Month: January, 2008

Dixieland downtown

Thursday, January 31st, 2008 | All Things, Music

Inside Trinity Church for one of their “Concerts at One,” part of the church’s Concerts-to-Go outreach program, now in its 40th season. This afternoon’s concert featured Doreen’s New Orleans Jazz, a Dixieland jazz trio made up of Doreen Ketchens on clarinet, her husband Lawrence Henry Ketchens II on tuba, and drummer Walter Harris.

Doreen’s Jazz

Doreen has been dubbed by the press as “The Queen of Jazz,” “The Female Louis Armstrong,” “Queen Clarinet,” and “Miss Satchmo.” Their toe-tapping renditions of “Sweet Georgia Brown” (best recognized as the Harlem Globetrotters’ theme) and “Basin Street Blues” illustrate why.

Doreen’s Jazz

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Ketchens used to perform in New Orleans near Jackson Square; they evacuated the city with their young daughter before the hurricane hit, losing virtually everything except for their musical instruments and a few possessions.

In between performances for American presidents (according to the group’s website, they’ve played before four of them), and their work spreading the culture and traditional music of New Orleans throughout the world, they still make it back for impromptu concerts on the streets of the French Quarter.

In 2006, the Ketchens participated in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s first ever South African cultural exchange program with the Field Band Foundation, an organization sponsored by The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to produce performances and events to increase awareness of the importance of HIV prevention.

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The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008 | All Things, Arts

The ever-versatile and accomplished Ben Katchor is the 1995 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2000 MacArthur Fellow, an Obie Award winner (for his “comic-book opera,” The Carbon Copy Building), and creator of books, graphic novels, cartoon strips, magazine illustrations, and radio shows. Katchor wrote the libretto and created the animated drawings for The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island (or The Friends of Dr. Rushower), the show I was at The Vineyard Theatre to see tonight. (The same company developed the critically acclaimed Avenue Q and [title of show].) Check out the commercial for their latest show here.

Katchor described it as an “absurdist romance… about the romance of poetry and humanitarianism.” For his darkly funny, slyly political musical, he collaborated with Mark Mulcahy, former frontman for indie rockers Miracle Legion and Adventures of Pete & Pete house band Polaris.  The Kitchen, New York’s non-profit experimental performance space, commissioned The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island and secured the majority of the show’s funding; it was presented at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003 and at The Kitchen in 2004 before making its way to Union Square.

Vineyard Theatre

The action is set in Manhattan and on a tropical factory-island in the fictional “Roomy Archipelago,” where workers toil to transport small lead weights (destined for placement in unseen appliances to give the impression of “heft and worth”) from factory to ship. After the laborers plight is exposed on the news, well-intentioned philanthropist Dr. Rushower (Peter Friedman) takes it up as his annual cause to organize an expedition from New York City to Kayrol Island; he sends his idealistic daughter GinGin (Jody Flader) and her suitor Immanuel Lubang (Bobby Steggert) to provide solace to the exploited workers by introducing them to the beauty of “consumer fiction” — poetry found in the text of obscure appliance instructional pamphlets. Complications ensue when the locals don’t — or can’t — appreciate the offering, and GinGin falls in love with local slug bearer Samson (Matt Pearson) — who, as it happens, is not all that unhappy with his lot — drawn to the liberation of a life where labor is divorced from purpose. Katchor’s colorful, shifting landscapes are projected onto large, folding screens on stage: a swanky penthouse, a poetry slam at a Macedonian coffee house, a city street, a biplane soaring over the ocean, a tropical paradise marred by smokestacks and cinderblock buildings… The overall effect is whimsical and delightful, and Mulcahy’s catchy pop score is sung through by the actors and played with terrific energy by an actual four-piece rock band.

Slug Bearers

The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island
is playing at The Vineyard Theatre through March 2, 2008.

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Remember me to Herald Square

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008 | All Things, NYC History

Passing through a drizzle-slicked Herald Square while running errands this evening…

This small, trapezoidal park was named for The New York Herald newspaper, which had its offices and plant one block north. Those headquarters were built by McKim, Mead & White in 1894; eventually, the building was demolished, and The Herald was sold to the owners of the New York Tribune. Not all Herald memorabilia was transferred to the new owners, however: the clock and bronze statuary – the 10-foot figure of Minerva and 7-foot bellringers Gog and Magog (a.k.a. “Stuff and Guff,” who knew?) — which had adorned the roof of the Herald building, were gifted to New York University. The school lent them in perpetuity to the city for the clock monument at Herald Square, designed by Aymar Embury II in 1940, where they have remained ever since, ringing in the hours on the James Gordon Bennett Monument’s bell.

Herald Square

The park underwent a $1 million restoration several years ago and reopened in 2000. Last September, a newly pristine Stuff and Guff emerged, burnished and restored under the auspices of the Municipal Art Society, the Parks Department, the Art Commission of the City of New York and the 34th Street Partnership.

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