Bluegrass-Inspired Energy Served Up Fresh with Folk/Americana Duo Bettman and Halpin

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Bettman and Halpin, whose concerts combine high-energy upbeat bluegrass/roots inspired compositions, beautiful ballads with soaring vocals and heartfelt lyrics, and groovy feel-good songs, perform at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena on Monday, July 15, 8 p.m.

Bettman and Halpin, who play folk/Americana, grace The Coffee Gallery Backstage only once every 18 months. Their popular shows have always sold out, and audiences all over the U.S. find themselves captivated, moved, and thoroughly entertained.

Bettman and Halpin are known for their lyrical depth, entertaining stories, and high-energy performances. They have been generating buzz in folk and bluegrass circles since they started touring in 2008.

Stephanie Bettman is an accomplished writer, singer, and fiddler. Her lyrics are infused with wit and wisdom, poetry and insight. Vocally she draws comparison to the soaring soprano of Joan Baez and the plaintive emotion of Emmylou Harris. Her fiddling, which combines elements of bluegrass and jazz, is inspired by such masters as Stephane Grappelli, Byron Berline and Johnny Gimble. A former actress and trapeze artist, Bettman is at ease in front of an audience and creates authentic intimacy with her crowd no matter the size.

Luke Halpin is a renowned multi-instrumentalist, a master of the guitar and the mandolin, impressive on fiddle, banjo, and adept at nearly anything he picks up. He draws inspiration from the likes of Sam Bush, Mark O’Connor and Tony Rice and holds his own in comparison. A dynamic and sensitive vocalist himself, the harmony blend he and Bettman achieve is chilling and at times simply transcendent.

Halpin has a long history in the music biz, having shared the stage with the likes of Merle Haggard, Lone Star and The Steve Miller Band, to name a few. His quirky sense of humor is a perfect foil to Stephanie’s dry witty presence.

Award winners in both regional and national performing and songwriting contests, Bettman and Halpin are in from Colorado for these two nights in Altadena. They always fill The Coffee Gallery Backstage to capacity and, as always, it will be a turn-away crowd.

Tickets are $25. For more information, call (626) 798-6236 or visit

The Coffee Gallery Backstage is at 2029 N. Lake Avenue in Altadena.

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Has Been Defying All Odds for Twenty Five Years

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At this point in its nearly twenty-five year history the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus has produced more than a dozen off and off-off Broadway shows and custom designed and created shows for a variety of special audiences, both family oriented and adult shows.

It all began with a series of what at first seemed personal disasters which eventually turned out to be serendipitous encounters.

In 1993 Stephanie Monseu, a life-long resident of Flushing Queens, NY, was pursuing a degree in jewelry design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.  She was in her final year, and as usual was roller blading to school when she was hit by a car.  Her injuries were severe enough to force her to drop out of school, and needing to make a living, she began waiting on tables, which is how and where she met Keith Nelson who was working in the kitchen of the same restaurant as the one where she began as a waitress.

Keith, who was born in Holden, MA and raised in North Carolina, had just graduated from Hampshire College, which he explains was the kind of school where one could design one’s own major. His was the aptly named Public Spectacle.  The final hurdle to graduating was the writing of a senior thesis.  His was on anarchist theory and street theater.  His college roommate was David Hunt, who went on to found Circus Bello.   It was he who taught Keith his first circus skill: juggling.  They began developing passing routines and got the idea of hitting the road as street performers after graduating, Keith’s first revelatioin to the notion that one could make a living from this kind of work.

By the time Keith and Stephanie met in 1994, Keith had already acquired a few sideshow skills, most notable among them was fire eating which he acquired by trading a bottle of whiskey for lessons. It was also the first skill he taught Stephanie in the alley behind the restaurant where they were both working.  That led to their forming a performing partnership called Fire Play whose work consisted mainly of setting things on fire.  They first performed this pyrotechnic fantasy, essentially a fire eating act, at a weekly cabaret in Brooklyn, which featured a different theme each week, a format that came to define what would eventually become the Bindlestiff’s  variety shows from then on through ‘95-’96.

