Thursday, January 30, 2014

National Symphony Orchestra tickets on sale for $11

Martin Frost will debut with the National Symphony Orchestra April 24 when he plays Aho's Clarinet Concerto/Photo by Mats Backer

Can you believe it?  For less than the price of a movie.

A mailing I received from the Kennedy Center says a minimum of any three concerts (certain dates and times) without a handling fee are all you need to buy to get $11 tickets.

You can get better seats for $22 or $33 each, depending upon the level where you want to sit, but since my purse is mean and lean, I'm going with the extra super-duper low price to beat all.

Timpanist Jauvon Gilliam will play Oliverio's Concerto No. 1 in a night of symphony and dance at NSO May 13/Photo by Margot Schulman

Okay, the details:  No Saturday nights, but there are plentiful Thursday and Friday nights available: Feb. 27-28, Mar. 13-14, Mar. 20-21, April 10-11, April 17-18, April 24-25, May 7-8 (Wednesday and Thursday), May 13 (Tuesday), May 16, June 5-6, and June 12-13. 
The programs are fantastic:   Beethoven, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Prokofiev, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Gershwin, and Copland to name many of the composers.

Violinist Leila Josefowicz will join NSO in a night of symphony and dance when she plays Adams' Violin Concerto May 16/Photo by Henry Fair
The May programs feature "symphony and dance" like Bernstein's On the Waterfront (May 7-8),  The Three Faces of Duke Ellington (May 13), and Adams' Violin Concerto (May 16). 

Rush!  (Whew!  This puts me in one.)

James Conlon will conduct NSO April 10 and 11 in works by Zemlinsky, Korngold, and Brahms/Photo by Robert Millard

Log on to and choose the Triple Play Subscription under NSO Classical. Make your selections and check out.  Last year I couldn't get online reservations to work for me so this year I called 202-416-8500, and "Billy" got me all signed up and squared away, pronto.  Thanks, Billy!

The offer ends February 21, 2014, and it can be withdrawn at any time.  Time's a fleetin'.  Enjoy the show!  (You know, don't you, about the free shuttle which runs about every 10 minutes from the Foggy Bottom Metro Station to Ken Cen?  And back.)
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'This' on Vienna's stage is lots more than 'this'

 From left, Matthew Randall, Shannon Benton, Allen McRae, Rikki Howie Lacewell, and Kevin Walker with baby, and, mostly hidden in the background, pianist Scott Richards in This at Vienna Theatre Company/Photo by Peter Hill

The weakest link in this chain has got to be the title of this Northern Virginia premiere of This, yes, This, now playing at the Vienna Theatre Company

A dull, nondescript pronoun?

You got it (or this) right, Sister.  I mean we all have hang-ups, but This?

It is so much more than this.  It is a modern-day world, a contemporary drama/comedy as written by Melissa James Gibson with its ups and downs and how humans deal with adversity.  "I am sick of being human," says the show stealer, Alan (Matthew Randall). 

From left, Allen McRae, Shannon Benton, Matthew Randall, and Kevin Walker in This at Vienna Theatre Company/Photo by Peter Hill

It's today, after all, in New York City meaning f-bombs drop often in the second act, but not to worry.  At least, last Friday night's crowd didn't seem too bothered, and there was a goodly number of senior citizens present (and others) despite the ice and snow and low temperatures, but "f" is so common nowadays whatever do you think is its replacement?

Anyway, not to talk about that all night, but This where the stage star is the acting, especially by the two female stars,  widow and poetess Jane (Shannon Benton) and Marrell (Rikki Howie Lacewell), who are BFF, or they are until...

The location is mostly Tom (Kevin Walker) and Marrell's apartment where a new friend, a doctor from France (?), Jean-Pierre (Allen McRae), joins old friends, including gay Alan and Jane in an evening of games.  Jean-Pierre is a set-up by Marrell for Jane undergoing the stress of her dearly departed husband (or when she remembers him, only in the ashes a year). Marrell and Tom have a new baby who puts additional strains on their marriage as babies do. 

Mama and Papa constantly bicker:  "I thought when you got married, you were supposed to make each other feel better. We make each other feel worse."

