Tuesday, December 23, 2014

9: Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Nine down. Forty six to go.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been a Seattle Public Theater tradition for over a decade. Last Sunday afternoon the large and diverse cast of adults and kids were incredibly energetic and appealing, and the full house (with, of course, lots of children in attendance) clearly loved the show. Our four-year-old grandson spent all 55 minutes of the production in rapt attention, complaining only at the end that it was over too soon.

SPT seeks to produce theater that is intimate, engaging, emotionally powerful and affordable to everyone. SPT's youth program serves a large number of young people in our community with year-round productions, technical training classes and performance opportunities. Every show is cast from those who register, guaranteeing roles for all the young actors and providing them wonderful opportunities for development through ensemble work.

By the way, the show got off to a fun start for me when the woman at will-call turned out to be a theater friend from college. She volunteers her time as house manager, serves on the SPT Board, and is an enthusiastic supporter of Seattle Public Theater – one of the countless volunteers who help keep our arts organizations thriving.

The Grandson was anxious to be
 first in the theater.

8. Book-It Repertory Theater: Pride and Prejudice

Eight Down. Forty Seven to go.

Our family has a mild obsession with Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps it began with my wife's Gramma Claire, who re-read the book every year during her entire adult life. On more occasions than we can remember our clan has gathered to watch the entire BBC miniseries in a single sitting. We find the distinct characters a useful way to describe those we meet (as in "well, she is much more of a Lydia than an Elizabeth") and we delight in finding ways to work Austen quotes and expressions into everyday conversation.

On Saturday night we joined the packed house at Book-It Repertory Theater to enjoy their very fun and broadly comic romp through the literary classic. The cast is strong and delightful, the staging excellent, and the show a fast-paced and thorough telling of the story (for us Austen purists).

Formed as an experimental artist's collective in 1987, Book-It has grown into a thriving regional company, unique because of the theater's commitment to encouraging a love of reading. Book-It productions adapt classic and contemporary literature for the stage, preserving the narrative text of the book as dialogue by the characters in the production. Book-It has over 90 world-premiere adaptations of full-length novels to its credit.

Pride and Prejudice runs through December 28. You can still enjoy the show if you have no fixed engagements next weekend (and worth canceling one to attend if you do).

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Business of Art: Washington Lawyers for the Arts

Lawyers have to report a minimum number of continuing education hours every two years, and on Monday the nonprofit Washington Lawyers for the Arts held their Art Law Institute just in time for me to meet my year-end deadline.

Few things are more heartwarming than a room full of lawyers
 hard at work … for the arts!
Attended by artists and attorneys (and a few who are both), this event turned out to be a lot more fun than your average legal seminar. We heard about appellate court decisions where the Judges include spoiler alerts, listened to music, watched some video clips, and learned about things like why the waiters at your local restaurant don't sing Happy Birthday and why not all the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain. Important stuff to understand when you're creating art or advising artists.

Founded in 1976, WLA supports the arts in our state by making legal resources accessible to artists and arts organizations at very low cost. WLA sponsors legal clinics where artists meet with attorneys who specialize in arts and entertainment law, a speakers bureau, workshops, and education programs such as the Art Law Institute.

I'm making plans to take two more off the ArtsFund list this weekend: Jane and Elizabeth find true love in the shadow of the Space Needle, and a really great Christmas pageant on the shores of Green Lake. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 8, 2014

7: Early Music Guild of Seattle: Seattle Baroque Orchestra - European Christmas Potpourri

Seven down. Forty eight to go.

I have to admit that Jim Duncan has been remarkably supportive of this project, particularly considering that we are planning for him to buy us dinner at The French Laundry when he loses the bet. Saturday evening Jim and Gaylee joined us at Town Hall for the Seattle Baroque Orchestra's European Christmas Potpourri.

Before the show we ran into a friend, obviously an Early Music Guild regular, who commented, "I didn't know you were into early music." This event helped me appreciate the difference between enjoying Bach and Handel and being "into early music." The term refers both to a repertory of music written before about 1800 and an approach to performance informed by history, including the use of period instruments. The Early Music Guild is a nonprofit formed in 1977 to promote early music in Seattle. Its main stage events include the International Series and Seattle Baroque Orchestra.

Saturday's performance featured Eric Milnes as guest conductor and harpsichordist and Helene Brunet, a superb Canadian soprano. Both gave virtuoso performances and were a perfect complement to the orchestra, whose members were obviously enjoying themselves. Their enjoyment was reflected in the music. A highlight was Handel's cantata Gloria in excelsis deo, which was discovered by a German music professor in London in 2001. The evening capped a great week of live music performance, from fine fiddling in Ballard to French Carols on Capitol Hill. 

The concert featured Eric Milnes as guest director and harpsichordist. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

6: Seattle Pro Musica: Family Holiday Concert

Six down. Forty nine to go.

We began a Saturday music performance double-header with Seattle Pro Musica's annual family holiday concert. These folks really know how to put on a show with, and for, children. We know because we were there with two little ones under age five. It was a perfect family holiday event.

The program began with the 80-voice Seattle Pro Musica choir singing five traditional French carols, most of them familiar but wonderful to hear so beautifully sung in French.

Thierry Rautureau, the Chef in the Hat, read
A Visit from St. Nicholas
 with a captivating French flair.
Seattle Pro Musica is committed to building future audiences and singers. Through their Education and Outreach Program they support music educators, helping them inspire students to love singing and choral music. This concert featured a Children's Honor Choir with students from schools in Burien, Everett, Redmond and Duvall.

A highlight of the program was a delightful rendition, with a French flair, of A Visit from St. Nicholas ('Twas the night before Christmas ...) by celebrity Chef in the Hat Thierry Rautureau, supported by the choir. Everyone also loved the carol sing-along, with children from the audience as guest conductors – and, of course, a visit from Santa.

Artistic Director Karen P. Thomas directed the combined Seattle Pro Musica and Children's Honor choirs.
 Photos, by the way, were encouraged - a good choice with so many parents in the audience!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Live Performance: An Acoustic Connection

Egan's Ballard Jazz House has been open
 over eight years.
Earshot Jazz, a Seattle-based nonprofit that supports jazz in our community, maintains an excellent calendar of local jazz events at:
I was glancing through it the other day when I spotted an event I knew I couldn't miss: an evening with Margo Murphy & John Roberts at Egan's Ballard Jam House. You see, a few years back Margo and I went to kindergarten and grade school together in Burien, but it wasn't until our 40th high school reunion that I learned she sang professionally.

We are blessed in this region with some fabulous large performance venues, both new and restored. But on a cold, dark and drizzly weeknight in December it's fun to catch some acoustic guitar in an intimate space where it feels more like a group of friends gathering in your living room. Egan's is just that sort of place, a very cozy spot to hear live music while enjoying good food and drink. Margo and John served up their own brand of vintage country duets, tasteful guitar work, and with Ruthie Dornfeld, fine fiddling. 

Note to Jim: I am not counting this for our wager as my official "Earshot" visit. Just a chance for a lovely evening of live music. Earshot is sponsoring a lot of great events in the coming year, so checking that box will be no problem at all!