The couple’s travels eventually took them to the Burning Man Festival in the desert where they came across a circus tent someone was burning, perhaps the genesis of Keith’s obsession with performing in a tent. They joined up with Chicken John of Circus Ridiculous.  It was while touring with Chicken that Keith says they learned everything about what not to do on tour. “It was nothing but pure passion driving us from town to town, trying to get enough gas to get down the road.”  It was also then that they started bringing circus arts into non-traditional venues.  Every night they did a different show, even as they were still trying to figure out how to make it work.

As the duo traveled they inevitably met people with similar interests from whom they began expanding their circus and sideshow skills.

The following year, 1995, their partnership took on an even more permanent nature when they formed the Bindelstiff Family Cirkus. Although their work was leaning more and more into the realm of circus the unconventional spelling was a signal that theirs was not to be an ordinary circus.  They found the word “bindlestiff” while flipping through a dictionary.  It was a reference to a vagabond, a hobo character with his worldly possessions tied in a bundle at the end of a stick.   The word also gave birth to Keith’s clown character based on the famous Emmett Kelly, recalling one of Keith’s earliest memories.

Keith’s first introduction into the world of circus came when his parents took him to a mud show that visited his hometown. He was immediately drawn to a sideshow attraction, and he happily paid 25 cents to see a shaved dog ballyhooed as the elephant dog. When he was about ten his parents gave him an Emmett Kelly ventriloquist doll, and he set about learning that skill.  In his teens he followed the conventional path of boyhood and joined the Boy Scouts.  But even here his taste for the exotic found expression in his being named chief of ceremonies, those ceremonies, of course, for Keith, consisted of spectacular fire shows.

In attempting to analyze how their partnership has survived for nearly twenty-five years Stephanie says, “We are very different people emotionally, and creatively. We balance each other.  We both allow each other creative freedom.”   Neither has said no to the other.  For them everything seemed possible so there was nothing to fight over.  Since they built the Bindlestiffs by hand from scratch together, they never felt pitted against each other.  Their’s was a true friendship and a committed one.  Although there is no paper documenting that commitment Stephanie says they are in “a committed life partnership; we own property together and are committed to each other emotionally.

“We try to work out any power struggles in a way that we can make them into an act. We’ve worked out a lot of stuff on stage in public by role play and gender play.  What we did was really early performance art.”

Keith adds to that assessment by saying , “we trust each other and silently do what the other doesn’t. Our strengths fall into different areas and besides that we love each other.  Trying to keep an art form alive against all common sense takes up all their energy.”

In those early years Stephanie recalls how they kept coming across people within the circus community and following them and learning skills from them, building a community of like-minded, and wildly talented people.  Despite his already extensive repertoire Keith keeps looking to add new skills, which he seems to do at least once a month.  He says that he has a half dozen acts that he can throw together from his bag of tricks, many of which he has learned from old-timers.  “Most of the people who know the skills I do are in their 90s.”  These are people he likes to hang out with while they are still around and able to pass on their esoteric skills.

In 2005 the couple bought a home in upstate New York in the community of Hudson. It is a three minute walk to the local Amtrack station and a two hour train ride into the city.  Fifteen years ago suffering from the stresses of loft life, they started looking for a space outside of their Brooklyn studio. Managing their work in the city had become too difficult.  So they drew concentric  circles from their then current location  and visited dozens of little towns looking for something suitable that they could afford.  It wasn’t until they got 120 miles from New York that anything like that became possible.  It has proven to be a highly fortuitous move.

What they found when they first arrived in Hudson was a community with limited access to the arts. There was a need, but also a desire and available event funding.  In terms of making art, however, it was certainly more challenging, especially in terms of not living next door to the circus community.  But in Hudson they now have lots of space which had become the most serious concern in the city.  Now they don’t have to be so worried about the clock ticking and rental costs rising with each tick.

Most importantly the move has changed the scope of their program offerings.  They have developed an after school program in circus arts.  They teach in two community centers with enormous gymnasiums that can accommodate aerial rigging.  They have also formed a partnership with a former opera house in Hudson with three residencies.  This past spring they also connected with the local community college, where, as Stephanie says, “Our need for space was coincident to theirs.”

