October 21, 2017

An American In Paris at the Oriental Theater

I had heard about this charming musical ever since it premiered on Broadway to great acclaim in 2015, so it was with great anticipation that I caught this national tour version of An American In Paris.

The production has several things going for it. Ballet sequences are breath-taking as conceived by director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.  George Gershwin’s music provides the lush soundtrack for the whole show. Not only do we hear permutations of his famous An American In Paris orchestral work, but we are treated to portions of his classical Second Prelude, his Concerto in F, his Second Rhapsody and his Cuban Overture. Beloved songs like I Got Rhythm and The Man I Love are sung by cast members, but lesser known tunes like Fidgety Feet, Who Cares and Liza shed new light on Gershwin’s song catalogue.
The technical aspects of the show dazzle with creative use of screen images on the electronic back drop and moving screens. Parisian buildings, paintings and other famous sights delight the eye throughout the show. A recurring view of the river Seine is most amusing as two boats are depicted by different artistic techniques.

The plot harkens back to the basic romantic formula found in black and white movies. Three men who are friends are all in love with the same ballerina. Boy and boy and boy meet girl. Only one boy gets girl.

The action takes place in Paris right after World War II in 1945 so the frothy doings are sprinkled with references to the German Occupation, the Resistance, and the Holocaust making this a work of both light and dark.

For me the orchestral music, the dance sequences, the stage images and Craig Lucas’ snappy dialogue outshine the singing, but this is a quibble when the over-all effect of the production is to know that one has spent a delightful evening at the theater.  Broadway In Chicago will be running An American In Paris at the Oriental Theater through August 13, 2017.

http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/show/an-american-in-paris/

GNOD – The Global Network of Discovery

I happened upon a site with the acronym gnod, quite by accident, while looking for authors similar to crime writers Donna Leon and Henning Mankell. Created by Marek Gibney in Hamburg, Germany, the Global Network of Discovery (gnod) features word maps to discover authors related to what you already like.

Not only can you look up networks of authors, but you can also fill out brief questionnaires that help the site learn more about people’s literary choices. The user is queried about whether you know, like or dislike a particular author.

The site also has sections on music, art, movies, and electronic products. In truth, the electronics portion seems to be the site’s commercial raison d’être, but this shouldn’t dampen your enjoyment of the rest of the site when you are looking for new authors, composers, films, and artists.

http://www.gnod.com/

setlist.fm – the setlist wiki

By hazard, I found the most interesting web site for fans of live music. Setlist.fm brags that they feature over 2 1/2 million set lists, almost 136,000 artists and over 200,000 venues.
While the emphasis is more on compiling concert set lists of contemporary pop musicians, a quick perusal of the site finds artists of many different genres: country, classical, folk, heavy metal, surf punk, rock and many more.
Want to know what Billy Joel played at Wrigley Field in August 2016? A brief search gives you his play list as well as his encores. What did the classical pianist Lang Lang play at the United Nations in October 2014? Two songs by Sting. Long dead artists are also represented.  As an example, there are several pages of Frank Sinatra concert playlists from 1939 to his last concert in Palm Springs on February 1995.
Not only is this site fantastic for music aficionados but it is a wonderful resource for musicians who do tribute shows.
Check out your favorite entertainers on setlist.fm and you can almost imagine attending their shows.
It appears that concert information can be submitted by audience members, much like the wikipedia model. Why not jot down the set list at your next live concert. You too can be a participant in setlist.fm.  Is this not a cool site?

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Kayaks on the Chicago Riverwalk

Some of you have been reading my Culture Beat blurbs since my tenure at the Fairmont Hotel and Convito Italiano many moons ago.

Here are some recent Culture Beat blog posts and their links:

The cell phone headset that has improved my connectivity:

LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/lg-tone-pro-wireless-stereo-headset/

The little speaker that makes my phone or iPad a portable stereo:

Jambox speaker by Jawbone

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/jambox-speaker-by-jawbone/

My favorite site for foreign tv streaming:

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20 (updated blog post forthcoming)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/10/mhz-choice-launches-on-oct-20/

The show you may want to watch to see women in political power (in Sweden):

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama on MHZ

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/02/those-in-power-a-swedish-political-tv-drama/

If you want to delve into charming French literature, check out:

The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in English)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/12/the-presidents-hat-and-the-red-notebook/

A book I’m recommending if you like science and business:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/elon-musk-tesla-spacex-and-the-quest-for-a-fantastic-future-by-ashlee-vance/

Need some food items to add a little zing to your healthy diet?

