Stringalong – Changing the world one weekend at a time

November 2, 2012

Long, long ago back in 1998 my fiddle teacher suggested I go to the “Stringalong” at Camp Edwards where he was teaching a workshop and I could experience another side of music. My life has never been the same. I was new to music in 1998 having just started to learn the fiddle in 1996. I played “Book 1”, held my fiddle in “a war pose” (his words not mine), and couldn’t play anything without the music sitting in front of me. Memorize a piece –  impossible, learn by ear – not even in the realm of possibilities.

Stringalongs, started and maintained by Ann and Will Schmid from the UW Milwaukee Folk Center, were a whole new ballgame. These were family events although most attendees were like me, adult learners, musician wannabees. There was no written music at the workshops, everything was taught by ear. People sat around in the evenings and late into the night “jamming”. If you didn’t know the music, you played quietly in the background hoping to catch a few notes each time they went through the tune. If that wasn’t working you could sing along or sit back and just enjoy the strands wafting in air and hope by osmosis it would all sink in. Believe it or not, it does sink in. The tunes sink deep into your soul and although you don’t know the name or the key, you can hum the melody years later.

I met a whole new set of friends at the Stringalongs at Camp Edwards. When you eatfamily style and sleep in cabins with 12 strangers, and dance with whomever is standing alone, you bond and bond fast. I would be lying if I said I could remember all the names. I can’t. But I remember the faces and the stories and their words of encouragement.

That’s me in the blue shirt and black vest.

Stringalongs were set up in such a way that professional musicians would come in and teach a work shop or two for the weekend each one meeting 3 times between Saturday morning and Sunday at noon. As an attendee you could select up to three different workshops to attend or you could hang out and walk the trails or jam on the porch with your new best friend. Between Friday evening and Sunday at noon you also got to listen to a short concert by each of the presenters. There were people who never attended a workshop, they just came to hear the “professionals” play. I don’t know how Ann did it but she brought in big names – Pat Donohue, Mike Dowling, Joel Mabus, Pigs Eye Landing, Bill Staines, Second Opinion, Crystal Ploughman, Ken Kolodner, Randy Sabien.

A lot has changed since 1998. My life has changed. Music and my experiences at the Stringalongs introduced me to life long friends and gave me the confidence to not only join a band but to start NorthWoods Strings a non-profit organization to provide string instrument instruction to children in Hayward. Stringalongs let me see the world as it ought to be even if only for a weekend. They reminded me that any thing is possible. That although our world may rapidly change somethings stay the same – you can’t make music with someone and argue at the same time, that joy comes from peace deep within, that dreams are not foolish unless you forget to follow them.

Beginning tonight at Camp Edwards, the Stringalongs come to an end. For one last weekend the world will stop turning if only for two days. With any luck the first snow fall will come and the outside world will mirror what’s happening on the inside. I wish that I would be there but the outside world has different plans for me. In my own way,I suppose that I will be there. My heart will be there. Tonight I will think of my friends and the memories we made. On Sunday when the final songs are sung, I will be singing along  and I will imagine the notes floating all the way to East Troy and mingling with the voices there.

To Ann Schmid who dreamed up this wonderful experience and made it happen:

Ann Schmid

There are those in the world who never dream, those who dream but think them foolish, and those who dream and turn those dreams into reality. You, my friend, are obviously in that final group and the world is a better place because of it. Have a wonderful weekend. I will be thinking of you all and wishing with all my heart that I was there.

 

 

Dayle Quigley
Author: Pig and Toad Best Friends Forever
Exec. Director: NorthWoods Strings


On Wisconsin Spirit

March 19, 2012

“When I came [to Wisconsin] I just thought, ‘There is something different about this place, there is something very special about this place.’ And you can feel it … this place is extremely special, and it was no accident that it became so special.”

So says Gwen Drury, a PhD student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW-Madison, who since coming to town has gained the reputation as our resident Wisconsin Idea expert.

If she had been talking about anywhere else, I might have dismissed the statement as parochial or self-involved. But we’re in Wisconsin. Like others I’ve met, my family came here for the UW, moved away for a time, missed Wisconsin and returned; we’ve since had opportunities to leave but choose to stay. From our perspective, a little Wisconsin exceptionalism is in order.

UW President John Bascom gave campus lectures each Sunday on his students’ moral obligation to serve the state. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society (Image ID 33717).