All told, the move has allowed the Bindlestiffs to become an integral part of a community in Columbia County, New York. Here they are making a larger impact than they have ever managed before because everyone knows what they do. A local firm, the Drop Forge and Tool Co. has helped create affordable housing and creation space for artists, making it possible to accommodate visiting artists comfortably.

Despite the success of the move, it has been difficult for Keith to completely cut his ties with New York. He still maintains his loft in Brooklyn, so his time is spent about 50/50 between Hudson and Brooklyn.

Bindlestiffs other impressive feat is audience building. How they have  done that over the years is best explained by Stephanie: “We have a team who work hard at using all the new digital outlets available out there.  We make an effort to see that circus is accessible.  The goal is to have 60 percent of the audience at each event  new and formerly unknown.

One of their own annual programs, the Unicycle Fest, is a significant attention getter, particularly for people who have not been aware of their existence before attending this city-wide event. But in reality everything they do helps build an audience base.

Another of the recently developed programs has been the First of May competition. “So much of what we do is nurturing and helping our generation, always put the artist first even above finances.  The competition defines out company.  That plus the  Cavalcade of Youth and Open Stage are ways in which the Bindlestiffs have been able “to create something new and beautiful.  We’re now in position,” Keith says, “to help younger folks on their projects,”  with three to four awards given each year ranging from $750 to $1000 for innovative circus styled shows.

Even with all their apparent success both Keith and Stephanie have a few unfulfilled ambitions. Stephanie was recently able to take one off her bucket list when she was asked to perform as the ringmaster under a tent for the most recent Big Apple Circus production.  Her personal ambition currently is to see Bindlestiff  Family Cirkus  evolve from a mom pop operation into something that has a legacy outside of Keith and Stephanie.  That will entail growing the board of directors and finding ways to survive the next 25 years of restricted government funding.  Developing patronage is therefore an important step to make.  That ambition may seem outside of Stephanie’s area  of expertise, but, she explains, “although I have always been an artist there is also some DNA of an executive  in me as well.”

As for Keith who is 49 years old, “I want to own a Speigel tent and tour it.  That is not necessarily Stephanie’s  ambition but I feel our intimacy fits that tent perfectly.  From all the people we have run across over the years I know we could create a pretty good tent crew to make it work.”  And in the meantime, he says, “I’d like to create an artistic cycle act.”

Mads Tolling and the Mads Men in Solvang: Jazz Violin Powerhouse Kicked off Jazz & Beyond Series


Santa Barbra Independent
Josef Woodard - WED, JUN 19, 2019

Mads Tolling performing on the Solvang Festival Theatre patio Hearing jazz violin powerhouse Mads Tolling performing on the Solvang Festival Theater patio on Sunday afternoon triggered memories of the massive Copenhagen Jazz Festival, which includes music in outdoor cafés and beer gardens. The déjà vu factor zoomed upward when the Copenhagen-born, Bay Area–based Tolling launched into an old Danish folk song, arranged by the late, great Danish jazz bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (NHØP), and later, during Tolling’s own tuneful jazz-pop song “Danish Dessert,” based on his mother’s special dessert.

Tolling and his Mads Men — bassist Owen Clapp (who played a graceful, Charlie Haden–ish solo on the Danish folk song) and versatile keyboardist Colin Hogan — were on hand to launch the summer’s Jazz & Beyond series, a fundraiser for the Solvang Festival Theater. They were also mostly plugged into a specific milieu linked to the double Grammy-winning violinist’s newest album, Playing the ’60s, with lighthearted variations on ’60s-era classics.

Opening with the famously jazz-rooted Flintstones theme song in a medley with “I Got Rhythm” (the TV theme is based on Gershwin’s “Rhythm” changes), the set included a suitably soulful “Georgia on My Mind,” a Cuban-timba-inflected “All Along the Watchtower,” and a wah-wah-tinged take on Brian Wilson’s “pocket symphony,” “Good Vibrations.”

Other Danish flavors snuck into the delightful mix with 1962’s kitschy “Alley Cat” — a Grammy winner penned by Dane Bent Fabric — with crowd-baiting shticks attached; Tolling played keyboard alongside Hogan, who later juggled while playing. As if to remind us of his serious jazz cred and passion, Tolling went solo on Bill Evans’s haunting ballad “Blue in Green,” done in his “Green and Bluegrass” style. To close, the Men dove into the cozy Ellingtonia of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” It had plenty and meant plenty.

