Mid-Century Musical Theatre

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 Julie Kurzava who holds a Masters Degree in Voice and Opera from Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University held a three-part lecture series in Bel Air, MD.  A woman of many talents, she is a singer, actor, voice teacher, lecturer and teaching artist. She is also Founder and Director of New Moon Theatre Company. She shares her love for musical theatre through many platforms!

The attendees were given insight into three of the most beloved mid-century musicals ever written – the King and I, My Fair Lady and Music Man. Much of the information Julie related only an individual who is well-studied in this genre of performance art would know because she’s so well-researched the subject. Her background information on the songwriters and anecdotal stories of having performed some of these roles, live on stage, added a personal touch to the lecture as did her small lilts of the show tunes in her own, gorgeous well-trained voice.

We explored the difference between mid-century musical theatre and the shows that are on Broadway in this day and age. What has kept the mid-century musicals on stages, regionally and in communities, over the ages when their runs on Broadway were so short compared to Broadway hits of today? She informed us of some of those reasons. As she pointed out “when the dialogue from songwriters become cliché, you know the lyricist has arrived!” Yes! Lerner & Lowe, Meredith Willson and Rodgers and Hammerstein have left their mark on theatre stages everywhere for many decades.

At the end of the third lecture, Julie asked if anyone had any comments. One of the attendees said, “Musicals make you think you can sing!”  If you are one who grew up in the golden age of musical theatre, consider how many times you may have sung in your head or aloud “Pick-A-Little, Talk a Little,”  “Shall We Dance“, “To Dream the Impossible Dream” or “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?” 

Thanks to the support of the Bel Air Arts & Entertainment District and the Maryland State Arts Council we were fortunate to have this very worthwhile lecture series brought to our town. I do hope Julie can return and speak about some of the other most beloved musicals from the same era.


Swaying and Sultry on Palm Sunday Afternoon

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A band whose privilege has been to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. came to perform at the last concert of the winter/spring series at “Music at the Mansion” in Bel Air, Maryland. Seth Kibel, an accomplished woodwind musician and his band have won 28 Washington Area Music awards and deservedly so! Vocalist Flo Anito’s voice is beautifully suited to the genre of music – swing and jazz. Several 1920’s era tunes were played with instrumentals by Kibel on the clarinet, saxophone and flute. Michael Raitcyk accompanied on the guitar, Bob Abbott on double bass and Wes Crawford on the drums.

Here are just some of the recognizable favorites – I Take You with Anything But Love, Blue Skies, Bye-Bye Blackbird and Dance with Me. The artists drew selections from The Great American Songbook such as Dream a Little Dream. A song made famous in the Big Band era by Ann Renelle called Willow Weep for Me were in the mix.

An element of the unexpected were in a few Yiddish classics, one which was sung long ago by the Andrews Sisters. Seth Kibel and his band also included fast-paced European Folk Music often played at weddings, as well as a Brazilian bossa nova.

Of course, Billie Holiday an American jazz and swing music singer, raised in Baltimore, was not left out. Her slow, dreamy composition “God Bless the Child” came at the end of the concert.

What an enjoyable Palm Sunday afternoon it was at the Liriodendron Mansion. Keep your eye on the Liriodendron website for a great line up of performers coming this summer. “Music at the Mansion is made possible in part by a grant from Maryland State Arts Council through Harford County Cultural Arts Board, by Harford County, by Music Land, and by supporters like you!

Spiritual Immersion

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For a brief few hours, I was immersed into a musical culture quite foreign to me. I attended a concert by a Indian sitar star, Alif Laila. Alif born in Dahka, Bangladesh came to the United States in 1981. Her career has taken her to prestigious venues including UNESCO World Heritage sites. Accompanied by Suryahshah Deshpande playing the tabla, which is something like a two-headed bongo drum, and Meem Haque who played a drone instrument called the tanpura. Each beautifully complemented the resonating sounds of the sitar. The tabla musician is a grade A artist, who has been well-endorsed by the Department of Culture in the Indian Government. Meem Haque is one of Alif’s leading students.

The Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air, Maryland where the concert was held is proving to be an arts venue attracting very high quality musicians both of national and international acclaim.