Recently on Wisconsin Public Radio, I listened to Drury explain how the Wisconsin Idea sets our state apart from the rest. Now at least 100 years strong, the Wisconsin Idea is the philosophy that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state–or in a 21st century wired Wisconsin, the university really has no boundaries. In other words, the UW has an obligation to serve all people, not just its own academic community. Other states tried similar approaches to public service, with less impressive or enduring results, maintains Drury.

Or as she and WPR host Larry Meiller adorably point out in the broadcast, it’s not the Wisconsin IDEA, it’s the WISCONSIN Idea.

The philosophy has roots in the UW’s earliest days, when John Bascom served as its president. Each Sunday, he lectured students at length  on their moral obligation to the state, which had made their academic opportunities possible.  His teachings powerfully impacted the students of his day, including all-star Wisconsin Idea proponents such as Robert M. La Follette, Charles Van Hise and Charles McCarthy.

Notably, around this time, Carl Beck wrote the original lyrics to the UW fight song, “On Wisconsin.” (With modified lyrics, “On Wisconsin” also became our official state song in 1959.) Beck himself was surely affected by the Wisconsin Idea. In 1912–the same year McCarthy published his book “The Wisconsin Idea”–Beck wrote an article titled “Wisconsin spirit–a discussion.” In it, he calls for rehabilitating the Wisconsin spirit on campus, “temporarily strangled [by] … first, a rapidly expanding university, and second, a larger inflow of the leisure class.” What made me seek out his article, though (with thanks again to Gwen Drury for steering me to it), was his assertion about Wisconsin’s specialness: there’s “spirit,” and then there’s “Wisconsin spirit.”

I couldn’t resist reproducing a table from Beck’s article, below.

Beck, Carl (Feb. 1912). Wisconsin spirit–a discussion. Wisconsin Alumni magazine, 13 (5).  Retrieved from http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu.

Spirit “Wisconsin Spirit”
1. self-activity initiative
2. peculiar ability efficiency
3. ardor enthusiasm
4. pervading influence progressiveness
5. animating principle democracy
6. state of mind open-mindedness
Sum Total ______________
7. peculiar quality service

Beck believed that, while these six somewhat vague characteristics of “spirit” combine to create a “peculiar quality,” “Wisconsin spirit” is embodied in six specific, positive attributes that all add up to “service.”  Moreover, without all six working together, there’s no “Wisconsin spirit.”

From now on when I hear our state song, I’ll think about these deeply ingrained values that continue to make our state a special place.

*********************************

As the Badger men’s basketball team heads into the NCAA Sweet 16 tournament, here’s a postscript about ‘On Wisconsin,’ which Wisconsin Public Television originally broadcast to commemorate the song’s 100th anniversary.

–Tammy Kempfert


Age, Relevance, and the World of Music

February 23, 2012

Ten years ago I went to see two of my idols in concert, Billy Joel and Elton John. It was an amazing concert; live music for four hours straight. I grew up with these guys. Sang my heart out with them in my bedroom as a child and teenager and then forced my own children to endure my renditions in the car during their own childhood and teenage years. The joke in my family being that to join in you don’t have to sing well, just loud. I’m always the first to join in and I’m usually the loudest even when I don’t know all the words. My reason for going to see this duo was simply because I had never heard them in person. You can’t pass up on an opportunity when it crosses your doorstep.

But since that concert in St. Paul a decade ago, I have not waited for my idols from years gone by toImage cross my path. Instead, I find myself actively seeking them out. I managed tickets to Eric Clapton in the cheap seats/nosebleed section. I spent all my birthday money on seeing Cher in Las Vegas. I traveled to Chicago to hear James Taylor and Carole King and would have traveled around the US for their entire tour if I was independently wealthy. This past November I really scored with tickets to Paul Simon at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Even though I called in one minute prior to the tickets going on sale all that was left was the next to last row in the balcony section. Didn’t matter, I was there. And then last night, I sat truly at the edge of the stage at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis and heard Doc Severinsen.

As I was driving down to the cities last night, I found myself wondering why. Why this obsession over the past several years with “older” musicians? Yes some of them were childhood idols. They got me Imagethrough difficult times. But not all of them were idols, some of them had just sprinkled my younger days. I am almost embarrassed to admit it but I was not a musical junkie in my youth. My sister had crates full of albums. The music played nonstop for what seemed like days on end. I on the other hand had just a few – Sony and Cher, Bobby Sherman, Barry Manilow, Supertramp, Bread and I think Jim Croce – oops I can’t forget Cat Stevens. I know, it’s a very sad list indeed. So I guess the question again is why? Why the time and effort? Easy, because it’s worth it. Because in addition to hearing great music I learn something new every time.

