Music

BG Philharmonia opens 100th anniversary season

From BGSU COLLEGE OF MUSICAL ARTS One hundred is a notable anniversary, and the BG Philharmonia is celebrating this important milestone with a year of special events during 2018-19. Large concerts in December and May in Kobacker Hall are the premier events, and every concert throughout the season will feature something special. Under the direction of Dr. Emily Freeman Brown, the Philharmonia will welcome back alumni members and host guest artists. Talented young musicians from BGSU and local schools will join in some of the performances. And four performances will feature a “birthday” composition — three in the fall and one in the spring. “This is the beginning of a great year,” said Brown, director of orchestral activities. “I have a terrific group of freshmen and new people. The spirit, the mood, the enthusiasm and the energy are incredible.” The Dec. 2 gala concert will feature the return of Bowling Green native Zachary DePue, a well-known violinist who is part of a musical BGSU family. His visit holds special meaning for Brown, who was his conductor when he became the winner of the Young Artist Competition as a Bowling Green High School student. The centennial concert features DePue in Shostakovich’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” and Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka.” Brown is also enthusiastically anticipating Bowling Green Opera Theater’s production of Handel’s “Semele” in April. Audiences will have the opportunity to see this infrequently performed work, accompanied by the Camerata di Campo di Bocce, the elite chamber group of the Philharmonia. “It’s a challenging piece and the music is so fantastic and so exciting,” she said. “It’s just out of this world.” The year culminates May 5 with the 100th anniversary concert and alumni gathering featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with all five University choirs and guest soloists. Advance tickets for the concerts are $3 for students and $7 for adults. All tickets the day of the performance are $10. Tickets are available online at bgsu.edu/arts or by calling 419-372-8171. As an added touch, each concert during the year will have its own concert program highlighting aspects of the Philharmonia, with photos, testimonials, past program notes and stories about the conductors. For the first performance, Brown sets the stage with an extensive history and timeline of the orchestra, aided by the program from the 75th anniversary season written by Lee Anne Snook and by Dr. Vincent Corrigan’s “100 Years of Music at Bowling Green State University,” written for BGSU’s Centennial in 2010. Brown said she was interested to learn she is not the first woman to lead the orchestra, but the third. During the second world war, as men left for the service, its first woman conductor, Lorlie Virginia Kershner, took up the baton, followed by Maribeth Kitt. Recounting the birth of the BGSU orchestra, Brown wrote: “From the very beginning, University President Homer B. Williams was determined to create what he called ‘the spirit’ of Bowling Green. He gave pep talks to students and faculty, always reminding them that because of their presence and efforts, Bowling Green was, indeed, a special place. He instilled pride and spirit in the young campus. . . In 1918, he decided that Bowling Green needed a group that could provide music at official events.” Made up of faculty members, the first “orchestra” was “more aspirational than actual,”…


Jazz guitarist to share his passion for music at BGSU Orchard Guitar Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News  When jazz guitarist Mike Stern stumbled on a sidewalk in New York City on July 3, 2016, and fell and broke both his arms, that seemed bad enough. Then five days later before he was to go in for surgery he developed nerve damage in his right hand. Then, he admits, he panicked. “It was amazingly scary because I love to play so much,” he said in a recent telephone interview. So much of his life is revolves around playing the guitar. More than his career, it’s his passion. So in a way he didn’t have a choice but to address the problem. “I settled down and figured it out.” Stern found a specialist who could treat him, and he devoted all his energy to recovering. Within several months he was back performing. That required adjustments. He used wig glue to affix his pick to his finger. He learned that trick from a drummer who lost most of the joints in his hands from burns when he was a child. “I always encourage students to keep going,” Stern said. Stern will be visiting Bowling Green State University, where he last played in winter, 2014, on Saturday, Sept. 29,  on the second day of the two-day Orchard Guitar Festival http://bgindependentmedia.org/mike-stern-headlines-orchard-guitar-festival-at-bgsu/. He’ll share that advice, talk about his love of bebop, and more at a master class at 2:30 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. At 8 p.m. that night he’ll perform with the faculty jazz ensemble in Kobacker Hall. Tickets for the evening concert are $7 and $3 for students in advance from bgsu.edu/arts or 419-372-8171, and $10 the day of the show.  The more someone plays “the closer you get to the music,” Stern, 65, said. Life has no guarantees, he said. “The only guarantee in music is that you’re going to have the music and no one can take it away from you.… You’ll have the music no matter what you have to do to make bread.” But the more someone puts into the music, the more options they have whether that’s performing or teaching. “The most important ingredient,” Stern said, “is you’ve got to water the flowers.” That’s means practicing. Musicians also need to “keep learning new stuff.” Guitar offers a world of new styles and techniques to learn. The instrument has flourished around the world from country music to transcriptions of lute music by Bach. The guitar basics are easy to learn, though mastery is difficult to achieve.  Stern incorporates as much of that into his own work. “When I write I like to put some of those influences in.” He reaches beyond his instrument though. He studies pianists such as Herbie Hancock, and horn players such as Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt., and incorporates that into his playing. “It feels natural when I do it. It feels like that’s what I’m meant to do.” More and more Stern brings a vocal element into his music. He encourages his students to sing along with their guitar lines, even inaudibly. “It makes it feel like it comes from the heart.” His new album, “Trip” — the title a darkly humorous reference to his accident — employs those vocal sounds. Sometimes it’s actual voices, sometimes it’s the way Stern uses electronic effects. Recorded after…


