Arts on the Horizon: April

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By Rodger Skidmore

You know it’s spring – pollen is in the air

     Ah, the sounds of spring! Coughing and sneezing … and music. Lingering in the air along Sarasota Bay on April 12-15, will be Sounds of Spring, the Sarasota Orchestra’s ode to Persephone, the Greek Goddess of this lovely season. And the musicians at this Holley Hall concert will bring sounds from four corners of the globe.

     The most local corner is the center of the USA – Oklahoma!  This Broadway show, as well as South Pacific, will showcase the music of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Their hit tune “June is Bustin’ Out All Over”could have been called “Spring is Bustin’ Out” but that season comes three months later in the Midwest. Also, spring does not rhyme with spoon, moon, or croon.

     Continuing this light and airy fare, Michelle Merrill will be conducting Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, Respighi’s Gli uccelli (a lovely piece which is definitely not for the bird’s), and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6. From South America will be Astor Piazzolla’s take on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: the Spring movement from Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

     A week later the theme changes from spring to Broadway when William Waldrop conducts Broadway Bound on April 21-22. While the theme moves to Broadway, it is the Broadway tunes that are coming to the Van Wezel. And it is not just the tunes that are coming, it will also be a star that sang them on stage (The Lion King and Avenue Q), Carmen Ruby Floyd. Other hit songs will be from WickedChicago, CarouselGypsy,42nd Street, and Phantom of the Opera.

     And just one day later, April 23, the orchestra’s Piano Trio and Piano Quartet will be at Holley Hall. The trio, comprised of Bharat Chandra, clarinet; Rachel Halvarson, viola; and Jonathan Spivey, piano, will be playing Robert Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (a short German word for Fairy Tales). An interesting thing about this piece is that it is not based on any existing fairy tale. Schumann wrote it to evoke the idea of fairy tales in the minds of the listeners. Sort of like mood music that is added to a movie soundtrack to meld the viewer’s subconscious with the film’s action.

     Completing the program with be Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor. Channeling this work will be Jennifer Best Takeda, violin; Matthew Pegis, viola; Christopher Schnell, cello; and Jonathan Spivey, piano. 

     If you can’t get enough of the Sarasota Orchestra, you can catch the Sarasota Brass Quintet on April 30 at the G.T. Bray Park Amphitheater in Bradenton (concert is free but requires prior registration). As spring approaches summer, you can also catch the Sarasota Orchestra getting down with Dancing in the Street: Music of Motown at Ed Smith Stadium on May 5-6. More info and registration at

We perpetually need help

     Ever say the right thing, but someone hears the wrong thing? Not so bad if you said apples were $1.89 per pound and someone thought you’d said $1.99. But, if you’ve been telling your younger sister about the birds and the bees, and the wrong person overhears you, things can really get buzzing. Especially it that someone is the local priest.

     The Asolo Rep’s production of Katie Forgette’s play Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help brings us into just such a disturbing incident, and we see it play out in the home of a 1970s multigenerational family. The girl, who tried to clue in her younger sister in the ways of the world those many years ago is, today, the narrator of the play – and she, as she talks to her family, also talks directly to us. In this way we get multiple sides to the same story. Some are funny, some are the truth, and sometimes truth bites. 

     Yes, some of these are stock characters – the priest that tries to keep everyone on the straight and narrow, the busybody neighbor, the younger sister who play-acts a bit too much, the tyrant of a mother-in-law, the overwrought mother, and the father who takes himself a bit too seriously. Yes, they’re all there, but that’s what makes it so much fun. More info at

Taxes are due April 15

     So, why not keep in good form as that day approaches by letting your mind have a full workout. Start slowly, on April 8, with a Beethoven Piano Trio (in G major) and work up to a Sextet for Strings (Strauss’ Capriccio) and then go all out with two string octets (Shostakovich’s Prelude and Scherzo for String Octet and Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major for Strings). All this plucking of strings should keep you plucky and not too taut as you listen to La Musica’s Grand Statements concert (friendly alert, there is a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m. – free to attendees).

     The next La Musica concert, on April 11, should be called Going For Baroque as there will be a lot of Fireworks (the real title for this concert) as nine musicians take you through an energizing while relaxing evening of baroqueness; starting with Telemann – his Gulliver Suite in D major for Two Violins and his Concerto for Four Violins in D major). They continue with Tartini’s Sonata in G minor for Violin and Continuo ( a continuo is an accompanying musical part that includes a bassline and harmonies, usually piano and cello) which carries the name Devil’s Trill. Next up is Passacaglia in G minor for Violin and Viola, the Johan Halvorsen extrapolation of Handel’s harpsichord suite in G minor. The premiere of the final composition, George Enescu’s Octet for strings in C major, did not take place – at least not the first time it was scheduled. After five rehearsals it was removed from the program as the organizer of the 1901 concert felt that his musicians were not up to it – too risky. It finally made it to the stage in 1909.

     If, by April 15, you’ve completed your tax forms (or gotten an extension so that you can attend the next La Musica concert), then it’s time to relax with some friends. Perhaps not people you know intimately, but three composers that truly were friends and who influenced each other’s music. Brahms, the older of these three, while classically trained, wrote a series of Hungarian Dances based on local folk tunes when he was 19. When he was older and more established, he was the leading member of a jury that awarded the first prize in composition to Antonín Dvořák in 1874, 1876 and in 1877. Dvořák, commissioned by Brahms’ music publisher, then wrote his Slavonic Dances, also based on folk tunes. Then when Dvořák came to America to write his New World Symphony he incorporated American folk tunes. To do so, he was aided by Harry Burleigh, who introduced him to African-American spirituals.