Concert review: Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in outstanding Rachmaninoff, difficult Bernstein


Concert review: Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in outstanding Rachmaninoff, difficult Bernstein
By Sarah Bryan Miller St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Apr 28, 2019

Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra are celebrating his 50th anniversary with the orchestra with a pair of concerts. For the first of them, he led three pieces: a new work, a standard work with a favorite artist and a rarity.

On Saturday night, Slatkin received an enthusiastic reception when he stepped on stage. He briefly introduced the evening’s repertoire (a very Leonard thing to do), and then launched into it.

First was “Smothered by Sky,” by Loren Loiacono (b. 1989); she was among the young composers commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to celebrate Slatkin as he finished his tenure there. The percussion-heavy piece demands a large orchestra and packs a lot into its energetic seven minutes, as dense strings contend with outbursts from the brass; it ends with a soft sizzle on a cymbal. It would repay further hearing.

Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” was a long time a-borning: commissioned in 1955, it wasn’t completed until 1963, soon after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, to whom it is dedicated. Questioning God and veering between faith and anguish, it prefigures his 1971 “Mass” in many ways, with spiky music occasionally giving way to a limpid tune. First and last performed here in 1965, it is not an easy work to embrace.

The Kaddish is the Jewish prayer for the dead; it does not mention death. Bernstein set its reverent words for a soloist and choirs (adult and children’s) against his own spoken texts: “Your covenant! Your bargain with Man! Tin God! Your bargain is tin! It crumples in my hand! And where is faith now — yours or mine?”

As specified by Bernstein, Slatkin used a female speaker, the excellent Charlotte Blake Alston. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (in the singer-friendly spot at house right of the podium) brought a big, beautiful voice to her solos. Amy Kaiser’s St. Louis Symphony Chorus and Barbara Berner’s St. Louis Children’s Choirs sang with accuracy and feeling throughout, and the tricky score held no terrors for the orchestra. Slatkin made the best possible case for it.

Rosanne Cash, the Paco de Lucia Project, and Dianne Reeves are part of just-announced Chan Centre for the Performing Arts 2019-20 season


Rosanne Cash, the Paco de Lucia Project, and Dianne Reeves are part of just-announced Chan Centre for the Performing Arts 2019-20 season
by Janet Smith on April 27th, 2019

Legends of Americana, jazz, and flamenco are among the culture-spanning lineup just announced for next season at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

The news was unveiled at tonight's Anoushka Shankar concert at the venue.

Kicking off the 2019-20 season will be Rosanne Cash on September 28, with songs from her first album in five years, She Remembers Everything.

On October 5, the venue welcomes Norway's Mari Boine, who weaves together her native Sámi language, traditional Norwegian folksong, and the sounds of the natural world.

Later that month, Eastern European quartet DakhaBrakha mashes up Ukrainian folk music with Indian, Arabic, African, Russian, and Australian instrumentation.

The Flamenco Legends sextet hits town November 2 for a tribute to late guitar master and former band leader Paco de Lucía…

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Slatkin conducts Bernstein

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra: Slatkin conducts Bernstein
Apr 25, 2019

When 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday • Where Powell Symphony Hall, 718 North Grand Boulevard • How much $25-$112 • More info 314-534-1700;

It’s been a half-century since conductor Leonard Slatkin made his debut with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; this weekend and next, the SLSO celebrates with a pair of programs conducted by the man who’s now the orchestra’s conductor laureate. This weekend’s concerts feature Russian pianist and Van Cliburn Piano Competition gold medalist Olga Kern in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish,” dedicated to President John F. Kennedy, with narrator Charlotte Blake Alston, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and the St. Louis Children’s Choirs. Also on the program: Loren Loiacono’s 2017 work “Smothered by Sky.” 

Q&A with Charlotte Blake Alston about Bernstein's "Kaddish Symphony"

Q&A with Charlotte Blake Alston
By Larry Levin, Special to the Jewish Light
Apr 18, 2019

You performed the “Kaddish Symphony” with the Philadelphia Orchestra earlier this year. The narrator wrestles with such powerful and intimate thoughts and feelings about God and faith during the piece. How did your understanding of the narrator evolve from when you began preparing through the time of your performance?