Mike Stern headlines Orchard Guitar Festival at BGSU

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Acclaimed jazz guitarist Mike Stern, who first made his mark in the early 1980s playing with Miles Davis, will headline the 2018 Orchard Guitar Festival at Bowling Green State University. The festival will take place Sept. 28 and 29 at the Moore Musical Arts Center, and also features guitarists Adam Schlenker and Jack Petersen. To contemporary jazz guitar aficionados, Stern is regarded as one of the true guitar greats of his generation. He is a player of remarkable facility whose searing lines are informed mainly by bebop and the blues while also carrying a rock-tinged intensity. Stern launched his solo career in 1985, and has released 17 recordings as a band leader, including six Grammy-nominated albums. “I love to meet with music students,” Stern said. “It’s really fun, especially at BGSU. I’ve been there a couple of times over the years, back when (retired professor of jazz guitar) Chris Buzzelli was still teaching there. Usually, I learn more from the students, but I love doing whatever I can do in terms of helping them out. “I’ll probably play a little bit at the teaching clinic, but do more talking because I like to keep it kind of loose so everyone is comfortable and can ask questions. I’ll try to get everybody involved as much as possible. It’s fun and I hope, certainly, informative for other guitar players.” Stern suffered a serious accident in the summer of 2016 that left him with two broken arms and nerve damage in his right hand that prevented him from even holding a pick without some extra support. “I had a bad fall in New York and broke both of my humerus bones and I developed some nerve damage in my right hand,” he said. “I found a way to keep playing within a couple months because I wanted to keep going, which I recommend to everybody. No matter what brings them down, to try to fight it and keep going.” His latest album, “Trip” (2017), is his first since recovering from his accident. Stern is back on top of his game, playing with typical authority and prodigious chops on this all-star outing, which features longtime colleagues trumpeters Randy Brecker and Wallace Roney, saxophonists Bob Franceschini and Bill Evans, bassists Victor Wooten and Tom Kennedy and drummers Dave Weckl, Dennis Chambers and Lenny White. Stern said he had a difficult time trying find a way to play after the accident. “I wrestled with a few different methods but now I use glue to hold the pick because I had a couple of surgeries on my hand, including some tendon transfers, and was able to support the pick, but not enough without this glue I use,” he said. “I had some ulnar nerve damage so my hand is kind of crunched or bent a little bit, but you find ways of getting through stuff. It’s improved since then and I feel much more comfortable now in terms of playing.” Through all of his struggles, Stern has been able to keep his sense of humor as well as his world-class talents. “I called my latest album ‘Trip,’” he said, laughing. “The first half-year after the accident was hard, but I still went on the road and did what I had…


Deeply moving ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ leaves BGSU audience at a loss for applause

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News “Considering Matthew Shepard” ended in silence. A packed Kobacker Hall went quiet as the C-triad softly hummed by the members of the vocal ensemble Conspirare and the 100 singers filling the mezzanine faded out. At first it seemed the usual pause at the end of a concert. But the silence extended in length, and somehow increased in depth. The conductor-composer Craig Hella Johnson stood in front of the stage head bowed. Silence. Then his head rose and his gestured to the performers on stage. The audience erupted. The applause rapturous, as loud as the previous moments were soft. On their feet, the audience called the ensemble out for three curtain calls. The applause did not so much break the silence as let loose the emotions it contained. The listeners and performers had for the past 100 minutes lived the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man beaten and left for dead in October 1998 outside of Laramie, Wyoming. When he died several days later he became an icon for those who opposed hate crimes and longed for greater tolerance.  The oratorio was performed Monday by Conspirare at Bowling Green State University. When, a few minutes after the performance ended, about 150 members of the audience assembled in Bryan Recital Hall, members of the panel who were there to discuss the work and the meaning of Matthew Shepard, said it was hard to speak about the experience. Katie Stygles, assistant director for Diversity Education and LGBTQ+ Programs at Bowling Green State University, said she was still processing the experience. “I still have tears flowing over. It’s just so beautiful.” She sees the students she serves in Matthew Shepard. Susana Pena, director, School of Cultural and Critical Studies, said that when the news of Shepard’s death came, the nation had reached a point where it was open to hearing this tragic story, and acting on it. Olivia Behm, a graduate student, said she grew up in the world shaped by Shepard’s death. “Considering Matthew Shepard,” she said, was more than research into the facts, but allowed her to be emotionally absorbed in the story. The oratorio had plenty of facts, drawn from court documents and news reports. It included Shepard’s own words from journals and childhood jottings. It also had long passages of reflection. Johnson composed the piece over a long period of time, drawing on various texts, and in several instances collaborating with poet Michael Dennis Browne, credited as co-librettist. Johnson’s discovery of another poet’s work gave him the guiding image for the piece. Leslea Newman wrote a series of poems from the point of view of the fence on which Shepard was tied and left to die. He hung there for 18 hours barely alive before he was discovered. The man who found him at first thought he was a scarecrow. Those pieces form the skeleton of “Considering Matthew Shepard.” The first poem “The Fence (before),’ a robust bass solo, prefigures Shepard’s fate. “Will I always be out here exposed and alone?” Later in the oratorio, we hear the speech Shepard’s father gave in court. His son, the father said, was not alone. He had the stars and moon, which he’d studied as a child. He had the wind from the plains. The…


