Watercolor on the Brain

The allegorical watercolor paintings of Linda T. Hurd, a selection of which are on display for the month of June in the Milton Public Library’s Wotiz Gallery, use the power of serialization to find unconventional meaning in familiar objects and scenes.

In themed sets of twelve, and most works paired with a line or two of written rumination, often in the form of an appeal to God, the paintings ask us to see our interpersonal issues represented in our surroundings.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which has been diagnosed frequently in the Everett artist’s family, and the many different ways in which brains can be wired are examined in a series of representations of telephone wires; chairs ask us about our responsibilities and choices in another set of a dozen; the wide-ranging theme of the boundaries we run into and form between one another is visually dissected through paintings of fences, walls and other literal partitions.

“It is very much personal,” said Hurd about her motivation for selecting subjects. Events or people in her life will push her to examine something more closely, and some series, such as “Laundry,” (which is not on display at the library but can be explored at the artist’s website, www.lindathurd.com) develop over the course of many years.

watercolor, adhd, linda, hurd, wired

Hurd’s work has been displayed in libraries and other galleries throughout the region, and has been recognized in particular by ADHD and other attention deficit disorder support groups, as the condition plays a large role in both her life and her work, with both her husband and two sons diagnosed.

Hurd does not have an official diagnosis, but identifies with many symptoms of those who do. “It has been an advantage and a disadvantage,” she says, citing the struggle to stick with a single idea and to finish an entire series, while having to take frequent breaks helps with perspective and not getting tunnel vision when working on a project.

The naturalistic tone of her watercolors contrast with the straight, black lines and sharp angles of her often industrial or commercial subjects, and Hurd moves back and forth between realism and impressionism, queering their impact and conjuring a strong presence of the subconscious, reminiscent of the visual affect of Richard Linklater’s films “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.” Some pieces are haunting, others reassuring or funny.

Hurd says she is currently painting shoes as well as plants at different stages of the life cycle, though she cannot say if they will become series.

Stop by the first floor of the library at 476 Canton Ave. before July 1 to have a look. On display are the series “Wired,” “ADHD Challenges,” “Boundaries,” and, for the first time, “Chairs.”

 

Rugby Catches On in Bay State High Schools

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Senior Captain Joe Kennedy lines up a conversion kick after a Milton score

 

The U.S. is getting on the bandwagon of one of the world’s most popular sports, and it’s exploding here in Eastern Massachusetts, most recently in Milton.

Rugby, a sport with a reputation for gruff brutality, has long been popular in American colleges, but has recently seen a rash of growth in high schools and even youth levels. It is the nation’s second fastest growing team sport, according to a 2012 report by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, with participation numbers growing 30 percent since 2008. (Lacrosse was up 37.7 percent.) Over 1 million Americans are playing organized rugby.

Milton High School’s team, officially the Milton High School Rugby Football Club, or MHSRFC, has doubled in size each year since its inception in 2011, with 52 team members on the 2013 spring squad, its second year as a varsity sport.

The team has also doubled its win totals, with two wins in its inaugural year, four last season and six so far in 2013, with another division game and the championship still to come. Milton currently sits atop the Eastern Massachusetts Division 2 standings with a 4-1 record, with hopes of bringing home the cup from the May 25 championships in Fort Devens, Mass., and they have beaten two teams from the division above them during the season. Coach Joe Dolan expects to move up to Division 1A next spring, where competition will be tougher.

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Senior Neiko Fortes (in red, left) fights against a tackler while senior Greg Rodney looks to help out.

On May 10, Milton hosted over 100 rugby players in an inaugural, four-team “Sevens” tournament, which means that each team has seven players on the field, as opposed to the regular 15 per side. This pared-down, faster and wide-open version of the game has played a large role in the sport’s growth, with rugby sevens entered as an Olympic sport for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, and a world tour of sevens teams from the world’s best rugby nations frequently televised on the NBC Sports network. (Believe it or not, the U.S. is the reigning Olympic rugby champion, having won the gold medal the last time the game was played in 1924.)

