Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dance company balances issues and art

Jackie Ball and Vincent Lopez 
working on "Balance"

Perched atop a seven foot-tall metal cube, a young woman begins reading from a roll of paper. As she haltingly speaks the words about sale of property and evacuation of premises the paper unfurls toward the floor.

A little later she fall backward out of the box and she is caught by a young man. They make a journey of movement and emotions across the floor of a dance studio.

The two are part of a group of seven dancers making the new piece titled “Balance” for the Wideman/Davis Dance Company.

The piece is about homelessness told sometimes through direct references to home (that box), writings about and by the homeless, and pure movement. It’s the first piece the company has fully created in and about Columbia since Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis arrived in the spring to teach at the University of South Carolina where their group is in residence.

“Balance” is collaboration between the theater and dance department, psychology faculty researching homelessness and the English department class “Reading and Writing about American Representations of Homelessness.”

 “This is about taking part in a larger dialogue about issues and effort to become part of the community as well,” Davis says.

“It’s not all just about pretty dancing,” Wideman-Davis adds.

During recent rehearsals, where much of the dance was still being created, there was a fair share of formally beautiful, if not necessarily pretty, dancing that’s part of the piece set to the music of contemporary composers David Lange and Mark Mellits.

While the title “Balance” can refer to dancing it also speaks to the razor’s edge many people walk to keep a roof above and floor below. A few missed paychecks or an illness is all it takes to send many onto the street.

When Thaddeus Davis and Tanya Wideman-Davis first moved to Columbia they drove down Assembly Street every morning just as people streamed from the Oliver Gospel Mission. Later they noticed the street people of try to remain invisible.

Lopez, Ball and Hannah Langerway

“They just try to blend in,” Davis said. “But you’d see some people sitting and sitting and sitting and three hours later you’d go by and they’d still be sitting.”

One day they kept seeing a couple with a child in a stroller – first here, then there, then somewhere else. They obviously had no place to go.

The couple began teaching a movement class at a shelter for families and one day spied a woman they hadn’t seen at the shelter in a while. She was outside a grocery store with a man who appeared to be bullying her. They discovered it was the time of month when assistance checks arrived. People are able to leave shelters and also liable to suddenly see old friends who didn’t know them when their pockets were empty.

When Davis spoke about the woman outside the grocery, he said he recognized her by the profile of her body and the way she moved.

These sorts of experiences and observations - the facts and the poetry - with which the company intends to imbue “Balance.”

This is similar to the approach Wideman/Davis took in "Based on Images" from earlier this year, dealing with issues surround the emotional and physical toll of Hurricane Katrina, and an earlier dance inspired by the famous quilts of Gee's Bend, Ala., and the women who made them. The couple, who met while with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded their group six years ago.

The dancer atop the cube, Jackie Ball, isn’t happy with how she sounds reading the legalese off the long scroll. She thinks she sounds dumb.

“This person has never seen this paper before,” Davis explains to her. “You have to read it inquisitively. This is from an actual document. This is what they send you when they’re gonna take your stuff.”

When Ball, a tiny, muscular student, climbs down from the top of her “house” she and dancer Vincent Lopez head across the floor, confronting and comforting one another, sliding around and ending in a shout, that slips down and starts to disappear.

Like so many of the homeless attempt to do.


Davis, Wideman-Davis,
Lopez and Ball

While “Balance” isn’t meant to bum anyone out (and for those who want to know more, the company will hold an audience feedback session after each show), it will be balanced by a more upbeat work.

  “Rock and My Soul” celebrates the spirit of Woodstock, the giant music festival that happened 40 years ago with a bit of exuberance set to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Curtis Mayfield.

Prior to the Wideman-Davis performance, USC students will perform pieces by Celia Rowlson-Hall, a New York choreographer best-known for fashion and video choreography; Peter Garick, a South Carolina native, former dancer and manager of the Winnepeg Ballet and director of the Duluth School of Dance; and Hannah Lagerway, a Wideman-Davis company member; along with five student-choreographed pieces.

Wideman/Davis Dance, 8 p.m.
Student showcase, 6 p.m.
Drayton Hall Theatre, Sumter and College streets. Tickets for both are $16. (803) 251-2222.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eat up - then work it off with some art

Happy Thanksgiving – my favorite holiday.

This is usually when the start of nothing starts. Holidays upon us, the arts, other than a barrage of “Nutcrackers,” disappear.

Well not this year. But this year has been like that. 

We’re in the middle of this recession and I’ve barely had a chance to kayak there's so much going on. 

Now not all of it is GOOD, but there is a lot of it.
Kind of like turkey and pumpkin pie. It is what it is.

 The next few days are dead, but next week we get the last blast of the year.

Thursday, Nov. 26
Turkey day
Eat. Walk. Dessert. Nap. Eat. Walk. Eat. Eat. Dessert. Sleep.