Symphony & ballet step into new partnership

The Toledo Symphony Orchestra and The Toledo Ballet have announced they will merge. The merger, announced Tuesday, Sept.  18, becomes official on Jan. 1, 2019. The new Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts though will be celebrated this weekend when Alain Trudel makes his debut as the orchestra’s music director. The performances Friday, Sept. 21 and Saturday, Sept. 22, both at 8 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle will feature dancers from the ballet performing selections from “Swan Lake” with the orchestra. Zak Vassar, the orchestra’s CEO, said that the merger came about through a study conducted with funding from the Toledo Community Foundation’s Strategic Alliance Partnership. Originally he said that study looked at a three-way merger with the orchestra, ballet, and Toledo Opera. In the end the opera decided to remain independent, though its extensive collaborations with the symphony will continue. Vassar said the merger between the 78-year-old ballet and the 75-year-old symphony are three-fold. Primary is the fostering and expanding on the long history of collaborations, including the annual “Nutcracker,” and other productions that have included Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” The merger also brings together the two educational wings of their operations. Vassar said this may be the only educational organization in the country with certification from the American Ballet Theatre and the Suzuki Association of the Americas. The symphony’s educational mission, including its youth orchestras, has 350 students, and the ballet teaches 300 students. Vassar also said that the new organization will mean administrative efficiencies, resulting in financial savings. The goal, he said, is “optimizing” the saving in he back end while “maximizing” what’s presented to the public. Trudel said celebrating this collaboration has long been part of how this weekend’s concerts, which also mark the beginning the orchestra’s 75th anniversary festivities, were programmed. He said he wanted to open with a major statement, so he programmed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He wanted to recognize the area’s musical culture by presenting “Caldera” by Christopher Dietz, who teaches composition at Bowling Green State University, and then celebrate the community with Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” with dancers from the Toledo Ballet.


Toledo Symphony, Toledo Ballet to merge

From TOLEDO ALLIANCE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet today announced plans to merge the area’s oldest performing arts institutions. The Toledo Symphony, celebrating its 75th anniversary, is recognized as one of the finest regional orchestras in the country. The Toledo Ballet, celebrating its 78th season, is recognized as one of America’s finest pre-professional dance programs. By joining forces, the Symphony and Ballet will build on an accumulated 153 years of performing arts history to present the finest performing arts in the region and reaffirm their shared focus upon education. The merged organization will be known as the Toledo Alliance for the Performing Arts, or T.A.P.A. The new non-profit is expected to form effective January 1, 2019. The Symphony and Ballet will continue to operate as sibling brands under the T.A.P.A. umbrella. Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony will become CEO of the combined organization. The Toledo Ballet has operated for several months without an Executive Director. “This partnership is a natural one,” says Vassar, “The Toledo Symphony and Toledo Ballet have worked together for over 70 years, with the Symphony serving as the Ballet’s pit orchestra. Our archives are rich with collaborations, and we have a great history of working together to entertain and inspire this community.” The Toledo Symphony first performed with the Toledo Ballet in the 1949 performance of the Nutcracker. The orchestra has supported the Ballet in every Nutcrackersince, celebrating the nation’s longest-running production of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet. Additionally, the Symphony has presented dancers from Toledo Ballet in many of its series performances, including the Rite of Springin 2015. “Marie Vogt choreographed several special performances for the Toledo Symphony in the 1950s under then-Music Director Wolfgang Streseman,” recalls Robert Bell, President Emeritus of the Toledo Symphony. “There were special performances of music by Copland and Enescu at the Paramount and Rivoli theaters, too. The Ballet’s dancers beautifully enhanced each program with fresh choreography.” During this formative period of the Toledo Ballet under Marie’s passionate and unwavering commitment to the art, the Symphony retained the Ballet for a variety of educational concerts as well imaginatively staged productions of the Nutcracker Suite. Besides presenting memorable performances, the Symphony and Ballet have common roots in education. The Toledo Symphony, through the Toledo Symphony School of Music and three Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras, provides music instruction to nearly 350 student performers each year. The Toledo Ballet School presents a comprehensive instruction program, including classical ballet, ballroom, jazz, tap, and hip hop. The Ballet School carries certification from the American Ballet Theatre and welcomes 300 students annually. “The Toledo Ballet and Toledo Symphony Orchestra have been collaborating for approximately 78 years,” said Lisa Mayer-Lang, Artistic Director of the Toledo Ballet. “The merging of the two organizations solidifies what has been a wonderful and long-running relationship between us. We are thrilled to take these two organizations into a new direction of collaboration not only for the arts community, but also the entire Toledo region.” The Toledo Symphony School of Music, Toledo Symphony Youth Orchestras, and Toledo Ballet School will maintain their separate instruction spaces. “In time, I expect that our education activities will come together under one roof,” says Vassar. In 2017, the Symphony and Ballet experimented with a shared service model, which ultimately led…


