Category Archives: Arts

Michael Friedman Enters The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

You saw them in a pop-up gallery on Church Lane.

You know the photographer: Michael Friedman. The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate had a long career in music. He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.

Nearly 3 years ago, he discovered an astonishing series of photos he’d taken almost 50 years earlier.

Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)

The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny  Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. Rita Coolidge. Tom Rush. Professor Longhair. Paul Butterfield — all were artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.

Friedman spent several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos. Each was up close, and personal.

Michael Friedman in the Church Lane pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.

After the Westport show, the photos headed to the California Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.

Now they’re in Cleveland — at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The exhibit includes the guitar that Janis Joplin played on “Me and Bobby McGee” in concert. Friedman’s photos of her with the instrument — which she used onstage only twice, and only for that song — are the only ones known.

Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” guitar, with his photo of her.

It took more than a year for the exhibit to come together. His wife Donna Vita provided invaluable help.

Now it’s up, and attracting great attention. After the ribbon-cutting, Friedman was interviewed live by chief curator Karen Herman, at the Hall.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame interview.

Friedman’s exhibit runs for 6 months. Yet when it ends, it’s not over.

His entire collection of over 100 images will be archived, in perpetuity.

Which makes sense. As Neil Young sings, “Hey hey, my my/Rock and roll can never die.”

(Click here to see many of the photos on exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

Candlelight Tickets On Sale Soon

The weather may be cold.

But it’s the hottest ticket in town.

The 79th annual Staples High School Candlelight Concert will pack the auditorium for 3 performances next month: Friday, December 13 (8 p.m.), and Saturday, December 14 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.).

This annual gift to the Westport community showcases the diverse talents of Staples musicians (and their teachers). There’s music from around the world, and of course the opening “Sing We Noel” processional, inspiring “Hallelujah Chorus” and creative production number.

Performers include choral and chamber groups, orchestras and bands. This year marks the Candlelight debut of band director Phil Giampietro.

Because it’s a gift from the Staples music department, tickets are free. But they go very fast. They’re available to the public starting at 9 a.m. on Monday. November 25. Click here then to get yours!

The timeless “Sing We Noel” processional. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Larry Silver Celebrates Leonardo Da Vinci

It’s been 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Museums all over the world are celebrating the life and death of the remarkable inventor/artist/ architect — the literal embodiment of a Renaissance man.

Leonardo da Vinci

In the 16th century, a plague killed nearly a third of Milan’s population.  In its aftermath da Vinci designed a city with greater communications, water, services and sanitation — all to prevent future spreads of the plague.

Unfortunately, the city was never built.

Half a millennium later, photographers from around the world were invited to submit images that show da Vinci’s influence, as seen in today’s world.

A thousand entries were submitted. Only 30 were chosen.

One was from Westport’s own Larry Silver. His image — taken in the Florida Everglades in 2001 — will be exhibited at the Trieste Photo Festival, and published in a companion book by Trieste’s Revoltella Museum.

But you don’t have to travel all the way to Italy to see Larry’s work. An exhibit of his remarkable photos is set for the Westport Library. It opens December 7, and runs through February 13.

There’s a reception on Friday, December 13 (6 p.m., Sheffer Room Gallery). And an artist’s talk with Miggs Burroughs at the library on January 23 (6 p.m.).

Florida Everglades, 2001 (Photo copyright/Larry Silver)

Persona Of The Week: Lauren Bromberg

Each year, Craft Westport brings over 175 artisans from a variety  of genres  to town.

The 44th annual event is set for this weekend at Staples High School. It kicks off the holiday shopping season — and all funds raised by the sponsoring Westport Young Woman’s League go to local charities.

The other day, WYWL president Lauren Bromberg sat with Persona’s Rob Simmelkjaer to preview the event. They talk about WYWL’s mission, and its work in and around Westport.

(Craft Westport will be held tomorrow — Saturday, November 9 — from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, including tickets, click here.)