"On the Edge" by Michael Brodeur
                                                            in "Contemporary Conversations" 

Friday – Sunday, Nov. 27 – 29
You really don’t want to be out shopping this weekend. 
Instead visit some art shows and if you need to buy something buy art.
On the list:
Wanda Stepp and Harriett Marshall Goode at City Art Gallery.
The various shows at the Columbia Museum of Art, especially Larry Clark’s “Tulsa” which will make you very thankful on the weekend after following Thanksgiving that you aren’t in any of his photos. 
Although I don't care much for actual exhibition itself, part two of "Contemporary Conversations: The State Art Collection" at 701 Center for Contemporary Art has some very fine work in it. 


If you happen to be taking a holiday weekend in Charleston you can see some great exhibitions.

“Mega Churches,” a photography show by Joe Johnson, at Redux Contemporary Art Center. (left)

The show of recent Brian Rutenberg paintings at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

The new Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston and the mega-solo show by the South Carolina artist Aldwyth that’s there.

The City Gallery at Waterfront Park has a rare showing by non-Charleston artists. “Aesthetic Sanctuary” is made up of individual and collaborative artworks by Michael Krajewski (his "Shirt, Shoes," right) of Columbia and Justice Littlejohn of Greenville. (843) 958-6484.

All this makes me want to go to Charleston.

Monday, Nov. 30

Selling out by USC art
OK, if you really MUST buy something the USC art department is the place to go.
Prints, ceramics, fabric works by students and faculty members will be for sale from 9 to 6 today and Tuesday. The department is at Senate and Pickens streets. (803) 777-4236.

Tuesday, Dec. 1

 Jackie Bell and Vincent Lopez working on "Balance"

Dancing for the next few days
The “Nutcrackers” are upon us, but that's not the only dance around. The USC dance program and Wideman/Davis Dance, the in-residence dance company at the university, hook up for a double dose of more contemporary work today through Friday.

Wideman/Davis are debuting “Balance,” a work about homelessness, created in collaboration with the university writing and psychology programs. The piece is generated directly from interaction with the homeless of Columbia.

“This is the first piece we’ve done here that’s about this place,” said Thaddeus Davis who runs the company with his wife Tanya Wideman-Davis. (That's the couple at right)

 “Balance” is both narrative and theatrical as well as pure dance.  It includes the dancers reading pieces by and about the homeless and at times working within a skeletal house-like set piece. It is set to the music of David Lange and Marc Mellits (who was a visiting composer at USC earlier this year.)

 The title refers to the fine balance many in society must walk to keep a roof over the head.

On a more upbeat note the company will also perform “Rock and My Soul,” an exuberant piece inspired by the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. It is also new and is set to music by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Curtis Mayfield.

Wideman/Davis starts at 8, right after another dance performance ends.

At 6 p.m. student-based performance has been created by Celia Rowlson-Hall, a New York choreographer who has done a lot of music video dance;  Peter Garick, formerly of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and Hannah Lagerway, a dancer with Wideman/Davis Dance as well as five student pieces.
 The dancing is at Drayton Hall Theatre, located at Sumter and College streets. Tickets for both are $16. (803) 251-2222.
(Come back Sunday for more about "Balance.")

Tuesday, Dec. 1
A new kind of holiday concert with the S.C. Philharmonic

During the past few weeks we’ve heard concerts by the pipa, a Chinese lute, the shofar, a horn made from  a horn, and the h’arpeggione, an 18-string hybrid of cello and guitar. Now for a more familiar instrument, the banjo, but in a unique setting.
Oh, and you might have heard of the banjo player – Bela Fleck.
The banjo player, who has performed with every kind of musicians imaginable, and his band the Flecktones join the S.C. Philharmonic tonight for a holiday concert called “Jingle All the Way.”

The “Jingle All the Way” recording, released late last year, won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental recording. The tunes, which will be the heart of the concert, are well-loved modern classics “Jingle Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” “Silent Night,” along with “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” by Tchaikovsky and Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio.” 

Expect the tunes played by Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, percussionist (if that’s what you want to call everything he does) Futureman and saxophonist Jeff Cohen, to sound a little different than you’re used to.

This is one of the only Flecktones and symphony couplings this season. You can thank philharmonic music director Morihiko Nakahara for that.  Last year Nakahara conducted the Spokane Symphony with the Flecktones and they hit it off.

The concert starts at 8 at the Koger Center. Tickets are $40 to $70. If you’d like to eat, drink and meet the band a party is taking place after the show. Admission is by a $50 tax-deductible donation.
For concert tickets (803) 251-2222 or For the party 254-7445.

More art to buy
OK, if you still have to buy something, the Trenholm Artists Guild will have fine and decorative arts made by members. The show and sale and stores runs through Dec. 19 at Forest Park Plaza (the shopping center with the Piggly Wiggly (don't you miss Harris Teeter?) on Forest Drive.)  

 Wednesday, Dec. 2 
Young composers unveil new pieces in a concert starting at 7:30. Expect the unexpected at the free concert at the USC Music School, Assembly and College streets.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A nude by Jim Arendt of Columbia . He says of it, "Tasteful, but vulgar as all-get-out."
Send your nudes - drawings, paintings, sculptures and works made from Thanksgiving leftovers - to

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What's missing from state art collection

“Contemporary Conversations: The State Art Collection” and the recently-published catalog covering art added to the collection during the past 20 years have been the let-downs of the 2009.