BGSU Arts Events through Oct. 3

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATION Through Oct. 21 – Bowling Green State University’s School of Art announces the opening of “So Much More: Ohio’s African-American Artists.” Over the course of its planning, the exhibition has evolved from a tribute to the legacy of athlete, actor, visual artist and BGSU alumnus Bernie Casey, and other African-American alumni to a broader intergenerational conversation among alumni, current students and invited African-American artists from Ohio addressing the intersection of racial identity and personal expression.  The exhibition, in the Willard Wankelman Gallery in the Fine Arts Center, runs through Oct. 21. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Through Sept. 29 – BGSU is part of the collaborative “ScupltureX – Igniting Change: Teaching Artists and Social Practice” with the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Toledo Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Toledo. The BGSU exhibition, sponsored by David and Myrna Bryan and curated by Saul Ostrow, features the work of regional sculpture faculty. BGSU also will host a series of presentations, including talks by Ostrow and Mel Chin, on campus Sept. 29.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Sept. 17 – The Grammy-winning choral ensemble Conspirare presents “Considering Matthew Shepard” as part of the McMaster Residency in the College of Musical Arts. Under the direction of Craig Hella Johnson, the group will perform the three-part oratorio, an evocative and compassionate musical response to the murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a young, gay college student at the University of Wyoming who in October 1998 was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in a lonely field under a blanket of stars. The performance begins at 7 p.m. in Kobacker Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. A talkback with BGSU panelists and Johnson will follow the performance at 9 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. Admission is free for all BGSU faculty, staff and students with ID at the door. Advance tickets for community members are $7 for adults and $3 for students and children. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Call the BGSU Arts Box Office at 419-372-8171 or purchase online at www.bgsu.edu/arts. Sept. 18 – Tuesdays at the Gish presents “The Florida Project” (2017, U.S., 115 minutes, directed by Sean Baker), with an introduction by Britt Rhuart, doctoral student in American culture studies. This independent film starring Willem Dafoe as a caring motel manager introduces Brooklyn Prince as a six-year-old girl who lives with her brash young mother (Bria Vinaite) in a cheap motel near Disney World. The film follows her adventures and misadventures with her raging band of friends throughout a summer. The screening begins at 7:30 p.m. in 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union (Theater). Free Sept. 19 – The Faculty Artist Series presents saxophonist David Bixler. Bixler, associate professor and director of Jazz Activities Ensembles, is a composer and educator who has steadily garnered attention for his unique playing and writing. Joining Bixler for this performance are Jon Cowherd, piano; Ike Sturm, bass; and Rogerio Boccato, percussion. The recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. Free Sept. 20 – The Edwin H. Simmons Creative Minds…


Toledo Symphony welcomes Trudel as music director, kicks off 75th anniversary season

From TOLEDO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA The Toledo Symphony Orchestra welcomes new Music Director Alain Trudel to Toledo for its first ProMedica Masterworks series concert for a community celebration featuring local composer Christopher Dietz from Bowling Green State University and dancers from Toledo Ballet. Two performances of Trudel’s Debut will take place Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 8 p.m. at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater. “This weekend kicks off our 75th Birthday celebration. It was September 1943 when what is now the Toledo Symphony gave its inaugural performance,” said Zak Vassar, President and CEO of the Toledo Symphony. “We will spend a lot of this season looking back over the past 75 years and where the orchestra has been in our community. With Alain’s arrival, this season represents a great moment of artistic change for our organization, but it also represents a great opportunity to raise a glass to where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.” “I am so excited for our season opener and my official debut as Toledo Symphony Music Director. I’m looking forward to bringing some of my new ideas to the table in the 2018-2019 season. Each concert will feature music you know and love and something new for audiences to discover. We hope you can join us to experience the power of live music,” said Alain Trudel, Music Director of the Toledo Symphony. The programs on Friday and Saturday evening open with one of the most recognizable themes in all of music from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The opening four-note motif has been featured in movies, television commercials, and popular culture for decades, such as The Breakfast Club (1985), Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), and The PeanutsThe Toledo Symphony Orchestra welcomes new Music Director Alain Trudel to Toledo for its first ProMedica Masterworks series concert for a community celebration featuring local composer Christopher Dietz from Bowling Green State University and dancers from Toledo Ballet. Two performances of Trudel’s Debut will take place Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 8 PM at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater. “This weekend kicks off our 75th Birthday celebration. It was September 1943 when what is now the Toledo Symphony gave its inaugural performance,” said Zak Vassar, President & CEO of the Toledo Symphony. “We will spend a lot of this season looking back over the past 75 years and where the orchestra has been in our community. With Alain’s arrival, this season represents a great moment of artistic change for our organization, but it also represents a great opportunity to raise a glass to where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.” “I am so excited for our season opener and my official debut as Toledo Symphony Music Director. I’m looking forward to bringing some of my new ideas to the table in the 2018-2019 season. Each concert will feature music you know and love and something new for audiences to discover. We hope you can join us to experience the power of live music,” said Alain Trudel, Music Director of the Toledo Symphony. The programs on Friday and Saturday evening open with one of the most recognizable themes in all of music from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The opening four-note motif has been featured in movies, television commercials, and popular…