So here is the list of what I’ve learned.

1. From Cher: Cher might not be able to dance in 6 inch heels in her 60s but she can still strut. And she does it so well. Why then do so many of us stop? Stop strutting, stop being a little outrageous. Maturity should not have to equal boring.

2. From James Taylor and Carole King: Songs that brought us to tears three decades ago cause the same reaction now. Why? Because although the years have gone past and our bodies have matured, our souls are still the same. As a patient said to me one day in the ER, “My body is 70 years old but inside I’m 20 or 30. How come no one can see that?” Perhaps we need to spend more time looking at a person’s soul and less time looking at their body.

3. From Paul Simon:  My teacher, Randy Sabien, was right all those years ago when he tried to drum into my head that rhythm is where the magic lies. Paul Simon is the master, a genius when it comes to rhythm. He could have a melody that consisted of one note and the song would still rock. At 70 there isn’t anyone better, not the rappers, not the hip hop artists. If he continued to evolve and improve into his 70s, why do so many of us feel we have peaked in our 40s or 50s? There is so much more to do.

Image

The view from my seat

4. From Doc Severinsen: I grew up hearing Doc Severinsen on Johnny Carson. What a great duo that was. The concert last night was wonderful, Doc and a 15 piece band (5 saxophones, 3 trombones, 4 trumpets, 1 double bass, 1 drummer, and 1 pianist.) As my friend said, “What happened to that music? Why did it ever go away?” I had no answer for it. I would have thought that a brass band that large in a small club would have ruined my hearing for weeks but no the volume was perfect and the jazz sweet. I should also mention that Doc had a vocalist with him, Vanessa Smith, from Kansas and the amazing Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone. Here however are the interesting parts. 1) The concert started a little late. 2) After they finished the number “King Porter”, Doc Severinsen wasn’t happy with it so they played it all again. As he said, “You got to get back on that horse right away boys.” 3) There was no encore after the last number. The audience was hoping for it and working the final applause to insure it. The band stayed on stage expecting it to happen. But, Doc Severinsen wasn’t coming back out. Truth is age does have its privilege and at 84 you get to call the shots, all of them.

I suppose the truth is I go to these concerts to remind myself that despite the fact that the magical age of 50 is coming down the pike, my age should not dictate who I am, what I am capable of doing, or the height of my  newest pair of shoes. I am way too young to limit myself at this point.

Oh, if you are wondering. I still have Glen Campbell at the Big Top Chautauqua in June,  Neil Diamond in St. Paul this July and if Tom Jones ever comes this way, I am so there. I’m definitely not averse to a road trip.

–Dayle Quigley

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All in a Wisconsin Summer Day

July 10, 2011

My best summer days are unplanned, unhurried, and usually contain some sort of unexpected gift–like riding bikes along Lake Monona on a perfect evening, sharing a local brew in the backyard with neighbors, or maybe discovering a new favorite eating spot. But often Madison, where I live, offers up such a bounty of cultural delights that we need to strategize a little.

In Madison, Art Fair on the Square and Art Fair off the Square take place annually in July.

Yesterday was such a day, with three of our favorite summer events occurring in one weekend: the Saturday Dane County Farmers’ Market, the Art Fairs On and Off the Square, and La Fete de Marquette. (Actually, that’s four events, with the two art fairs running side by side.)

Whenever we can, we get up early Saturday mornings and bike the three miles to Capitol Square, where the Dane County Farmers’ Market  is held. Now approaching its 40th anniversary, the DCFM is the largest producer-only market in the nation, which means every vendor, behind every table piled with flowers or vegetables, breads or cheeses, grew or baked or prepared their wares themselves. This week, we came home with green beans, tomatoes, raspberries and zucchini for our dinner table.

For us, a visit to the market has to include a stop at the Graze pastry cart for a cup of coffee and a bite of delicious, just-baked flakiness. Graze always presents a variety, but as usual I enjoyed the mushroom and spinach bun, while my husband got his Pain au Chocolat fix.  (We tell ourselves the bike ride offsets the buttery indulgence.)