     This concert joins all three, starting with Burleigh’s Southland Sketches, followed by Brahms’ Piano Quartet no. 3 in c minor and Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A minor. All concerts at the Sarasota Opera House and info at

III – A defining number

     Florida Studio Theatre has three major theaters where plays are presented. First there was the Keating, some years later the Gompertz was added, and the third, and newest, is Bowne’s Lab. FST’s more cutting edge productions are presented in this third facility, hence, perhaps, the name Stage III. Numerically three is also a step beyond two and so, in content, is what one sees in Stage III productions.

     Stage III’s April play, which will keep you riveted to your seat, is the world premiere of Etan Frankel’s Paralyzed which comes straight to you from COVID-Limbo. Paralyzed was supposed to end the 2020 season but then COVID struck and shuttered so many events. Many, unfortunately, never made it back into production – this show being the exception.

     One can be paralyzed by an inability to make a decision, by shyness or by fear. Part of the action in this play takes place in a hotel bathroom in Georgia so the abject horror of being in a hotel bathroom in Georgia could be a plot device. But, then while there, one of the actors finds a suicide note, which adds to the suspense and creates a conundrum – what to do about it. The characters are named Leigh and Lee, so perhaps they are the same person mentally debating what “they” should do in a chilling situation. Is the note his/hers/theirs/ or some else’s? And what will be the results of possibly taken actions (or inactions)? Who knows? 

     In addition to plays, FST also does Improv and Cabaret – speaking of which, A Place in the Sun: A Tribute to Stevie Wonder has been extended (third time) thru April 16. This show takes audiences on a rocking and rolling trip with Stevie Wonder from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Wonderful songs abound at FST’s Goldstein Cabaret. Info for both at

Yes, really famous

     The ballet world knows that Cuban ballet and Cuban ballet stars are brilliant – and brilliantly famous – all around the world. One way we Sarasotans are aware of this is because of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School. Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernández both trained at the National Ballet School of Cuba, performed with ballet companies in Cuba and Mexico (it was an easy jump from Mexico to the US), and then, in the 1990s as principal dancers with the Sarasota Ballet. Serrano and Hernández then started the SCBS and began sending graduates to dance with England’s Royal and Birmingham Royal Ballets, as well as Ballet companies in the Philippines, Peru and the US (at least 12).

     The Cuban dancer Fernando Alonso merged elements of Russian, British, French, and Italian ballet techniques to create a style Cuba could claim as its own, renowned for both its passion and grace. Carrying this technique forward, Jorge Garcia choreographed Majisimo (Most Majestic) for the Ballet Nacional of Cuba. One knew that Majisimo was known throughout the ballet world when Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo created their own parody version titledMajisimas (don’t ask).  The original, non-parody version, has been performed throughout the world, with more performances than by any other Cuban choreographer. It will be center stage, set to the music of Jules Massenet’s opera Le Cid, for two performances by the Gulfcoast Studio Company of the SCBS, at the Sarasota Opera House on April 22 in SCBS’s Cuban Choreography Showcase

     Also showcased will be two additional Cuban works, by Alberto Mendéz: Tarde en la Siesta, with music by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, and Muñecos set to music by Rembert Eques. To top things off, a new work by the SCBS’s resident choreographer Tania Vergara, will be danced as well. More info at

New, new, new, and some old

     Bob Dylan sang “The times they are a changin’“ 59 years ago. And they are still changing as we speak write. Three versions of change are coming this month. 

     If you’ve heard a lot of Bach and Strauss over the years, wave this newspaper over your head (if you’re reading the web version on your desk-top computer, just tap the shift key three times) because a shift is coming. Cheryl Losey Feder, a true harpy, and Abraham Feder, a cello fellow, have taken some of the music composed by two great composers and created their own transcriptions for harp and cello. These two musicians, who met while principles with the Sarasota Orchestra, will be providing you with old music dressed up in new clothes as they concertize at Temple Sinai on April 9.

     On April 20 Selby Gardens will be venue for an evening concert by someone the Washington Post calls  “one of the 21 composers/performers who sound like tomorrow”. This time-shifting artist, JiJi Guitar, has performed as soloist with a number of orchestras and done solo recitals at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

     Not Canada’s previous big cello star but “Canada’s next big cello star”, says the Canadian Broadcasting System. Seems like tomorrow will be a glorious day, which certainly is a change from yesterday and today. Lucky for cello lovers Cameron Crozman will be appearing, with Meagan Milatz on piano, on the 27th at the Sarasota Yacht Club (FYI – Pecan Crusted Chicken will be served). Not sure if Crozman will be lugging his Stradivarius (1696) cello with him to Sarasota, but whatever make cello he bows, the music should be wonderful. The compositions for this concert, Wanderlust, were inspired by various vacations taken around the world. Meagan Milatz, a much sought-after Canadian collaborative artist has performed solo, with others, and on key recordings. Looking at her touring schedule, one assumes she will be the queen of airline milaege awards before long. 

     And, speaking of next month, there will be a Vivaldi and Mendelssohn concert at the Sarasota Opera House on May 9. Concertmasters usually appear individually, with their orchestras, but at this concert, there will be four concertmasters (Orlando, Buffalo, Kansas City, and Naples) performing together as soloists in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Mendelssohn’s String Octet will unite the four along with two violas and two cellos, for a quite noteworthy evening. More info for all concerts at

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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