Dolan, a resident who teaches at Pierce Middle School, is a long-time member of the Boston Rugby Club and coached rugby for 20 years at Brookline High School before coming on board to get Milton’s program going. He hopes to develop a town program of touch rugby (called Rookie Rugby for those under 14) over the next five years. He may even have a bit of a head start, as Gaelic football, a cross between rugby and soccer, has had a youth league in town since 2009. Men’s club rugby teams in the area have established youth programs in the past few years, such as the Boston Irish Wolfhounds in Canton and the Mystic River Rugby Club in Malden.

And it’s not just for boys. While there are 19 boys varsity teams in eastern Massachusetts, six high schools have girls squads as well, and Milton has had a few girls on their team as well. “Once they get knocked down by the girls, that whole gender thing disappears,” said Dolan.

In addition to the fun of the game itself, there is a set of ethics surrounding the sport that is an attractive alternative to many conventional American sports. Inclusivity is important, as is leaving any animosity on the field, say the players. After beating each other up in competition, teams share food and conversation with each other after every match, a tradition deeply ingrained in the game.

Players also feel the sport opens doors for them. “Everywhere you go in the world there is a rugby club for a player to join,” said junior Tim O’Connor. “Coach Dolan always tells us that if we ever go to a foreign country to find and join a club as soon as possible, as it is an easy way to get to meet new people. Every team is like a family.”

“No matter where you go in the world playing rugby you will always be treated with respect by your opponents,” said senior Captain Joe Kennedy, who traveled with O’Connor to Bermuda over spring break on a trip with the Boston Rugby Club’s Under-19 team.

Concluded O’Connor, “We went down [to Bermuda] and won both of our matches … and had a great time. This is all at the age of 16, I can’t wait to see where this game will take me.”

For information on Massachusetts high school rugby visit www.myrugby.org, and to go see some men’s club teams, visit www.nerfu.org.

With Talent and Heart, Kingston’s “Last Call” Is Poised to Make Some Noise

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There’s a certain chemistry, a balance between a diverse set of skills and being on the same page, that seems to serve (and have served) as the bedrock for a huge number of successful bands.

It has something to do with open-hearted, charismatic vocalists, intense, creative songwriters that seem to pluck magic out of the air, and an addictive spice and savvy that glues the whole thing together.

“Last Call,” a three-year-old dub/funk/hip-hop band out of Kingston that has been steadily growing in popularity along the South Shore and recently in Boston, has brewed up a sound and story and has the pieces that make a group compelling over a period of time.

Going from playing backyard barbecues to headlining the Middle East and competing in the Hard Rock Café’s battle of the bands, this five-member group that formed from family connections and neighbors, brings the west coast, Long Beach rock/reggae sound to the Northeast, combining the blue collar, free-spirited, rebellious-yet-supportive heart of bands like Sublime and Red Hot Chili Peppers with the persevering attitude that is common to a place that often gets buried in 25 inches of snow.

 


 

Guitarist Johnny Alves and bassist Mark King with their heads down, concentrating on perfection, lead-singer Adam Frates’ square frame pacing across the stage with mic in hand, drummer and rap-vocalist Mike D’s ever-present smile emanating from the back, and DJ Darren “Caucajion” bobbing and contorting behind his turn tables, Last Call’s stage presence is engaging.

They play a mix of cover songs – the best dead-ringer for Sublime and Bradley Nowell I have ever heard – and original tunes, with a five-song LP out now, and a ten-song album being cleaned up for release in the coming months.

 

 

Bassist King, the youngest of the group at 21, brings a funky backdrop to the plucky, catchy melodies layed down by Alves, whose infectious riffs form the core of most of the band’s song-writing.

Lyrically, Frates and Mike D split the duties, singing about their lives, the realities of having full-time jobs, (which all members except King have at this writing, among them directing a funeral parlor, running a flooring company and working at a commercial suspended lighting company) what it takes to chase down your dreams and drinking beer and smoking at back yard barbecues.

Caucajion lays in samples, scratches and recorded percussion with great touch and timing, giving the music an other-worldly feel. The entire package is a sound that anyone familiar with Sublime, 311, Slightly Stoopid or the Chili Peppers will connect with immediately.

Both guitarists are obviously talented, and are students of music; King loves listening to a wide variety, including jazz and “weird Berkley [College of Music] stuff,” while Alves loves jam bands like Humphries McGee – and also told me that if given tens of thousands of dollars for a new guitar, he would keep the one he’s got, which was handed down to him and has the pick guard falling off, and restore it.