On Art Fair weekend, the farmers’ market gets displaced a block so that participating artists can set up their booths on the four blocks surrounding the Square. We had timed our farmers’ market visit perfectly, which allowed us to take in the booths before afternoon crowds swelled. At Art Fair On the Square, more than 450 artists from around the country display works in all media. This year, jewelry and handbags made of recycled inner tubing caught my eye, as did affordable art-themed t-shirts by Madison’s Wildwood Productions. The fair benefits the Madison Museum of Contemporary Arts (MMoCA), always free and open to the public.

The Madison Area High School Ceramists sell pots, pitchers, cups and bowls at Art Fair Off the Square.

At Art Fair Off the Square, I scored a lovely ceramic plate at the Madison Area High School Ceramists booth. An annual favorite, the booth displays and sells works by, you guessed it, Madison area high school ceramists.  I like knowing that 80 percent of my purchase went to Jenna, the young artist who made my plate, and the remaining 20 percent supports Madison public school art programs. In fact, at Art Fair off the Square, along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and on the Monona Terrace Convention Center Esplanade, every booth features the works of Wisconsin artists.

We actually had time to finish a home painting project and run some weekend errands before heading to La Fete de Marquette, also a short bike ride away. A celebration of French music and culture, this annual festival never fails to do Madison’s Marquette neighborhood proud. Top-notch performers from throughout the French-speaking world, along with some of the city’s best eateries, provide four days of French-themed fun. Relatively new to the festival is La Tente de Dance, a dance floor dedicated to Quebecois and Cajun dance. The fest also showcases the vibrant personality of Madison’s East Side, for some of the best people-watching all year. We felt lucky to see Maraca, a Cuban jazz band that had the whole crowd moving. (Sometimes the connection to France isn’t immediately apparent, but who minded? Not me.)

Both art fairs and the Marquette festival continue through today, July 10.

*****

I may be based in Madison, but I also manage PortalWisconsin.org’s online events calendar, so I know communities in all 72 Wisconsin counties hold their own summer markets, fairs and festivals. This weekend alone, you’ll find a polka festival in Ellsworth, a pow-wow in Lac du Flambeau, or for those who like it large, Milwaukee’s grand Summerfest and Rhinelander’s star-studded Hodag Country Music Festival.  Art fests abound everywhere as well. To find them, consult the calendar–or for a print copy of this year’s Wisconsin Arts Board Art and Craft Fair Directory, call  1-800-432-8747 between 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

And please, let us know what makes your local fair or festival special. We love hearing from you.

–Tammy Kempfert


A Winter Weekend in Door County

February 3, 2011

By Dayle Quigley

This past weekend saw me traveling once again to check out music in small town Wisconsin. This weekend however I picked more of a geographic area than a specific small town. Since Door County is more a “road trip” then a casual night out, a friend and I coordinated our schedules, picked a weekend and then hoped to find live music in the area. In turns out that finding live music in Door County was easy, even at this time of year.

For a place to stay, we picked a random resort off the internet. It was very nice. The truth is we could have had our pick of spots. Door County in the winter is significantly quieter than in the summer. Since we were not arriving in  Door County, more specifically Egg Harbor until late on Friday, and leaving again on Sunday, our one chance for finding live music was on Saturday. We had two choices – Mojo Perry at the Door County Community Auditorium or Dow Jones at the Stone Harbor Pub and Restaurant. We went for Mojo Perry. In all honesty, I had never heard of Mojo Perry but the write up was good and it was listed as being an acoustic concert. I just couldn’t find enough about the Dow Jones band on the internet. Since both acts are touted as “rock”, I went for the one where I thought I might be able to hear in the morning. Okay, I’m showing my age but it’s true and I grew up on John Denver, James Taylor and Billy Joel. I’m not really a heavy metal kind of gal.

We started out on Saturday evening at the White Gull Inn in Fish Creek. We picked this particularly restaurant not because of the menu but because it is a music venue a couple of times a month. We unfortunately happened to be there on an off weekend but I wanted to get a feel for the place anyway. The Inn as been in existence since the late 1800s. That says something in itself especially for someone who likes a place with history. On nights that music is scheduled, dinner is served at 6 with a set meal and price. The dining area is then cleared out so that the stage can be set up and seats arranged. I should have asked how many members can be in the audience but I didn’t. My guess would be about a hundred. No matter what, it would be a wonderful place to hear a concert. I was bummed that we were not going to be there a couple of days later when John McCutcheon was playing. I should remark that the food was wonderful: a wide selection, more than reasonable portions without feeling like you were in an all you can eat buffet line, and tastefully seasoned. It was a great way to start the evening.

