Music

The Stony Brook University Orchestra

By Melissa Arnold

Long Island’s own Billy Joel was once quoted as saying, “Music is an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by, no matter what culture we’re from.”

The Stony Brook University Orchestra has spent decades working to broaden musical appreciation and exposure not just on campus, but in the community as well. Each year, their Family Orchestra Concert invites people of all ages, including young children, to join them for an hour-long performance full of interesting compositions and audience engagement.

This year’s featured soloist, violinist Sophie Bowden

Dr. Susan Deaver is celebrating her 20th year as the orchestra’s conductor and an artist-in-residence at Stony Brook. With careful planning, Deaver programs each concert around a unique theme. “Brainstorming new themes is certainly a creative process. A particular piece might give me an idea, or some aspect of the music can inspire me,” she explained. 

This year’s theme, titled Orchestral Contrasts, will showcase differences in orchestral sounds and musical styles.”There are so many contrasts in music to explore — tempo, instruments, dynamics, moods, character, even different types of composers,” said Deaver, adding that the audience will get to experience this with the strings, woodwind, brass and percussion sections.

The orchestra is comprised of 79 undergraduates, 1 graduate student, four teaching assistants and four high school students from the University Orchestra’s Young Artist Orchestral Program who were invited to participate for college credit. While the group does contain music majors and minors, most members are pursuing other fields. To accommodate everyone, the members rehearses just one evening a week for three hours. 

“I have students that are studying biomedical engineering, computer science, astronomy, psychology, and many other subjects — the common thread among them is that they all love music and want to continue to be involved in it,” Deaver said.

An annual highlight of the orchestra concert is a performance from a special young guest — the winner of the Young Artist Program’s Concerto Competition. Since 1996, Stony Brook’s Young Artists Program has allowed students in grades 3 through 12 the chance to hone their musical skills and meet other young musicians, all under the guidance of Stony Brook staff. Most students participate on the weekends, while a separate program is available during the summer.

“The concerto competition began years ago as a way of giving our students the opportunity to play with the university,” said Michael Hershkowitz, Stony Brook’s director of concerts and executive director of community programs, including the Young Artists Program.

The concerto winner can be a student of any age and instrument type. Each hopeful soloist performs for a panel of three judges, which includes Deaver and two impartial judges. Past performers have been violinists, cellists, pianists, winds players, and even vocalists.

This year’s winner is 16-year-old violinist Sophie Bowden, a junior at St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. She will perform the first movement of Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61 by French Romantic composer Charles-Camille Saint-Saens.

“I like to express myself through my violin, and I like how it puts a smile on the faces of others. I perform a lot at nursing homes, especially during the holidays, where residents aren’t able to go out and see concerts. Bringing live, upbeat music to them does a lot to ease their depression; the vibe changes immediately,” said Bowden, who has played the violin since she was just 4 years old. 

Bowden, who said she is thrilled to have been chosen, admitted the audition process for the concerto competition was nerve-racking.  While she’s had smaller solos in the past, this will be her first time performing as a soloist with an orchestra. 

“Working with the university orchestra has really been a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. I found that playing this particular concerto with a full orchestra was much more difficult than playing it with a single piano accompanist. The Saint-Saens concerto is a romantic period composition, so it’s less structured and restrained than metered works of the Baroque era,” Bowden explained. “For everyone to stay together, we must listen closely and watch the conductor more than usual. Fortunately for me, the university orchestra has many extremely competent players, and Ms. Deaver has been very supportive.” 

Hershkowitz said that the concert provides a fun and accessible opportunity to learn more about orchestral music and what it’s like to be part of an orchestra.

“There aren’t a lot of concerts out there that are meant for families, and that’s what makes this event so special — it’s not too long, you don’t have to worry about whether or not the kids are going to ‘make it’ through the experience. We don’t concern ourselves with concert etiquette, so it’s OK if a child wants to ask a question, gets up from their seat or makes noise,” he explained. “It’s about giving everyone a chance to have an experience with a full orchestra, to watch a conductor in action, to learn a little about different instruments and to hear the music change.”

The 2020 Family Orchestra Concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3 on the Staller Center’s Main Stage at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook. Tickets are $5. To purchase or learn more, call the box office at 631-632-ARTS or visit www.stonybrook.edu/music.

Photos courtesy of Sophie Bowden

A scene from Theatre Three's 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'

By D. Bruce Lockerbie

D. Bruce Lockerbie

I see that Theatre Three is staging a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” highly praised by this newspaper’s critic. It’s one of our favorite musicals for both entertainment and personal reasons. We’ve seen several versions of the musical, including the 1982 Broadway production along with several school shows, and we look forward to seeing it again. Here’s why.

