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.

Sunday at the Opera House

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Sunday, January 29, 2023 – 3pm

No, I wasn’t at the Sydney Opera House, it was much closer to home where I spent last Sunday at an event which was headlined as “Two Boys! Two Pianos! And a show that will knock your socks off!” It was my first visit to the Havre de Grace Opera House in the arts and entertainment district of a town in Harford County, Maryland.

Ronnie Carrasquillo and Kain Felix’s concert began on a few recognizable arrangements – Pachelbel’s Canon in D and The Prayer. Along with that, the pair put on their very best professional airs these two middle school boys could have. The varied mix of music – duets, classical and then contemporary allowed a them to drop their professional facade just a little bit toward the end and just have a little fun, like youth do. Concert piano may not be every 11 and 12 year old’s idea of having a great afternoon but these two were enjoying themselves, despite Ronnie’s admission of how nervous he was, which seemed to disappear once he began playing. From where I was sitting I could see a little into the wings. After each one’s individual performance, I could see the boys giving each other the thumbs up and high fives, encouraging one another. As their teacher Miss Julie said, the two have “great synergy” between them.

Not a page of sheet music was at the baby grand. Kain played all from memorization, which was impressive given the fact that his talent has already lead him into some complex compositions. Kain who has begun studying at the Maryland Conservatory of Music has started writing some of his own music such as two tunes he played, Lost and Found and Ripples. Some of the other pieces each boy played had unique elements, some improvisation, added in.

Ronnie has been Miss Julie’s student for four years and their great rapport was evident, yet he is preparing to advance his skills at the Maryland Conservatory of Music. Their teacher Julie Shaker has been very instrumental in her mentoring and their development, and all three seem to enjoy one another too.

One wonders where their futures in music will lead them but already their young talent did knock my socks off and in the process all I could think is how challenging it sometimes is to get my own emotions down on a piece of paper, so I ponder how can two boys with so few years of living on this earth turn their thoughts into writing a rather complex composition of musical notes or take music already written, then add to it and play it with such pleasing results? Innate, God-given gifts they have been given.

I’d like to thank Kain’s mom, Claudia Felix for giving me the the opportunity to see these two middle school boys first public appearance and display their hard work and young, admirable talent.

Kain’s Mom Claudia showing her support and congratulations at intermission. The two boys parents have much to be proud of.

Life’s Blessings

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Life is good! Last Saturday afternoon I and others were blessed by the generosity of an artist who gave a three hour painting demonstration and blessed by the gallery hosting the event – Manor Mill Gallery in Monkton, MD. Although I am not a painter, I welcome opportunities to learn more about painting because I love writing about art and the artists who create it. Over the past twenty years, I have had the good fortune to learn about the work of many master artists which has left me eager for more.

In the first twenty-minute segment the artist, Palden Hamilton, roughed out a sketch of the setting and subject (his live model) – a lady at the window. After each twenty minute painting block, the model had a ten minute break to stretch, relax and refocus.

Palden talked with the visitors to the gallery and other artists who were there to learn, about much of his process and how important it is to getting the measurements (the proportions) right initially, otherwise he said, “the whole thing is out of whack.” He also talked about his painting surface and preparation of it as well as a useful art tool for assessing color values. Then in the next twenty minutes, he got what he termed as “more specific, analytical and mechanical” with his drawing.

Then he started filling in the facial color values moving on to the garb the model was wearing and the area around the figure, then Palden applied color to other areas.

He also talked about the colors on his palette. In the final twenty minutes he fine-tuned the profile of the face to make his rough sketch look closer to the model’s features. Here the painting is at not quite the three hour limit.

Palden Hamilton, the artist, was so giving of his knowledge and fielded many, many good technical questions from the audience as well as questions about his studies with other artists and his other schooling.

Although there are many artists in this world there is a vast difference between those that “dabble” and those that have a deep understanding and deep thought process behind what and why they are doing it and can well explain it. With each master artist I watch, I better appreciate what it takes to become a high-quality fine artist. I’ve posted a few photos of Hamilton’s other figurative work, which is magnificent and on display at Manor Mill Gallery as are his paintings of landscapes, still life along with some of his pastel work.