When I first read the text, what jumped out at me were the emotions of anger and rage. The narrator rails at God with a kind of fist-shaking, finger-pointing fury. To me, much of the sensibilities of the text, its language, pushed the limits of blasphemy. Certainly, among my own thoughts was the personal question: “Do I really want to stand on a stage in front of thousands of people and have words of blasphemy come out of my mouth – Bernstein or no Bernstein!?”  

I read the text several times, then shifted my focus to the primary word in the symphony’s title: Kaddish. I am not a practitioner of Judaism so while I was aware of the Mourners’ Prayer I was unfamiliar with the actual language of the prayer. I began engaging in conversations with Jewish friends and colleagues. My first question: “Are anger and rage ever components or sentiments of the Kaddish prayer?” The answer was ‘no’. Those extended conversations really helped me to think differently about the text and about Bernstein’s internal conflicts framed by what was happening in our country and in the world in the mid-1960’s – including the assassination of John F. Kennedy — into a broader and deeper perspective. …

Maureen McGovern at The Ned next season.


The Ned bringing different acts to Jackson next season
Brandon Shields
April 17, 2019

The coordination staff with The Ned R. McWherter West TN Cultural Arts Center announced the schedule for their 2019-20 season earlier this week.

The performance venue in Downtown Jackson will host a number of different musical acts between September and April of next year highlighting different genres of music and a one-man show honoring a literary icon of American history.

Maureen McGovern is a singer who’s been nominated for multiple Grammy awards and has performed on Broadway. The performance on Sept. 6 is called “Long and Winding Road,” which is the name o a cover album she recorded in 2008.

The Cleverlys will come to Jackson on Oct. 24 and will bring their combination of pop, rock and R&B hits from recent years performed with Bluegrass instruments and arrangements generates laughs throughout the show.On Dec. 6, The Diamonds, a Canadian group who had a string of hits in the 1950s and 1960s that have developed into a rotating group of vocalists as the group has continued despite original members passing away, will bring a holiday-themed show called “Silver Bells & Diamonds” to Downtown Jackson.

Country singer Royal Wade Kimes will begin the second half of the season schedule on Feb. 21, 2020, by bringing his style of American music to the Hub City….

Mads Tolling and The Mads Men at San Jose Jazz this summer!

San Jose Jazz announces more acts for 2019 Summer Fest
April 16, 2019

San Jose Jazz has announced more performers for its annual Summer Fest event, including The Family Stone, Carl Allen’s Tribute to Art Blakey, Kim Nalley Trio with James Carter, Mads Tolling and the Mads Men and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

Other additions include Sylvia Cuenca Quartet With Gary Bartz, Elio Villafranca, Septeto Chappotín, Kassa Overall, Marquis Hill Blacktet, Ellis Marsalis Piano Competition Winners, China Moses, Arsenio Rodriguez Project, Iris Sandra Orquesta, Orquesta La Moderna Tradición, Gunhild Carling, Aki Kumar’s Bollywood Blues, Emmet Cohen and Tootie Heath, Akira Tana and Otonowa, Aaron Lington Sextet Reimagines the Music of Led Zeppelin and Nicole Zuraitis and the Generations of Her…

Andes Manta Performs at WVPB Studios


Andes Manta Performs at WVPB Studios

South American quartet Andes Manta graced us with their presence at the studios of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. With large drums, guitars, and a myriad of flutes, the four Lopez brothers performed a few of their favorite selections in the Andean tradition. The four Brothers, Fernando, Luis, Bolivar, and Jorge, also spoke of their Ecuadorian upbringing, their instruments, and the uniqueness of their Andean music. 

