Music

The garden bench dedicated in memory of Ellen Michelmore. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

Friends and family gathered at the garden at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson to dedicate a bench in memory of the late Ellen Michelmore on July 24. Michelmore, who served as the theater’s resident musical director for more than 25 years, passed away this May at the age of 63 after a five-year courageous battle with leiomyosarcoma, a cancer that infects muscle tissue. “Ellen loved this theater,” said her husband Jeff Lange. “She was the bravest soul I ever knew,” he added.

Ellen Michelmore and her husband Jeff Lange File photo
Ellen Michelmore and her husband Jeff Lange. File photo

A gold plate on the bench is inscribed with the lyrics from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”:

Try ‘n’ to get my soul free

We are stardust We are golden

And we got to get ourselves

Back to the garden.

Reached by phone Monday afternoon, Theatre Three’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel said the lyrics were chosen because “those were the opening lyrics to our ‘Summer ‘69: Return to Woodstock’ that Ellen sang in the very first production. It’s where it all started — it has so many levels in its meanings.”

Jean Sorbera, who had been Theatre Three’s resident choreographer for many years, purchased the bench and donated it. It now sits alongside memorials for two other members of the Theatre Three family gone too soon, Brent Erlanson and Bonnie Vidal.

During the ceremony, Michelle LaPorte and Gerry Saulter performed a moving rendition of “Progressions para Pauline,” a flute and guitar piece by Argentinian composer Luiz José Merlin, in Ellen’s honor.

A reception followed at the theater’s Second Stage. Sanzel gave a toast to Michelmore with her favorite wine, Prosecco, saying, “There are no words,” as he choked back tears. Scanning the packed room, it was incredible to see how many lives Michelmore had touched over the years.

For actors Hans Paul Hendrickson, Steven Uihlein, Sarah E. Bush and TracyLynn Conner, memories of Ellen were practically identical — how she made them feel welcome when they first arrived and helped them perfect their craft. Conner said she and Ellen formed a close personal relationship and would get together often to sing. Conner wore a pair of Ellen’s shoes to the dedication.

“I absolutely adored Ellen and miss her very, very much. She was like family to me,” said actor Steve Ayle. “We worked together at Theatre Three for the last 25 years, most recently playing opposite each other in the [2015] One Act Play Festival’s ‘Quack.’ Ellen was warm and kind beyond compare, her talent immeasurable, and her big, bright eyes reflected her remarkably positive and enduring spirit, even in the face of her illness. She will live on forever in my heart and soul.”

Douglas Quattrock, who has been at the theater full time since 2002 but has been acting there since the mid-80s, was clearly moved by the dedication. “Besides being one of the most caring and genuine people you could ever meet, Ellen was also an inspiration,” said a tearful Quattrock. “Even though I have never had any formal training in composing music, Ellen always encouraged me to do it. ‘Just play what’s in your heart’ is what she would say. I was honored to work on so many shows with her.”

Michelmore was such an integral part of the Theatre Three family that she was honored with a musical tribute “Ellen Michelmore: Notes From The Heart,” in 2014. The evening featured singers, actors and musicians who had been blessed to work with her. “Jeff [Sanzel] asked me to write a song for Ellen [for the tribute],” continued Quattrock. “The opening lyric that immediately came to my mind was ‘You’re The Music, You’re The Song.’ To me, that was Ellen … She was the music.”

Actor and musician Kevin Story also reflected on his time with Michelmore, saying, “Ellen was a unique light. From the moment I set foot inside Theatre Three over ten years ago, she was encouraging and supportive, a great mentor, colleague and friend. There are really no words, as Jeff said.”

Sanzel said that Theatre Three’s Aug. 19 and 20 performances of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” a musical created by Michelmore, will be dedicated to her memory. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In addition, Sanzel said a plaque bearing the inscription, “Ellen Michelmore: The Spirit of Music Ever Present” will be placed in the orchestra pit and “a portrait of Michelmore will be commissioned for the lobby.”

Kevin Story surely spoke for all who attended the ceremony that day, saying, “We’ve all been touched by Ellen in an amazing way, and we can only hope her light will continue to shine through us somehow. She will be missed.”

Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks. Photo by John Broven

Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks performed for hundreds of concertgoers at the Port Jefferson/Northern Brookhaven Arts Council’s Sunset Concert at the Harborfront Park last Wednesday. The group entertained the crowd with tunes from Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as their original music including “Who’s Sharing the Moon” and “It Should Rain” and received a standing ovation at the end of the night. Photo by John Broven

Tom Manuel, back row in black jacket, and the Jazz Loft Big Band performed at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Sunday Summer Concerts on the Green on July 24. As the sun set over Stony Brook Harbor, the band played many jazz favorites including “Woodchopper’s Ball,” “Satin Doll,” “Jackson County Jubilee” and closed out the night with “One Mint Julep.” Corinne Schaller, a Long Island’s Got Talent finalist opened the show.  Photo by Heidi Sutton

From left, Todd Evans, Terri Hall, Gary Settoducatto, Christine Kellar and Henry Diaz in concert at the Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson Photo by Heidi Sutton

Sunset Concert

Sunset concert

He-Bird, She-Bird (acoustic roots Americana) kicked off the Port Jefferson–Northern Brookhaven Arts Council’s 2016 Sunset Concert series (formerly the Picnic Supper Concert series) on July 6. The event, which took place at the Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park, drew a large, enthusiastic crowd.