In 1974, our family was finishing a sabbatical year in Cambridge, England. The leave granted me by The Stony Brook School had given Lory and me an opportunity to take our three teenagers around the world — Asia, the Indian sub-continent, Africa, Israel, Europe, then Great Britain, where we settled for the final five months. 

The British academic calendar extends into early summer, and so we attended several of Cambridge University’s college plays —Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Charley’s Aunt, and other standard student productions. 

But the most memorable was a show we’d never heard of, staged in a small theatre in Market Square. According to its publicity, this was an ever-expanding trial run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat from its origins as a cantata being prepared for entry as a musical in the forthcoming Edinburgh Festival later that summer. 

It was a modest production: No orchestra, just two pianos, on one of which the 26-year old composer Andrew Lloyd Webber pounded out his catchy tunes. We loved the show and bought the newly released LP recording, which we played until its grooves wore thin. “Hey, hey, hey, Joseph, you know what they say?” and “Any dream will do” remain in memory. 

Three decades later, our older son Don — one of those teenagers — had grown into an international sports event producer, involved in staging FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl, among other events. In 2007, he was in charge of Cricket World Cup, hosted by nine nations in the West Indies. Lory and I went to see the matches being played in Saint Kitts, pitting Australia, Holland, Scotland, and South Africa against each other. Fans from around the world joined us to support the game the British Empire made popular.

A scene from Theatre Three’s ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

As parents of the man most responsible for the tournament, we were seated with various dignitaries in the St. Kitt’s President’s box.  

One afternoon, as lunchtime arrived and the match was solemnly suspended, we made our way to the dining area adjacent to the cricket grounds. Don whispered to me, “Do you know who’s just ahead of you? Sir Tim Rice.” 

The food line was moving slowly, so I took the opportunity to introduce my wife and me to the knighted lyricist and collaborator with Lloyd Webber. He was gracious, asking what a pair of Americans was doing at a World Cup cricket match. I explained why, then went on to say, “We saw one of your early productions of Joseph in a Cambridge theatre in 1974.”

“Did you recognize me in the cast?” he asked.

“No, not that I recall . . .,” I admitted.

“I was Pharaoh,” he replied with great laughter.

“Oh, I get it! The King!” I said, and we went on to enjoy lunch together. ‘

Those of you who have already seen the local or any other production of Joseph will understand the double joke that opens Act II of the show. I won’t spoil it for the rest of you.

During our meal, Sir Tim talked about how gifted his composer-collaborator is and told this story: One day, Andrew sat at a piano and played a few measures of a new song for his father, the organist-composer William Lloyd Webber. “What does that sound like?” the son asked his father, who replied, “It sounds like five billion pounds (money) to me!” The tune became “Memory” in the show Cats. “Andrew’s father was prophetic,” said Tim Rice.

We have our Theatre Three tickets for later this month. See you there.

D. Bruce Lockerbie, a longtime resident of the Three Villages, is the author/editor of 40 books and heads an international educational consulting agency called PAIDEIA, Inc.

Walt Whitman Birthplace, 246 Old Walt Whitman Road, Huntington Station presents an afternoon of Irish dancing on March 1 at 1 p.m. Children of all ages will enjoy an interactive performance by the Mulvihill-Lynch Studio dancers who will answer questions and teach some Irish dance steps. Followed by a guided tour of the museum. $9 per child, chaperones free. Visit www.waltwhitman.org or call 631-427-5240.

Ellis Paul. Photo by Tim Rice

STORIES FROM A SUITCASE

Ellis Paul heads to the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook on Feb. 23 for his 13th appearance in WUSB’s Sunday Street Series. The concert, held in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room, will take place at 3 p.m. The program will feature many of the songs from Ellis’ latest album, “The Storyteller’s Suitcase.” Tickets are $25 in advance at www.sundaystreet.org through Feb. 21, $30 at the door. Call 751-0066 for more information.

 Photo by Tim Rice

 

By Heidi Sutton

It was hard to discern who was having more fun during last Saturday night’s opening of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Theatre Three – the audience or the actors. The fast-paced family-friendly show, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is told almost entirely in song and makes for a wonderful time at the theater.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the musical opens where the Narrator (Sari Feldman) is telling a group of children the biblical story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis, about a young man who lives in Canaan with his father Jacob and his 11 brothers. 

A predictor of dreams, Joseph is his father’s favorite (he reminds him of his late wife), causing much resentment and jealousy among the remaining brothers. When Jacob gifts Joseph a “coat of many colors,” the brothers decide that they must get rid of the chosen son once and for all and sell him into slavery to passing Ishmaelites who take him back to Egypt. They tell their grief-stricken father that Joseph was killed in an accident.