Alan's one-liners produce lots of audience laughter and without them, it would be a dreary presentation:  "How much money do you make and is it more money than I make and how can you help me?"  

Jean-Pierre says he doesn't have a television, and Alan responds:  "Oh, don't tell me you are one of those!"  One of the best:  "I wish this room had more wainscoting."  (You have to be there.)

The set is fine, however, a room divider placed in front of the sofa when the scene changes to Jane's apartment, or two artificial trees behind the bench for the park talk would have improved the appearance and reduced the intrusion on the new scenes by the old scenes. 

Throughout the production two large wall screens display photographs of the outdoors, changing seasons, and neon bar signs, and were quite successfully employed.

Scott Richards' original music and piano playing enriched the performance in a dramatic way, particularly with perfectly timed single notes.

The script and meaning of the short last scene left me confounded. But the acting makes you realize, once again, how lucky we are in the D.C. region to be blessed with so much theatre talent.


After the show, the producer, Jesse Roberts, said the weather wrecked havoc with rehearsal time, but theatregoers never knew.

Next up:  a competition for better title!

This was directed by Tom Flatt, Set Design: Kevin King,
Lighting: Anne Marie Castrigno, Sound/Projections: Jon Roberts, Projections: Ed Conley, Costumes: Susan Boyd,
Set Decoration/Props: Jocelyn Steiner, Stage Manager: Don Libretta, Assistant Stage Manager/Crew: Laura Moody, George Sinks, Dina Green.

For a listing and reviews of other area performances, click here for DC Metro Theater Arts.

What:  This

When:  January 31, February 1, 7, and 8 (Fridays and Saturdays) at 8 p.m., and February 2 and 9 (Sundays) at 2 p.m. 

Where:  Vienna Theatre Company,120 Cherry Street, Vienna, VA 22180

Tickets:  $13

Language and adult themes make it inappropriate for most children under age 16.

For more information: 703-255-6360 or visit the website

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Contemporary contraptions at McLean's Project for the Arts

Melissa Burley, Geared Up/Patricia Leslie
How can anyone visit a modern art show and not come away astonished by what artists can create and make?

The newest exhibition at the McLean Community Center will leave viewers' eyes open wide.  It's called Contraptions:  Reflections on the Almost Functional, and they are.

Stephanie Williams, Alex, is priced at $2,500/Patricia Leslie
The brochure says the artists draw, make, sculpt, and assemble works which deal with "real, imagined, or implied" functionality.  I'll say.   Not all the pieces conjured up "functionality" for me.  Take Stephanie Williams' Alex, for example. Alex struck me as a gynecological model of a one-legged being, maybe a harnessed man? A harassed man ensnared by a wheelbarrow's bars? He begins to reach for assistance, for help with his (he is a "his," of that I am quite certain) long, skinny appendages. Perhaps, that is the message:  Men determine body decisions for women, so let's capture man, and we'll make body decisions for him.  I'll vote for that.

The "thing" is headless so thinking equipment, if it exists, may reside elsewhere on the structure. And what is that end product, please, the pink blob?

The artist, Rima Schulkind with her Say Cheese, priced at $2,500, and perfect for a camera shop/Patricia Leslie
A few steps away in the Ramp Gallery are Eric Celarier's Wasteland Series, old and new computer parts strung out on leather quilts, stitched together with leather ties.  I can just see them hanging on entrance walls at Apple, HP, and ASUS.  They are a visual history of a computer's parts, a tech landscape and available in various sizes. 

Eric Celarier with one of his Wasteland Series/Patricia Leslie

Mr. Celarier said some parts are quite old, going back several decades. Computers are not as new as one might think.  I can recall about 1985 when a colleague brought his new computer to work, after Christmas.  It was the size of a refrigerator.  (He always had to be the first kid on the block to have the newest of everything. I am certain a robot is driving him to work by now if he is not luxuriating on a sea on Mars.)