The two-part exhibition culled from the 500-work collection maintained by the S.C. Arts Commission and the catalog miss almost every opportunity to connect to the viewer. (The second part at the 701 Center for Contemporary, through Dec. 6, at least looks much better than the first part. For a review of the first show look at the Oct. 18 posting on this site.)

The catalog I thought might illuminate the collection – who are they artists, what defines the collection and South Carolina art, how were the artists influenced by this place and how did it impact them? Nope, it is just as vague as the exhibitions and unlike the shows it will be with us for two decades rather than two months. (An earlier catalog covers the works acquired by the state from '67 to '87.)

These shows and catalog got me thinking about something else the Arts Commission hasn't addressed:  looking at what's in and, more importantly, not in the collection. The collection has works by artists who just aren’t very good nor important in the big scheme. Some artists are represented in the collection by old work, while they are still creating good or better art. (Phil Moody and Robert Courtright come to mind.) Their newer art should be in the collection as well.

But the flaw is the truly important artists who aren’t in the collection at all. Here are a few:

Virginia Scotchie, (top image) probably the most active, successful and well-known artist who lives in South Carolina. Scotchie, who does ceramic sculptures, has exhibitions, gives workshops and lectures, and teaches all over the world (as well as at USC.)

Joe Walters makes sculptures (above)  and works on paper based on animals and plants. The Charleston artist has had significant gallery representation, has works in many museums and has received numerous public, private and corporate commissions, which is surprising considering how edgy his work is.

Another Charleston resident, Colin Quashie, makes tough and often hilarious artworks that address race, gender and class and he has a good track record of shows.(right)

Tyrone Geter of Columbia who has pushed drawing in new directions and he also takes on
race in an artful
way.He has a whole
other life as a successful book
illustrator as well. (left)

Shepard Fairey, left, is the Charleston native
who first made his mark with his “Obey Giant”
underground public art campaign, and who really
burst on the international scene
with his Barack Obama “Hope”
poster (and the ensuing lawsuit
over his use of the Obama image.)

Russell Biles of Greenville (below) does quite edgy and darkly funny figurative ceramic sculptures. His art often takes on political and social issues ranging from war to child abuse using pop culture images. His work has been shown internationally (and in the National Enquirer!)

These are not artists who recently arrived or are hermits; all have been active, engaged and mostly excellent artists working (except for Fairey) in South Carolina for 10 to 20 years. They are a few of the obviously missing and obviously important artists - I’m sure there are more. (I've asked the commission for its missing in action artist list, but they won't tell me. I also have to say that the Arts Commission has re-vamped its art acquisition committee which may makes things better.)
Creating the state collection is an imperfect process – art and artists are selected for a variety of reasons. But I can’t think of a single one these artists don’t fulfill.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Walking around with art, singing, dancing, music - the usual

Thursday, Nov. 19
Vista lights - yes, there is still art in the Vista
Vista Lights is more the launch of the holiday shopping (or maybe drinking) spree in the Congaree Vista than an art event. Still, you’ll find some art during the party from 5 to 10. Actually this year it appears  more than usual.

A batch of art shows will open that night.
Gallery 80808/Vista Studios, with 13 resident artists, is always a don't miss spot. Among the artists are sculptors Pat Gilmartin and Sharon Collings Licata, Kirkland Smith who is making art from “non-recyclable” waste, Deanna Leamon, who does figurative drawings and Susan Lenz, who has created a series of portraits of people who have made important stands.

Painters Wanda Steppe and Harriet Marshall Goode will be at City Art Gallery; Terry Hutto, Debbie Martin, Laurie McIntosh, Melony Stuckey, Cindy Roddey and Heather LaHaise are showing at Wink Art; Kim LeDee is will have her paintings at the Adams Group; and the About Face art group shows at 300 Senate Street which is a welcome addition.

You can also have a free look at “From the Pee Dee to the Savannah: Art and Material Culture from South Carolina’s Fall Line Region” at the S.C. State Museum which has some art, a batch of decorative objects and something that is either a giant pie safe or an awfully nice chicken coop.

A couple of dance groups will also perform. Unbound Dance will be near the River Runner at 8 p.m. and the Wideman/Davis Dance Company performs at City Art at 7:30 and several music groups will be around as well.

Everything is free – unless you decide to buy something. We’d suggest art. That would help the last artistic holdouts in the Vista.

(Friday - noon posting. By the way, most of these art exhibitions will be up for a couple of weeks at least so if you didn't go last night, with all the distractions of pagan trees being lighted and wedding dress shows and horrible traffic, you can still see them. There was more art than usual, but I'm afraid it wasn't much better than usual.) 

From top: painting by Wanda Stepp at City Art, drawing by Deanna Leamon at Gallery 80808/Vista Studios and dancers/choreographers Wideman/Davis who will perform at City Art.