Eric Steckel puts the pedal to the metal when he plays the blues

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News If you’re a fan of bluesman Eric Steckel, you can thank his Uncle Dave. Steckel, who grew up in Pennsylvania, didn’t have instruments around this house. He did hear the soundtrack of his parents’ vinyl collection. His mother and father bonded over their taste for Deep Purple and the Allman Brothers. Then on a trip to visit his uncle and aunt in Stowe, Vermont, the family visited music store. Young Steckel lit up. “I completely changed. I was at home,” the now 28-year-old said in a telephone interview this week. So his uncle suggested he and Steckel’s dad split the cost of a Stratocaster for the youngster, a guitar he’s only recently retired. Three years later Speckel recorded his first blues record, music influenced by the records his parents spun around the house. Steckel hasn’t stopped playing or developing since then. He now calls his style blues metal, a term coined in jest, that has stuck, became a hashtag, and serves as an apt description for what listeners hear in his performances. Steckel will appear tonight (Friday, Sept. 14) at 9:30 p.m. Howard’s Club H. Cover is $5. He explained blues metal as a style derived from “my heroes,” the Kings of the blues — Albert, Freddie, and B.B. — with “a big massive sound, almost a heavy metal sonically.” He said it took him years and years of playing to find his own voice within the tradition. “It’s this natural beautiful thing that happens. Every night you’re developing.” Everyone he encounters, everything he hears, everything that comes out of his guitar “comes  together into this big pot stew, and that becomes your recipe.” He said as a young musician he got a lot advice from people who wanted him to stay true to the traditional blues sound. “I had this sound, this vision, in my head that wasn’t translating. At a certain point, I said I was going to throw out the rule book and find what I heard in my head. It took a  lot of trial and error, and I found it.” That was about six years ago. Steckel is buoyed by the sales of his most recent album “Polyphonic Prayer,” which is outpacing any of his previous recordings. Like his other recordings, he financed this one himself. He’s rejected deals from record companies including Universal’s European wing. They offer “360” deals, which means they get a cut of everything he does and has done, regardless of their involvement in the project. Recordings still play a role in his career. “The CD form is a dying medium.” But fans still want new music, and recordings  are “a way showing your public this is where I am; this is what I think; what I’m feeling — what I sound like now.” Older fans still want that physical product. Younger fans are likely to listen through streaming services. He finds his fan base, especially in the US, to be split. He’s popular with blues fans 45 and older, and guitar-heads in their teens. His own generation, he said, grew up more on hip-hop and related styles, and the guitar-based styles got lost. In Europe, though, “it’s a whole different story. It’s very colorful.” That explains why he tours about a third of the…