 

Last Call Band

Back row, Cucajion and King; front row, Frates, Mike D and Alves

 

The dub, reggae and hip-hop come from Frates, who tells me, “Reggae, dub, it’s my life. … Sublime, Brad Nowell was a real inspiration to me,” and Mike D, who was inspired to write by the way Tupac put his life story into lyrics, and originally got hooked on Boys II Men and Bel Biv Devoe, a fact which he states proudly.

The two vocalists, who are the original founders of the band, are the torch-bearers of communicating the heart of the band to the audience. “We know how tough this life can be, every single one of us,” says the drummer. “We go to work, every single day, and at the end of the job, pack our equipment, go practice, come home, go to bed, wake up, go to work, play the show. We talk about how tough it is to achieve your dreams, and if you don’t do it now, you may never reach it. It’s about working hard, never giving up when you’re getting beat up by life and it seems impossible. Keep pushing through. That’s why people can relate. All our friends have jobs. Blue collar, plumbers, electricians, claimers. So you got to be able to relate to what’s going on.” Appropriately, “Stick Wit It” and “Rock Steady” are the names of two of the songs on the LP.

And the DJ brings an eclectic, old-school sensibility to the process, having been rocked by the wave created by Run DMC’s earth-shaking rock-rap collaboration with Aerosmith, as well as Herbie Hancock and Grand Master Flash, later getting into reggae legends like Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, who are both major influences on the entire band.

 

A nice video bio from the band (Contains mature content)

 

There’s nothing inauthentic about these guys, who seem to genuinely like each other, which is a good thing since Frates is married to Mike D’s sister, King’s sister is good friends with Mike D’s fiancée, and three of them are next-door neighbors. In an era where so much of the music we hear is prefabricated to nab a particular demographic, bands like this, who want to show you their soul, connect and have a good time, (and of course make some money, too) are beyond inspiring – they’re comforting.

“This is our one life, this is the path that we chose,” defiantly states one refrain from some of their new music. This is a crew who is making no apologies, and makes an effort to live up to its ideals, playing multiple benefits a year for house fire victims and the disabled, and spending a large chunk of their time at each others’ families’ birthdays and other celebrations, while finding the time to enjoy life.

“An expression of life, that’s all music is,” says Mike D. “How else can they know us unless we describe it right?”

You can find out more about Last Call, get their gear, listen to and buy their music and find out about future shows and news at www.WeAreLastCall.com

 

Watergate Reporter Gets Dirty in Bridgewater

woodwardHow does one of the most (if not the most) famous and influential journalists of the past 40 years feel about journalism today?

The same way a lot of us do.

“I’m not sure those of us in the news business are up to the task of giving people the information they need,” were Bob Woodward’s exact words Monday night when he came to Bridgewater State University to give a talk as part of their President’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

The legendary twice-Pulitzered newsman, who, along with Carl Bernstein, exposed President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal, was full of opinions and anecdotes while he spoke on a wide range of topics, from getting his start in journalism (guess whom was let go by The Washington Post a few years before being rehired) to President Obama (“I’m not sure he understands the power of the Presidency.”) to the internet. (“Privacy is over.”)

It was both scary and reassuring to hear this kind of naked truth from the mouth of someone with so much insider knowledge of our government and its major players, reassuring only in that it makes me feel less crazy.

Woodward is now nearly 70, having authored books about each of the last three presidents, among some 12 number-one national best sellers. His most recent work, “The Price of Politics,” excavates the 2009 debt-ceiling debacle (for it surely was and continues to be just that), published just in time for another round of budgetary brinksmanship.

The speaker, however, did not focus his lecture on this acute issue, aside from acknowledging its dire nature and the ridiculousness of Congress’ inability to do anything about it. Instead he tended toward the larger issues of secrecy in government and how exactly one goes about getting information from people who do not want you to know the things you want to know.

“One percent.” That is Bill Clinton’s estimation of how much outsiders, even informed ones, know about what really goes on. To prove the point Woodward cited how everyone, including he, thought Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon as part of some corrupt deal, but turned out to have done it as an act of self-sacrifice in order to get the nation’s great scandal off the front page of the newspaper. “What was this way,” he said with a hand tilted to one side, “turns out to be completely the opposite.”