For more information on Palden Hamilton’s art, please visit his website or call Lynn at Manor Mill Gallery in Monkton, MD.

Thank you for your generosity, Palden, and also to Angelo and staff at the Manor Mill Gallery in historic Monkton, MD. It was a great outing on a cold, damp wintery day but a drive through My Ladies Manor, MD from Bel Air is a pleasure always.

Christmas at an Historic Mansion – Part 2

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Seasons Greetings! If you missed Part 1 of this two part post, follow me through this link and you can read it.

Today, we will feature the curated selection of artisans who added to the festivities at the Liriodendron Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 3, 2022. The backdrop in nearly every room where the wares were sold were an exhibit of antique hooked rugs from the 1880’s to mid 20th century.. They were on loan from the private collection of Eric Gordon who recently retired from his position of Head of Paintings Conservation at The Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.

Enjoy the second glance into the holiday experience the Liriodendron Foundation provided for it’s visitors. The high quality selection of the artists work speaks for itself just like the mansion did for it’s visitors. Many toured Liriodendron for the first time ever, and were awestruck at the architectural details and had no idea what a lovely holiday outing they were really in for.

Woodenwares by Grilled Trees

Zinnia Virgo Soaps, LLC

Book Artist Extraordinaire Jodi Harvey

Three Oaks Farm Alpacas of Forest Hill, MD

Jo Houtz, Artist

Jo Houtz (on right) and her loyal assistant. Jo Houtz has done so much for the Harford Artists Association over the years.

She deserves to be sitting under the star!

Rosemaling by Lise Lorentzen

Pottery by Carrie (Carrie Tipperreiter, that is)

This is a great time of year to get out to local holiday art and craft shows, take in some holiday music at a venue near you. And save time to use your own creativity to decorate your home for the holidays, cook up some tasty cuisine and enjoy the season with whatever fulfills you.

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.

In a Place Together: Art & History

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It’s not a museum. It’s not a place of artifacts; it’s a place of ideas.”
– Jeanie Kahnke

Last Friday night I attended a wonderful gathering – the annual fundraiser for the Historical Society of Baltimore County.

“Mingle at the Mill” included food, drink, music, sales of HSBC publications and an informative talk about the historic preservation work that has been involved in turning the pre-revolutionary grist mill into a fabulous art gallery. The current fine art exhibit on display “Harvest” at the Manor Mill Gallery is from artists Minas Konsolas, Jimmy Rouse, Finch Turner, Kim Weiland and Bo Willse paintings.

(Note: If you are interested in any of the artwork, please contact Lynne Jones at the Manor Mill Gallery, Monkton, MD)

As I visited with various individuals at the event, I became keenly aware the appreciation of history is not a lost art, and there were many people with great knowledge of the upper Baltimore County’s strong, rooted in history heritage. I listened with great interest to the owner of the property talk about the steps involved in bringing the mill to it’s current state. The work is not yet done! I was so happy to hear getting the waterwheel functioning again is in the plan. It will be so important from an educational standpoint. As it’s been said “Tell me, I forget; show me, I remember; involve me, I understand.

Historical societies are challenged to find new ways of keeping the past alive in to this modern day world. Historical preservation work going on all over the country helps to facilitate a better understanding of times past or “back in the time of our country’s early founding and building.” For people, especially students, who find reading history books tedious or grueling, experiential learning is probably the best solution.

The Manor Mill Gallery is a place of ideas where art and history have come together. The selection of The Manor Mill Gallery was a fitting choice of a venue to host a historical society gathering because many of those who are interested in history also have an appreciation for art. In this writer’s opinion, the more we can gather all fields of the humanities together, the more people will understand the term “the humanities” which tends to be a puzzler or a head-scratcher as to what the term really means. The Maryland Humanities Council’s definition well explains it. Here is their mission statement.

The Manor Mill Gallery in Monkton, Maryland is a place that I am ever so happy to return. Seeing the progress that has been made is impressive. Much has been done since I was last there on Easter weekend. The ell off the main structure whose historical integrity has been altered as little as possible has been converted into workshop/office space, “the loft,” and restrooms. Of course they’ve had to accommodate for heat, electricity and running water to make it a public place.