Eric Celarier, Wasteland Series XIV/Patricia Leslie

Meanwhile, in the Atrium Gallery are sculptures by Melissa Burley who has used recycled equipment, including bicycle chains, to show off her creations encased in lighted boxes. (I wonder how old Melissa is.  Anyone remember light boxes?)  Round and round they go, circles and wheels suggesting motion like our brain waves which never stop (are you sure?), trapped by our own limitations and constant repetitions.

For those dinner guests who insist on staying beyond the midnight hour, you can pull out Melissa Burley's Hot Seat/Patricia Leslie
You see what art can do!  Go and find out what the pieces say to you and please, write soon.

Nancy Sausser curated Contraptions, and other artists represented are Blake Hurt, Adam Hager, and Dymphna de Wild.  All Contraptions are for sale.

Scheduled talks and workshops at the McLean Community Center are:

Friday, Feb. 21, 7 - 9 p.m. "Waste in Contemporary Art" with Eric Celarier.  Free.

Saturday, Feb. 22, 10 - 11:30 a.m. Family Art Workshop:  "Multi-Media Mobiles" for ages 4 - 8. $10/family

Saturday, Feb. 22, 1 - 4 p.m. Workshop with Eric Celarier:  "Anatsui and Reuse Art" for ages 9 - 14. $10

What: Contraptions:  Reflections on the Almost Functional with more art in the galleries

When: Now through March 1, 2014, Monday through Thursday: 9 a.m. - 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 9 a.m. - 12 a.m., and Sunday: 12 - 6 p.m. 

Where: McLean Project for the Arts at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, VA 22101. For directions and a map, click here.

Admission: No charge

Parking:  Plentiful and free

For more information: 703-790-1953 or 703-790-0123
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Monday, January 20, 2014

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier lured by tuition benefits

Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Jan. 15, 2014/Patricia Leslie

Cathy Lanier was a single mom and working as a secretary and a waitress, enjoying her jobs but wanting to go back to school. Once she "got common sense" after her "turbulent" teen years, her mother told her daughter that if she wanted to get ahead, to get an education.  

Chief Lanier took her mama's advice.

Last week at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette SquareD.C.'s popular police chief talked about her past and the changes at the police department for the church's Lafayette Fellowship.  One man said he came from New York City to hear her talk.

Her motives for joining the police force were not totally altruistic, she said, and she didn't think she'd stay too long when she was hired in 1990, but the tuition benefits the department offered were mighty attractive, and she was anxious to get back in school.

Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Jan. 15, 2014/Patricia Leslie
Now, a few years later, she has a B.S., two master's degrees, and is a graduate of the FBI's National Academy.

In the department over the years she advanced up the ranks until 2007 when Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed her police chief. She was 39. (Her present five-year contract ends in 2017.)

Speaking "off the cuff" without notes, she paced back and forth in front of the audience of about 100 who sat quietly in the pews and later asked questions. She talked quickly and enthusiastically. It is quite obvious she loves her job.

She spoke proudly of the reduction in the number of homicides in the District which fell 53% between 2008 and 2012. The lowest number of murder cases in recent history was recorded in 2012 (88) after a high of almost 500 a year.

She hated that Washington was known as the murder capital of the world and has tried to inspire the force with "can do" thinking and and show "what we can accomplish" instead of perceptions of what can't be done.

Before she became chief, she was bothered by the department's attitude about murders. Within the ranks some homicides were considered more important than others, but to the chief: "personally, I think they all [murders] are important….every murder really matters," a belief she has fought to instill within the force.

Critical to her are closing old murder cases which are now happening at the rate of 18 to 20 "cold cases" a year, some going back to the 1990s.

The department has been aided by the addition of new technologies and tools, making Washington "the most technically advanced police department in the country," she said. "We've come a long way."

She noted that Washington's nighttime and daytime populations are now about the same. The District is one of the fastest growing cities in America, meaning there's lots more work for law enforcement.

The district force works closely with Homeland Security and Capitol Hill police, in addition to police and troopers in Maryland and Virginia. It's essential to be able to get along well with others and have a positive attitude if you want to achieve common goals, she said.

Since she's on the news so much, seemingly for every major crime story, does she have any free time? Answer: yes, but no hint about what she does with it.