We then headed down the road to the Door County Community Auditorium and the Mojo Perry concert. This concert was one of their Coffee House Concert performances. Instead of the concert being within the auditorium proper (which seats over 700), this gig was in the foyer of the building where a fire was burning (okay it was gas but it did look nice), and tables of four were set up. The lights were turned down and candles lit the area. The audience was small with only about 24 in attendance. Most of the audience was in their 50s and sadly I saw only one couple sitting within a foot of each other. Instead, they sat separately with their arms crossed. I have to admit that it wasn’t looking good from the start. Not an easy crowd to play to; especially when you are a “psychedelic” guitar player. We did stay for the entire performance if for no other reason than in hopes that there would be a moment of breathtaking genius. There were a couple of songs that were inspiring, that had substance behind them, but overall it was somewhat repetitive. Mr Perry has been dabbling in the use of electronic looping – you play a riff, it’s recorded and then plays itself over and over again as you lay down new tracks on top. It’s an interesting concept but not necessarily new. I saw a fiddle player use the idea at the ASTA convention 2 years ago in the alternative styles competition. The problem is once you have seen someone like Leo Kottke or Mike Dowling in concert and you realize that it is not multiple tracks on their CDs but one amazing person playing like three musicians at once on a single instrument, it is hard to be impressed by the use of electronics that give you the same effect. Perhaps I went into this concert with the wrong attitude. I was kind of praying for an “Eric Clapton Unplugged” type of performance. It just didn’t really measure up.

Here is my take

1. Door County – very healthy when it comes to live music even during the “down” season.

2. White Gull Inn – if headed into town, I would definitely check this spot out for entertainment. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to be there on the right day.

3. Mojo Perry – not my cup of tea.


One small town, two great women and one weird musical combo

January 27, 2011

The Christmas holidays have come and gone. The children are back at their respective locations and I have once again started to travel the state in search of great small venues and interesting musical endeavors.

This past weekend after returning my son to school in De Pere, (go Green Knights!!) I headed over to the town of Wautoma and the McComb/Bruchs Performing Arts Center. I knew nothing of Wautoma prior to selecting it for a visit, other than the fact that it was just a hop, skip, and a jump from De Pere/Green Bay and therefore “on my way.” Wautoma is actually very similar to Hayward, my own home town. It has a population of just about 2000 with what appears to be a large number of homes on the adjacent lakes. It has a beautiful little downtown and a large number of incredibly friendly individuals. Since I did not want to drive over 4 hours after the concert, I booked a room at Pine Ridge – I’m sure at one point it was a farm with the farmhouse and barn still on the property but now it houses a lodge, restaurant, bar, and bunk house. With no room in the inn, I was in the bunk house. That doesn’t sound overly attractive but it was very very nice. No complaints at all – clean, new, well-appointed. I will have to say that even nicer than my accommodations was the friendliness of the hotel staff. They helped me find the Performing Arts Center, went on a wild goose chase for my lost mittens in the restaurant after hours, talked me through getting my direct t.v. working at almost midnight, and then found an open restaurant for me on Sunday morning since brunch didn’t start until 9AM and I needed to get on the road home. Without a doubt I will always stay here when I’m in the area.

The concert for the night was being held at the McComb/Bruchs Performing Arts Center. I will admit that I wasn’t overly excited about visiting this venue. Most performing art centers are nondescript; they look the same; they feel the same. There is little to write home about. This is not the case with the McComb/Bruchs. I think I will now refer to it as MB as this is shorter and thus faster to type. The MB has been in existence for the past 20 years. This is their 20th Season. The center was built when two women with foresight and presence of mind bequeathed significant funds for the sole purpose of building a performing arts center in a small Wisconsin town. Ms. McComb donated one million dollars and with it specific requirements for the building – everything from its approximation to the school, to the distance of the furthest seat from the stage (57 ft), to the necessity for bathrooms and showers within the dressing rooms. The seating is also very unusual as the rows are long; 38-40 seats with no center aisles. The only way to enter the rows is from the ends. This is not the traditional American model but Ms. McComb wanted it this way so that the performers would look out and see a sea of faces instead of an empty aisle. How brilliant is that? I should mention that Ms. Bruchs donated more than $200,000 to further the cause. The center is utilized not only for monthly concerts by nationally recognized artists but also by the schools, and the community choir, and the community theater guild. The center was to be seen as a resource for the entire area and it is obvious that they are fulfilling their mission beautifully. This is a performing arts center that I would be happy to attend on a regular basis.