Woodward seemed frustrated with the way things are in Washington these days. Persistence, physically going to locations and talking to people, knocking on doors and being relentless are things the veteran reporter and current associate editor at the Post sees in short supply. Maybe you are required to say that kind of thing once your hair starts to turn gray, but this is a man who has been near the center of it all for decades; surely he must be on the pulse.

But if age was a factor in the presentation, it was so only in this: Bob Woodward really, truly, believes in the promise of journalism, and wants others, especially young people, to carry its torch. “It’s the greatest job in the world. … Journalists get to make momentary entries into people’s lives when they are interesting, and then we get the hell out.”

If journalism is out to lunch at the moment, perhaps due to what Woodward cites as the undue focus on speed over quality or Google eating up all the ad dollars that used to go to newsrooms, then at some point, Woodward said, we’ll miss something big.

Well Bob, I think maybe we already have.

Norwell’s Company Theatre Gets Comfy

Company Theatre Norwell

Patrons enjoy the newly renovated Company Theatre. Photo by Tom Pilla.

Norwell’s award-winning Company Theatre is stepping up its game, and “comfort” is the name.

On Jan. 10, the regional theatre reopened its doors after making a two-week, $158,000 renovation, targeted mostly at making audiences as comfortable as possible. 360 ergonomically designed seats were installed, along with wall moldings, carpeting, a new paint job, plus a state-of-the-art soundboard and L.E.D. lighting.

At the champagne gala unveiling, staff as well as patrons were excited for the new experience at the 32-year-old theatre company. “It’s like it’s brand new,” said Patricia Rice, who has been patronizing the theatre since its opening days in a church basement and $50 budget. Barbara Jones, another longtime supporter, was happy that her 6’2” husband would be able to fit comfortably in the new seats.

The theatre is visibly brighter than it was, and the new seats take up less room, giving patrons more space. The color scheme also matches up with that of the lobby, unifying the facility.

According to theatre principals Zoe Bradford, Michael Joseph and Jordie Saucerman, the décor was in need of a facelift. “It was an 80s design,” said Bradford, “Gray and mauve.” And the old seats, though plenty padded, were starting to break down mechanically. The result of the improvements is an auditorium that retains its intimacy but is definitively modern, something that will fit well with the wide range of shows the company puts on, which includes not just plays but performers and discussions. It even has that “new theatre” smell.

Company Theatre Directors Michael Joseph, Jordie Saucerman and Zoe Bradford thank patrons at the unveiling of the new theatre.

Company Theatre Directors Michael Joseph, Jordie Saucerman and Zoe Bradford thank patrons
at the unveiling of the new theatre.

 

“The hardest thing was finding seats as comfy as the old ones,” said Joseph – not the money, not the condensed time frame, but finding comfy seats. That tells you something about this organization.

“It’s so well-run that it was tough to get funding,” said chairman of the theatre’s board, Jim Merlin. It took two years to secure matching funds for the project through Massachusetts’ Cultural Council, but once the grant went through, it took less than four months to raise the amount needed from the community.

“We’re so grateful for being in this building and for the great support of the community,” said co-Director Bradford, “Everyone works extremely hard.”

Annual attendance has grown to some 45,000 attendees, and yearly operations have reached just over $1 million. With the enhanced technical capabilities and aesthetics of the renovation in place, the directors are looking to the future, which they believe is bright. Though with any journey forward, remembering one’s roots is helpful, which might explain why there is still a row of worn, overstuffed seats hanging around somewhere backstage. (They are pretty comfy.)

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The old

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…and the new


The Company Theatre’s next full production is “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” playing Feb. 13-17. There are lots of other shows in the meantime, which you can check out at their website www.companytheatre.com. They are located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell.

Philosophy in Music at the Quincy Symphony Orchestra

 

QSO pic

The Quincy Symphony Orchestra

A cosmopolitan night at Quincy Symphony Orchestra’s Winter Concert on Feb. 16 was welcoming, well-balanced and full of intrigue and contrast.