Has she ever considered or been asked to run for public office? Demurely, Chief Lanier said she didn’t think she had the temperament. Some might say she speaks too truthfully and tells it too much like it really is.

When asked for good advice for citizens, she said: "Please don't walk around with your mobile device in your hand. They sell quickly." Property crimes are the vast majority of crimes in the District.

She answered questions about gun control, race v. class divisions within the District, the influx of millennials moving back to the area and how it affects crime, and promoting more women within the police department.

The chief comes from a family of public servants: one brother is a police officer and another brother is a firefighter like her dad was. Her mother acts as consultant for her daughter, dispensing advice. Mothers are always right.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

'Urinetown' is a blast at Dominion Stage

Urinetown's Ensemble at Dominion Stage/photo by Jessica Sperlongano

It may not be a "happy musical" but it's a daffy musical, a frolicking musical, one which entertains, and whizzes by with precise timing.

It's a comedy tonight!

Chris Christie and the bridge debacle, water problems in West Virginia and now other states, the French president and his three amours, and the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI are just some of the current news stories which come to mind. 

Where there are politicians, can greed, lies, money, and deception lie far behind?  And provide plentiful content to satirize on stage? 

Welcome, scandals!

And what's love got to do with it? Or, the poor? Pity.

"Darling," says Senator Cladwell exquisitely played by Michael Bagwell, to his daughter, Hope (Melissa Berkowitz): "What do you mean by 'love'?" 

If you are like me, you have been intrigued by the title, Urinetown, for a while, but don't let it fool you. It is not all "bathroom humor," as the program states. Far less than I imagined, and children, one as young as six or so, were present at the performance I attended, and laughed as much as the rest of us who love dancing (choreographed by Rikki Howie and Patrick M. Doneghy, also the director) and songs and whimsy and fun and lots of action and n'er a dull moment for your mind to wander. 

I had many "favs" among the large cast of characters (large casts are often more enthralling, don't you think?): Little Sally (Dana Robinson) and Miss Pennywise (Katherine Lipovsky) both exaggerating in exactly the right amounts; certainly, the narrator played by Christopher Guy Thorn, who as Officer Lockstock begins and ends the show with special  messages to the audience in his cop uniform with perfect cop sunglasses and assiduous mannerisms, assisted by the wild and wide-eyed Officer Barrel (Steve Custer).

Another who drew lots of laughs whenever he pranced (he did) on stage was Ian A. Coleman, McQueen, a dashing assistant, among one of his roles.  Several actors shouldered multiple parts.  More applause.

For a non-profit, the acting continues to embellish Washington's reputation as a growing theatre hub. And not a
big fan of musicals, I nonetheless found Urinetown engrossing and amusing.

The singing was fine, and not only will you hear gospel a cappella, but rock and roll trickles in and whiffs from Broadway like Lez Miz, West Side Story (dig that finger popping scene!) and was it my imagination? The Wizard of Oz?

Kevin Diana led a six-piece orchestra to enrich the night's presentation.

My only complaint is the mustache and wig for Old Man Strong (Matt Baughman) are a trifle overdone.  Costumes, lighting, and sets are well designed, and set changes occur in shadowy, silhouetted spaces without noisy accompaniment.

The program says the idea of this farce came from writer Greg Kotis's actual experience in Europe in the late 1990s when he ran out of money which he needed for a public urinal, circumstances which begged him to inquire of others:  "Spare any change?" 

The auditorium at the Gunston seats 426, and there is no reserved seating nor a bad spot in the house, so you have nothing to worry about. If you take children, proximity to the stage is all important, and their pupils may enlarge to match Officer Barrel's.

The remaining cast members: Michael Bigley, Teresa Danskey, Willie Garner, Ian Hoch, Kyle Keene, Lauren Kuhn, Matt Liptak, James Maxted, Larissa Norris, Joelle Thomas, Leslie Walbert, and Erica Wisniewski. The show is produced by Shawn g. Byers and Richard Isaacs. Christine Farrell is the stage manager.

Plot?  You need plot?  Just go, darling, and enjoy.  There is too much to write.  This only won three Tonys?  It must have been a competitive year.

