Arts on the Horizon: March

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By Rodger Skidmore

Is ‘13’ an unlucky number?

Not if you’re the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. That great show, about back-up girl singing groups, opened on New York’s Great White Way to great acclaim (13 Tony nominations) back in 1981. The original production ran for 1,500 performances, went on tour, and has been revived and been on tour many times over. Note: This musical is not based on the early days of The Supremes and Diana Ross.

Dreamgirls, was performed in Venice in March, but that was in March 2018. It will be performed through all of this March (and on through April 9) here in Sarasota, at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s comfortable new theater on North Orange Avenue. Nate Jacobs directs. Note: this musical is not based on the Primettes, which later became The Supremes.

A touring version of Dreamgirls played in Tampa back in November of 2010, and was put together after the success of the 2006 film, which starred Jennifer Hudson as Effie White, Beyoncé as Deena Jones, and Eddie Murphy as James Early. Note: this movie is about a fictional group called the Dreamettes, not the actual Motown group, the Primettes.

The long-ago origins of Dreamgirls date back to the mid-1970s when Nell Carter was just finishing up performing in the Eyen and Krieger musical The Dirtiest Show in Town. They wanted to do another show with Carter and dreamed up a show to be called One Night Only as a vehicle for her. When she went on to do other shows, Eyen and Krieger shelved that idea. But, having a life of its own, it kept being re-written until they finally were able to put together the finished product – which had nothing to do with the group The Supremes or its individual stars, or any of the actual incidents that happened in real life.

While Nell Carter went on to additional successes, like Ain’t Misbehavin’ on Broadway in 1978, she did have a musical, based on her own life, titled From Birmingham to Broadway, that had its own world premiere here in Sarasota last year. So, even though she never played one of the fictional singers in Dreamgirls (which is not based on the group The Supremes), she made it to Sarasota all by herself. More info at

Blue Sky, Blue Eye, Blue Tears

For 20 years Embracing Our Differences has been gracing Bayfront Park on beautiful Sarasota Bay – making it more meaningful and thus more beautiful. A total of 124 artists submitted artwork for the first show, in 2004. The first 48 paintings shown were by children from around the world and were coupled with statements by famous writers and statesmen – Fyodor Dostoyevsky,  the Bible, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, etc. – and were all about coexistence. The very next year, both the paintings and the thoughts to which they related were mostly by children.

Things have gotten bigger over the years. For this year’s show there were close to 14,000 submissions from 119 countries, 48 states, and 424 different schools. In 2022, more than 370,000 visitors viewed these billboard-size statements of caring and inclusion. What do all these numbers mean? That people do care – about other people. 

A few samples from past years, and this year, are: 

2007 “The world is a library. It is only as good as the VARIETY of books on its shelves. No one wants to visit a library with only one book.”  – Sarasota, sixth grade. 

2008 “If you see discrimination and say nothing, what are you saying?” – Sarasota County School Board member.

2009 “Blowing out my candle doesn’t make yours SHINE any brighter.” – Sarasota, seventh grade.

2009 “Our skin is just an envelope. WE are the letter” – Bradenton, 11th grade.

2014 “Although WORDS are merely sound waves, they can hurt more than any solid object.” – Osprey, sixth grade.
2018 “I like me but I’m glad everyone isn’t like me.” – St. Petersburg, kindergarten student.

2023 “We have to stop saying we are OK when we’re not OK. OK?” – Columbus, Ohio.

It is interesting that these sayings, illustrating the giant paintings, that have come down to us during the last 20 years are (mostly) by children. Written by children! Are they the adults in the room? Someone once said, “And a little child shall lead them.” 