My current favorite taste sensations (triple cherry blend, rice tortillas, dill relish, sauerkraut)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/my-current-favorite-taste-sensations/

If you are trying to cut down coffee jitters and acidity, try this ayurvedic tea:

Raja’s Cup: the anti-oxidant coffee substitute

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/rajas-cup-the-anti-oxidant-coffee-substitute/

When your sweet tooth hits, candy from a home-grown company:

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/10/terrys-toffee-and-wackerpop/

Stores that both amateur and professional chefs adore:

The Spice House: Seasoning the World

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/the-spice-house-seasoning-the-world/

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt at The City Olive

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/balsa-mela-and-italian-herbed-salt/

My favorite chain restaurant:

Lyfe Kitchen

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/03/lyfe-kitchen/

The delightful Chicago attraction that not everyone has visited:

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan (updated photos soon as construction continues further west)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/outdoor-fun-in-chicago/

Chicago’s classy classical record label:

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/cedille-records-celebrates-25-years-as-chicagos-classical-record-company/

One of the best apps for listening to customized radio:

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/accuradio-hand-crafted-by-music-lovers-not-by-a-computer/

My favorite app for news on your iPad or tablet:

Flipboard, a new way to get your news fix

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/02/flipboard-a-new-way-to-get-your-news-fix/

The best app for checking out other opinions on movies and tv:

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/07/metacritic-when-you-want-to-know-what-the-critics-think/

Some of my favorite apps for finding sheet music, paid or free:

Printed Music in the Digital Age

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/printed-music-in-the-digital-age/

Best app for electronic music storage:

Sheet Music at Your Fingertips: ForScore

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/07/sheet-music-at-your-fingertips-forscore/

The best fake book for song standards on your tablet or desktop:

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/irealpro-app-for-your-portable-device-or-desktop/

More apps for the musically inclined:

Music App Happy

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/music-app-happy/

Scarab Club/Vocal Canvas photos March 20, 2016

Photos from our recent Vocal Canvas concert at the Scarab Club in Detroit, Michigan on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

Scarab Club artists, husband and wife, Mariuca Rofick & Carl Wilson (Wilson did not attend)

Elizabeth and Claudia singing the closing number

Post-concert reception at the Scarab Club

Kelly, Lepauw, Deleury

Scarab Club rehearsal

Elizabeth singing "Black Coffee Today"

Elizabeth Doyle, Claudia Hommel, George Lepauw, Nadine Deleury, Velda Kelly

Detroit Institute of Arts and the Scarab Club

The Detroit Institute of Arts risked having its marvelous art assets sold off to pay the city’s debts in 2014. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the DIA kept its collections intact thanks to nearly a billion dollars in rescue money from private donors and the state of Michigan.

The jewel of the museum is Rivera Court covered with murals by Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.  Other notable collections are The General Motors Center For African American Art, The James Pearson Duffy Department of Contemporary Art and notable paintings by American and European artists.

Current special exhibits include, Dance! American Art 1830-1960, ending on June 12, 2016 and a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio on view until April 3, 2016. The treasured tome is open to the play Hamlet and contains the famous “To be or not to be” passage.

The cafeteria, CafeDIA, is quite good, but the most stunning spot for refreshment is Kresge Court, a glass-ceilinged courtyard that contains various seating arrangements that include sofas, chairs, tables and bar stools. Light bites, alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages and Starbucks coffee drinks are available. I had a baby kale and root vegetable salad that was delicious.

Admission is $12.50, but free for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The DIA is located on the Wayne State campus along with other notable Detroit museums.

http://www.dia.org

In back of the DIA is the Scarab Club, Detroit’s over-a-hundred-year-old Arts & Crafts style cultural club that features art exhibits, chamber music concerts, lectures, sketching sessions with live models plus dance and yoga classes. Chamber concerts feature dynamite musicians and a Pleyel grand piano from 1870.

The property also includes a third floor with six working art studios and a small outdoor garden. If you like Arts & Crafts architectural details, the Scarab Club deserves a visit. Don’t miss the autographed and artistically embellished ceiling beams on the second floor. Signatures include Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell and Marcel Duchamp, among many others.

http://scarabclub.org/

Mozart In the Jungle and Transparent – 2nd Seasons on Amazon

Streaming services continue to give the major networks and cable a run for their money. Amazon Prime recently rolled out second seasons for both Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. I’m happy to report that both shows retain the charm they created in their premiere seasons.

Although Jeffrey Tambor won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in Season 1, Season 2 veers slightly away from his character of Maura Pfefferman and is more about his ex-wife (played by Judith Light) and their children (Gaby Hoffman, Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker.) Flashbacks of family members in 1930s Germany add a historical context to the problems of current day Pfeffermans.

Watch for former Chicagoan, singer/actress Alexandra Billings as Maura’s friend, for Angelica Huston in a bedroom scene and for Bradley Whitford’s brief cameo in the flashbacks. No surprise that Amazon has already ordered Season 3 from creator Jill Solloway.

Mozart In the Jungle is a little more self-assured in Season 2, with the tone more consistent than its initial season. Cousins Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman have written and produced the series with director/writer Alex Timbers.