"Yes, WEE can!"

Urinetown is your town is our town is "you are in town?"

What: Dominion Stage's Urinetown: The Musical

When: 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday through January 25, 2014

Where:  Gunston Theater One, 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA 22206

How much: $20

For more information: 571-377-4697

Language:  G (Oh, there are a couple of "damns.")
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Civil War sculpture at the National Gallery of Art trumpets African-Americans' valor

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Shaw Memorial (1900), Jarek Tuszynski/Wikimedia Commons, 2009

It is not the solitary figure on horseback for whom the sculpture at the National Gallery of Art is named that draws the most attention.

It is the figures and faces of the 16 black soldiers who follow and precede him in unison, carrying bayonets on their shoulders, marching on Beacon Street on May 28, 1863 before 20,000 who came to send them off, to fight Confederates hundreds of miles away.

Listen carefully and you can hear the sounds the drummer boy makes as he leads the procession.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Shaw Memorial (1900). The model at the National Gallery of Art is on long-term loan from the National Park Service, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, N.H./Patricia Leslie

The work, called the greatest American sculpture of the 19th century, is well known as the Shaw Memorial, named after the aristocratic white colonel, Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863) who commanded the first black brigade from the North, one of the first groups of black soldiers to fight for the Union Army. 

Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society. From the Natiional Gallery of Art exhibition, Tell It With Pride

Massachusetts' Civil War black community originally objected to the white officer's leadership, however, the goals to defeat slavery and earn full citizenship took precedence.

The 54th Massachusetts Regiment left Boston and sailed for points south. In July about 600 members assisted other Union forces in attacking Fort Wagner, a guardian of Charleston's harbor.

Members of the 54th included sons of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Charles and Lewis, and men from northern states, southern and border states, Canada, and some runaway slaves.

Although they did not win at Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863, and half of the 54th Regiment were wounded or killed, along with Lt. Shaw, their heroism and dedication became part of America's legacy, to be brilliantly remembered and portrayed in the masterful bronze made by Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907) which was unveiled at Boston Common on Memorial Day, May 31, 1897 where it stands now.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Shaw Memorial in Boston in a state of disrepair (1973).  From the Natiional Gallery of Art exhibition, Tell It With Pride

The National Gallery's 54th memorial model is gold leaf patinated plaster, modified by Saint-Gaudens after the original was completed, and submitted in 1900 to international competition in Paris where it won the Grand Prize.  The sculptor made changes on the plaster model to soldiers' faces, the horse, and the allegorical figure at the top, commonly perceived as an angel who carries an olive branch and poppies.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the soldiers' bravery, the National Gallery hosts with the sculpture an exhibition through January 20 of photographs, letters, documents and other original material.  Two galleries of information outline the background and the making of the sculpture which took Saint-Gaudens 14 years to finish. When asked what took so long, he said it wasn't the execution of the piece but "the thinking about it," according to the catalogue.
Robert Gould Shaw (1837-1863) may have used this sword at the Battle of Antietam where he was wounded.  It and other original materials are on display at the National Gallery of Art through January 20, 2014/Patricia Leslie

The name of the exhibition: Tell It With Pride comes from an anonymous July 31, 1863 letter to Col. Shaw's parents conveying the horrible news of their son's death in battle: "The black soldiers marched side by side with their white comrades in arms to the assault.  (Tell it with pride to the world.)"

Rather than having only their son captured in art, the Shaws wanted the sculptor to express the mission of white and black soldiers together, all heroes united in their dedication to the cause.

The sculpture includes a Latin inscription, suggested by Lt. Shaw's father:  OMNIA RELINQVIT SERVARE REMPVBLICAM, variously interpreted as "He relinquished everything to save the Republic," "He left behind everything to save the Republic," and "He forsook all to preserve the public weal."

The same year the memorial won the Grand Prize in Paris, Sergeant William H. Carney, a Norfolk, Virginia native and member of the 54th, was honored as the first African American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, 37 years after Ft. Wagner.
Sergeant William H. Carney, c. 1901-1908,  the first African American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Photo by James E. Reed, American, 1864-1939, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University.