Joseph becomes a household slave to a wealthy man named Potiphar but is soon accused of seducing his wife and thrown in jail. He is eventually summoned by the Pharaoh to analyze his recurring dream, and in turn saves Egypt from a seven-year drought. Back in Canaan his brothers are not so lucky and are starving to death. They decide to go to Egypt to ask the Pharaoh for help but encounter Joseph instead. Will he seek revenge or find it in his heart to forgive?

Supported by an uber talented cast (38 in all), C.J. Russo is brilliant as Joseph and shines in his solos “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.” Sari Feldman is terrific in the exhausting role of Narrator, shadowing Joseph and keeping his spirits up as he faces bad luck at every turn and leads the cast in an inspiring “Go, Go, Go Joseph.” Douglas Quattrock is hilarious in the duel role of Jacob and Potiphar and draws the most laughs with his perfect comedic timing.

Choreographed by Jean P. Sorbera, the many wonderful dance numbers in this huge production are each embraced by the cast with gusto, from the jaw-dropping country-western hoe-down “One More Angel in Heaven” featuring Kiernan Urso, the reggae inspired “Benjamin Calypso” with Londel Collier, the exotic Egyptian dance number “Potiphar” with Nicole Bianco and the too funny “Those Canaan Days” with Steven Uihlein. It is Andrew Lenahan’s Elvis-inspired “Poor, Poor Pharaoh”/”Song of the King,” however, that steals the show and brings the house down. 

The many colorful costumes designed by Ronald Green III, the live orchestra directed by Gregory P. Franz, incredible lighting by Robert W. Henderson Jr. and beautiful set by Randall Parsons tie it all together perfectly. Don’t miss this one.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” through March 21. The theater continues its 50th season with Robert Harling’s “Steel Magnolias” from April 4 to May 2 followed by the ’50s rock ‘n’ roll musical “Grease” from May 16 to June 21. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 students and seniors, $20 children ages 5 to 12. Wednesday matinees are $20. For more information or to order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Photos by Peter Lanscombe/ Theatre Three Productions, Inc.

SONGS SAY SO MUCH

It was bittersweet as the Book Revue in Huntington said goodbye to Jeff Sorg on Jan. 23. The singer/songwriter hosted his last Toddler Time at the bookstore, after performing there for 16 years. While he will continue to write music, Sorg said he plans to spend some time traveling with his wife, who recently retired. Parents and children joined Sorg for songs, some dancing and a puppet show and then met his replacement, Noah Packard (pictured on the right with Sorg) who’s first day is on Feb. 20. Thank you Jeff for the joy you have brought to so many children over the years. You will be missed. 

Photos by Heidi Sutton

The Harmonic Tides Quartet. Photo by Chris Beattie

They’re back! Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Harbormen, the local choral group affiliated with the national Barbershop Harmony Society, will be available in groups of four to sing in homes, offices, restaurants, hospitals, schools and more for the romantically inclined.

“A great home video memory,” as one satisfied customer said, not to mention a good Instagram story with each quartet in bright red blazers and bowties.

Love songs have great histories and each has its own way of getting to the heart. Some evoke longing, others celebrate the object of affection. “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” one of the songs that the Harbormen quartets sing to Valentines, was written in 1910 by Leo Friedman and Beth Slater Whitson. It went on to be recorded by Bing Crosby, the Mills Brothers, Pat Boone and was sung every year for decades by Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard on Mother’s Day. Bette Midler sang the song in “The Rose” and Shirley McLaine sang it in “Downton Abbey.”  It even ended up on the recent TV hit, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

Quartet members include scientists, salesmen, engineers, an air traffic controller, a chef, author and policeman, among others.

Fred Conway, a retired math teacher with the group since 1966, has sung in all kinds of situations.  “I remember showing up at an overcrowded bowling alley to deliver our songs to a bowler, and trudging through eight inches of snow to sing to a secretary and her audience of fifty amused colleagues.”

Herb Mordkoff, another member, remembers being hired to sing with his quartet to a waitress in a diner near MacArthur Airport one year, then being hired to return when her husband proposed. “Not a dry eye in the whole diner,” he said. A year and a half later, his quartet was singing for the couples’ child’s first birthday party.  

The package for $75 includes two songs, a box of chocolates, personalized card and a signature rose.  To book a quartet for a singing Valentine or any occasion, call 631-644-0129 or email music@harbormen.org. A portion of the proceeds go to the Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson.

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Photo from LIGMC

Voices wanted

The Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus invites you and your friends to join them in their first rehearsal of the season at the H. Lee Dennison Building, 100 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge on Wednesday, Jan. 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. No formal audition required. Unite with them in song and friendship. For more information, visit www.LIGMC.org.

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Stock photo

Choral auditions

The North Shore Chamber Choir will hold open auditions for all sections at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven, 1 Duke Road, Setauket on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. Rehearsals are held on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, call 631-504-0165 or email artisticdirector@nschamberchoir.org.