Finally, the entertainment for the night was Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues. Okay this is a traditional string quartet (2 violins, 1 viola, and 1 cello) with Frank Donaldson seated on the floor playing percussion and Corky Siegel on harmonica and piano. This is a combination that shouldn’t work. This sounds like a combination where between it and three banjos, one should pick the banjos. But, and here is the big but, it works. It really works. The fusion of musical tones is a whole new and wonderful experience. It’s a marriage between the past and the present. Perhaps producing a new future. On this Saturday evening the ensemble was joined by Randy Sabien, jazz violinist. In a sense Randy plays with this idea of two worlds colliding on a daily basis playing “alternative’ music on the violin. In this case, however, he is involved in bridging an even further distance; bringing the classical world and the world of blues and jazz onto the same musical page. With or without Mr Sabien, this is an act that is worth experiencing. I will admit that I have no idea if the music plays out as well coming through your speakers as it does as when one experiences it in person. It may be one of those acts you need to experience initially up close and personal in order to fully appreciate.

Final Analysis:

1. Pine Ridge at Wautoma – worth every penny

2. McComb/Bruchs Performing Arts Center – my favorite to date

3. Corky Siegel’s Chamber Blues – don’t miss them. You may question the sanity of it all but you won’t go home disappointed.

Next week – Door County and Mojo Perry

–Dayle Quigley


The Fitzgerald Theater and the MSC Choir : a beautiful mix

December 10, 2010

By Dayle Quigley

I will apologize right up front for the fact that this performance does not  fall into my proposed quest of small town Wisconsin venues. St. Paul is not a small town and it is obviously not in Wisconsin. It is, however, right across the border and easily accessible to a large number of Wisconsinites. More importantly, no matter where this event occurred it deserves to be reported upon.

On Monday, December 6th, I decided to spend the evening at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. This theater sits on Exchange Street and is home to Garrison Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. It is stately and grounded. It has the wonderful balconies and balcony boxes I so adore. There is something wonderfully comforting about sitting in red velvet seats in a building without acoustic baffles. I’m not even that old and I relish them. The evening I visited, Garrison Keillor was not there. No instead I went to immerse myself in pure unadulterated joy and passion of young people. You see, the Fitzgerald Theater also sits across the street from the McNally Smith College of Music, a college filled with young adults following their dreams, honing their skills, and then putting it out there for everyone to enjoy. McNally Smith is the baby of Jack McNally and Doug Smith and began in 1985 as Music Tech College.  It’s name was changed in 2005 to honor the founders. It has a student body of over 600  pursuing careers in everything from performance music to sound engineering to music business. Several years ago the college accreditation body informed the school that a large choir was necessary with a “conductor”.  McNally Smith is not your typical music college. It is not “traditional” and flourishes with small group ensembles and a range of musical genres that is limited only by one’s own musical imagination. So a large choir with a conductor seemed quite an enigma. But let me tell you, it works.

The program for the evening consisted of four musical choirs ranging in size from 10 to 200. This was no more a “traditional” winter concert then the school has a traditional program. It was however an accurate representation of the school and all it professes.  The groups are a microcosm of the school, as different as they are similar.  They pull music from all over the world, from all genres. They sing a cappella as frequently as they sing with a back up band with electric guitar solos. They add drum groups and dancers. They scat. They do vocal percussion. Truly the sky’s the limit. The performance ended with the MSC choir.  At McNally Smith, all students no matter what their stated focus must spend time in the MSC choir. With the school 75% male and 25% female, the choir has no problem finding bass, baritones, and tenors. Despite the fact that no Christmas carols were sung, the group sang about the essence of the season and the essence of the school, one of unification, of coming together and celebrating our differences. There is something magical about watching people who are passionate about what they do, the joy that spills out. You can’t help but connect with them. This is even more acutely experienced when the arts are involved – music, dance, visual arts. Is it something coded deep in our DNA, some primal trait, or is it simply that when the arts are involved you get to see a glimpse into another person’s soul something you don’t get to appreciate when your accountant does your taxes no matter how passionate they are about it?
Bottom line Review:
1. Fitzgerald Theater – beautiful old theater, short on leg room, long on nostalgia
2. McNally Smith College Choirs – well worth seeing, free and open to the public, a must see experience. If you didn’t want to be a musician on the way in, you’ll want to be one on the way out. Check out their website, they have one concert each semester.
Next review in 10 short days.