Music

The LISCA singers take a photo break at the base of Kiek in de Kök, a 38-meter high cannon tower in Tallinn, Estonia. Built in 1470, it houses an extensive museum of the town’s weapons and medieval era life. Photo by Candice Foley

This past July, singers from the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association “took to the skies” for the ninth time in their illustrious, 50-year history as a community chorus, bound this time for an eight-day performing and sight-seeing tour of three Baltic countries.

LISCA’S conductor, Thomas Schmidt, shared his reflections and impressions of the trip. “LISCA’s tour of the Baltic states was filled with surprises. Most of us weren’t even clear on where Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were when we left from JFK. Was Lithuania the northernmost one? Well no, it’s the southernmost one, bordering Poland and Belarus, with Latvia to the north and Estonia even further north, across the Baltic Sea from Finland.

Lithuania is mostly Catholic, whereas Latvia and Estonia are mostly Lutheran, although few practice any religion. Russians are still a large percentage of the area’s population, as much as 40 percent, although even now few of them are citizens. For most of their histories these three little countries have been ruled by other countries, Germany, Sweden, Poland and Russia.

But one of the major ways that they retained their sense of identity was through their choral tradition. Every four to five years there are gigantic choral festivals in each country, with singers dressed in their traditional, regional costumes. We saw the outdoor festival theater in Tallinn which overlooks the Baltic Sea. The stage has room for a mass choir of 20,000 and the audiences number in the hundreds of thousands. The festivals were a major way these countries maintained their unique cultures, languages and civic pride during times of foreign occupation.

So, it was not a surprise that LISCA’s concerts, held in the old 1799 City Hall in Vilnius, the 12th century, Gothic St. Peter’s Church in Riga, and the equally ancient St. Nicholas Church in Tallinn were received enthusiastically by full houses of educated listeners.

Each concert was dedicated to the memory of LISCA’s founder, Gregg Smith, who died at the age of 84 after a long illness on the morning we departed for the tour. The audience was told about his long career as one of America’s leading composers and choral conductors. Each concert ended by singing his hauntingly beautiful canon, ‘Now I Walk in Beauty.’”

The overwhelming concensus of those singers who ventured to travel to this unique part of the globe was unqualified satisfaction and enthusiasm. The people were warm and welcoming, the medieval buildings stunning and beautifully preserved, vitality blossoming everywhere. Independent since the Soviets left in 1991, these countries are finding their paths to flourish in the global economy and yet retain their national pride and cultural heritage.

LISCA’s singers are presently preparing for their annual winter concert to be held on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at the St. James Roman Catholic Church located at 429 Route 25A in Setauket. The program features Anton Bruckner’s “Mass in E Minor,” a beautiful but challenging and infrequently performed choral work accompanied by wind and brass instruments. It has been called “a work without parallel in either 19th or 20th century church music.” A Christmas Motet by Poulenc, two Gabrieli works with brass accompaniment and carols by Gregg Smith will complete the program.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and free for students. For further information please call 631-751-2743 or 631-941-9431.

Anima Brass Quintet

All Souls Church, located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook, will present a Saturdays at Six Concert on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. The Anima Brass Quintet will present a concert titled Brass Landscapes. Featured musicians will be John-Thomas Burson, Tom Pang, Austin Sposato, Michael B. Lockwood and Jeff Smith. Young artist Ava Reilly will perform a violin solo to open the program. There will be a 15-minute intermission and refreshments will be served. All are welcome and admission is free. A can of food donation is appreciated for the St. Cuthbert’s Food Pantry. For more information call 631-655-7798.

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will welcome Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright Roche in concert on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 3 p.m. for an afternoon of songs, great harmonies and stories. The mother/daughter duo bearing the names of two famous musical families is presented as part of the museum’s Sunday Street Concert Series, which is a collaboration with WUSB-FM, The Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and The Long Island Museum. All concerts take place in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room.

Advance sale tickets are $22 through Nov. 11 at www.sundaystreet.org. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $27 (cash only). For the full Sunday Street schedule visit www.sundaystreet.org or call 631-632-1093.

Three Village Chamber Players Natalie Kress, Anna Tsukervanik, Philip Carter and Alison Rowe perform. Photo by Donna Newman

Joni Mitchell once said, “I see music as fluid architecture.” The All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook Village gives people an opportunity to revel in both at once.

The Saturdays at Six program offers classical music in concert the third Saturday of each month at 6 p.m.

On a recent Saturday the musicians were members of the Three Village Chamber Players, a group of Stony Brook graduate students who have been performing there over the past year.