When you visit this exhibit (good parking is available) that runs through March 12, you will probably notice the blue sky, green grass, sparkling water, slight breezes, friendly faces, bobbing boats, shady trees, and other good stuff. Enjoy them all as you read, and internalize, the wisdom of the young ones. More info at

Famous quartets

Everyone can name some famous quartets. In classical music there are the Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert String Quartets; classical performance quartets are the Emerson, Juilliard, Guarneri, and Kronos; in jazz there was Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Quartet; in baseball there was Tinker to Evers to Chance (Oops, sorry, a trio). 

The famous Opera Quartet that comes to mind is: Madama ButterflyDon Giovanni, Ernani, and Therese. Yes, these four operas are all being performed at the Sarasota Opera House from late February through March 27. The first, a sad and fragile one, is Madama Butterfly: A young Japanese lady who, it seems from these performances, was able to sing in fluent Italian, albeit the Italian of 1904, the year Giacomo Puccini wrote this opera.   

Cio-Cio-San, called Butterfly, is a young innocent girl from a once wealthy family who gets in a family way after marrying Lt. Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer. Pinkerton returns to America for three years and then revisits Japan with his U.S. bride, to collect his love child. The opera ends tragically before Pinkerton’s wife Kate can offer Butterfly a job as her soon to be adopted son’s nanny. Sad.

Don Giovanni is an opera that takes place in Spain, is sung in Italian, was composed by an Austrian (Mozart) who considered himself to be German, and premiered in what is now the Czech Republic. Oh, and Don is not Giovanni’s first name, it means a man of noble birth in Spanish. Giovanni loved many women – usually one at a time. To paraphrase Cole Porter, “Young love, old love, even slightly used love.” Giovanni was a real Don Juan who, eventually, paid for his sins. Sad.

Ernani, on the other hand, was a good guy – Spanish, but, of course, sang in Italian (Hey, it’s an opera by Verdi). He, like Butterfly was from a wealthy family, and had lost it all. Ernani becomes a bandit and, after trying to kill the king, is forgiven, regains his land, marries his sweetheart, Elvira, and lives happily ever after until he commits suicide. Sad.

Thérèse, on the other, other hand, is a lovely opera by Jules Massenet about a woman’s faithful honoring of her husband. It takes place at the time of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. She is in love with her husband’s best friend who flees France while her husband is arrested and sentenced to death – to be beheaded by the guillotine. She goes to his side to die with him. Beautiful music, but sad. More info at

Dynamic Duo

No, not Batman and Robin. And neither will it be Bonnie and Clyde that the Sarasota Concert Association brings to headline at the Van Wezel on March 12. It will be that famous pair of stars, Violin and Piano. Ah, but who will be welding their talented hands and fingers to pull the strings behind that powerful pair of musical instruments? None other than violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Julio Elizalde.

Ms. Chang’s first gigs with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia (city of her birth) Orchestra were when she was a nine years old soloist. Not old at all. This was after she had been accepted at Juilliard and studied with Isaac Stern. Depending on the repertoire she selects for her concerts, she chooses between one of her seven violins, often picking her 1717 Guarnei.

When the Juilliard, Cleveland, Takás, and Kronos string quartets have needed a pianist to fill out the chamber sounds they emit, they have often chosen to work with Julio Elizalde. Elizalde, a founding member of the New Trio (piano, violin, cello) often tours with like minded soloists such as, in this case, Ms. Chang.

While the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Cincinnati orchestras will bypass Sarasota this year, the Buffalo Philharmonic will be here in its entirety on March 27. They will bring their star conductor, JoAnn Falletta, along with violin soloist Sandy Cameron, who will perform Mendelsson’s Violin Concerto. The Buffalo will start the concert with Kodály’sDances of Galánta and end with Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7.

It’s free, but … you need to register to watch/hear Hein Jung, soprano and Gregorios Zamparas, piano at the noon SCA Music Matinee on March 17 at David Cohen Hall. They will be presenting works by Debussy (Nuit d’etoiles), Hahn (A Chloris), Jae Min Jung (How Sweet the Water Is), Gershwin (Summertime), and Mozart (O zittre nicht).