Carl Cruz, the great-great-great nephew of Sergeant William H. Carney, with a photograph of Sgt. Carney, the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor.  Mr. Cruz said he and his siblings often played with the medal as children, not knowing its significance.  Another relative got Sgt. Carney's uniform, now "lost to the ages," Mr. Cruz said/Patricia Leslie

Instead of the elaborate ceremonies with the president in the White House which honor Medal of Honor recipients today, Sergeant Carney received his medal in the mail. 

Although severely wounded at Ft. Wagner, he managed to carry the flag upright throughout the conflict:  "Boys, I did but my duty; the dear old flag never touched the ground."

 The sculpture and event have been the subjects of articles and books, a movie (Glory), a song, and poems by many, including Robert Lowell and Paul Laurence Dunbar*, the first African American to gain fame as a poet and for whom Washington's Dunbar High School is named.

As a youngster growing up in the century after the conflict, Marine Lieutenant Timothy Fallon remembered the movie and the sculpture he saw with his family on a visit to the National Gallery of Art.  In 2011 with special Gallery permission and in a private showing with members of his family present, Lt. Fallon was permitted to touch the sculpture and recall its magnificence.  Blinded by an explosion in  Afghanistan,  he can no longer see it in person. Afterwards, Lt. Fallon wrote:

This piece should kindle pride in any officer who has led men into battle….The Shaw Memorial depicts only one officer, and the rest of the figures are the men who must do the majority of the fighting, bleeding, and dying….It has been 150 years since the Civil War, but this memorial to freedom fighters and the man who led them is as relevant today as it might have been the morning after the failed but determined  assault on Fort Wagner.

Assisted by survivors of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the Union attempt at Ft. Wagner was eventually successful.

*Robert Gould Shaw  published 1903 by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Why was it that the thunder voice of Fate
Should call thee, studious, from the classic groves,
Where calm-eyed Pallas with still footsteps roves,
And charge thee seek the turmoil of the State?
What bade thee hear the voice and rise elate,
Leave home and kindred and thy spicy loaves,
To lead th' unlettered and despised droves
To manhood's home and thunder at the gate?

Far better the slow blaze of Learning's light,
The cool and quiet of her dearer fane,
Than this hot terror of a hopeless fight,
This cold endurance of the final pain,-
Since thou and those who with thee died for right
Have died, the Present teaches, but in vain!

Tell It With Pride is organized by the National Gallery of Art and will be on view at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, a major lender for the exhibition, from February 21 – May 23, 2014.

The people of the United States are grateful to GRoW of the Annenberg Foundation and the Trellis Fund for making the exhibition possible. 

The catalogue, written by the National Gallery's Sarah Greenough and Nancy Anderson, assisted by Lindsay Harris and Renee Ater, is a history of the memorial and its making, and told in photographs and images with a list of the 1,500 members of the 54th regiment, their hometowns, ages, ranks, and whether they fought at Fort Wagner.  It is available in the shops.

I can't wait to return and see the exhibition again.

What:  Tell It With Pride:  The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial

When: Now through January 20, 2014, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday. 

Where:  Main Floor, the West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.  On the Mall.  

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), Shaw Memorial (1900)/Patricia Leslie

At Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington is another Augustus Saint-Gaudens' sculpture, the Adams Memorial with a replica at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Movie review: 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is dark and depressing

Oscar Isaac and Cat in Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis/Photo by Alison Rosa ©2012 Long Strange Trip LLC

All right, already.

Yes, it's the Coen Brothers.

Yes, I loved Fargo and O Brother, Where Are Thou? but this?  This?

You gotta love folk music to enjoy Inside Llewyn Davis, and I am not a big fan.  The looooong songs to the finish were excruciating.  Pure agony.  This movie is for folk music fans and sadomasochists who like to stick themselves with pins, eat liver, and sleep on rocks.

I mean, did anything go right for him?  Anything?  Except the cat. 

What went right for him?  Oh,  There was the couple who welcomed him again into their home after he tore it apart.  This was real?

The sun didn't shine once.  I don't need this kind of down and out melodrama.  Life is melodramatic enough without having to endure more pain.