Full houses at university theaters

Three, yes three (3, III) plays are running at USC.
As of tonight anyway, when “Language of Angels” opens at the lab theater.  The work by Naomi Iizuk is a cycle of ghost stories tied to the disappearance of a young woman in of a North Carolina cave and how those who were with her deal with it – or don’t. Amy Boyce Holtcamp, who has directed several shows at USC and around the country, directs.

Performances at are 8 p.m. through Nov. 22 with an additional 10:30 show Friday, Nov. 20. The theater is on Wheat Street between Pickens and Main streets. $5.
 (803) 777-4288.

At the Hamilton Gym, which has been turned into a performance space, you can find the play “Flight,” by USC faculty members Steven Pearson and Robyn Hunt. The play, which includes a nearly life-sized airplane, is about early women aviators. It's almost three hours long, wordy, full of interesting information and ideas - a long way to go but quite enlightening.
Performances are at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday and 10:30 p.m. Sunday. $10. (803) 777-4288.

And at Longstreet Theatre you’ll find “Radium Girls,” which tells the true story of woman who suffered radiation poisoning from painting glow-in-the dark paint on watch dials.
8 p.m. tonight and Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. (803) 777-2551.

Friday, Nov. 20

Sterling Chamber players start season
and welcome back an old friend
Columbia’s resident chamber music group The Sterling Chamber Players starts its season with “Trio Pathetique” by Mikhail Glinka and Concert Piece No. 2 by Felix Mendelssohn, both for piano, clarinet and bassoon, and the Johannes Brahms G major violin sonata.

The first two will be performed by Doug Graham, clarinet, Michael Harley, bassoon, and Janice Zamostny, piano. For the Brahams, Zamostny will be joined by Eric Chu, founder of the group that became the Sterling Chamber Players. Chu was concertmaster for the S.C. Philharmonic and is conductor of an orchestra in Chengdu, China where he recently conducted concerts with pianist Lang Lang, Yundi Li and San Chen.

Music starts at 8 p.m. at 300 Senate. That's just before the street lands in the river. $12 in advance and $15 at the door, $5 for students. (803) 252-2001 or

500 years of singing
You’ll either be bummed or beaming when the USC Chorus hits the final notes of “Life, Loss, and Love.” You will definitely be well-educated in the history of choral music; the concert covers 500 years of music from Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who worked in the 1500s, to Morten Johannes Lauridsen, who was born in 1943.
The free concert is at 7:30 p.m. St. Andrews Baptist Church, 230 Bush River Road.

HEY! Since you are here go to the right and sign up as a follower of 
Carolina Culture by Jeffrey Day. Thanks, jd.

Movies back on stage
The NiA theater company has brought back its “Whisper: The Movies,” based on scenes from films.  The 8 p.m. event tonight and Saturday takes place at the future home of the Nickelodeon Theater,  1607  Main St. $10.Half the money raised will go to name something at the new Nick for the late Greg "Bougie" Leevy – actor, director and great guy. (803) 553-2536.

Dancing around

The Columbia Conservatory of Dance dances in honor of the late Serge Lavoie, who taught at the school and was dancer master for the Columbia City Ballet. It takes place at 7:30 at USC's Drayton Hall Theatre and will feature conservatory and City Ballet Dancers. Admission is $10 in advance and $12 at door. The money got to the American Heart Association. (803) 252-0555.

The Columbia College dance department will be dancing about glass,  making nests, watching ourselves and others and demented urban fairies. All original works by college faculty members and one graduate of the program. Tonight and Saturday at 7:30 in the Cottingham Theatre at the college which is located on North Main Street about two miles north of downtown. $10.   (803) 786-3850.

Saturday, Nov. 21

Double reed day and concert
Double reed instrumentalists, mostly oboe and bassoon players, have been working on their technique all day during Double Reed Day at the USC School of Music.
This afternoon at 5 a group of them will give a short concert, probably 30 minutes long, concert featuring two new pieces by composition students and a few older bits. It's free. (Look at the story posted Wednesday, Nov. 18 for a story on the archaic art of reed making.)
Then go grab a bite to eat somewhere cheap and return at 7:30 for a concert to raise money for an emergency fund for student musicians. The suggested donation is $25, but I'm sure they'd be happy with any reasonable amount.

Walking and drawing
Pick up your drawing pad and grab pencils, charcoal and if you’re feeling ambitious, some paint. Head to the USC Horseshoe right in front of the McKissick Museum. Draw for a while, walk a little, draw some more. Do that again and again and again and you will be part of Sketchcrawl – a nice change from a gallery crawl isn’t it. (You will end up in Five Points where you can go to some galleries but will probably want to have a drink instead.) Such movable drawing feasts have been taking place all over the world for the past five years.  The art making starts at 10 a.m. and goes to 3 p.m.