Quickly I learned in the first opening composition why sitar music is very spiritual. The sixteen beat rhythmic pattern was trance-like but the beat matched the mood as it was peaceful and pensive.The second Alaap was mixed tempo going from medium to fast to a very quick, almost urgent to my way of thinking, finale. It was energetic and celebratory-like the arrival of a long-awaited spring (or basant.)

“Pahadi,” meaning from the mountains, came the third composition. This light classical composition originated in the Himalayas. Although light, it was complex mix of sounds, which Alif compared to different colored pigments mixing with water. A visual artist as well, her medium of choice is watercolors.

As the musicians wrapped up the concert, Alif stated she was saturated with devotion to those who enjoy her music and attend her concerts and she was going to “dance with that. Why not?” she asked.

Just as interesting as the music was, I was struck by Alif’s expressions while playing and there was no doubt in my mind, she was deeply engaged, heart and soul, with the music. At times she appeared to be in a trance-like state, at other times, you could see the joyfulness and playfulness on her facial countenance.

Do visit Alif Laila’s website. Her musical accomplishments and venues where she has performed is impressive. Her mission is to keep this ancient form of music alive by teaching her students at a music school she founded in Washington, DC.

It was another enjoyable musical evening at The Liriodendron Mansion. The sponsors – the Maryland State Arts Council, Harford County Cultural Arts Board, a grant from Harford County and contributions from Music Land made the evening possible.

Cultural diversity in all art forms is good and art enriches our inner world in so many ways. Do return to our next post, which will be brought to you from the same venue. Music from the Mansion on the Sunday afternoon of Palm Sunday was as invigorating in nature as the surroundings of the venue.

Progress with Integrity

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Last week I returned to a place where there has been a progression of restoration changes over the past few years. The family who settled in the historic village of Jerusalem Mill in 1771, the Lee’s, would see that the preservation has been done with utmost integrity while upholding all the other Quaker principles and inner convictions they lived by. I am sure for the Friends of Jerusalem Village, who govern the living history museum, there is a lot of grappling with change while staying faithful to values of simplicity and stewardship. To keep the doors open as a living history museum, some change is necessary in order to provide it’s visitors a great experience.

The purpose of my most recent visit was to catch-up on the Lee Mansion, and the extensive work being done on the structure which houses the Lee Gallery. Rebecca Weber, the Director, met me at the door with her corgi. Rebecca, an artist, is ever mindful of preserving the past as she looks out the gallery windows every day and sees the eighteenth-century village structures. Her personal art studio has in it collections of artifacts of vestige – ephemeral things collected in her travels which are unique, rare or disappearing. Rebecca Weber explained how she curated the current exhibition and the placement of the art. In her explanation, it was clear that she cares deeply about the art she will be seeking for future shows and how it important it is to chose just the right art for this historical village’s mission “to keep alive the heritage and traditions that form common bonds and deepest roots.”

The exhibit currently hanging in the Lee Gallery is the art of Ephraim Rubenstein. Words about his illustrious career are so many it is best read on his website to get a full-picture of who he is as an artist and his impressive accomplishments. So today, I’d like to share a bit of his art through images. These paintings are exhibited at the Lee Gallery.

Ephraim Rubenstein’s “Bread” collection, which are pastel paintings on sanded board, are perfect fits for this living history museum because the grist mill fed all the village people back in the 1700s. These paintings are only a few of the exhibit, and the art is best appreciated first hand. As you will see from the text below the pictures, there is a brand new reason to visit.

Ephraim Rubenstein from his “Bread” Collection

Artist – Ephraim Rubenstein from his “Bread” Collection

Artist: Ephraim Rubenstein from his “Bread” Collection

If you would like to know more about Jerusalem Mill, you can go to a past post Time Well Spent here. Information about the museum’s history and events is also available on the Museum website. Jerusalem Mill was recently awarded a Best of Harford County Museum designation. It is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Thank you to Rebecca Weber for your graciousness in allowing me sit and absorb the art around me and leaf through the wealth of magazine articles and other media information about the artist, Ephraim Rubenstein. His work stylistically resembles many of the old world masters paintings which I favor.

Featured Artists: Beijing Guitar Duo

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In a limited seating venue, we were a fortunate group of people who were able to enjoy The Beijing Guitar Duo last night at Liriodendron Mansion.