Mamma Mia! Curtain Rises On Another Great Staples Players Show

There were many reasons David Roth and Kerry Long chose “Mamma Mia!” as Staples Players’ fall musical.

It’s a popular jukebox show with great music and non-stop laughs. Though ABBA was a ’70s band, the Broadway show debuted in 1999 and the film was released in 2008, teenagers in the cast and crew know it well. They — and audiences of all ages — love it.

But one of the most compelling reasons for Roth and Long — co-directors of the high school’s award-winning troupe — is that both of Players’ choreographers danced in “Mamma Mia!”‘s North American tour.

In 2010, Christopher Hudson Myers was cast as a swing. The next year, Rachel MacIsaac — who, in another key role, is Myers’ wife — joined the tour in the same role. Myers, meanwhile, was named dance captain.

In 2011 Myers joined the Broadway show. He covered the roles of Pepper and Eddie — and continued as dance captain — until the show closed in 2015.

The couple signed on as Players’ choreographers that year. It was only a matter of time before “Mamma Mia!” came to the Staples stage.

(From left) Annamaria Fernandez, Colin Konstanty, Ryan Porio, Sammy Guthartz, Owen Keaveny and tomaso Scotti perform. Benny Zack leaps. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Myers and MacIsaac bring great knowledge about details not in the script, Roth notes. (Players also enjoyed a visit last week from Felicia Finley, a lead in the Broadway production who chatted with the cast about the show.)

Some of Myers and MacIsaac’s choreography is “an homage to the original cast,” Roth adds. Other parts are unique to Players. The show — which opens November 15, and runs through November 23 — is recognizable to anyone who has seen the musical or film. But it’s also fully Staples’ own.

Roth and Long chose “Mamma Mia!” this year in part because they’ve got some very talentd dancers. Junior Jamie Mann (double-cast as Sky) studied at Alvin Ailey and the School of American Ballet. He danced with New York City Ballet in 3 productions, and as Billy Elliot in theaters from New Hampshire to Florida.

Senior Erin Lynch (double cast as Sophie) studied at Ballet Etudes in Norwalk for 7 years. Junior Camille Foisie (Donna) has trained in ballet since she was 3, and added other genres from New York to Trumbull.

Besides dancing, there is plenty of singing in “Mamma Mia!” (From left) David Corro, Anna Maria Fernandez, Camille Foisie, Tobey Patton, Jamie Mann, Erin Lynch, Samantha Webster, Sammy Guthartz. (Photo/Kerry Long)

“The dance numbers in ‘Mamma Mia!’ are highly energetic and athletic, with some very precise and technical dance mixed in,” says MacIsaac.

“We try to push the students beyond what they believe their limitations to be,” adds Myers.

It’s not only the actors, singers and dancers who have pushed beyond their limitations. The stage crew — under the direction of new tech director Jeff Hauser — has created an enormous, dynamic set. One of the highlights: a very cool turntable.

Audiences have learned that — whether it’s a foot-stomping musical, a Broadway classic or a serious show — Staples Players is far more than a high school drama group.

Anna Maria Fernandez and Benny Zack, in a tender (?) moment. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Tickets for “Mamma Mia!” sold so quickly, in fact, that Roth and Long added an eighth performance. That matinee — the show’s third — is set for Saturday, November 16 (3 p.m.).

“Take a Chance On Me,” ABBA sings toward the end of the show.

Audiences don’t have to take a chance on “Mamma Mia!” They know it’s already a winner.

(“Mamma Mia!” will be performed on Friday and Saturday, November 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, November 16, 17 and 23 at 3 p.m., and Thursday, November 21 at 7 p.m. The best seats now are for the November 16 matinee, and Thursday, November 21. For tickets, click here. Tickets are always available in the Staples High School lobby 30 minutes before showtime — first come, first served!)