Violinist Leah Caravello opens the show. Photo by Donna Newman
Violinist Leah Caravello opens the show. Photo by Donna Newman

“Our mission is to enrich our community through artistic excellence, providing musical performances of the highest caliber free to the public,” reads the statement on the group’s Facebook page.

For its part, the church shares the Players’ mission of serving the community.   

“The church’s doors are open every day so people can enter for prayer or reflection,” said Welcoming Chairman Daniel Kerr, while introducing the concert. Further, the church displays an active commitment to the arts with its Saturday programs that offer music, meditation and poetry on a regular basis, he said.

This program included Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C major — nicknamed “Dissonance” — and, after an intermission, Ravel’s String Quartet in F major. Performers included the group’s director Natalie Kress, Anna Tsukervanik, Philip Carter (violins) and Alison Rowe (cello).

As an added treat, one of Kress’ violin students, five-year-old Leah Caravello, played a short piece.

The next Saturdays at Six concert will take place Nov. 19, when the members of the Anima Brass Quintet will perform.

Although the concert is free and open to all, a nonperishable food item donation is requested, and a “performer’s appreciation donation basket” is available, should people wish to contribute.

'Children in the Park' by Sylvia Kirk

Above, ‘Children in the Park’ by Sylvia Kirk

By Kevin Redding

A classical piano recital  by Alexandria Le will be held in conjunction with the art exhibit. Photo from Ed Mikell
A classical piano recital by Alexandria Le will be held in conjunction with the art exhibit. Photo from Ed Mikell

For the opening of its seventh season as the premiere classical music series on Long Island, Le Petit Salon de Musique will do something a little different and more ambitious than any of its previous events. On Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2 p.m., not only will there be a grand presentation of a variety of classical compositions — performed by Carnegie Hall chamber pianist Alexandria Le — but also a gallery of local art that will serve as visual representation of the concert’s main piece: Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s stunning “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

The famous 10-movement suite was written in 1874 in response to the death of artist Viktor Hartmann, one of Mussorgsky’s dearest friends, and intended to be “evocative of a walk through an art exhibit.” Beginning with an artist reception on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. and continuing through Oct. 31, the community will be able to take that walk at Pictures at an Exhibition: Revisited at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Stony Brook.

Coordinators of the event, from left, Sylvia Kirk and Linda and Ed Mikell. Photo by Kevin Redding
Coordinators of the event, from left, Sylvia Kirk and Linda and Ed Mikell. Photo by Kevin Redding

Ed and Linda Mikell, the Commack residents behind the concert series, sought to honor the whole theme of the piece and with the help of exhibit curator Sylvia Kirk, 16 local artists working in different forms of media were chosen to visually represent and accompany the music. Linda, who is a former voice major and music teacher, had been a fan of this specific suite for a while when she discovered that Le would be performing it. “It’s one of my favorite pieces,” she said, “and I just kept thinking ‘wouldn’t it be fabulous if we could enlist some local photographers and artists for this?’ and I immediately thought of Sylvia, who kind of curates our little gallery here when we have a show. She knew so many photographers and we have a bunch of artists in the Fellowship so we met three times at my house, played the music, explained what the composer envisioned, and then people just went off and came back with their art.”

Kirk, whose own work will be included in the exhibition, rounded up a wide variety of artistic talent from the area, opening it up to anybody that did anything in any medium. Gallery visitors will see a quilt piece, a pastel piece, paintings, and a large focus on photography — which has lent itself especially well to the concepts within each movement.

“There are 16 artists and 23 pieces [overall], so some artists have two pieces,” said Kirk. “There’s three or four photo montages, two of them did digital art — they do all kinds of things digitally with their photographs — and many of us just took straight photos.” According to Kirk, some of the artists have decided to donate their work to be sold. As is the case for the musicians, their proceeds will be split with the fellowship.

'The Old Castle' by Jerry Levy.
‘The Old Castle’ by Jerry Levy.

Some of the 10 movements include the dark and melancholy sounds of “The Gnome” and “The Old Castle,” more lighthearted scherzos like “The Ballet of Unhatched Chicks in their Shells,” and the triumphant “The Great Gate at Kiev.”

The Artists:

Linda Anderson, Bruce S.G. Barrett, Doris Diamond, Julie Doczi, Susan Dooley, Jan Golden, Faye Graber, Merrill Heit, Kathee Kelson, Sylvia Kirk, Lily Klima, Jerry Levy, Eric Lohse,  Frances McGuire, Keelin Murphy and Len Sciacchitano

“Each movement has a picture associated with it,” said Ed. “I said to my wife that we should have a description or an explanation of what it is that the artists have addressed when they put their pieces together, a description of the events and what’s being interpreted.”