Reading and signing
Columbia writer Janna McMahan will read and sign copies of the “Snow Angels,” which includes her novella “Decorations.” The collection of holiday-related stories is on The New York Times and USA Today best-seller lists. McMahan is also author of two recent novels, “The Ocean Inside” and “Calling Home.” The event is at 1:30 at Ed’s Editions, 406 Meeting St., West Columbia. (803) 791-8002.

Three strange instruments in a week

Last week, Columbia concert-goers got to hear Wu Man play the pipa, a Chinese lute,  with the S.C. Philharmonic and in a solo concert. Early this week, the USC Symphony featured a shofar (ram's horn) soloist for Columbia composer Meira Warshauer's "Tekeeyah."
Now's time for the h’arpeggione.
And what is that, you may ask? It’s an 18-string cross between a cello and guitar. The instrument is part of the trio, with double bass and percussion, that is  Pocketful of Claptonite, an Athens, Ga., improvisational trio. the h'arpeggione was was made specifically for Killick! who plays in the group.
The group (which has nothing to do with Eric Clapton or the Spin Doctors that had the record call “Pocketful of Kryptonite”) hits the stage around 8 p.m. at if Art Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St. $6.

Sunday, Nov. 22
More music
If you're not out buying a bird that looks unnaturally large and filling wheelbarrows with cranberries already, the USC Palmetto Concert Band plays a free concert at 4 p.m. with guest artists the Triangle Wind Ensemble from North Carolina. It’s at the Koger Center.

More reading and signing
The terrific Dacusville, S.C., writer George Singleton will be reading new poems and prose at 2 p.m. Actually Singleton is too big for Dacusville, from where he commutes to teach at the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.
Oh, and Singleton has published several novels and his writing has appeared everywhere from Playboy to The Atlantic.
The reading is at 701 Center for Contemporary Art, 701 Whaley St. $7. (803) 779-4571.

Monday, Nov. 23

The slide zone
I believe that every musical group,
regardless of genre, should have
a trombone.
And tonight is the night for
all trombones in a concert
at the USC School of
Music. The free concert is at
7:30 in the school recital hall.
(These gals, the Japanese bikini trombone group   Futomoto Satisfaction will not be playing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To make the sound, oboists must first make the reed

People who play oboes, a double reed instrument, are often portrayed as finicky and tense.
The latter is because they make a lovely and strong sound by forcing a tremendous amount of air through a tiny opening in a reed. A lot of (literal) pressure is involved.

The former is because they have to make the thing they blow the air through. Well, not the whole instrument, but the reed.

“It’s something we have to do that doesn’t have anything to do with playing,” said Rebecca Nagel, principal oboist for the S.C. Philharmonic and a professor at USC.
Well, it has one thing to do with playing: if the reed isn’t right, the music won’t be either.

Nagel has settled between two basic reeds shapes, using one or the other depending on the music. For example Mozart needs to be lighter and brighter and Brahms big and lush. An oboe reed is usually good for a set of rehearsals and a concert.

Oboists, along with their double reed cousins the bassoon and English horn players, gather for Double Reed Day at USC Saturday. They’ll take part in workshops and master

classes. Some instruments and other implement of the trade will be on display at the music school and the day ends with a short, free concert that will include two new pieces written by student composers.

One recent afternoon Nagel showed a visitor how to make a reed for an oboe, a soprano range instrument commonly constructed from African Blackwood. The oboe as we know it, with various changes, dates to 1650, but its ancestry can be traced back several centuries more to instruments from the Middle and Far East.

She starts with a hollow, 5-inch piece of cane about one-half an inch in diameter that comes from Arundo donax. Most cane used for instruments comes from southern France, but Nagel found a stand at Elmwood Cemetery in Columbia and it grows in warm areas around the world. She has drawers and drawers of short lengths of cane stored in plastic bags each labeled with information about where it came from and when. When a player finds a good batch, they buy as much as they can.

She starts by splitting the cane into three pieces with what looks like a steel stakes with barbs. Then she uses a set of machines (a guillotine and gougers) to roughly pare the pieces. One gouger has a satin silver surface and a dial micrometer to measure thickness, but the others are well-worn brass.

“Oh, you’ll like this,” Nagel says, pulling a book off a shelf. She opens it a page with engravings of reed making tools from the 1850s – they look just like the tools in her office.
Frequently sharpening tools, she achieves the basic shape then she folds the reed over on itself, clipping it to make two reeds.

Using nylon thread, a light aqua blue in this case, she attaches the reed to the staple or tube, the part that sticks into the body of the oboe. She gets this thread off a spool, but there’s a huge hank of multicolored threads hiding a c-clamp attached to her desk. Chairs in oboe players’ homes and offices tend to have thread tied to them.   
“My parents still have strings on chairs,” said Nagel, who started playing the oboe in the fourth grade.

At this stage the reed looks, ready to blow.  Nope. Nagel delicately shaves away bits of the reed. Some of it is done with reed-specific knives, some with a single-edge razor blade. The tip is shaved so thin it is translucent. She also fine tunes the central part, called the heart or plateau, and the back located just above the thread. When she’s done she has a lot of shredded reed in her lap. 
Ready-made reeds can be purchased and students often buy reeds made by their teachers. Most oboe students don’t start making reeds until they’re well into high school and Nagel often spends as much time during a lesson on reed making as music making.