“The Number On Great-Grandpa’s Arm” Comes To Westport

A pair of bomb threats to a Bridgeport temple — just 2 days before the first anniversary of the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue — reminds us all that anti-Semitism is still very real.

Which makes an upcoming townwide, interfaith event particularly important.

This Sunday, November 10 (1:30 p.m.), the Westport Library will screen HBO’s Emmy Award-winning short documentary, “The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm.”

The film — which features an intimate conversation between a young boy and hi beloved great-grandfather, an Auschwitz survivor — includes hundreds of animated drawings by Westport filmmaker/painter Jeff Scher.

The screening will be followed by an audience Q-and-A with Elliott Saiontz, the film’s young narrator; his mother, and Scher. The discussion will be moderated by Rev. John D. Betit, of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

One of Jeff Scher’s drawings in the film.

Monique Lions Greenspan has helped organize the event.

Her mother survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. “I know firsthand the incredible strength, optimism and gratefulness that survivors possess,” Monique says.

“Their stories provide invaluable lessons for both adults and children. I feel a deep sense of obligation to make our community aware of this opportunity for our children — and adults too — to bear witness to and learn from survivors’ experiences.”

Unfortunately, she says, in the aftermath of the Tree of Life Synagogue attacks — and others, in places as varied as Christchurch, Poway, El Paso and Halle — “it is more important than ever to commit to programs and discussions that clearly define expectations for, and the responsibilities of, all members of the community. Hate cannot be normalized.”

(The November 10 film is sponsored by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, PJ Our Way and the Westport Library. After the screening and discussion, the Nu Haven Kapelye offers “a musical journey from sorrow to joy, through the Klezmer tradition.” Both events are free. Click here for more information.) 

Pic Of The Day #932

The barn on South Morningside Drive owned by the late Walter and Naiad Einsel — 2 of Westport’s most prominent artists — is being moved. The land across from Greens Farms Elementary School will be the site of 3 new homes. But the historic structures have been saved. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Did You Miss Staples’ Fall Music Concerts? Here They Are!

With so much going on every day, you might have missed the Staples High School music department’s 3 fall concerts.

Or maybe you’re an alum, living far away.

No problem! Thanks to the magic of former media lab instructor Jim Honeycutt, all 3 are available now.

The chamber, symphonic, sophomore and freshman orchestra’s concert was called “Something Old, Something New.” It featured music from the Baroque era, to contemporary works.

The choral concert highlighted music of the Renaissance.

Meanwhile, the symphonic band and wind ensemble presented “Winds of Change.”

Finally, here’s an extra feature: an interview with Phil Giampietro. The new bands director talks about his plans for the pep band:

Let the music play!

Bassick Band Needs Music Men (And Women)

In Westport, our schools’ stellar music program is a given.

Just a few miles away in Bridgeport, it’s a gift.

Bassick High School struggles with the basics. Recently, administrators found enough money to hire a band leader. Jon Garcia is eager to teach students, who are just as eager to learn.

But they can’t play without instruments. The band closet was almost empty.

Bassick High School band director Jon Garcia.

When Westonite Martha Deegan heard about the situation, she called a meeting with her Sky’s the Limit Foundation board of directors. They voted to take on the project.

They ask area residents with instruments languishing in closets, attics and basements — in other words, plenty of Westporters — to donate them to the Bassick marching band.

The foundation will clean them, and replace cork, pads and valves — whatever is needed to get the instruments in working order.

It would be great, Martha says, to get donations to buy new ones. But that’s expensive: a new tuba costs up to $7,000. So they’re concentrating on used, semi-forgotten but desperately needed instruments.

She has a personal desire to provide saxophones: Her father played sax with Stan Kenton and the Paul Whiteman Orchestrsa, back in the day at Cedar Point, Ohio.

Martha will pick up any instruments — anywhere in Connecticut. She’ll also reimburse shipping costs from out of state.

She’s off to a great start. A lawyer friend called, and offered an accordion, violin, sax, conga drum and cymbals from foreclosed houses that are being cleaned out.