The Mikells, who launched the concert series in 2010 with Le as its first performer, want to continue giving those in attendance — performers and audiences alike — a great experience. “Everybody who comes out over the years have wonderful things to say,” said Ed. “They don’t really know or care what’s playing. They just know it’s going to be quality stuff.”

“People travel all the way into the city to hear this quality of music,” added Linda, “but it’s right here. You can walk right in the door, sit, and be 10 feet from the performers.”

Le Petit Salon de Musique, 380 Nicolls Road, East Setauket will welcome Alexandria Le in concert on Oct. 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 adults ($15 online), $15 seniors ($10 online) and $5 for students. For more information, call 751-0297 or visit www.lepetitsalon.org.

James Maddock comes to the LIM on Sept. 18. Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews

Americana and folk

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will welcome singer/songwriter James Maddock in concert on Sunday, Sept. 18 at 5 p.m. as part of the museum’s Sunday Street Series.

British born James Maddock was first recognized in the U.S as leader of the band Wood whose song “Stay You” was included in the first Dawson’s Creek compilation. After taking an extended break from record making, Maddock moved to New York City and returned to the scene in late 2009 with the exquisite collection of songs, Sunrise On Avenue C. Maddock followed “Sunrise” in 2011 with Wake Up and Dream and his last album, Another Life, was was frequently mentioned on “Best of the Year” lists for 2013. WFUV and Sirius XM host Vin Scelsa says “Maddock’s talent has a timeless quality he shares with the great songwriters. His music touches the soul.” His live performances show Maddock to be one of the most engaging and exciting artists on the acoustic music scene. Chris J. Connolly will open the show.

Advance sale tickets may be purchased at www.sundaystreet.org for $25 through Sept. 16 with remaining tickets at the door, if available, for $30 (cash only). The concert will take place in the Gillespie Room located in the Carriage Museum. The Sunday Street Series is a not-for-profit series sponsored by the collaboration of WUSB-FM, The Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and The Long Island Museum. For more information, visit www.sundaystreet.org or call 631-632-1093.

Above, the Eastbound Freight Bluegrass band in front of the Port Jefferson Village Center. Photo by Amy Tuttle

By Philip Griffith

On the soft summer evening of Aug. 31, another friendly audience viewed and listened to the Eastbound Freight Bluegrass band [in Port Jefferson]. It was the final of nine free Sunset Concerts of the 2016 season. Raindrops moved picnic suppers, blankets and chairs into the comfortable confines of the Port Jefferson Village Center overlooking the Harborfront Park and Long Island Sound.

Listening to the traditional bluegrass music, I was reminded of my family’s visits to Clarksburg, West Virginia. It was there in my grandparent’s home that my father and his 12 brothers and sisters grew up.

During their childhood and adult years, my father and uncles were coal miners. Like the Welsh coal-mining family in the Academy Award winning 1941 motion picture, “How Green Was My Valley,” the miners performed their dangerous work with manly pride and all contributed their meager wages to their mother.

The West Virginia heroes were John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers, socialist candidate for U.S. president Eugene Debs and union organizer Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a. Mother Jones. My grandfather and his sons were part of the bitter labor union struggles of coal miners.

During the 1930s Depression, my father migrated to New York City to find work, but he always loved his roots in the mountain state. On our family’s frequent visits to his childhood homestead, there would always be warm gatherings of families and friends.

At those reunions, there would be much food, drink and always the playing of their own brand of Appalachian Mountain country music. This family ritual provided a joyful respite from the rigors of coal mining. It was at those gatherings that I first hear and forever loved old-time country and bluegrass music. The Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, wrote, “Music is the art which is most near to tears and memory.”

I do not know what other recollections were engendered among the audience by these pure sounds of American bluegrass, but I’m certain it triggered a toe tapping, hand-clapping response. After both the last tune and an encore, the audience gave Bill Ayasse, Bruce Barry, John Bricotti, Bill De Turk and Dave Thompson standing ovations of appreciation.

These annual Sunset Concerts are a valuable artistic contribution to the wonderful life in the Village of Port Jefferson. Thank you to everyone who gives us this musical gift each year since 2009.

The author is a resident of Port Jefferson.

Editor’s note: The Sunset Concert series is sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council.