The process has taken about 15 minutes. She tests the reed, blowing or “crowing” which makes a vibrating sound. She does this a few times.
“This I would call hard and flat,” she says. “Ugly.”
She tosses it on the desk. She’ll never use it.
“It’s a lot of work and the outcome is uncertain,” she says. “Everyone thinks making reeds is cool until they have to do it.” 

What to know about the oboe

Well-know works featuring the oboe have been written by composers from the
Baroque period onward including Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Poulenc, Benjamin Britten, Samuel Barber and Elliot Carter.

Orchestras tune to the oboe because it has a solid pitch and can be easily heard.

You can watch a fairly amusing time-lapse movie of reed making at

This has to end with an oboe joke, which, not surprisingly, is actually about reed making.
How many oboists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one but they go through 50 bulbs to find the right one.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nude Tuesday!

Today's nude is by Christina S. Hulslander of Cayce

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A different side to some people you probably know

Tom Beard, left, and Kevin Bush at the den of music Papa Jazz        

The singer and the song - without sets

Kevin Bush spends his days promoting the talents of others as the public relations manager for the USC Department of Theatre and Dance.

But almost anyone who goes to theater in Columbia has seen him on stage.
He starred in the recent production of “The Producers” at Workshop Theater and will have another big role in the Trustus Theatre production of “Rent” opening in a few weeks. Among the many (many many many many) shows he’s been in are “Bat Boy,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Oklahoma,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Amadeus,” “The Full Monty,” “Sweeney Todd” and the list goes on (and on and on and on.)

Now here's a third side to Bush.
The next time he’s on stage it will be just Bush, a microphone and a three-piece band led by Tom Beard. For “Evolution: 21st Century Songbook” at the Columbia Museum of Art he and the group will perform contemporary American classics by Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Vega, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Jimi Hendrix and some less familiar singers and songwriters.

“We’ve tried to thematically connect the set list,” Bush said. “A few songs deal with emotions surrounding ‘wanting’ and then we get it into the issue of ‘getting and losing.’ Ultimately we have to deal with the cards we’re dealt. In one way or another, it all gets wrapped up in the larger theme of ‘change’ or ‘evolution’.”
Singing, not singing and acting, is what the Bush started out doing. Growing up  in Charleston he was in his guitarist brother Eddie’s rock and pop group and the two brothers will play a couple of Eddie’s songs at the concert. (Eddie Bush is part of the pop-country trio One Flew South that records for Decca Records.)

“Singing has always been my primary interest and it has only been in the last few years that I've been able to embrace musical theatre as an outlet,,” Bush said.
After graduating from USC in 1998, Bush moved to Los Angeles where he worked for the promotion and advertising firm Post No Bills (based in Columbia). He moved back to Columbia in 2001 where he continued working for the company until he was hired by USC in late 2007.

 “One thing I missed from my time in Los Angeles was that Columbia didn’t have a place for cabaret,” Bush said. “I really came to love the environment of a small club with just a piano and a voice and great songs that make you think.”
What he didn’t want to do was trot out the old show tunes and ‘50s songs that make up many cabaret acts.
“My interest has not surprisingly been in performing the songs that have meant something to me and my generation.  The essence of the song choice is rooted in bringing attention to the songs and songwriters which I think - or hope - would be considered the standard-bearers of popular music 50 years from now.”

“Evolution: 21st Century Songbook,” 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, Columbia Museum of Art.  $10 and $8 for museum members. (803) 799-2810.


Art curator make his own marks

Paul Matheny has organized exhibitions by the artists Brian Rutenberg, Robert Courtright and the artist couple William Halsey and Corrie McCallum for the S.C. State Museum where has been art curator for eight years. What many people don’t know is that Matheny is also an artist.

An exhibition of his painting opens Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Hampton III Gallery in Greenville and is his first solo show at a commercial gallery. Matheny’s process for the paintings is, well process-oriented. He writes all over wooden panels, then paints over what he has written using the spaces of the letters and words and sentences and spaces in between to shape the image.

“All the writing is still there, but you can’t see it,” Matheny, right, said. “It’s obliterated.
“The words are part of the process that creates a type of matrix for the painting to evolve from. Like loose gesture line drawings that later evolve into something else. Aside from their aesthetic, the words themselves are not necessarily important to the piece.”

The unusual method came about in an unusual way.
Matheny was organizing a quilt exhibition at the Museum of York County where he was a curator in the late 1990s when he came across oddly-written letters. To save paper the correspondents had written one way across the page, then turned the paper to write more in the cramped spaces along the edge and between the existing lines.

Matheny has always kept journals and sketchbooks and began writing his in the same manner. When all the space was crammed with words in every direction, he would add color. Several years ago he moved from paper to wood (most 12-by-16 or 20-by24-inches) that he paints panels a golden color.
Then he starts writing.