Andes Manta made the trip to West Virginia to put on shows for area schools and for a concert presented by Footmad on Saturday, April 6th at 7:30 PM at the Culture Center in Charleston. You can order tickets here

Folk music with a South American flair Saturday


Folk music with a South American flair Saturday
Apr 4, 2019

Saturday night at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston, the Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance will hold its last concert of the regular season with South American traditional music group Andes Manta. The concert will incorporate more than 35 traditional instruments, including a variety of pipes and flutes, some seldom seen in the United States. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $25. Seniors are $20 and students are $10…

Bruce Performs Final “This Is It” Recital, Ending 6-Year Project


Bruce Performs Final “This Is It” Recital, Ending 6-Year Project
by Olivia Drake • April 2, 2019

After publicly performing almost 16 hours of his solo piano compositions, Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music played his final concert on March 31, concluding a six-year project.

Bruce, who took up piano at the age of 8, began the series titled “This Is It! The Complete Piano Works of Neely Bruce” in 2013. He performed a total of 17 CD-length recitals at Crowell Concert Hall during this time.

“I thought it might take 12 (recitals), but it ended up being 17,” Bruce said. “This was a great opportunity to take stock of my whole life as a composer for the keyboard.”

Bruce has composed more than 300 original songs in addition to three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; chamber music; electronic music; and documentary film scores. He also set the Bill of Rights to music. Read more about his work on

“I never set out to be a composer of such an extensive oeuvre for piano,” he said.

This spring, Bruce is teaching 18th-Century Counterpoint and Music of the 19th Century.

In March, the Center for the Arts Radio Hour featured a conversation between Neely Bruce and composer, scriptwriter, and essayist Michael Kowalski. They discussed many aspects of the oeuvre—how Bruce writes for the instrument, the stylistic diversity of the pieces, his indebtedness to other composers, and more. The conversation also includes performances of Bruce’s “The Feline Sea”; “Playful Edge of the Wave: Image-Based Music for Solo Piano” (Ravello Records); and “Pandiatonic Study No. 3.”…

Hank Williams Fans Get Sneak Peek of New Ken Burns PBS Documentary “Country Music”

Hank Williams Fans Get Sneak Peek of New Ken Burns PBS Documentary “Country Music”
by Danielle Wallace
Mar 29, 2019

For many, Hank Williams is a country music legend. Friday his fans got a sneak peek of a new documentary about his life. Clips from the film “Country Music” were played at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. The film highlight’s Hank Williams and other country music icons. It is a Ken Burns PBS documentary.

Dayton Duncan, one of the films producers attended the screening.  Along with others who worked with Burns and Duncan on the project.

“Anything they do is gold. They’re that good, they’re smart and incredible. Dayton is incredibly talented. And of course ken burns is the master documentary film maker in the world I suppose and I’m just blessed and honored to be part of their project sometimes,” says Bobby Horton, a musician contributed to the film.

The documentary premieres  on Alabama Public Television on Sunday, September 15th – September 18th at 7 pm. It also airs Sunday, September 22nd – September 25th at 7 pm.

Centenary Stage presents Irish music and dance


Centenary Stage presents Irish music and dance
Mar. 21, 2019 

HACKETTSTOWN -- Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Company on Saturday, March 23, at 8 p.m., to present "Ceilidh: An Evening of Irish Music and Dance" in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center, 715 Grand Ave., Hackettstown.

The evening's performance will also include a special pre-show presentation by An Clar School of Irish Dance. Tickets are $25 for adults, $17.50 for children under 12 and available online at or by phone at 908-979-0900.

Darrah Carr Dance brings a bold new twist to conventional Irish dance. Their acclaimed performances draw from Irish music, step dance footwork and spatial patterns to create high-energy, rhythmically-based work that is accessible to a broad audience.

The company is comprised of championship Irish dancers including Trent Kowalik, Tony Award winner and the original star of Broadway's "Billy Elliot" and Timothy Kochka two-time winner of the World Irish Dancing Championships and former member of "Riverdance."

Artistic Director Darrah Carr was named one of the Top 100 Irish Americans of the Year by Irish America Magazine and was awarded the Irish Heritage Award from the New York City Comptroller Office in recognition of her contribution to the cultural life of New York's Irish community.

In addition to their acclaimed performances Darrah Carr Dance offers a variety of community outreach programs which include a whirlwind introduction to Irish dance, including its history, costumes and traditions….