Girls just want to have fun and this ain't got any.

Actually, I know a guy who matches Davis in almost every respect, even looks, and he used to live in New York.  So negative and dark about everything.  Expects the worst of everybody and every circumstance, and you know what?  That's what he gets.  A vicious circle/cycle/whatever/ round and round he goes.  

Attitude is everything, baby.  He ain't got the right one.  Consider whom Davis "loved."  You would love something that spews this constant venom?  (Carrie Mulligan's performance was the best of the lot.) On your menu, self-inflicted wounds coming right up.

Actually, you may think your life is a lot better after witnessing this.

Llewyn Davis reminded me of all those fellows who hang out and play guitar on the streets of lower Broadway in Nashville.  At least, their attitude is right.  They think they have a future, and some of them do.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Free stained glass windows concert at St. John's, Lafayette Square, Jan. 8

The Great Altar Window, the Last Supper, at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, given by Katherine B. Steele in honor of her mother, Annie E. Steele.  The left panel was given by the children of Julia McLane Lockwood in her memory, and the right panel, a gift from the wife and children of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes in his honor.
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The public is invited to attend a free noontime organ concert on Wednesday at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square featuring music improvised from some of the church's stained glass windows by the associate director of music at the Basilica of the National Shrine, Richard Fitzgerald.

He will play Allegro Maestoso from the King Window; Variations on Sine Nomine, the Hagner Window; Scherzo on Basque Carol, the McCants Window; Adagio - Meditation, the Great Altar Window; and the Finale, the Smith Window.

Richard Fitzgerald
Last October Dr. Fitzgerald won first place in the Annual Competition in Organ Improvisation. A composer, recitalist, and vocalist, he has taught organ improvisation at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore and has performed in concerts throughout the U.S.

The featured concert windows were designed and crafted in Chartres, France and installed at St. John's between 1883 and 1885.  They depict the life of Jesus, the Gospel of St. John, and the Apocalypse.  Seven modern windows were added to the church from 1933 to 1987.

According to notes provided by Richard Grimmett, the King Window was a gift of Mary Rhinelander and her husband, John Alsop King, the president of the New York Historical Society from 1887 until 1900 who helped direct the selection and installation of the Lorin windows from Chartres. 

The Hagner Window was given in honor of Peter Hagner, a founder and member of the first vestry at St. John's, and his wife, Frances Randall Hagner, by their family.

Marion J. McCants gave her family's window, the first modern style stained glass window at the church, around 1933 in memory of her mother, Tallulah Mounceaux McCants, who was devoted to the mission of St. John's Orphanage.

The Smith Window was given by the family to honor Rear Admiral Joseph Smith who helped develop the first ironclad vessel commissioned by the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, the USS Monitor, and who served as the St. John's senior warden for several years before he died in 1877.

St. John's hosts First Wednesday concerts every month from October through June. It is known to many Washington residents and visitors as the welcoming yellow church at Lafayette Square, the “Church of the Presidents.”  President James Madison, who served as president from 1809 to 1817, began a tradition for all presidents who have either been a member of or have attended services at St. John's.  A plaque at the rear of the church designates the Lincoln Pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by St. John's during the Civil War.

St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie

Other St. John's First Wednesday concerts, all starting at 12:10 p.m., are:

February 5: Soloists from St. John's Choir perform baroque music for Valentine's Day

March 12 (2nd Wednesday)
: Virtuoso Organist Dongho Lee performs Charles Ives's Variations on "America" and other works

April 2: The U.S. Air Force Strings conducted by 2nd Lt. Shanti Nolan, with Michael Lodico, organist, perform Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto

May 7: Easter music for trumpet and organ with A. Scott Wood and Benjamin Hutto

June 4: Organist Alan Morrison

Who on January 8:  Richard Fitzgerald, organist and composer

What:  First Wednesday Concerts (the second Wednesday in January)

When: 12:10 p.m., January 8, 2014

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th and H, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square, Farragut North, or Farragut West

Food trucks: Located two blocks away at Farragut Square

For more information: Contact Michael Lodico at 202-270-6265,
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