“It can evolve from conversations in another room, song lyrics, ideas, general thoughts, prayers, memories and recollections,” he said. “Often I am writing about what the next painting might be or general ideas about paintings.  Once I start writing on a panel I try not to stop until that section is complete or even stop to think about what to write. It’s spontaneous writing.”
The early paintings were influenced by the vernacular architecture of the region – roadside vegetable shops and firework stands. The new ones are much more linked to nature and contain images of trees and birds.

Matheny grew up in Anderson and studied at Winthrop University. He has shown at various art

centers and was in a two-person show at Hampton III two years ago.
Although making art is a break from the business of being a curator, it is closely tied to his work in designing exhibitions. There’s something about the way Matheny puts art shows in a space that subtly reveals that it’s the work of a practicing artist.

“I think a lot about how to place artworks in the gallery – how a piece on one wall might be reflected in the glass on one across the room,” he said. “I’m constantly moving things around.”

(From top: "Consortium," "Stories from Trees," and "Remedy.")

“Bellwether: New Paintings” opens Thursday, Nov. 19 with a reception from 7 to 9. The artist give a talk at 8 p.m. The show runs through Dec. 31.  The gallery is at 3110 Wade Hampton Blvd. several miles east of downtown Greenville. (864) 268-2771.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New music, new play, new place for art

New work by Columbia composer at USC Symphony

A snowstorm in Hickory, N.C., and a musical instrument with deep roots in Jewish history collided to create an orchestral work by Columbia composer Meira Warshauer.
“Tekeeyah" (A Call) for orchestra, trombone and shofar - ram's horn - will be played by the USC Symphony Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The Western Piedmont Symphony was preparing to play her "Symphony No. 1 - Living, Breathing, Earth" in 2007 when  a snowstorm shut down the town and left Warshauer and a guest trombonist, Haim Avitsur, who was playing another work at concert, with time on their hands.
Avitsur is from Israel, Warshauer is Jewish and has written music with Jewish themes.
"He told me I should write something for trombone," she recalled recently.

They started talking and she found out Avitsur, left, played shofar at Jewish services in New York.

Symphony No. 1 was about taking care of the earth and the day before it was premiered a huge report on global warming had been released.

"I was like, 'Now what?'" she said. "We need a wake up call."

"Tekeeyah” had its world premiere with the Wilmington (N.C.) Symphony Orchestra in October and is also being performed Nov. 15 by the Brevard Symphony.
It is the first concerto written for shofar/trombone soloist and orchestra and was commissioned by a consortium of orchestras including those in Wilmington, Brevard, at USC, the Western Piedmont Symphony and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.
 The piece is for orchestra, shofar and trombone with the shofar played about one-third of the time.
"The sound is very intense - I had to cut some of what I originally had in the score," Warshauer said.
The 26-minute piece starts quietly ("before the soul enters the body") and moves into a dynamic and sometimes calamitous middle section. The middle makes reference to Biblical story of the Israelites bringing down the walls of Jericho by sounding horns. Listening to the call on the shofar is a requirement for the Jewish holy day Rosh Hashana. The ending is a lighter, uplifting dance.
The USC Symphony will also play Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in b Minor (Unfinished) and “Marche Slav” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.Tickets to the 7:30 concert at the Koger Center are $25. (803) 251-2222 or

Thursday, Nov. 12
Music of the east and west meet in middle
Wu Man, who plays the pipa (a Chinese lute) performs a concerto by Tan Dun with the S.C. Philharmonic tonight. The orchestra will also play “Verge” by John Fitz Rogers of Columbia and Modest Mussorsky’s “Pictures at An Exhibition.”
 It’s at 7:30 at the Koger Center. Tickets $12 - $42. (803) 251-2222 or
For a full story on Grammy-winning Wu Man and the concert, as well as the concert she’ll give Friday night at the USC School of Music see the Sunday, Nov. 8 story below.
By the way there will be a big and important announcement at the concert.
(Update Nov. 12 . 10 p.m. This was a great concert. The announcement was that the Philharmonic has commissioned Rogers to write a piece for the orchestra and pianist Marina Lomazov and Joseph Rackers, a husband and wife duo who live in Columbia. The concerto for two pianos (it doesn't have a more formal name yet) will be premiered in almost exactly a year in Columbia.)

Don't miss this great art show
You should really make it to "Ceramics: Southeast" at the USC art department gallery. For the most part it is a show filled with great art, I'm particularly taken with the strange porclean pieces by Lauren Gallaspy (left) that look like both some sort of lichen growth and machines and the fat, sensual works of Jerilyn Virden. It is up through Nov. 19. The gallery open weekdays. Call (803) 777-4236.

Friday, Nov. 13
Did we mention she plays with Yo-Yo Ma and Kronos Quartet?