Ryan & Ryan Piano Duo to Perform at WIU March 24

Ryan & Ryan Piano Duo to Perform at WIU March 24
March 19, 2019

MACOMB, IL – BCA will present Ryan & Ryan at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24 in the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) Recital Hall. 
Ryan & Ryan is a dynamic father-son piano duo that draws upon classic and contemporary music to create enthralling concert experiences. From Rachmaninoff to Gershwin to Billy Joel, Donald and Barron Ryan combine their talents to create a dazzling blend of old and new schools.

This performance will showcase the COFAC Recital Hall's two Steinway & Sons Model D pianos. The newest of the two pianos was purchased with a donation from Herb and Nancy Strong and family in November 2017, and unveiled at a performance in April 2018. The 2017 Steinway will ultimately be housed in the Center for Performing Arts, but the School of Music faculty and staff are fortunate to be able to use it in the interim.

The WIU School of Music is on its way to becoming an All-Steinway School, a designation given to an institution by Steinway & Sons. An All-Steinway School recognizes that high quality pianos are necessary equipment for the study of music, and that becoming an All-Steinway School reflects a commitment to provide the best instruments possible….

Slapstick comedian joins juggling ace for SMIRK at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek


Slapstick comedian joins juggling ace for SMIRK at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek
March 13, 2019

Unbelievable juggling sequences combined with comedic banter, lively music and audience interaction is the perfect recipe for a show that will engage the whole family. SMIRK has captured the attention of all-ages of folks across the state and country, and is sure to engage audiences at the Vilar Performing Arts Center (VPAC) during their upcoming show on Thursday, March 21, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for children, or buy a family four-pack of tickets for just $100. Tickets are available now by calling 970-845-8497 or visiting This show is part of the VPAC Pick 5 Ticket Package where you can select from a specific list of shows and get one ticket to five different shows for just $150. Visit for a list of shows.

SMIRK reveals the lives of two performers whose comedy derives from the collision of two very different minds trying to perform in the same show. One is a former scientist, and the other a slapstick madman. Juggling, whip cracking, unicycles and a large rocket launcher all make an appearance in this “Odd Couple” meets the circus spectacular. Smirk presents new vaudeville through the lens of comedy and a dynamic Abbott and Costello-style relationship. Reid Belstock and innovative juggling ace Warren Hammond are performers that could not be more different, and their story is a buddy comedy based on two of the oldest archetypes in comedy, the straight man and the goof ball. 

During SMIRK, watch as the duo’s dynamic relationship emerges. Their friendship — and the show itself — is tested as they become at odds with each other. Don’t worry, though, the finale draws the characters back together.

Concert review: Group's show an intense mix of movement and drumming

Concert review: Group's show an intense mix of movement and drumming
MARCH 10, 2019

Rumbling and galloping, San Jose Taiko plunged into their dazzling performance Sunday afternoon in the Miller Center for the Arts with all the exhilaration of tearing across a plain on horseback.

The eight-member ensemble, led by artistic director Franco Imperial, has put its distinctive stamp on the centuries-old practice of Japanese drumming. The retrospective of their work, ranging from the 1978 “Gendai ni Ikiru,” by Gary Tsujimoto, blending traditional and swinging jazz rhythms to two 2016 works, found the sweet spot at the intersection of drumming and dance.

With every move, including getting drums on and off the stage, choreographed, San Jose Taiko has visual appeal equal to the auditory/visceral appeal of the actual drumming. The moves varied from cathartic flinging of arms and bodies at the drums to slow-motion martial arts; the drummers' grace and exuberance were utterly captivating.

Their first two numbers, “Spirit of Adventure” and “Free Spirit,” both by co-founder Roy Hirabayashi, combined precision and flamboyance, which subsided into solemn drumbeats for Imperial's 2007 “DoR,” created for San Jose's annual Day of Remembrance, commemorating the signing of Executive Order 9066, forcing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II.

The piece's somber beginning evolved into a powerful, celebratory ending, and that was followed by Imperial's ecstatic, strenuous “Gathering.”

“She Trembles,” composed by Dylan Solomon after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan, conjured an angry earth with lurid red lighting and threatening drum sounds.

Imperial's “SoreSamba,” in which taiko meets Brazilian Carnival, was a joyous mashup of samba sounds and rhythms with the taiko's deeper, full-bodied sounds.