Choral ensemble brings contemporary Passion inspired by the murder of ‘the boy next door’ to BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Craig Hella Johnson first heard the story of Matthew Shepard, he knew he wanted to compose a piece of music about it. Maybe, he thought,  a song. Johnson, the music director and founder of the chamber choir Conspirare, ended up writing a three-movement oratorio. Conspirare will perform “Considering Matthew Shepard” at Bowling Green State University Monday Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. in Kobacker Hall. The performance is part of a two-day residency by Johnson and Conspirare. (See details of residency here.) The performance will be followed by a talk back in Bryan Recital Hall. Advance tickets for community members are $7 and $3 for students and children. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Call 419-372-8171 or purchase online at www.bgsu.edu/arts. Johnson remembers it was a singer in the ensemble who first told him about Shepard’s death. The story of the young gay man’s torture and death in Laramie, Wyoming, outraged the nation. It captivated Johnson for the same reason.  “He just looked like the boy next door,” Johnson said.  “It was quite extraordinary that this could happen to him. … It could have been me.” One section of “Considering Matthew Shepard” is “Ordinary Boy.” “That’s the crux of it,” the composer said.  People hear about hate crimes, but “he put a face on it.” He added: “Hate crimes are spiking again, I’m sad to report. We don’t hear about most of them.” And the way Shepard died, tortured and left tied to a fence barely alive had symbolic resonance.  Coming up with a musical response to Shepard’s death took a long period to germinate.  “It grew over time,” Johnson said. He has often performed Bach’s Passions and realized this was the form he needed to use. From “maybe a song” the idea bloomed into more than 100 minutes of music. In an age of listening to music on shuffle, few people are composing long-form works. Johnson said: “I know we have the capacity for these larger arcs, and I’m interested in continuing to experience that.” Johnson didn’t want to compose something that only appealed to classical music lovers. “I wanted a broad range of people to come and appreciate it,” he said. Bach used chorales based on familiar hymn tunes as a way of connecting his audience to the story. Johnson aspired “to have a lot of friendly entry points.” “Certainly this project is to honor the memory of Matthew,  so that we wouldn’t forget … and people would learn about Matt and what happened and what happens when some of the language we use then can become permeated in our culture.” Those hateful words give license to some act in the most extreme, violent ways. Taking on such a profound theme is why Johnson formed Conspirare in 1991 in Austin, Texas. “I just loved the idea of envisioning  a professional vocal ensemble that could have world class musical artistic standards and be a conduit for our larger selves,” he said.  “We believe music has the power to change lives, and we’re dedicated to that in our organization.” University singers both from BGSU and the University of Toledo as well as members of other community choirs will join Conspirare for one movement of “Considering Matthew Shepard.” Since its formation as a…


BGSU Arts Events through Sept. 29

Sept. 5-29 – BGSU is part of the collaborative “ScupltureX – Igniting Change: Teaching Artists and Social Practice” with the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Toledo Museum of Art, and Contemporary Art Toledo. The BGSU exhibition, sponsored by David and Myrna Bryan and curated by Saul Ostrow, features the work of regional sculpture faculty. BGSU also will host a series of presentations, including talks by Ostrow and Mel Chin, on campus Sept. 29.  Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Sept. 5 – The Faculty Artist Series presents Charles Saenz on trumpet. As a professor and coordinator of the College of Musical Arts’ brass area, Saenz has performed with numerous ensembles, released a solo recording, “Eloquentia,” in 2015 and is a member of the Tower Brass Quintet. His recital starts at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. The performance will also be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/user/bgsumusic/live. Free Sept. 6 – The Prout Chapel Reading Series, hosted by the BGSU Creative Writing program, presents poet Tony Lograsso, a teaching associate in the Department of English, and fiction writer Anne Carney. The readings will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Prout Chapel. Free Sept. 11 – Tuesdays at the Gish presents “The Glass Castle” (2017, U.S., 127 minutes, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton), with an introduction by Mariia Spirina (cq), doctoral student in American culture studies. The film follows Jeannette (Brie Larson) and her wildly eccentric parents (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts). Based on journalist Jeannette Wall’s bestselling memoir, the film intertwines events from her unpredictable nomadic childhood with scenes of Wall as a young writer who comes to terms with her parents. The screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. in 206 Bowen-Thompson Student Union (Theater). Free Sept. 11 – The Guest Artist Series presents pianist Heather Lanners. Lanners, a Canadian pianist, has performed extensively throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe as an active soloist and chamber musician. Her recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. Free Sept. 12 – The Faculty Artist Series presents horn soloist Andrew Pelletier. Pelletier is a brass/percussion professor, a Grammy Award-winning chamber musician and president of the International Horn Society. His recital will begin at 8 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall, Moore Musical Arts Center. Free Sept. 12 – “So Much More: Ohio’s African-American Artists” opens, presented by Bowling Green State University’s School of Art. Over the course of its planning, the exhibition has evolved from a tribute to the legacy of athlete, actor, visual artist and BGSU alumnus Bernie Casey along with other African-American alumni to a broader, intergenerational conversation among alumni, current students and invited African-American artists from Ohio addressing the intersection of racial identity and personal expression.  The exhibition, in the Willard Wankelman Gallery in the Fine Arts Center, runs through Oct. 21. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 6-9 p.m. Thursdays, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Free Sept. 13 – Author Clifford Chase will present “The Art and Craft of Fiction” as part of the Creative Writing program’s weekly reading series. Chase is author of “Winkie,” a novel about a sentient teddy bear accused of terrorism. His talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Thomas…