The lead character of Rodrigo is based on Venezuelan symphonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel who makes an appearance as a stage hand in the Season 2 opener. Gael Garcia Bernal continues to delight as mercurial conductor, Rodrigo, but Bernadette Peters as a patron of the New York Symphony and Malcolm McDowell as the emeritus conductor go toe to toe with him in charm and wit. The heart of the show is Lola Kirke as the aspiring oboist and personal assistant to maestro Rodrigo as she mixes practicality with bohemian charm. We might want her to end up with Rodrigo but not until she has had successes and adventures of her own.

Music fans will get a kick out of seeing Lang Lang, Emmanuel Ax and Joshua Bell not only act, but play ping pong and pool, go bowling and dance. Dermot Mulroney has a fun turn as a visiting cello soloist.
True, some of the episodes get a little wacky, but each program is under 30 minutes and the second season as an aggregate just might make you smile.  And whistle a classical tune or two.

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

My friend Francesca tipped me off about a fantastic world-wide web radio site called AccuRadio.
The listener can choose from dozens of themed-channels, select something called “Surprise Me,” or come up with their own customized station. “Channel a Day In May” is nearing its end, but “Music For the Start of Summer” is just commencing.

Some of the channel selections include Classic Rocktoopia with 1,000 of the greatest songs in rock history, Classical Relaxation with soothing classical melodies, Today’s New Country, Bluegrass Belles featuring all female voices, three opera channels, a gigantic collection of Broadway shows and themes and hundreds of other options. It seems almost every imaginable music genre is represented at this site.

Founded in 2000 as a home-grown Chicago company, AccuRadio bills itself as appealing to adult listeners with sophisticated taste. They have links to music sellers’ sites so you can purchase your favorite songs. AccuRadio is also fully licensed with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange and the RIAA and they state that they pay royalties on every song they play.

AccuRadio does run ads on the radio channels, but I did not find them intrusive like regular commercial AM/FM terrestrial radio stations. You can either access the site from your desktop or download an AccuRadio app to your phone or tablet.

Let me know if you run across anything fabulous!

http://www.accuradio.com

Hoopla: Libraries deepen their electronic presence

I still love the feel of a non-virtual book, but I find myself using the Chicago Public Library’s digital audiobooks on a regular basis. The real discovery has been Hoopla, a web service with music albums, movies, television programs and audiobooks to rent for free if your local library is a member. My Chicago library card entitles me to six media downloads per month from the digital service’s vast collection.

You won’t necessarily find all the latest movie, tv, book or music blockbusters in the selections, but there are old and newer works worthy of attention. I am currently watching a Swedish detective series called “Beck” from the television collection.

“The Iron Lady” with Meryl Streep or Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” might be one of the free movies you would rent for 72 hours. Likewise the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove” or the BBC’s “Inspector Morse” series could be your cup of tea. The audio music selections include artists like Alabama Shakes, Josh Groban, Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z or Mumford and Sons, among many others. Your audiobook taste may be satiated with a biography of Tiger Woods, a self-help book entitled “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” or perhaps a Robert Ludlum thriller.

The site brags that they have hundreds of thousands of movies, books, albums and tv programs. If you have a current library card, a web browser and a desktop, smart phone or tablet, why not see if your local library is a member? You just might find exactly what you were looking for. For free.

https://www.hoopladigital.com/home

Hundreds of libraries all across the nation are members. Here is a current map of participating libraries: http://www.zeemaps.com/view?group=661471&y=39.468050

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

Cedille Records, Chicago’s own classical recording label is marking its 25th Anniversary this year. Started by Jim Ginsburg back in 1989, the label has made it their mission to record Chicago artists and composers along with international material that needs a wider listening audience.

Some of the notable artists on the roster are violinist Rachel Barton Pine, soprano Patrice Michaels, violinist Jennifer Koh, flautist Mathieu Dufour and pianist Ursula Oppens. Groups include the chamber ensemble eighth blackbird, Gaudete Brass, Fifth House Ensemble, both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Grant Park Orchestra as well as illustrious conductors such as Carlos Kalmar, Paul Freeman, Stephen Alltop, Anne Heider and Christopher Bell. They also highlight the work of Chicago composers including Easley Blackwood, Stacy Garrop, Leo Sowerby, Lita Grier, John La Montaine and William Ferris.

Cedille regularly sponsors live concerts and features a large catalogue of recordings for purchase. You might consider getting on their mailing list which entitles you to a free download of the week and 25% off a CD of the week. Cedille is a  Chicago non-profit treasure which deserves our support as it enters its next quarter century of providing superlative Chicago-connected music.

Cedille Records/Cedille Chicago
1205 W. Balmoral, Chicago, IL 60640
info@cedillereords.org
(773) 989-2515