By Rodger Skidmore
Is June the shortest month of the year?
Yes, if you’re only interested in great classical music performed by top notch artists – then there are only 13 days in the month. And if you live for that kind of music, the only places to live in Sarasota are at Holley Hall and the Sarasota Opera House. What this all means is that the Sarasota Orchestra’s Sarasota Music Festival is back in town.
500 ≥ 60 + X = 100. In other words, 500 top music students from all over the world applied to be part of this festival. Sixty were selected and, along with 40 top-rank international musicians acting as faculty, become the 100 that pluck the strings, toot the flutes, honk the horns, and tilt the licorice sticks, to provide such great pleasure during these early days of summer.
A good way to start off any festival is to be involved in a romance, even if lasts for only a few moments. And a romance with, or more specifically by, Amy Beach gets one off to just such a start. On June 8, her composition, Romance, dreamily lets us live in a fairy tale(s), which is the name of the Schumann piece that follows. This early evening concert finishes with compositions by Valerie Coleman and Johannes Brahms. The violin part of Beach’s Romance is played by Melissa White, a quarter of the Harlem String Quartet (which will be performing in Sarasota next January).
Twenty-five musicians take part in performing four compositions (Vivaldi –Summer, Janáček – Mladi, Gabriela Lena Frank – Four Folk Songs for Piano Trio, and Dvořák – String Quintet in E-flat Major) at the Opera House on the 9th. Not just a few stars, more like a meteor shower to light up the night.
Even more musicians (30) perform on the afternoon of the 11th, but that is only because they will be presenting, for your listening pleasure, nine different pieces – from Previn to Beethoven, and from Prokofiev to Mendelssohn (not in alphabetical order).
Interesting that the word “Pohádka” means “a walk” in Serbian, “fairytale” in Czech, and “take a nap” in Hungarian. It helps, for the concert on the 22nd, to know that Leoš Janáček was born in the part of the Austro-Hungarian empire that is now the Czech Republic.
And, of course, there really are more than 13 days in June. How else to fit in all the Master Classes, Coached Ensembles, and Artist and Orchestra Rehearsals that will take place at Holley Hall during the festival.
The empresario overseeing all of this is Music Director Jeffery Kahane, who will be performing and conducting a number of works during the festival. And, of course, Robert Levin will be providing insights into the very heart of music with his Levin Lecture on the 21st. Dates, times, performers, and venues for these, and many additional concerts, at Sarasotaorchestra.org/festival.
Coming out of seclusion
By definition, a hermit is someone who lives a secluded life. And, while hermits might live, singularly, in caves, up in trees, or in their parents’ basement, there is a subset that together, but separately, stay at The Hermitage Artist Retreat down on Manasota Key. These are artists of various types (writers, composers, playwrights, painters, sculptors, etc.) who have been awarded a stay at this secluded place, where they can create without distraction, while being housed and catered to, as unobtrusively as possible.
What is the quid pro quo is this arrangement? The quid is their glorious seclusion and the quo is that they are required to share, with the outside world, what they have created. On June 23, a number of these “hermits” will gather (together) at Waterside Pavilion in Lakewood Ranch, to present Songs from the Sand: A Hermitage Cabaret. These new songs which have been created by, among others, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael R. Jackson, Five Tony Award nominee Jeanine Tesori, and four other award-winning composers, will be played and sung by local artists.
Given the talents of these well received writers and composers, one knows that what they have produced at the Hermitage Artist Retreat will be appearing on various stages across the country in coming years. The question is, will you have seen and heard version 1.0 of these new tunes?
Admission to hear these songs, and the stories about how they were created, is free, but reservations (with a very nominal fee) are required. Information and reservations at Hermitageartistretreat.org.
Where to go in June or July?
Where? How about to a concert, out to dinner, or a walk in the park? Been there, and doing that? Then perhaps another really nice place to go would be to go to Heaven. Unfortunately, the normal way of getting there is to, like, die. And, like, you know, maybe not exactly what you want to do right now. Why bring up that particular location? Because, if you ask, in downtown Sarasota, about Heaven, they might reply That Must Be The Entrance To Heaven, and point you in the direction of the Urbanite Theatre – as that is the theatre in which this world premiere production of Franky D. Gonzalez’s new play is being presented from the 9th of June through the 9th of July.
And where might that entrance lead? A good question indeed. Some mystics say that Sarasota is itself a portal, what with all the spiritually white crystal sand. Others feel that the portal or entrance leads through that tunnel with the bright light at the other end. And beyond the light – family and friends – or restful peace alongside a bubbling brook. And, perhaps, for the characters in this play, heaven would just be a place where they are – accepted by others in the land they currently inhabit. But how can they get a fair shake when they are pushed down every time they turn around. By going a few rounds in the ring. By being boxers where their violence is confined to a small ring, while there is violence, in many forms, against them on a day-to-day basis. It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe Heaven in in the mind of the dreamer. More info at Urbanitetheatre.com.
Not Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap
Ms. Christie’s famous play, The Mousetrap, ran for 68 years in London – quite an achievement. Shear Madness, America’s second-longest-running non-musical play was a mere upstart, clocking in at a little over 40 years (12,580 performances), before it closed in Boston. It, of course, keeps popping up in theaters around the country and around the world just to keep the theatre going public amused. One actor, Patrick Shea, a cast member in the Bostin production, performed for 30 years – a record within a record.
This madcap play directed by Bruce Jordan, a murder mystery that takes place above, and in, a hair salon, is an interactive one where the audience makes a decision as to who is guilty and where the play is to go next. The original title of Paul Pörtner’s play was Scherenschnitt oder Der Mörder sind Sie (“Paper cutting” or “You are the Killer”) but for reasons unknown the American adaption had a change of title.
Given that the play is interactive, and the actors are ad-libbing some of the dialogue, one could say that each version of the play runs for only one performance, as each version is somewhat different. It also means that, while two on-stage police officers are trying to solve the murder, you, a member of the audience, looking at the same clues, are coming to your own conclusion on the other side of the footlights. Thus, 25 slightly different versions of this interactive farce will be running from May 31 through June 25 at the Gompertz Theatre. More info at Floridastudiotheatre.org. See one version, and return and possibly see another.