The group, featuring Todd Evans, Terri Hall, Christine Kellar and “sidebirds” Gary Settoducatto on drums and bassist Henry Diaz (special guests for the evening), sang tunes from Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Buddy Miller, Adele and Hazel Dickens as well as original songs by Kellar including “Once I Called You Mine.”

Up next for the trio is an appearance at IRIE Therapeutic Riding Program annual fundraiser at Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow on July 21, Garden of Eve’s Tomato Festival (August) and Garlic Festival (September) in Riverhead. Their debut CD will be released at the end of the summer. For more information, visit www.HeBirdSheBird.com.

Singer/songwriter Sophie Hintze. Photo by Michael Rosengard, North Island Photography

By Sue Wahlert

2014 was a fabulous year for 17-year-old Setauket resident Sophie Hintze. After a culmination of artistic sufferings and successes, the Ward Melville High School senior was recently courted and signed as a singer/songwriter by BMG Chrysalis, an international company focusing on the management of music publishing and recording rights.

“Sophie is the youngest person that I have committed to. This girl has it!” said Kris Muñoz, senior director, business & legal affairs for BMG Chrysalis. Muñoz continued, “We need to have folks with drive, energy and work ethic. Sophie has all of this and more!” Through a journey that began at home in Setauket, continued at school, and branched out into the world of theater and jazz performances in New York City, Hintze has reached a place most 17-year- olds only dream of.

With the loving support of her parents, sister and others, she began her job with BMG, a company that will nurture her full potential as a songwriter and singer. Dina LaPolt, of LaPolt Law in Los Angeles, who represents Hintze and artists such as Steven Tyler, Mick Fleetwood and Deadmau5, brought Hintze to the attention of music companies after hearing her song, “Better Off Alone.” LaPolt remarked upon meeting Hintze, “She has a star quality that is not something that comes lightly. It has only happened a few times in my career,” similar to when she met Stacy Ann Ferguson, better known as Fergie.

Lise Hintze, Sophie’s mother, recollects, “Being a singer was her dream since she was a little girl.” Sophie talked about her early beginnings with music, “When I was in elementary school, I would secretly write songs in a book, which I still have. I would sing these songs to my dog, Maybelle and my family. I wouldn’t tell them it was mine, and if they reacted, I knew it was something good. To this day, I still do this. Great songs demand attention.”

With her passion for writing, she was already laying the path for her future successes. However, the beginning did not go smoothly for Hintze. In junior high, she was rejected from a school play and it was devastating, albeit a blessing in disguise. Hintze said, “I felt like a failure, but I believed I had the talent and I wasn’t going to let anyone stop me.”

So with the support of her mom and dad, she turned to theater workshops in New York City to keep her dream alive. Her first stop was Broadway Workshop, a company that develops and produces educational workshops and full-scale productions.

Her first audition with Broadway Workshop, for “Legally Blonde,” was met with immediate success. Hintze recalls, “It was insane. They asked if I was free the next day for a callback!” This encouraged Hintze and she continued with Broadway Workshop into 10th and 11th grades, playing Calliope in the musical comedy “Xanadu” and Miss Gardner in “Carrie.” With a dedicated spirit, Hintze’s mother drove her to New York City every Saturday and Sunday. “Being around the caliber of talent in New York City fueled me. Their support has been overwhelming,” said a grateful Hintze.

During her time with Broadway Workshop, Hintze cemented her desire to become a performer. She also began singing with the Matt Baker Trio at Le Cirque, Somethin’ Jazz Club and the Metropolitan Room, starting at the age of 15. Additionally, she took on the role of Rapunzel in “Into the Woods” at her high school.

Then, in the summer of 2013, she was singing at Frank Melville Memorial Park during one of its Wind Down Sundays concerts, and songwriter/producer Anthony D’Erasmo approached Hintze and asked if she would be interested in recording some of her music. It was during this time she wrote and recorded “Better Off Alone,” a song that became the catalyst for her new career.

This valuable song, which Hintze copyrighted, became the center of a dispute with a music library. The Hintzes reached out to LaPolt for guidance. LaPolt gave them advice, and as an aside, Sophie e-mailed her the recording of “Better Off Alone.” That was the spark that ignited all that was to follow. LaPolt said, “I was like, this is an amazing song!” After sending the song to a few colleagues in the business, it landed in the hands of Kris Muñoz, who said to LaPolt, “Don’t send that song to anyone else!” While LaPolt had other offers for Hintze, a choice was made and Thomas Scherer, executive vice president of writer services at BMG, flew out to the BMG offices in New York City to meet with Hintze.

Scherer echoed the thoughts of both LaPolt and Muñoz, “She has tremendous star quality!” BMG was ready to make a commitment to this young songwriter, to work with her to develop her talents. In August of 2014, Hintze found herself at the offices of BMG in Los Angeles overlooking the Hollywood Hills, where she signed her contract as both a songwriter and an artist.

“We want Sophie to develop into a normal human being,” said Muñoz, referring to Hintze finishing high school and attending college in September at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

BMG’s Muñoz said, “We want to take Sophie’s existing talent and see how she blossoms.” The process involves introducing her to writers and producers to see what kind of music she can produce for other artists. Hintze reiterated BMG’s support, saying, “They are very supportive of me, and I couldn’t ask for a better team.

They are home to some of my biggest inspirations in the industry and I feel honored to be a part of the BMG family. My goal isn’t to be famous — it is to be successful.”

2015 holds great promise for Hintze, with amazing opportunities for learning, creating, and making her mark in the music industry. Check her out at www.sophiehintze.com.

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