Those at the helm of the project, Gallery Manager Lynne Jones and the owner, their hearts and souls are really in it and it shows. For more information on this historic grist mill, and the historic Monkton Hotel, please visit their respective websites.

Thank you to Scott Batton of Batton Builders for inviting me to the event. I would not liked to have missed it. And as you can see, a builder involved with historical homes and structure preservation does not want to miss anything either. Scott inspected the property from the foundation up to the third story above ground, where the loft is, pondering every bit of it.

The cellar, in itself, tells a foundational story.

In some of the cellar, one must be as only as big as a basement troll to enter into the spaces.

Loft on 3rd level above ground.

A Divine Knowing

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Two weekends ago when I walked into The Artists Emporium in Havre de Grace, Maryland little did I know there would be a bonus attraction other than seeing the fabulous From Italy with Love exhibit. Before my visit with oil painter Robin Capecci, while I was looking at all the wares in the gallery, a boy, his little brother and his mom walked in the doors. Gallery owner Robert Buden said hi to them as if he knew them and came over to me and quietly said, “this young man comes in after church nearly every Sunday, and plays our piano. You’ll want to listen in.” I could see the grand piano from where I stood.

Immediately I was completely blown-away and went over to talk with his mom. She told me her son, Kain (pronounced Kai-een) Felix, is twelve years old. For one-and-a-half hours this young talent went from classical composition to classical composition without any sheet music and without a break in between. One song flowed into another and I never heard one break in the music as if there was an “oops” he was trying to right. And to this untrained ear, I couldn’t detect any off notes or places where he went awry.

His mom, Claudia Felix, said she recognized his talent at 3 years old when he was given a kids toy piano. “Most children at that age,” she said, “just bang on the keys. Not him, I could see and hear that he was putting things together.” After he began playing the beginnings of a few harmonizing keys and a few very basic trills, she knew her son had something God-given. His interest has continued in music and after awhile she knew private lessons would be key to developing his talents.

Kain is drawn to classical music and is currently working with a wonderful mentor Dr. Thompson Duke of the Maryland Conservatory of Music who is teaching him to read the notes on more advanced sheet music. This has led to the beginnings of writing his own compositions.

On January 29th at 3pm at the Havre de Grace Opera House he will be making his debut public performance. Some of compositions he will play will be duets with another student, and he will also play some of the musical compositions he has written. I look forward to attending and I’m willing to bet many others are too. The Felix’s are a proud military family and it seemed especially important to Kain’s mom that I know that.

What a wonderful art-filled, spirit-filled Sunday I had. Thank you to all who made my day so completely enjoyable.

Divine Encounters

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“All is grace. Nothing happens by chance, everything happens for a reason. ” – Joel Randymar

If you missed Part One of this three part blog series, follow this link because it is significant to the surprise which awaited me at The Artists Emporium in Havre de Grace, Maryland last Sunday. Gallery owner and curator, Robert Buden could not have been more accommodating when I walked in the doors – he provided me with a wonderful opportunity to talk with artist Robin Capecci about her recent painting trip abroad and to have what ended up being a private showing of ten new paintings she came home with along with others from a trip years ago. Thus, the “tag line” of her exhibition From Italy with Love. Her oils are on display at the Artist Emporium until November 26th.

When Robert introduced me to the artist, I said I was an art blogger and apologized for having arrived unannounced, “Can you spare a few minutes with me? I asked meekly.

“What artist doesn’t like to talk about her art?” she replied, as we walked together to the first of her new paintings. Curious me nearly bombarded her with questions. She was so giving of her time and so touchingly expressive of her love behind her passion for art which began at age five when she asked her mom what could she draw. They began setting up still life subjects, beginning with a single toy. From then on, she said, her love for art has not waivered as she’s moved from drawing with lead pencils, to charcoals and then began introducing color into her repertoire and finally oil paint. Her love of representational paintings of still life compositions endures until this day. She also is accomplished at portraiture and landscapes and street scenes.

At her first painting, she pointed something out to me, “See this below my signature?” she asked. I saw a painted cross. Then she began her wonderful story-telling of how her faith in God has sustained her throughout her self-taught art career. Aside from a very occasional painting workshop here and there, she never went to art school. She knew from a young age she had something special and she needed to develop it. Her early vision for herself as an artist included travel so she also began studying the Italian language on her own. She interjected many Italian phrases and words throughout our visit together, and to my unschooled ear, she sounded completely fluent.

