You-review-it Monday

March 5, 2012
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For me, the weekend included the local premiere of "God of Carnage" at the Indiana Repertory Theatre (keep an eye out for stray stuffed hamsters on the streets of downtown--you could win free tickets), the two works kicking off this year's Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, and lots of new game playing at Who's Yer Con, a mini-GenCon at the Clarion Waterfront (not electronic games but face-to-face, actually-interacting-with-your-fellow-human-beings games).

Favorite discover at the game convention: Masters of Commerce, a very lively--and, in our case, very loud--negotiation game in which landlords battle to secure the highest rents for their properties while merchants compete against each other to maximize profits on those same proerties. 

And you? What did you hear, see or otherwise do this weekend?

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  • Derby!
    Lou, you really need to see a Junior Roller Derby bout. This past Saturday the Indianapolis Junior Roller Derby Allstars welcomed the Des Moines Derby Brats, for the first 2012 home game. Hopewfully you can make it to a bout this year. They will also do a game at hakftime of the Naptown game, in April..
  • ABA Conference
    I attended three performances by college wind ensembles at the American Bandmasters Association Conferences hosted by Butler University. Kudos to Dan Bolin and Bob Grechesky for bringing this prestigious event to Indy. The concerts were at Clowes Hall. The Indiana University Wind Ensemble played a most interesting combination of band classics and newer works. The format of the ABA concerts is that there is a different conductor for each work, with the ensemble conductor leading the final piece. Ray Cramer, retired Director of Bands at IU, conducted a beautiful new work by Kevin Walczyk called From Glory to Glory. It was an emotional moment, as this work was composed in memory of Cramer's daughter Heather, who died in a car accident. I have always enjoyed watching Ray Cramer conduct, as he achieves sweeping large scale moments without getting too fussy. The ensemble reacted wonderfully to his gestures. IU Tuba Professor Dan Perantoni was a guest soloist and played two tangos by Astor Piazzola. Perantoni was especially expressive and played often in the highest register of the tuba with supreme confidence and beautiful sound. The concert opened with the national anthems of Canada and the US, and the version of the Star Spangled Banner was quite different from the norm, featuring extensive countermelodies that threatened to hide the tune. It was interesting, but not my cup of tea. Music Director Stephen Pratt led the ensemble in the finale, the Spitfire Prelude and Fugue of William Walton, which showed the virtuosity of the ensemble at a high level.
    The second performance was by the Michigan State University Wind Symphony, and this one focused more on recent works. Voice Professor Molly Fillmore was a fine soloist on Luigi Zaninelli's setting of Three American Gospel Songs. His Eye is on the Sparrow was especially effective. My favorite new work from this concert was Avelynn's Lullaby by Joel Puckett, a composer who has produced several interesting works that are becoming part of the repertoire for serious concert bands. The Lullaby explored a variety of innovative textures and combinations of wind and percussion instruments, and it also was quite melodic. Many new band works deal extensively with the textures but are not as memorable because the melodic aspect is left out. The last work, the finale from Concerto for Wind Ensemble by Steven Bryant, was conducted by the ensemble's Music Director Kevin Sedatole. It is an exciting and explosive tour de force that features several instruments placed around the audience, in this case in the side and rear balconies at Clowes. The band was most comfortable under his baton, and they played with power and drive. Joseph Lulloff, Professor of Saxophone at MSU, was featured in two movements of the Concerto for Soprano Saxophone of John Mackey. He is a virtuoso soloist and one of the more athletic performers on a wind instrument, just an interesting to see as to hear. Unfortunately the scoring of the accompaniment is too heavy and drowned out much of the soloist's efforts. Amplification of the soloist is a necessity with this work.
    The final concert of the ABA Conference was given by the host ensemble, the Butler University Wind Ensemble. Highlights included a tribute to retired Butler Director of Bands John Colbert on the event of his 90th birthday. Current Director of Bands Robert Grechesky closed the concert with a work that he discovered, an Adagio for Band by Ralph Vaughan Williams that was never published, and whose themes were rearranged by the composer as part of his Violin Concerto. The familiar Toccata Marziale closed the concert, and the Butler ensemble played with a bold approach to the rhythmic intensity that the work needs, which is a challenge not often met in performance. This was indeed a wonderful week for band music in Indianapolis.
  • God of Carnage
    I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at the IRT. God of Carnage was big, adult funny. As a mom, I could see myself defending my child; as a wife, I could relate to several of the scenes; as a career woman, I could relate to the lawyer dealing with his client; etc. And the whole story line around the hamster was hilarious. Too much fun! I loved it!!

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