Though the musicians hail from surrounding towns, the music in this concert was anything but local — though the atmosphere, due to the friendliness and accessibility of the conductor, composers (two of whom were in the auditorium – sadly, Beethoven couldn’t make it) and musicians made for an intimate, living-room feel.

An intellectual twisting of expectation ran throughout the evening’s program. After a short, rousing brass-only fanfare from the French composer Paul Dukas, and the playing of the national anthem just like at the ballgame, we heard a fascinating modern composition by Harvard’s Martin Schreiner that brought together traditional Japanese, Western and Franco-Latin aesthetics. “Tango at the Edge of Time” featured double soloists Ralph Samuelson and Yuki Yasuda on the bamboo flute, the shakuhachi, and the six-foot-long zither, the koto, something like a horizontal harp-guitar, respectively. Backed by the western-style orchestra and playing to the marching rhythm of the tango, the Japanese instruments, with sounds recognizable to the layperson from anymovie with scenes in the orient, set a nuanced, foreboding tone that contrasted well with the more confident, humanistic feel of the backing instruments and Argentine dance. Any philosophers in the audience surely went home thinking of a comparative thesis.

Following was a work more closely in line with the Japanese tradition, titled “Crossing Mountain,” by composer and founder of Boston Koto Academy, Dr. Takashi Koto. Featuring the same two soloists as the tango, this piece was a true musical painting, transporting listeners to a flight through snowcapped mountains, sandwiched on either side by pounding percussion arrangements, designed to be reminiscent of the massive Japanese taiko drums. Then came an encore of a traditional sakura, or cherry blossom, song.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F Major, “Pastorale,” filled the second half of the concert, an interesting choice, as this five-movement piece contains many naturalistic elements, even direct facsimiles of bird calls and brooks bubbling, which played upon the earlier contrasting of the eastern, nature-focused aesthetic and the more anthropocentric western. “Pastorale,” with the joy of a representative Beethoven composition, takes us through a walk in the countryside, a prance with happy villagers, a raging torrent and its peaceful aftermath – another musical journey painting, presented with vigor by the capable QSO.

In addition to being thought-provoking, the concert was also fun, in no small part due to the energetic and emotionally generous conductor Yoichi Udagawa, whose ease in talking to and bringing along the audience invites classical music novices to enjoy alongside lifelong patrons, and whose near leaps off the stage betray a childlike exuberance for the music.

The Quincy Symphony Orchestra, in its 59th season, will offer its Spring Concert on April 13 at 8 p.m. at its home, the Lloyd Hill Performing Arts Center, at Quincy High School. It will feature Vaughn Willams’ 5th Symphony as well as 12-year-old piano soloist Megan Tan, winner of the Eleanor Nelson Concerto Competition, playing Shostakovich Piano Concerto #2. Visit quincysymphony.org for more information.

 

A version of this story appeared in the Milton Times on Feb. 21, 2013

Cunningham Brings the Laughs Home

 

Kendra Cunningham

Kendra Cunningham

 

Though Kendra Cunningham now headlines at popular comedy clubs up and down the east coast, contributes to national laugh institutions such as Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and FunnyOrDie.com and does things like win “Best Comedic Short” at the 2012 Boston comedy Festival, she was a latecomer to the creative arts:

“In seventh grade, I think I was in a play. In high school I didn’t do anything creative. I had parties at my house.”

She may not have been submerged in a warm bath of comedy as a child, but now she is a prolific, modern, multimedia comic. In addition to stand-up, she stars in a bunch of clever video sketches that she creates through her production company “Malarkey Pictures,” has a popular blog, “Blonde Logic,” with posts and jokes syndicated on the Huffington Post, co-writes a semi-serious online dating advice column called “Beauty and the Beast” and has starred in a yet-to-be-released feature film shot in Rio de Janeiro, playing a writer living a double life.

Like most comics, Cunningham has had to wade through the swamp of obscurity to begin to get some time in the sun. In fact, for most of her professional career, she worked in finance, and it was not until she took a one-day comedy writing class at the Boston Center for Adult Education that she even began to think about performing.

“I was working in a hedge fund,” she recounts, “I would do comedy maybe like once every six months. I was very secretive about it. I didn’t want the people I worked with to know about it, to think I’m a weirdo or whatever. … I just decided to take the class, like, ‘Oh, this look cool.’”