In “Iruka” (dolphin), Imperial found ways to create ocean sounds with sudden surges from the mysterious deep; Hirobayashi's duet “KinMoku” was a beautiful oasis of calm with a large gong, small chime and bamboo flute.

In the most challenging and fast-moving pieces, like Hirabayashi's “NanaShi” (7/4), Jeremy Nishihara's “Hayku,” Jose Alarcon's “Seven Lands” and Yurika Chiba's “Wagamama,” the intensity of the performers and the pounding rhythms awakened something deeply primal in the listener. It was impossible to sit still.

Tsujimoto's amazing finale, “Oedo Bayashi,” inspired by Oedo Sukeroku Taiko of Japan, gave each drummer a chance to combine movement and drumming in breathtaking improvised solos.

Rina Chang, Chiba, Imperial, Yuzu Kubota, Mitchell Fukumoto, Geoff Noone, Alex Hudson and Rylan Sekiguchi each projected their own distinctive, wildly inventive personalities in this unforgettable performance.

Mauro memorial part of new music in 45th anniversary concert by Orchestra New England


Mauro memorial part of new music in 45th anniversary concert by Orchestra New England
By Joe Amarante
March 4, 2019

Orchestra New England’s 45th ambitious anniversary (or birthday, if you will) will be marked in a concert March 9 amid a season that follows the profound loss of the organization’s (Mary) Anne Mauro.

Mauro, who died in September 2018, “was everything to Orchestra New England — its driving spirit,” said maestro James Sinclair, “as a director, fundraiser, event planner, organizer, decorator, hostess and creative thinker.”

ONE’s 45th-year event — its 781st concert and featuring its 71st-73rd musical premieres, will include a memorial piece honoring Mauro. The concert will take place in Battell Chapel in New Haven. Former members of the orchestra have been invited to join the current orchestra members for festivities in New Haven…

Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Co.


Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Co.
MAR 4, 2019

HACKETTSTOWN — Darrah Carr Dance joins Centenary Stage Company on Saturday, March 23 at 8 p.m. to present Ceilidh an Evening of Irish Music and Dance in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center. The evening’s performance will also include a special pre-show presentation by An Clar School of Irish Dance. 

Tickets are $25 for adults, $17.50 for children under 12 and available on-line at or by phone at (908) 979–0900. The evening’s performance will also include The Bessie Award - Nominated company, Darrah Carr Dance brings a bold new twist to conventional Irish dance. 

Their acclaimed performances draw from Irish music, step dance footwork and spatial patterns to create high–energy, rhythmically based work that is accessible to a broad audience. The company is comprised of championship Irish Dancers including Trent Kowalik, Tony Award winner and the original star of Broadway’s Billy Elliot and Timothy Kochka two – time winner of the World Irish Dancing Championships and former member of Riverdance. Artistic Director Darrah Carr was named one of the “Top 100 Irish Americans of the Year” by Irish America Magazine and was awarded the Irish Heritage Award from the New York City Comptroller Office in recognition of her contribution to the cultural life of New York’s Irish community. In addition to their acclaimed performances Darrah Carr Dance offers a variety of community outreach programs which include a whirlwind introduction to Irish dance, including its history, costumes and traditions. Other residencies activities include in – school performances, lectures/demonstrations, workshops and master classes….

Chicago Tap Theatre Returns To City Winery With SWEET TAP CHICAGO


Chicago Tap Theatre Returns To City Winery With SWEET TAP CHICAGO
Mar. 4, 2019

Artistic Director Mark Yonally and Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) presents Sweet Tap Chicago Sunday, March 10 at 3 and 7 p.m. at The City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St. Sweet Tap Chicago is a celebration of Chicago musicians and music, with all new arrangements by Kurt Schweitz, a live jazz quintet featuring rapper/singer/host Taylor Mallory and tap dancing. Musicians and bands to be covered include Chicago, Smashing Pumpkins, Chaka Khan, Curtis Mayfield and more. Doors open one hour prior to start time and the running time of the performance is one hour and twenty minutes including one short break. Tickets are $40 for reserved admission seating and may be purchased at, by calling 800-440-8539 or at the door, pending availability. Group discounts are also available for groups of 10 or more….