Registration and all info at

Ah, to be young again!

Or, barring that, to listen to young(er) people play music. March comes in like a lion with a duet of performances, on the 5th and 6th, featuring clarinet and piano as played by Daniel Solowey and Milana Strezeva. Daniel is no stranger to music, as he is the son of two Sarasota Orchestra musicians, and was himself featured on the NPR show From the Top. These days he is a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Ms. Strezeva, a member of the Manhattan Piano Trio, truly plays sublimely. After these afternoon and evening soireés, refreshments will be served at the Fischer/Weisenborne residence.

The Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Cincinnati orchestras will not be coming to Sarasota in March but Michelle Cann, who has been a piano soloist with all of them, will be performing at the historic Asolo on March 7. Her repertoire includes compositions by Florence Price. And last year she won the Sphinx Medal of Excellence.

If an afternoon luncheon at the Sarasota Yacht Club strikes your fancy, especially if the salt air breeze also wafts the violin music of Prokofiev, Berio, and Bach (JS) to your shell-like ears, then Thursday, the 23rd, should be on your calendar. Principal second violin of the Sarasota Orchestra, Samantha Bennett, will be stringing you along that afternoon.

More info for all at

Not a Chinese surveillance balloon

No, while a sylph can float through the air like a balloon, it is, in fact, an air spirit that can fall in love with a human who is already engaged to another. Thus begins a tragic tale full of love and (multilevel) betrayal. 

The ballet, La Sylphide, choreographed by Filippo Taglioni to music by Jean-Madeleine Schneitzhoeffer, was first staged at the Paris Opéra in 1832. August Bournonville, the Danish ballet master, wished to present that ballet in Copenhagen but the Paris Opera asked way too much for the score. And since there were no Xerox machines back then, Bournonville had a local composer, Herman Løvenskold, write new music for his own production. It is the music of Løvenskold that you will hear when the Sarasota Ballet dances La Sylphide on March 24 and 25 at the Van Wezel. 

James, a Scotsman who is soon to be married, is asleep in his farmhouse, dreaming, no doubt, of his future bliss. A lovely sylph notices him, dances around him, and kisses James as he awakens. Trouble is sure to follow. And it does. Madge, a witch, conveniently hiding in the corner, tells Effie, James’ bride to be, that she is to be dumped, and is destined to marry another. This upsets James, who throws the witch out into the cold. Trouble is beginning to simmer. 

The sylph returns and, after a bit of light flirtation, James, very innocently, gives her a little kiss. Someone (James’ best friend, of course) tells Effie, who becomes upset. Trouble begins to boil.

Madge, the witch, not happy about being forced out into the cold, gets deeply involved in all of this. She orchestrates a gathering around a cauldron in the woods and, sure enough, trouble boils over, which results in James’ downfall. A number of other sad things happen but, since all the drama is wonderfully choreographed and danced to beautiful music, everyone dies happily.

Info about this, and the Sarasota Ballet’s April tribute to Balanchine, at

A march isn’t often jazzy, but this March is

Especially in the middle of the month. To start you on your jazz journey, the famous Jazz Trolly takes jazz buffs to ten different venues at University Mall on March 14. A few select groups, and their hot spots, are the Michael Ross Trio at Selva Grill, Eddie Tobin at Post Kitchen & Bar, Hot Club SRQ at the Apollonia Grill, and the Synia Carroll Quintet at the Marriott Courtyard. Take the trolly to sample a few or park your car near a favorite, and enjoy. Music will start at 5:30 p.m., so start early.


There will be four evenings under the Ulla Searing Big Top at Benderson Park starting on the 15th. The first of those nights’ shining stars will be the Christian Sands Trio for a 6 p.m. set. Sands was nominated for a Grammy for his work in instrumental composition. He starts off the festivities at the piano, along with Luques Curtis on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums. At the 8 o’clock hour Lizz Wright takes over with some really lush song styling. 