Donations have already begun: trombones, trumpets, woodwinds, keyboards, euphoniums, electric guitars, and a clarinet, banjo and grand piano (!) from Westporters, and a flute from a Weston family.

Local residents involved include Dr. Jennifer Baum Gruen, opera singer Lucia Palmieri, “What Up Westport” founder Marcy Sansolo, Sue Connors, Shirley Hwang, Sue Daly and Kristana Esslinger.

Bassick High School band members.

Norwalk’s AAA Band Rentals shop — owned by Weston resident Mike Spremulli — has offered to recondition (free!) all donations.

Members of the “Bassick Big Band” will play at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, November 9 (3 to 5 p.m.). They’ll accept contributions (of money and/or instruments). The store will donate a portion of its profits from sheet music and music books to the school’s program.

Still needed:

  • 4 flutes
  • 1 obe
  • 1 clarinet
  • 4 alto saxophones
  • 3 tenor saxophones
  • 1 baritone saxophone
  • 5 trumpets
  • 2 French horns
  • 5 trombones
  • 2 baritone euphoniums
  • 1 tuba
  • 1 concert bass drum
  • 1 concert snare drum
  • 1 pair of crash cymbals
  • 1 timables
  • 1 pair of congas
  • 1 pair of bongos
  • 2 electric bass guitars
  • 1 electric guitar

“The Good Book teaches us to ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the lands,'” Martha says. “This is my holiday wish and mitzvah for the Bassick High School marching band.”

(To donate, email marthadeegan@rocketmail.com)

 

ADL Raises Voices, Inspires A “Show Of Unity”

For decades, the ADL has helped Westport.

Now it’s time for us to return the favor.

The organization — the Connecticut chapter of what was originally called the Anti-Defamation League — has:

  • Offered anti-bias training programs for teachers, students, parents and community members
  • Provided Holocaust education
  • Responded to anti-Semitic and other hate incidents
  • Sponsored Police Chief Foti Koskinas for a special course on extremist and terrorist threats, for senior-level law enforcement personnel
  • Helped begin the Kool to be Kind initiative
  • Worked with Staples High School staff on the new “Connections” program
  • Brought former neo-Nazi Frank Meeink, and ex-Westboro Baptist Church members Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper here
  • Worked with every synagogue in town on the interactive “Words to Action” program, for students from middle school through college.

“We will always be there for our community,” says ADL Connecticut director Steve Ginsburg, a Westport resident. “Now, we’re bringing the community together with a ‘show of unity.'”

It will be quite a show. “ADL Voices” is a major fundraiser, on Saturday, November 9 (Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport, 8 p.m.).

Trombone Shorty — the New Orleans-based jazz, funk, R&B, hip hop, pop and rock trombone, trumpet, organ and tuba player — will star.

Trombone Shorty

Award-winning gospel artist Pastor Marcia Fountain will solo. David Letterman’s bandleader Paul Shaffer emcees. Westporter Sarah Green serves as artistic director.

The Voices Choir — a talented, diverse group of musicians, singers and dancers from across Fairfield County — will perform, along with the Pivot Ministries Choir from Bridgeport.

Students from Staples High School, the Bridgeport public schools and Neighborhood Studios will sing, along with those from Fairfield Prep, Fairfield University, Keys Bridgeport and the Manhattan School of Music, and various church and synagogue choirs.

Westport Academy of Dance’s senior company introduces a piece specially choreographed for the event.

Other Westporters involved include the Staples Service League of Boys; ADL board member and event chair Claudia Cohen, along with many volunteers.

It’s truly be a “unifying” night. The fundraising benefit and community gathering is designed to “bring people together, foster dialogue and build mutual respect,” Ginsburg says.

It will also be very entertaining, quite inspirational, and tons of fun.

(For more information, including tickets and sponsorship opportunities, click here. Major sponsors include Bercham Moses LLP, Norwalk Hospital and Terex.)