These high caliper artists usually play at venues around the world that seat many, many people. In fact beginning in May 2023 the duo will be traveling to entertain in Germany and hold a residency and and concert in Spain. They’ve played at The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the National Theatre in Beijing.

So, about the instrumental music last evening of these two Grammy-nominated musicians. Some of the compositions were so delicately played their musical artistry seemed more fitting to be played in a small, intimate setting, such as Liriodendron Mansion rather than in big venues which seat hundreds of people.

As with any instrumentals only music, it is up to the listener to find their own interpretation of what they are hearing. To pull off the range of stories I heard being told in the music, it takes very accomplished strumming guitar skills. In the course of one evening, I saw in my mind two people leisurely strolling along des Champs-Elysees in Paris, at times slowing and stopping briefly to discuss what they were seeing. I envisioned a young girl idling the afternoon away in a hammock, perhaps reading a book and I heard a playfulness in some of the compositions.

There were two surprising compositions which were a bit discordant with the others, one you could hear the “giddy-up” of horses hooves through their strumming and well-controlled accoustic slaps on the wood of the instrument. And in another, I heard perhaps a bit of heartbreak through some sharp, commanding chords.

Some of the music played was their own writing and others, the artists said, were changed more to their liking just a little bit. The entire evening was delightful and thanks to the Harford County Cultural Arts Board, Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), Harford County and Music Land, for bringing this and other high quality entertainment to Liriodendron in their Music at the Mansion series.

A Musical Canvas

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St. Ignatius Church, Hickory, MD

A beautiful venue always adds to the experience when art of any kind is on display. St. Ignatius Church in Hickory, MD did not disappoint. It was where The Deer Creek Chorale, a multi-generational choral group exhibited their vocal talents late last Sunday afternoon. The singers, comprised of more than eighty members, from Baltimore and Harford County as well as a few voices from southern Pennsylvania have entertained not only in Maryland but at The Forbidden City Concert Hall in Bejing and Carnegie Hall and other impressive venues.

The non-profit organization is under the direction of Martha Banghart and her artistic staff which includes Julie Culotta, who founded the Deer Creek Youth Group nearly seven years ago. Now, youngsters age fifteen and over can have their interests and talents in the musical arts nurtured through the multi-aged group. As the audience “walked the rainbow trail” with the youth singers, lyrics encouraged others to be colorful, be bold and powerful, but most of all BE YOU! The youngsters are not just walking the walk, they are talking the talk as they learn by doing and being involved with what strikes their passions, choral singing.

The music of the evening brought a broad spectrum of compositions, many of which had colors in their titles such as Bein’ Green and Orange Colored Sky, sung by the youth. Deep Purple and A Red, Red Rose, True Colors and The Blue Ridge were a only a few sung by the adults. There were a few lively songs, but never riotous, such as Build Me Up Buttercup and a Big Yellow Taxi, sung by The Lady’s Six +1.

Susan Zantop, who is also a member of Deer Creek Chorale and Cultural Events Coordinator for the Maryland Center for the Arts, did a fine job of narrating which brought context to the music and how it tied into the visual arts portion of the program. Two award-winning artists, Joan Hodous and Bill Rothenbach presented their two paintings for silent auction, a oil and acrylic on canvas, respectively. The painters also provided commentary on their vision of what they brought to the canvas. Joan Hodous’ landscape was of Blue Ridge Mountains in the background flowing down to a hilly pastoral scene in the foreground. The colors on the canvas were subdued autumn hues. On the contrary, Bill Rothenbach who is a painter of abstract impressionism, his painting looked like a clash of fireworks of red, white and blue, which was a foretelling of what was to come next in the program – a patriotic melody of tunes. I was particularly struck by the masterful selection of voices which at one point sounded like fifes playing in the background of a 4th of July parade.

My impressions of “The Musical Canvas” were many but they can be summed up in just a few more words, “the concert was a wonderful respite before the busy winter holiday season sets in.”

As if the evening was not enough, when I walked out into the blustery air, the bells of the church pealed out “Amazing Grace” and it was indeed, a beautiful ending to Sunday performance of a fabulous community chorus, The Deer Creek Chorale. Thank you to the Maryland State Arts Council and the Harford County Cultural Arts Board for making the evening possible through their generous grants.