Here’s that rainy day, & night, theme for Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News This is what legends are made of — blues star Samantha Fish laying down the blues to a packed Howard’s Club H for closing set of the rain-soaked Black Swamp Arts Festival.  She delivered assertive blues with no holds-bar vocals and searing electric guitar to listeners happy not to standing outside in the rain. From the time her festival appearance was announced in June, fans have buzzing about Fish’s appearance. She delivered. Fish delivered more than a powerful set, she delivered a lift to a festival bedeviled by constant rain. The weather, though, never got as severe as expected. That forecast of heavy rain and a series of thunderstorms, led the festival’s organizers on Friday afternoon to cancel the outdoor activities for Sunday. The music was moved inside at Howard’s and Grounds for Thought to salvage most of the music. Bill Donnelly, chair of the festival, stood by the decision Monday. It was made with the safety of everyone involved — patrons, visual artists, performers, and volunteers.  The festival committee had been watching the weather, and consulted with the Wood County Emergency Management Agency and National Weather Service. On Friday, there was a 70 percent chance of heavy rain, strong wings, and lightning on Sunday. “Probability is probability.” That led the committee after meeting with fire, police and public works officials to cancel all outdoor activities on Sunday. He praised the site and logistics team, chaired by Alex Hann, site and logistics team for being “responsive, flexible and focused on protecting the safety of everybody” as well as the festival’s marketing committee for keeping the public informed throughout the weekend.  Cutting the art show short meant the tents in downtown disappeared Saturday evening, leaving Main Street feeling haunted and bleak on Sunday. Donnelly noted that even before the decision was made, artists were contacting the festival saying they would not come because of the weather. About 20 artists scheduled did not show up, he said, though how many because of the weather is not known. Others asked about the possibility of leaving on Saturday, Donnelly said. Having a scattershot exit of artists would have been  logistical nightmare. Though they lost a day of sales, most artists on Saturday were understanding. They appreciated the decision being made earlier enough so they could plan accordingly. One woman whose husband is an artist said that he has lost hundreds of dollars worth of work at shows that refused to cancel, Donnelly said. Though the catastrophic weather did not hit, even the weather that did arrive, cold, rainy, and blustery would have resulted in few patrons and fewer sales, artists told organizers. The rain out was rare this season on the art fair circuit. Artist Mike Grau was one of several who noted high temps, topping 100 degrees at some shows, were more of a problem. People don’t show up when it’s that hot, he said. But Grau and others said that Saturday’s business was brisk. On Facebook, Stacy Poca, co-chair of the visual arts ,said many artists reported good sales, while a few did not do as well. ”It was pretty consistent for what I’ve done on a Saturday, “ said JBird Cremeans, an artist from West Virginia, who won best of show honors. Cremeans and others said…


Music washes away concerns about weather on opening night of Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News On Friday night the music came through at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. For organizers, the day had been tense one as a forecast for severe weather with high winds and a series thunderstorms threatened to wipe out Sunday’s show. It was a day of consultations with emergency management officials, public works and public safety officials, city administrators, and the musicians, artists and vendors who make the show possible. In the end the committee salvaged what it could by moving most musical acts indoors.  The art show and youth activities for Sunday had to be canceled… and the logistics of helping more than 200 artists pack up and leave on Saturday night instead of Sunday afternoon had to be confronted.  All this while volunteers hustled to get the stages up and vendors in place for a 5 p.m. opening.  Then festival opener Drew Joseph took the stage. Shortly before during a final soundcheck, he sang “tonight’s the night.” Rain was in the air, but as the night proceeded, that proved prescient. Tonight was the night that despite lingering light showers, the music washed that all away. Band after band pumped the air full of energy. Rock at first with Joseph, and then exuberant rockabilly with Two Tons of Steel. Then high powered, psychedelic bluegrass with Billy Strings hit with relentless virtuosity that tore at the seams of the genre. The show ended with the shimmering funk grooves of Pimps of Joytime.  And festival goers were in the swing as well. They  danced to the music, munched on the varied delectables from vendors, sipping beer, undeterred by the few rain drops that were falling. Bill Donnelly, who chairs the all-volunteer board that stages the event, was pleased with the energy the music brought. “The crowd was as big as any Friday night we’ve had,” he said early Saturday morning while artists were setting up for today’s art show. Organizers, he said, will have to keep an eye on the weather, but plans are for all events to go on as scheduled. Sunday will be a different story. The forecast from Brad Gilbert, the county EMA director, are dismal with storms that are threatening. The decision to close out all outdoor activities on Sunday and move music into inside was made out of concern for artists, visitors, and volunteers. That forecast, he said Friday, was consistent throughout the day, and unvarying in its promise of damaging storms. That left the committee with no option but to pull the plug, and try to save what it could. That also means additional work for the volunteers, who will now have to clear Main Street by 10 p.m. tonight, and clean and clear as much of the Main Stage area as possible, though some of that will be left until Monday. The committee is asking volunteers who have shifts on Sunday to consider volunteering tonight.  (BG Independent News collaborates with the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and David Dupont serves as chair of  marketing and advertising for the festival.)


