Monday, January 31, 2011

Singing is like praying twice

The Choristers are welcoming new singers to join them in rehearsal for a concert presentation of Antonin Dvorak's "Stabat Mater." Find out what they're about 7:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church, Susquehanna Avenue and Butler Pike, Upper Dublin.
The Dvorak work was inspired by a 13th century poem meditating on the suffering of St. Mary during Jesus' crucifixion and everlasting life.
The concert date is 7:30 p.m. Saturday April 16, the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
Artistic director David Spitko requests a heads-up if you want to audition by calling (215) 542-7871 or e-mailing

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gifts that keep giving

Looky what I got for Christmas!
*Reporter account executive Scott Miller, who's also part of The Reporter's blogger community, has taken to making a mix CD for everybody at the paper every December. After the eclectic first 2 mixes, I was initially disappointed with the 2010 version because -- ready for this? -- there were too many songs I recognized. After being challenged to embrace erudite Miller picks from the likes of Marc Broussard, Duffy, MIA, Shelby Lynne, etc., somehow it seemed like a letdown to be getting "Joy to the World," "Imagine," "Windy" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which have been driven into the ground by radio for decades.
Now there was a twist to it. "White Rabbit" was a remake by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals ("Grace covering Grace," as Miller put it). The Fifth Dimension's "One Less Bell to Answer" was covered nicely by Sheryl Crow. The Gipsy Kings sped up "Hotel California" and sang it in Spanish. "Let It Be" is the version from the "Across the Universe" soundtrack (what a WEIRD flick that was - but that's another entry).
And I did, after all, get a huge kick out of hearing Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual" and Golden Earring's "Radar Love."
Miller later explained to me that the compilation was an ode to favorite 45s he grew up listening to as a kid, a most appropriate theme for a Christmas gift mix.

*My musician uncle had been smitten by supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, with Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal), and put their self-titled album under my tree. There's an irony here with Led Zep's bass player teaming up with the Nirvana drummer. The latter band had poked fun at so-called "cock rock" with a song called "Aero Zeppelin."
Holy cow, is this album LOUD! I'm still digesting this edgy brainchild, and for some reason, it sounds better on my computer than it does in my car.
I like the shades of '60s psychedelia that pop up every once in a while. Jamming to the electronic dance groove on the song "Gunman" right now.

*The Beatles' successful '70s retrospective double albums "1962-1966" and "1967-1970" were recently remastered and gifted to me. Gotta give that a strong thumbs-up as a gift. Since I already own all those songs on CD, I never would have thought about investing in remastered incarnations of "The Red Album" and "The Blue Album," which now have fresh liner notes (although there's some repetition on both albums) with cool photos, and nice artwork.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Philly folk flavor

Sellersville Theater is my favorite venue to see live music. There's nothing quite like the intimacy of the place. I rediscovered that at the Dec. 29 "Monsters of Philly Folk" concert with WXPN Philly Local darlings Chris Kasper, Hezekiah Jones (Everybody in the band has a fictitious Jones stage name, a la The Ramones), and Andrew Lipke & The Prospects.
During the big-voiced Lipke's set, he thanked the audience for braving the elements to make it to the theater. He was referring to the storm from Dec. 27. I murmured, what I thought was under my breath, "That was two days ago." From the D row, where I was sitting, it could be heard from the stage. This prompted cellist, Krista Nielsen, to look over at Lipke and crack a joke about not "living in the past."
Lipke's clearly an accomplished musician, but he has to work on not appearing so impressed by his own abilities. The eclectic selections switched gears from string quartet-heavy songs; while others took on a Jeff Buckley sonic mold; and others felt like Tears For Fears' mid-90s, esoteric material.
"Standing Over You" was a standout performance. Yet there were songs, like "Untitled Song #1," (Dude, always title your friggin' songs! #1? You mean there's going to be others without a title?) that make you scratch your head and wonder: "What does this guy want to be? A chamber music rocker? A pop singer/songwriter? Or what?"
The Sellersville crowd - many coming from Philly, judging by how late some of them arrived - loved him. I wonder how a New York audience would receive Lipke.

Hezekiah Jones, fronted by Raphael Cutrufello, has a way with turning a lyrical phrase that grabs your attention. "What was once a pickle is twice the cucumber" LOL
Seeing this clip of "Writing Letters in the Morning" confirms an observation I made at the show that Cutrufello doesn't like to directly face the audience - quite a quirk for a singer to have.
Dig the fiddler!

I first heard of Chris Kasper in 2006, thanks to Lansdale Catholic product Kate Gaffney. "And You Wait," "The Stoop," "Ain't No Saint" and "Baltimore Street" were some of the best performances of the night (Well that, and when all the musicians came together on stage and played John Lennon's "Instant Karma"). I was particularly impressed that his backup band included the likes of Philip D'Agostino and Kevin Killen, Philly Local picks in their own right. Check out this clip of Kasper & Gaffney together.

Even if you're seeing someone whose songs you don't know all that well, time at the Sellersville Theater is time well spent.