, November 11, at 8:00 pm.

Mount Saint Mary’s Wind Ensemble and Lab Band likes to highlight both popular and less popular orchestrations, as well as other genres of music. This year, in light of the upcoming seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise, the Wind Ensemble will be performing music from the first three Star Wars films: Episodes IV, V and VI. The Ensemble is already prepared, as of this writing, to perform an excellent rendition of Donald Hunsberger’s demanding transcriptions from John Williams’ musical scores. The Wind Ensemble will play for half of the event, and the Lab Band will take over the remainder of the play by bringing a retrospective of rhythm and blues music.

When I was learning to play the guitar in high school, one of the first scales I needed to learn was the blues pentatonic scale. After learning about the circle of fifths, I was taught the ladder of thirds, a modal frame that’s found in both Blues and British folk music. After I became proficient enough in the ladder, my instructor showed me just how many rock and roll songs I could play following this modal frame. I was shocked that I could play A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles and My Generation by The Who. You might be surprised by just how much the blues has influenced popular music since the 1960s.

(How many different rock and roll songs can you hear in this one track from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s first album?).

I once heard Dr. Carlson, director of the Wind Ensemble / Lab Band performance, say that no genre of music every truly dies. Music history is a continuum where certain genres of the past had influences from music that came before it, and these genres will shape the melodies of genres that don’t yet exist.

(Nevertheless, blues music is still very much alive in the playing styles of contemporary artists John Mayer and Gary Clark Jr. Here, they’re playing Albert King’s famous hit Born Under a Bad Sign with Booker T. Jones.)

If you choose to attend the Wind Ensemble / Lab Band concert, you can expect two things: you will hear classical symphonies that you may have heard many times before, and then you will hear the grooving musical structures which underpin most of your favorite songs and albums. If you’d care to attend, the ensemble and band will play on Sunday, November 15 at 2:00 pm in the Knott Auditorium. And like the evening of Grand Opera, this concert is free and open to everyone.

The final major event of the Fall 2015 arts showcase is the Mount Theatre’s Fall Mainstage, presenting Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (which I’ll abbreviate as TML for the here on in). I am fortunate enough to have seen both God’s Favorite and TML in person, and I can tell you with great confidence that these two plays are quite distinct from one another.

TML is the product of the late 20th-21st century artistic movement Neo-Futurism. When I attended TML in a different setting, the program had this tidbit of information, adding that Neo-Futurism was an artistic departure from postmodernism. There was a couple sitting behind me, who sounded like they were in their mid-50s or early-60s, and they were commenting that this play would be this pretentious, indecipherable commentary on modern society. They were expecting it to be terrible. I too was wondering whether it would be memorable.

I have never had more fun attending a theatrical play. That is a very bold statement, and I don’t say it lightly. Let me explain why. TML is unlike most other theatrical plays you will ever see, for a few reasons.

When my friends and I made it to the theatre, we knew what the ticket price would be, because there was only one advertised price. We were confused when the ticket holders handed a die to each attendee at the register. We stepped up to purchase a ticket, and we learned out that our price was determined by the number we rolled. This was great fun, and it was before we even entered the theatre. Each of my friends rolled a 1 or a 2, and I was last in the line. I rolled a 6. The reactions from my friends were infectious; we already had a memory before we even saw the show.

We were wearing rather upscale clothing, Oxfords and slacks because we expected this to be a routine theatrical event. The evening was anything but your regular expectations for a theatrical show, most clearly seen in its emphasis on audience participation. Perhaps the most well known fact about TML is that it consists of 30 plays in 60 minutes, each of which merge into a cohesive message which will both challenge and entertain. There was some sparse adult language in the production, but I still had a fantastic time engaging in the play and watching the performers act their roles so enthusiastically.

A final tidbit about TML is that the order in which these 30 plays will be performed is entirely up to the audience. When I attended TML, there was a clothesline onstage with 30 sheets of paper, numbered 1-30, hanging on individual clothespins. Cast members asked random audience members which number they would like to see next. What’s so intriguing about this is that no two performances of TML will ever be played in the same order. With just these 30 numbers, there are 2.65 * 10^32 different possible ways to perform this theatrical production. There’s also a fun, little surprise for the audience which I won’t spoil here.

If you choose to attend TML, you can be assured that you will watch a play that has never been performed before. This play will take place between Thursday, November 19 and Saturday, November 21 at 8:00 PM in the Lynne & Joseph Horning Theatre, located in the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center located near the Immaculate Conception Chapel. There is also a production on Sunday, November 22 in the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center at 2:00 pm. Ticket prices will range between $5.00 – $7.00. If you’d care to make a reservation, feel free to contact Michelle Venzin at the Delaplaine Fine Arts Center at (301) 447-5308. And all of these events, if you happen to miss them, will be reported and reviewed on the Emmitsburg Art Scene webpage! This will be a very entertaining month for local art activities.