Tree No Leaves has plenty to celebrate with multiple shows at Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Tree No Leaves has lots to celebrate at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and the Bowling Green band will have plenty of opportunities to celebrate. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the planting of the seed that’s sprouted into a band that’s a staple of the local music scene. Saturday at noon on the Main Stage they’ll unveil a new session “Prophet Holographic,” a vinyl record issued by the Grounds for Thought Records. “It’s really a milestone for us,” said Dustin Galish, the band’s founder. “Just seeing our name on the same poster as those other (festival) artists is an honor.” The spotlight gig comes at a time when Tree No Leaves is now looking to extend its reach beyond the Black Swamp into some of the nation’s musical hot beds Brooklyn, Detroit, New Orleans, and Austin, Texas. He describes the band’s style as hard psychedelic soul. “That’s an undercurrent of what I brought to it, the soul element,” he said. For him psychedelic involves the “dissolving of genres.” That sound has evolved in the band’s decade of existence. The seed was planted in early 2008 with sound experiments conducted by Galish and his then girlfriend and now wife Sarah Smith. She is a trained musician, who sings, writes, and plays keyboards and performed as Aquatic Fox. For his part, Galish was a self-taught. He grew up in a home without instruments in the house. A baseball player in high school, he came to Bowling Green State University to study graphic design in the Visual Communications Technology program. He always loved music, and collaborating with musicians as a graphic designer. So he tried his hand on keyboards and guitar. Those early experiments led to live gigs with shifting personnel, including Smith. Those first few years the music was an expansion on the abstract explorations, moody pieces in minor keys. But in the last five years the style has evolved. “The last four records have some pop sensibilities,” he said. The songs have shifted into verse and chorus structures, though there’s still elements of improvisation. “There’s a lot more funk, soul and dance. It’s more upbeat,” Galish said of the band’s brighter sound. Before the shows were “more intense.” “You almost had to take a break after you heard us.” Now he said :“It’s a more positive experience. It’s a dance party. And it’s taken us to another level.”  The self-taught Galish has enlisted several well-schooled musicians from BGSU. The current band includes drummer JP Stebal and percussionist Billy Gruber, who have worked together in various College of Musical Arts groups, including the Afro-Caribbean Ensemble. Devonte Stovall is taking over bass responsibilities from Benji Katz, with both players making appearances over the weekend. The most recent addition is saxophonist Garrett Tanner, also from the College of Musical Arts. Rock scene stalwart Calvin Cordy is the band’s lead guitarist. Concentrating on piano has helped Galish develop his musicianship, as has working with his bandmates. “They’re really good listeners.” Over festival weekend, Tree No Leaves will play five times. In addition to the Main Stage hit, they’ll perform Friday night at Howard’s Club H at about 9 before Two Tons of Steel makes it way over the from the Main Stage. On Saturday, they’ll also appear…


Local favorite Tim Tegge stepping up to the Main Stage at Black Swamp Arts Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When singer-songwriter Tim Tegge first played the Black Swamp Arts Festival 10 years ago, he was so nervous that the day before he went to check out the stage. He looked at the atrium at the former Huntington Bank (now the Four Corners Center) and noticed how the pillars went up and formed two Ts, as in his initials. That was a good omen. That show, he said recently, was the first time he’d played an hour-long set. Before then he’d just played a few songs at a time at open mic sessions. He’s been back to perform at the festival since then. This year will mark another first. Tim Tegge and the Black Swamp Boys will perform on the Main Stage Sunday at 11 a.m. “I still can’t believe I’m on the Main Stage.” Tegge’s been writing songs in earnest for 15 years now, though his first one, “Fishing Hole,” was written 25 years ago. After that initial effort, marriage to his wife, Jayne, and parenthood, and the usual ebb and flow of life intervened.  It was the death his friend Lloyd Shelton that helped steer him back to songwriting. In preparing Shelton’s eulogy, he realized it’d been a long time since he’d played his guitar. There was a song he was meaning to write, so he picked up the instrument again. “It’s just like the dam broke open,” he said. He now felt like he wasn’t imitating his heroes such as John Denver and James Taylor. “Something came alive.” For the last 15 years he’s been dedicated to writing songs.  Now playing a three-hour gig at a winery doesn’t faze him, not with 130 songs in his book. Those songs touch on familiar, every day concerns, of a 50-something guy. “Why Can’t We Go Back?” is a comic lament about the gentrification of the simple cup of coffee. The song has been turned into a video produced by Jack O’Hare featuring a cast of characters as former tough guys who now drink sugary lattes.  He’s also penned a tribute to the mothers and other women who end up spending “Christmas in the Kitchen.”  He also penned “Showdown in Pull Town” for the Natoal Tractor Pulling Championships. He draws from life, jotting down phrases he hears, remembering stories he’s been told. When he started writing, his music was drawn from his own life. Now he draws on other people’s experiences. “It’s interesting how many people say: ‘Here’s a good song idea.’ And sometimes it is.” He often writes for other people. He’ll sometimes offer to write a song for someone as a charity auction item. “What I really like are the parameters of the three-and-half-minute song. How do you tell that story in three and a half minutes and make every word count?” Some songs come together quickly, others linger, 90 percent done, until he finds just the right phrase, “like a puzzle piece,” that rounds it out. That may take a couple years. Tegge shares those stories and tunes as a regular on the area music scene. Tegge, 54, first came to Bowling Green from Fairfield just north of Cincinnati to attend Bowling Green State University in 1982. After graduating having studied biological sciences, he went back to Fairfield. But he wanted…