Mid-Atlantic Art Corridor

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There are two significant art centers being built right here in Harford County, Maryland – Maryland Center for the Arts and Harmer’s Town Art Center. Space has been secured for both and there is solid interest and investment in seeing them both come to fruition. As each advances in progress, we look forward to keeping you updated and hope to have the opportunity to provide you with information from personal interviews from those at the head.

Yesterday was the groundbreaking ceremony for The Harmer’s Town Art Center. The Governor of Maryland’s wife, Yumi Hogan, was there. She is an outstanding Asian-American artist. The art center has many outdoors public art displays already in place through wall murals, which have historical references to Maryland and the role Havre de Grace played in the Revolutionary War. The murals are adjacent to the buildings that will be overhauled for galleries and art workshops. I’ve included photos of only a few of the murals. The plans for Graw Alley include a wonderful park with beautiful landscaping and benches to sit and ponder the art. Photos of yesterday’s events can be seen through this link to the Havre de Grace Living Facebook page.

Clearly, the town of Havre de Grace has grabbed ahold of their uniqueness.

The historic aspect of the town and accessibility to the Chesapeake Bay for boaters gives more reasons to visit.

From my viewpoint, not only will the centers put closer focus on the wonderful art connections within Harford County, Maryland but the cultural centers will draw many art enthusiasts because their locations are so accessible to the corridor of I-95 running through Virginia, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Other major routes lead into this area as well.

In our next post, we will be featuring the Maryland Center for the Arts being built in Bel Air, Maryland. Come on back to AllThingsFulfilling.com.

Expanding the Art Narrative – Part 2

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Welcome back! Today we are going to step in the door of Danforth Gallery in Livingston, Montana, where my son and I encountered an exhibit on Ledger Art. The art form has evolved from sketches of symbolism on cave walls to modern day ledger artists who draw on antique journal pages which long ago recorded information about land use and sale, acreage, harvest productions, weather and the like.

As my son and I made our way around the walls of the Danforth Gallery in Livingston, the town said to be “The Heart of Art in Montana,” looking at the images, he turned to me and said, “Mom, I feel like you and I have come full circle together.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Don’t you remember the book you bought me when I was a little guy that we used to pour over? It was an example of ledger art. “

“Ah yes, it was. How could I forget? One of our legendary favorites! But Marc, I can’t remember the full name of it.” We both batted around different titles getting close but not quite right. Then of course, he pulled out his cellphone and looked it up.

“Here it is,” he said, as he showed me the cover of the book on his cellphone. “Hey, whatever happened to that book, we spent so much time looking at it?”

“Don’t you remember?” I did!

“Oh, yeah, I loaned it to someone and never got it back.”

“It’s too bad. It would have been a great book to pass down to your daughter!” He loved it so.

I’m a very blessed Mom! When I am with him, my son shares my passions with me, and is almost always game for going to art galleries and art exhibitions, visiting libraries, and even discussing my faith beliefs. From the time he was a little guy he has had a very curious, active mind who tunes in well to other people’s stories.

Expanding the Art Narrative – Part 1

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This summer I visited a town which is referred to as “The Gateway to Yellowstone.” Never one to pass by an art gallery that seems as if it has the kind of art I truly enjoy, my son and I stopped into two galleries in Livingston, Montana on South Main Street. The first was Medicine Bird Gallery. Unfortunately, our time was limited so I may not have captured the best images of what I explain below, but, the gallery became food for thought.

Plein Air Painting of downtown Livingston, MT. On display at Medicine Bird Gallery.

The way in which the art was displayed was so uniquely different. Gallery Director Jinny Lee Story has made little narratives within the space, which in my mind helps tell the tale of early settlers heading west to the great unknown through the vignettes of carefully curated vintage items and antiques which are perfectly placed throughout the gallery. The accessories such as antique suitcases, antique globes, vintage cash registers and bellows cameras typically found in the Victorian portrait studio expands the whole narrative of what the art represents. The items accentuated the art and looked like scenes in old western movies. Fascinating! Draws you right in. Well, well done.

Medicine Bird Gallery, Livingston

Medicine Bird Gallery

Medicine Bird Gallery

Jinny Lee Story, it was a pleasure to meet you! The gallery was indeed medicine for my soul and it offered a great deal of what I like in art and culture.

This painting is titled “Susan’s house.”

Come on back on October 15, 2022. The second of this two part series about art in the “Gateway to Yellowstone” will be posted.