Cunningham soon moved to New York City, and was going to school at night to get her master’s, still working in finance and taking some creative writing and performance classes on the side. When her studies required that she quit her job to make room for clinical work, she found some extra time to actually try and get booked at clubs and bars, and that’s when things started to catch on, little by little.

“It took two or three years to say, ‘OK, now I’m really pursuing this,’” says Cunningham, who traded in the high-stress desk job for the more down-to-earth world of bartending, a job she says is perfect for a stand-up comic because “When you bartend long enough, you start to not be affected as much by crazy people. … [Comedy] can be hard on the ego. It’s nice to have something that is completely unrelated to wanting people to like you.”

And people definitely do like her, in part because of a willingness to bare her soul to complete strangers. Dating problems, family issues and all kinds of insecurity are her bread-and-butter, and coming from the attractive, confident blonde with a master’s in Forensic Psychology on stage, this kind of admission probably has a way of making the people watching feel a little bit better about their own problems.
Lonelygirl83 won the Boston Comedy Award

 

Plus, there’s just something about Boston area comics. “I never really thought about it growing up,” she says, “but Boston has a very specific regional humor that you don’t find everywhere in the country. I’m lucky to have been born into it. … You go and talk to people, you assume that they have that sense of humor, and then when you realize that they don’t it’s kind of weird. … It’s a good coping mechanism for life. Alcohol helps, too.”

And so does pizza, which is something the comic agrees Boston does better than New York, despite all the hype to the contrary: “Pizzeria Regina, the original in the North End, is just insane. I’ve never had pizza like that. So good.”

When she comes through her hometown, besides going by her old house and alma mater, Fontbonne Academy, she has a few frequent haunts. “I always try to get people to meet me at Darcy’s [in Quincy],” she says, “I just like that place. It reminds me of a lot of Thanksgiving Eves. And Alumni Café in Quincy. … And the Lynwood Café [in Randolph]. … I usually end up going to pizza places.”

As for what’s next, she says she is trying to bring focus to her career and hone in on a few projects. She is shopping two book pitches, one a mock self-help book and another based on her blog; she is working on part II of Lonelygirl48, the sketch that won at the Boston comedy Festival, as well as other Web sketches; and she is continuing to perform stand-up, including Boston’s upcoming Women in comedy Festival, running March 21-24, and a performance at the Borgata casino in New Jersey in June.

Asked if there was anything else of desperate importance that people needed to know, she said, “Yes. It’s really weird. There’s no Sam Adams in New York that tastes anything like the Sam Adams in Boston. I don’t know if it has to do with the distribution or what.”

 

Kendra Cunningham performed at Dick’s comedy Vault in Boston on Feb. 1 at 9 p.m. and Feb. 2 at 8 and 10 p.m. Visitwww.kendracunningham.com to see more of her work and for more information about her. “Blonde Logic” can be found at www.blondelogicblog.com. Check out her stand-up on Youtube.

ASO Mega-Chorus

ASO Consortium Rehearsal 2

 


T
he newly formed Atlantic Symphony Choral Consortium, a 220-voice chorus formed by combining the high school choruses of Braintree, Hingham, Milton and Scituate, will accompany the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, one of the South Shore’s two professional orchestras, (the other is the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra) at their Masterworks Gala concert on April 9 at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre in Cambridge.

The annual concert, this year titled “Mozart Legacy,” will offer two of Mozart’s final works, his final symphony, No. 41 “Jupiter,” and his final opus, “Requiem,” the latter with the accompaniment of the consortium.

Involving the high school singers for the first time is one part of a larger outreach program that the symphony has put at the top of its list of priorities, including a March 10 “Discovery Concert” with music familiar to elementary school students, wall-projected student artwork and a chance to meet musicians and try out their instruments afterward; a competition for musicians under 30 whose prize is a showcase performance with the orchestra; and school visitations by conductor and Music Director Jin Kim, among other initiatives.

The Weymouth- and Braintree-based orchestra, which is made up mostly of young professional musicians or students finishing up their graduate studies and is now in the 16th year of its professional iteration, began in 1945 as the Hingham community Orchestra. And those roots show: “First and foremost, providing to the South Shore community” is the priority, says Kim. “When they hired me [16 years ago], they wanted to completely change course from a community orchestra to an orchestra for the community.”

