Category Archives: concerts

some thoughts on asheville’s bele chere

Asheville North Carolina

Asheville North Carolina

Yours Truly was born in Asheville, North Carolina, in the <ahem> late ‘60’s, and raised nearby from then until the time he left for college in the go-go eighties. This was a time in Western North Carolina when several beautiful things in the area made it a tourist destination (The Biltmore House, Folkmoot, the Highland Games, the Blue Ridge Parkway, etc.)…but downtown Asheville was not really much of a draw for visitors to the area. Because of municipal involvement in the financial collapses of the Great Depression, the city of Asheville would be paying back some crushing debt for the the next forty years, and this included the 70’s. Because of this, commercial development downtown had only produced a few modernist buildings. Painted sheet metal facades over neglected pre-war buildings was the decorative rule of downtown when Mama would take my brother and me to JC Penney for school clothes on Battery Park Avenue. I remember a school field trip through the National Climactic Data Center, just about the most non-dramatic governmental agency you could think of, housed ironically in the travertine and terra cotta gothic chaos of the Grove Arcade. How I ached to study those leering gargoyles and fly up and down those soaring spiral staircases while we walked in line from one supercomputer to another! It was a tour of “Hal 2000” in Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and I thought this was normal. Weren’t all downtowns a little dark and grimy but full of wondrous art deco and neo-gothic detail, demurely sheathed in perforated aluminum? Visualize in the midst of all this architecturally thwarted childhood a street festival, conceived among the frustrated merchants who were hanging on in those dilapidated buildings: a street festival that would be free, full of food, drink, arts and merchandise for sale, a festival that would close some downtown streets each summer and maybe drum up some sorely needed business. That’s what Asheville decided in 1978 when it founded Bele Chere (“beautiful living” in a Scottish dialect.) To be perfectly honest, almost all I ever knew about Bele Chere growing up in Asheville was when to avoid downtown on the last July weekend each year because of it:  street closings really ruin the festive effect for locals already living the culture and uninterested in bric-a-brac. Of course as adolescence arrived and I yearned for exploration, I started to attend sporadically and actually PAY to park several blocks away (madness!!) and walk to the closed off Asheville streets for fried food, art browsing, and bands on the stage. Bele Chere was mostly successful, always big news on the local television newscasts, and eyed curiously if not suspiciously by the surrounding local folk who’d already done all the cultural exploring they cared for. Fast forward thirty-two years, and today Bele Chere REALLY takes over a downtown that it arguably helped to transform. All that corrugated aluminum is gone and downtown Asheville is a thriving mountain media superstar, always ready for its closeup and humming with transplants chatting on cellphones down those same streets that were so sleepy when I was a child. Bele Chere is now the largest free festival in the southeast United States with 300,000+ visitors expected each June. There’s even a recent debate among Asheville merchants that Bele Chere is hurting their now-thriving businesses, and should maybe be moved or reconceptualized. I don’t think that will happen because Bele Chere seems to now be a festival juggernaut that could best be managed but hardly extinguished, and Asheville and Bele Chere are forever linked, basically a happy and productive marriage, minor arguments notwithstanding. If you happen to either live in or be traveling through the Asheville area in late June, I would encourage you to visit Bele Chere and see for yourself how my hometown and her annual debunante ball have thrived and grown. I might stop by myself and marvel at how much some things change and actually pay Atlanta prices for Asheville parking while Bele Chere is going on. For more details about Bele Chere, try www.belecherefestival.com.

-Scott

all you need is love (and grooovy music and costumes)

Staib Dance collaborated with the Atlanta Gay Men's Chorus for our most recent concert in July 2010

Staib Dance collaborated with the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus for our most recent concert in July 2010

They’ve done it again! The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus performed their latest concert “All You Need Is Love: The Music of the Beatles” on July 9th and 10th to enthusiastic audiences–dare I say “screaming fans?” All reports indicate it was another homerun for the Chorus and Artistic Director Kevin Robison, who also conceived the tribute and arranged all the music. A special “Wow!” has to be said for Staib Dance, the eight-woman Emory-based dance troupe who collaborated with choreographer Eric Klem and performed onstage throughout the show, lending inventive interpretive dance to the music. Despite a record 30 songs performed, the chorus energy never flagged and the seamless flow between Beatles hits left the audience cheering for even more at the final curtain drop, as a waving, smiling chorus, arm in arm, swayed to the namesake tune “All You Need is Love.” A special highlight of the evening: “Eleanor Rigby” morphing with music and stagework into “Hey Jude” and the audience waving colored glowsticks back and forth as the whole theater repeated the chorus. Wow! Rumor has it that another great AGMC season is in store for ’10-’11 (its 30th season) with a sequel to the recent “Opera OUR Way” concert and a concert featuring a venerable Everywoman of stage and screen, Joanna Gleason. Fans of the chorus can hardly wait! Well done, AGMC. You are on your way to the top! -Scott

the atlanta philharmonic prepares for a february 6th performance

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Today we focus on the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra (APO), the world’s fifth LGBT Orchestra, with a  review of their most recent concert and information about their upcoming Winter Concert in February.

The APO was founded in December 2004 with an inaugural concert in December 2005.  It’s five-part mission statement includes the education of members and audiences, entertainment for Atlanta and Georgia residents, fellowship among members and supporters, affirmation of the LGBT community to the public, and growth of other LGBT symphony orchestras in other cities.

The most recent performance by the APO was Saturday November 14th, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, under the baton of conductor Mirna Ogrizovic-Ciric.  On the program: Rossini’s Overture to Cinderella, Haydn’s Symphony no. 1, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 in A, with guest pianist Paolo Andre Gualdi.  The Rossini was effervescent, lively, and jocular.  This should be performed more often.  The acoustics at St. Bartholomew were kind to the instrumentalists and every section seemed clear for the sold-out audience.  Next, the Haydn (Clock) symphony: very well performed, but at times a little rushed.  Haydn was lively and a crowd-pleaser, however.  After a brief intermission, guest pianist Paolo Andre Gualdi performed the Mozart.  He had a wonderfully accurate touch with impressive dynamic control and melodic intuition.  The orchestra laid a clear, solid background, and Mr. Gualdi leapt in with perfect timing.  The crowd kept quiet to hear each note from the pianist, especially during the heartbreakingly beautiful and haunting Andante.

The APO next performs on February 6th, again at St. Bartholomew, with guest cellist Martin Gueorguiev.  The program will feature selections including Bizet’s Carmen, Saint Saens’ The Swan, and Haydn’s Concerto in D for Cello.  The concert begins at 7:00 pm, and tickets are available online at www.atlantaphilharmonic.org or at the door for $15 and $20.