Double the Grammys and double the fun with Marcus Mill on guitar, under the tent, on the 16th. He’s followed at 8 PM by the Allen Carmen Project with Gumbi Ortiz. On the 17th two-time Grammy winner, both times for Best Jazz Vocal Album, Kurt Elling combines his swinging singing with his poetic insight, to smooth his way into a great session. Accompanying him on the same set is another double – seven and eight-string guitars playing by Charlie Hunter – bass lines, chords, and melodies by the same set of fingers. Later in the evening jazz legend Dick Hyman provides a real treat with piano standards both old and new. Sharing the spotlight will be Diego Figueiredo on acoustic guitar. Friday, March 18, the two evening sets will be headlined by Paquito D’Rivera and by Houston Person & Tony Monaco. 

Leading into the festivities on the 16th and 17th, Burns Court Cinema will be showing The Benny Goodman Story and Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool. And, just to keep things hopping after the tent events on the 17th and 18th, there will be late night open jam sessions. The first led by La Lucha (John O’Leary, et al. on the first and the second by Synia Carroll, serenading you into the wee small hours. Good jazz is always good.

More info at

Speaking of another march

If you like moving and dramatic oratorios, The Children’s March should not be missed. Composed by Andrew Bleckner and narrated by Sarasota’s award-winning journalist, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, this musical presentation takes us on a journey through the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s via the eyes, innocence, and optimistic spirit of children.

On Sunday, March 5, the Choral Artists of Sarasota’s artistic director, Joseph Holt, will conduct the Sarasota Young Voices and the Lumina Youth Choirs in this telling musical tale. The lyrics and narration were written by the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Official Storyteller and Host, Charlotte Blake Alston and are based on the Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, where more than 1,000 children participated that May. The children marched, and the next day marched again. They were stopped by Sheriff Bull Connor, biting police dogs, and 400 pound per square inch fire hoses before being arrested. Guest soloist is J. Warren Mitchell, tenor.

More info at

They really were friends

Gershwin, Berlin & Friends is the lead presentation this month (March 4 and 5 at the Van Wezel) from the Sarasota Orchestra. To show off the lighter side of the orchestra. jazz trumpeter Byron Stripling both conducts and vocalizes with some of Sarasota’s finest classical musicians. He is joined by fellow Count Basie Orchestra member Bobby Floyd on keyboard and by chanteuse Sydney McSweeney on some sparkling vocals. This diverse grouping of musical talent will be skipping merrily through some favorites from the Great American Songbook. And yes, Gershwin and Berlin were friends. One hundred and five years ago, George Gershwin helped Irving Berlin, just back from the first world war, transcribe some songs to another key — and they became good friends.

Continuing through the Great American Songbook, along with selections from Broadway and Disney, John Devlin will be conducting the orchestra at Holley Hall on March 8 through 12.

Politically the most famous emperor was Caesar Augustus (if he was so famous, why did they name the most boring month after such an illustrious personage?), but the most famous musician (so they say) was Beethoven because they named his Concerto No. 5, the Emperor Concerto. This epic composition will be conducted on March 16-19 at Neel Auditorium and the Van Wezel by Sascha Goetzel, with Behzod Abduraimov as piano soloist.

The great Mexican cellist, Carlos Prieto, created some of the most beautiful cello music in the world. Actually, he was a world class cellist who just happened to be born in Mexico. Carlos Prieto also assisted in the creation of Carlos Miguel Prieto, who will be conducting the Sarasota Orchestra’s world premiere of a new work by Los Angeles composer Sarah Gibson. This piece was commissioned by the giver that keeps on giving – Virginia B. Toulmin via her foundation. Want more? Gil Shaham is the soloist performing Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s violin concerto. Ending the March 31 through April 2 concert at the Van Wezel is the cherry on top, Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenbeben (a hero’s life).

More info for all at

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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