Kim, whose musical interests began with the piano and singing, comes from a community organizing background, and was not planning on conducting when he was coming out of St. Olaf College in Minnesota: “Here I was, planning on doing voter registration and racial equality. … Classical music was still a very upper class hobby. … I took musical gigs to avoid having to move back home, and I joined two professional choirs. … Then, after a year of doing that, touring around the country to places like Carnegie Hall, it just clicked: this is community organizing!”

This kind of synergistic, original thinking defines a lot of what the orchestra does. Kim, for example, frequently addresses the audience directly before and after a particular composition is played, foregoing the more traditional pre-concert Lecture, a decision that was made in 2012 and has been very popular with audiences.

“Every single one of our concerts, the audience – they come up and tell me – is blown away by the quality, and it seems so warm and inviting and accessible.”

The dual focus on quality and accessibility lives in part of the organization’s mission “to bring the highest level of symphonic orchestral music to the region through exceptional performances, innovative educational programs, and a commitment to integrating the arts into the life of the community.”

For the student singers, the experience of this program seems be having the desired effect: “The most exciting thing about this is actually working with a true professional orchestra and conductor while collaborating with other schools in the performance,” says Milton High School senior Kevin Mehdizadeh. Other students expressed similar feelings, and also cited excitement over performing at Sanders Theatre, hearing the different sound of a relatively large number of voices, getting to meet new friends and performing a challenging work by one of the world’s most famous composers.

“The Mozart Requiem is an ideal student work since the vocal demands fall in their capability, while expanding their aptitude as ensemble musicians,” says Bill Richter, Scituate chorus director and chorus master of the consortium, who also runs a similar program with the Plymouth symphony and schools further down the coastline. “It’s a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone; As an educator, it’s great that we can do top-of-the-line music with the high school and perform with the top programs in the region; the kids win with getting to experience working with this challenging music; and the orchestra wins with putting people in the seats with the large networks from the schools. … It’s hard to contain our level of excitement.”

“It’s wonderful to see the students embrace Mozart’s final master work with such enthusiasm,” says Kim. “It sustains the idea that great classical music transcends the ages.”

It’s not all gravy, though. The individual choruses, led by Rachel Hallenbeck (Braintree), Joseph Young (Hingham), Dr. Noreen Burdett (Milton) and Richter (Scituate), have been rehearsing the requiem since October, with 80 pages of music of a type with which most of the students are unfamiliar.

“The process of preparing for this has been rigorous,” says Milton High senior Emily Driscoll, “There have been many night rehearsals allowing us to practice with the other schools and many hours spent in class.”

The challenge is something that all choruses may not have been up to, according to Richter. “We tried to recognize high schools in the area who have had a tradition of excellence in choral music. The Mozart Requiem is a major work with demands not usually found in high school literature, and there are collegiate and community groups that would not be able to undertake this masterpiece.”

For all the hard work and dedication of those involved, they will have a grand stage on April 9 to showcase what they have put together.

“We’re grateful to enable these students to perform with an outstanding orchestra like the Atlantic Symphony in a world-class concert hall like Sanders Theatre,” says Richter. “It is an experience they will never forget.”

 

In addition to the Mozart Legacy concert, the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra will finish its 2012-2013 season with a season finale, “Timeless Treasures,” on April 27, back at their usual performance space at Thayer Academy in Braintree, and will feature works by John Knowles Paine, Aaron Copland and Johannes Brahms.
For those unfamiliar with the Mozart Requiem, pick up a copy of the movie “Amadeus,” throughout which the requiem plays in the background.
Tickets for each concert are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors and $10 for students. The Masterworks Gala will begin at 7:30 pm, on Tuesday April 9, at 45 Quincy St., Cambridge. To order tickets, or for directions to Sanders Theatre, parking, and more information about the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, visit www.atlanticsymphony.org or call 781-331-3600.