Folk rock duo The Kennedys perform on the Backstage Porch during last year’s Fiddle & Folk Festival. Photo from Bob Benner

By Rita J. Egan

The sounds of bluegrass, blues and folk music will fill the air at Benner’s Farm once again when the homestead hosts the fifth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival on Sept. 11. Presented by Homestead Arts, Benner’s Farm, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and WUSB Radio, the festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine.

“It’s kind of a laid back, easy going, good sounding old-time festival,” Bob Benner, owner of the farm, said. The Benners began hosting the festival a few years ago after the owner and the late Gerry Riemer, a board member of Homestead Arts, were discussing the possibility of a September event on the property. The two remembered how much fun the Fiddle & Folk Fest, formerly held on the property of the Long Island Museum, was and began to ask people what they thought of the event being held at Benner’s. They received positive feedback, and Benner said that the first two years the Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) worked with them on the event.

The combination of music and a farm setting has turned out to be a successful one, and Benner estimates the number of attendees last year to be around 500. “It’s completely different than any other concert I’ve ever been to, because it’s a farm and people can wander around,” the owner said.

Benner said attendees are welcome to explore the organic, solar-powered working farm while listening to the music, and with people so connected to their cell phones and other gadgets nowadays, he enjoys seeing people interacting with each other and connecting with nature. “Every time that people come here it is just so enjoyable to see them wandering around, looking at animals, looking at the garden,” he said. The farm owner enjoys the music at the festival, too. “I’m not a musician’s musician, so I enjoy very much listening to some of the groups that come that I don’t normally hear,” he said.

Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, said one of the things she loves about the festival is seeing family members and friends coming together and enjoying the music. “It’s easy to enjoy the festival. It’s not overcrowded, and it’s a chance to see not only some very talented local performers but internationally known performers in a very relaxed setting,” she said.

Sponsored by The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company and emceed by Bob Westcott, the festival will feature headliners Steve Forbert, the Feinberg Brothers Band, the Claudia Jacobs Band and Jeff Davis and Maria Fairchild playing on the Backporch Stage. Tuttle said Forbert is internationally known for his hits in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The singer of “Romeo’s Tune” recently released the album “Compromised,” which the program director said sounds terrific. “We’re reaching out to a bigger music community by bringing Steve Forbert in,” she said.

Reaching out to a bigger music community helps with the main goal of the festival. “The mission is to connect the artists with an audience that appreciates what they do — it’s pretty similar to what the arts council’s mission is and what WUSB’s mission is,” Tuttle said. According to the program director, Jeff Davis is also well known in the world of traditional folk music. On Sept. 11, he will be playing fiddle, and Maria Fairchild will be joining the musician on banjo. Tuttle says the duo has a big following of fans of old-time music. “I love it all. Most people who come to this festival like the folk songwriter music, but all the performers are very good in their own style,” Tuttle said.

The festival also offers a Contra Dance with a live band led by Rusty Ford as well as a Kids Corner where children can enjoy stories and music.

Benner said the featured artists will meet and hold workshops at the Shady Grove Stage close to the woods, and Charlie Backfish of WUSB radio will be on hand to host the activities. Attendees can participate in the Fiddle Workshop at Jam Hollow, too, and bring their own instruments to join in on the musical fun.

“It gives people a chance to either sit back and be entertained or participate wherever they feel comfortable,” added Tuttle.

Benners Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Admission to the festival is $18 for adults and $13 for children and seniors. Bring seating. For more information, please call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.

Eastbound Freight will come to Stony Brook on Sept. 9. Photo courtesy of LIM

Bluegrass fans rejoice! The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook in conjunction with the Bluegrass Club of Long Island will welcome Eastbound Freight with the Jeff Davis Maria Fairchild Duo for an evening of live bluegrass in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room on Friday, Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m.

The band members share a life-long connection to the music and a love for the big bluegrass sound of the original groups: Bill Monroe and the Bluegras Boys, Flatt & Scruggs, The Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys and others. Their repertoire includes tunes popularized by these groups as well as many original songs by banjo player Bill DeTurk.

Advance tickets may be purchased at www.longislandbluegrass.org for $14. If available, full-priced tickets may be purchased at the door (cash only) for $20. For questions, please contact bcli@gmail.com.

On Aug. 23, and despite Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) being unable to attend, Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) introduced Beatles cover band Strawberry Fields as the second-to-last free concert as part of a four-part series this summer at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Rocky Point. Hundreds flocked to see the band perform early and later songs in the Beatles’ career and danced the night away as band members rocked the stage. Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, a Billy Joel tribute band with roots in Miller Place, will perform the last concert of the series on Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.