Throughout our hour-and-a half together she often expressed how God has provided windows of opportunity and just the right people in her life. Such was the case on her recent solo trip to Italy. She is a very petite woman, much like me, and I when asked how did she handle going alone with a month’s worth of clothing and all the painting supplies, she told me the most heart-warming stories of how complete strangers, people who spoke no English or Italian were there at every turn when she needed them, and how they helped her. Many went completely out of their way to get her to where she needed to be.

“Make’s one believe in the goodness of humanity.” I remarked. Again she reiterated she’s seen evidence of it throughout her life as an artist.

She took time to discuss any of the paintings I inquired about, and we particularly honed in on her classic still life paintings. ‘I love classic representational art. It is my favorite,” I remarked. Some might argue the lack of creativity in it, however, I believe it is the best form of art to see the true skill of an artist and there is no doubt in my mind with no formal training her gift comes from God, as was exhibited in “true masters of the art world” throughout history.

I’d like to end this blog post by saying thank you to Robert Buden, Gallery Owner and Curator of The Artist’s Emporium and to Robin Capecci. She is a very warm, kind individual. I loved every minute she gave me of her generous time and her words about faith and art.

(In the dress Robin is wearing is the image of one of her paintings. A clothing manufacturer in Montreal made it for her.)

Do return next Sunday on November 13 because there was someone else, a twelve-year-old boy, I encountered on the same day. An incredible talent I wish to share with our readers.

Divinely Gone Astray

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Last Saturday there was an art event I wanted to attend at the Artist’s Emporium in Havre de Grace, Maryland however, the day got away from me as I found myself routing out and creating a few gifts for the newest baby in the family coming the end of January. I am so excited for my niece and her husband. That evening I was struggling with myself over how I hadn’t allocated my time well that day. I could have put down what I was doing to attend Robin Capecci’s From Italy with Love art opening. So before I feel asleep that night I determined that I would still go to the exhibit the next day, on Sunday, after church. The next morning I was still sad I missed the opportunity to meet the artist, but decided not to beat myself up over it anymore. I thought, perhaps there was some good reason why I didn’t follow through with my plan the day before.

Fast forward: Shortly after I walked into the Artist’s Emporium on Sunday, I made a realization. The timing was divinely given. Since there was not a mass of people as there were the day before at the show’s opening and because the artist was also present the next day, I was rewarded with an hour-and-a-half spent with the artist and a private showing. What a warm person and storyteller Robin Capecci is. She communicates so beautifully from the heart what is behind her art.

Please come back for two more posts in this series on Sunday, November 6th and Sunday, November 13th. I can’t wait to tell you about my visit with the artist, which was filled with an enormous amount of information which I need to process and finish writing down. And in the third post of this series, on Sunday, November 13th I will be featuring an incredible 12 year-old boy, an unbelievable talent who I encountered on the same visit to the Artist’s Emporium.

I even came home with some Italian treats to enjoy with my late afternoon cup of tea. Come on back on Sunday, November 6, 2022, three days from now.

Featuring: Maryland Center for the Arts

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The Maryland Center for the Arts being planned in Bel Air, Maryland is a multi-phased project which will not only include art space, but it’s surroundings will be notable for the nature plot on which it sits. The 41 acres of land gifted by a community member, Emily Bayless Graham will preserve much of what is there and has been used as the Bear Legacy Trail. To listen to a short interview from Executive Director Robert “Bob” Willenbrink, Ph.D., please visit the website.

The plans have been approved, and because they are quite extensive for what will provide space for galleries, art workshops and if all goes according to the wishes of those at the helm, will include an outdoor amphitheater. The best way to read about the project is to visit the website and look at the renderings.

This region is becoming a mecca for artists and arts enthusiasts, in part because it has a different vibe than the art scene in the cities of Baltimore, Washington, DC and New York. Those who enjoy the boating life, can travel the Susquehanna River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and take in some art and culture while in the area.

We look forward to seeing the development of this project and Harmer’s Town Art Center which are endorsed by the State of Maryland and other private and individual funding.