Ah, it’s Wu Man again, this time doing a solo concert at the USC School of Music as part of the Southern Exposure series. 7:30 p.m. Free.
A dangerously illuminating play
In the early 20th century one of the factory jobs women had was paintings the dials of watches so they would glow in the dark. They painted them with radium – which as the name implies is radioactive – which they had been told was harmless. The women often
licked their paintbrushes to make a better point for the delicate work – a technique encouraged by their supervisors.
The play “Radium Girls,” by D.W. Gregory, tells the story of the woman who suffered from radiation poisoning from the work and their fight for justice. Their legal action set a precedent that allowed employees to sue employers for injuries. The play opens tonight at Longstreet Theatre at USC.  
Shanga Parker, who has extensive acting experience on stage, movies and television and who teaches at the University of Washington, directs. Ten actors will portray 37 characters.
The play continues through Nov. 22. Show times are 8 p.m. except Nov. 14 when it will be performed at 7 and 11 (with half-price tickets for the late show), 7 p.m. Nov. 21  and 3 p.m. Nov. 22. $16.  Call (803) 777-2551.

A new place for artists and art lovers
Artists at Work Studios in downtown Lexington has been operating for several months and will have a grand opening an exhibition by resident artists from 6 to 9 p.m. Work Studios is home to eight artists including Don Zurlo, ("Critter," left), Allan Whitacre, Stacey Morgan and Lee Swallie.
The center 112 East Main St. and will also be open from 6 to 9 Saturday and Sunday. Call (803) 719-1340.

Saturday, Nov.  14
Singer and flautists
Get an ear full of opera during the Metropolitan Opera auditions. About 20 young singers will be giving voice to their hopes and dreams from 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. at the USC School of Music. Three will go on to regional auditions in Atlanta.
That evening things change from voice to flute for a concert by Brooks DeWitter-Smith, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who has played concerts around the world and done extensive research on the flute. (There's a lot of research to do since the flute was invented about 35,000 years ago.)
His 7 p.m. concert, part of the South Carolina Flute Society fall seminar,  will include works by Bela Bartok, Paul Schoenfield, Mike Mower and other 20th and 21st century composers.  
Both concerts are free.

See a play
This would also be a good night to attend one of the many plays running. It's the last weekend for "Extremities" at Trustus and you can see "Same Time Next Year" at Workshop with "Moon Over Buffalo" at Town Theatre. (See arts calendar at right.) 
This just in (Friday, Nov. 13): Workshop Theatre has hired a new executive director. His name is Joe Reuter and that's all we know right now.

Tuesday, Nov. 17

A new American songbook
Kevin Bush and Tom Beard, who you already know if you go to any musical theater in town, open a new Great American Songbook for a concert "Evolution: 21st Century Songbook" at the Columbia museum of Art. The duo and two more musicians will interpret songs by Suzanne Vega, Leonard Cohen, Stevie Wonder, Rickie Lee Jones and (!) Jimi Hendrix.
The project came out of Bush's desire to perform in a cabaret setting, but he didn't want to do the standard standards.
"My interest has not surprisingly been in performing the songs that have meant something to me and 'my generation' to continue the cliché - the 'new standard,'” he said. "I’ve been a music addict my entire life, and have always wondered whether the songs that have meant so much to me would one day be considered a 'standard' for future generations."
You can find out at 7 p.m. $10 and $8 for museum members. (803) 799-2810.


Wednesday, Nov. 18

New play takes flight

For the past few months, they’ve been building an airplane in the scene shop at USC. The plane is for the play “Flight,” an exploration of early women aviators,
The flyers in this case are two French actresses planning to make it from Paris to Moscow in 1913. The play by USC professor Steven Pearson and Robyn Hunt runs through Nov. 22 at Hamilton Gym, a new performance space. This work, which Peason calls a "theatrical poem," is one of three he has done connected to Anton Chekhov's plays - this one to "The Seagull."
"There were a whole group of woman flying before World War I and people don't know a thing about them," Pearson said.  And although the women aviators in "Flight" are fictional a number of the real ones were connected to the theater as critics, actors and filmmakers (one of the characters in the play is a filmmaker as well.)
And that plane the theater department built?
"We plan to fly it," Pearson said.
The gym/theater is at the corner of Pickens and Pendleton. Performances are at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Nov. 22. $10.  (803) 777-4288.

See the artists of Benedict College
"The Changing Times - Changing Views" shows what the Benedict College art faculty has been up to. The exhibition includes works by sculptor Alex Wilds, Wendell Brown, who creates mixed media works of fabric and other materials (left, "Unknown Slave Woman"), Tyrone Geter, working in drawing, painting and collage, and Gina Moore, who is best-known for her abstract mixed media pieces. 
An opening reception, at which the artists will talk, runs from 5 to 7. The show, in the Ponder Fine Arts Center, runs through Dec. 11. Benedict is located at 1600 Harden St. (803) 705-4768.

More classical music - for free
The university cranks up its second orchestra in two days - this time the Campus Orchestra. The group will play Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Mein Jesu,” John Rutter’s “Suite for Strings,” “Adagio” by Tomaso Albinoni and Wolfgang  Mozart’s “Symphony No. 29 in A-major.
The free concert is at 7:30 in the USC School of Music. And this concert will actually use that big pipe organ you've seen but almost never heard.