Death, Deception in Dhima’s Starring Role

UPDATE: The first episode of the new web series from Angelwood Pictures, “Family Problems,” aired on YouTube, Sunday, Feb. 17. You can watch it below, as well as catch future episodes Sunday nights at 9 p.m.
*Contains mature content, including strong language and implied violence. Viewer discretion is advised.*

 


ORIGINAL ARTICLE PUBLISHED OCT. 20, 2012
“Family Problems,” a new Web series, which begin production in Attleboro in October, will feature Milton resident Alex Dhima, 10, a student at Collicot Elementary School, playing Connor Solloway.

Dhima plays a boy in a family home where there’s a murder, the burial of the body and the family then going on trying to live ordinary lives. The new drama series with young Alex Dhima is scheduled to premiere Feb. 17, 2013, at 9 p.m. on youtube.com.

Check out this promo for the series (Warning: Small amount of profanity, not suitable for children)

Alex previously worked with Executive Producer Seth Chitwood in the Web series “Red Circles” and played Ben Kane, the child of a murdered detective.

“Red Circles” won five 2012 L.A. Web Series Festival Awards for Best Drama, Ensemble, Writing, Cinematography, and Theme Song.

In “Family Problems,” Dhima will be joined by show stars Theresa Chiasson, Peter Morse, Sarah Alfano, Natasha Hatalsky, Vicky Lynch, Stacey Forbes Iwanicki and Mary Paolino.

The Web show will be filmed in Barrington and Providence, R.I., and the story takes place in three different eras; 1995, 2012, and 2044.

For more information see: www.Facebook.com/familyproblemstheseries and http://www.angelwoodpictures.com/familyproblems/index.php

Alex Dhima

Alex Dhima

 

Immersive Theater Swallows You Whole in Quincy

Going to an “immersive theater” show can be a profound experience; you walk amongst a play taking place around you, you feel the actors brush up against you or you lock eyes when they talk to you, and you may find yourself alone in a room with a single character for a few intimate, intense moments.

When the show is skillfully adapted from one of the greatest playwrights in history, there is a very good chance you will be moved.

“…Or  Dreaming,” an immersive theater adaptation of August Strindberg’s “A Dream Play” by Strindberg devotee Tara Brooke Watkins which opens Dec. 7, marks the debut of Quincy’s new Pariah Theatre Company, and it arrives on the scene with an offering that is hard to ignore and that anyone who appreciates the out-of-the-ordinary will enjoy.

nurseoffThe original work has traditionally been problematic to produce, as it seeks to recreate the experience of a dream, with its jumps in logic and nonsensical associative transitions that somehow still make sense to the dreamer. Perhaps that is why it fits so well into the non-linear, choose-your-own-adventure style of the immersive experience which the award-winning Watkins, also the play’s director and theater company’s founder, created for this production.

Disorienting at first, as a guide brings the audience upon a world of inhabitants already engaged in their own comings and goings, the environment invites free roaming to follow various characters, witness their interactions and immerse in what seems a disjointed bazaar of titillation and allegorical language.

But after wandering through a few of these “mini-plays,” which thrive on a trifecta of tremendous performance, artful arrangement and transcendent dialogue, and interacting with a few of the “people,” the place begins to feel familiar, the relations begin to congeal – there may even be an urge to lose oneself and join what starts to feel less and less like a performance, as if one were Ebenezer Scrooge visiting his past in “A Christmas Carol.”

The play, beyond its dream allegory, is ultimately about the value of the human condition, with a basic plot of the daughter of the god Indra coming to Earth to witness the suffering of mankind. Hope and remorse are ever-present, and it is difficult not to become attached to the characters and their aspirations.

Two Milton actors gave very affecting performances, with Emerson student Kendall Aiguier as a saucy 1930s-style vaudeville dancer and Craig Truax (who has appeared on the Milton Players stage) in multiple roles as “Doctor,” “Father” and “Puppet Master.” Both were great, in what is an unusual challenge for an actor: to play to a shifting, unpredictable, sometimes even absent audience.

Strindberg is often referred to as the “father of expressionism,” a pioneer as well of surrealism and a hulking influence over much 20th century drama. The knowledge and skill that it took to successfully adapt one of his most difficult-to-produce works, in an unconventional format for a modern audience in a few empty rooms in a YMCA, is considerable.

A strong debut for Watkins’ Pariah Theatre Company, and a definite do-not-miss.

Visit www.pariahtheatre.com for more information.

 

 

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