Monday, January 18, 2016

Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art

The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Hundreds came on Sunday to hear the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Fisk University in Nashville perform in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the National Gallery of Art. 
 Paul T. Kwami, the Jubilee Singers' musical director, at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Jubilee Singers' musical director, Paul T. Kwami, presented a brief history of the chorus which began in 1871 to raise money for the college founded in 1866.  The group toured the U.S. and Europe, "introducing Negro spirituals to the world," Mr. Kwami said, performing for, most notably, Queen Victoria who commissioned a gift from England to the university, a portrait of the Singers which still stands in Jubilee Hall on the Fisk campus, 

When Mr. Kwami asked Fisk alumni who were present Sunday to stand, about 20 were recognized and applauded by the audience.   
The Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1882/Photo, Deep Roots Magazine/Wikipedia
 The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Based on applause, crowd favorites on Sunday were "Daniel! Daniel!  Servant of the Lord" with Lyante Savala, tenor, and Kylen C. Parker, bass, "There is a Balm in Gilead" with Joi-Anissa Taylor, soprano, and "Old Time Religion" with Domine B. Ezechukwu, alto.  

Also on the program: "'Way Over in Egypt Land," "Run, Mourner, Run," "Poor Man Laz'rus," "Let the Church Roll On," "Jubilee!  Jubilee!" "My Lord is So High," "There's a Meeting Here Tonight," "Do Lord Remember Me," "Rise, Shine for Thy Light is A-Comin'," and "There's a Great Camp Meeting."  

Mr. Kwami said "Mr. Banjo" was not a traditional African-American song, but they were going to sing it anyway for the crowd's pleasure. Dwayne P. Mitchell sang tenor.

They also sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," the 1909 version which the Library of Congress added to the U.S. National Recording Registry in 2002.   

Other singers on Sunday's program were Kierra Pryor, Brianna Barbour, Torin Brown, and Allen Christian.

No sounds were too loud or harsh, but slow and even, memorably connecting their beauty of a century and a half ago to today's harmonies, demonstrating their music's ageless allure and peace. 

In 2008 the Singers won the National Medal of Arts. 
 The Fisk Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 The positions the Fisk Jubilee Singers took while colleagues presented individual biographical sketches of original Jubilee Singers at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The a cappella group usually has 11 members, however, one member fell ill and only participated Sunday in the individual verbal biographies each 2016 Singer delivered about original Jubilee members.

One of the original Jubilee singers from Lebanon, Tennessee and born on February 29, 1853, was only 12 years old on January 9, 1866 when he started at Fisk which had 300 students enrolled at the time.  Another original Singer was born in Whiteville, Virginia and later became a cook for the Union army and taught school in Nashville.  Several were born into slavery.

  The Fisk Jubilee Singers (in the distance) at the National Gallery of Art, Jan. 17, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Throughout the approximately hour-long program, throngs  continued to arrive, admitted between numbers.  Since every seat was taken, some attendees sat on the floor while others stood.  At the end of the performance, the crowd gave the Jubilee Singers a standing ovation.

In the galleries, Sunday was no different from other weekend days at the National Gallery of Art, filled with thousands who love and are intrigued by art, whether it is painted, sculpted, played, or sung.

What:  Free concerts at the National Gallery of Art

When: Check here for dates and times.

Where: Usually in the West Building, West Garden Court, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall. 

Admission is always free at the National Gallery of Art.

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

For more information: 202-842-6941

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Free dance lessons at the Kennedy Center

In the nightly sky above the roof line at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, it's not the moon or a star or a plane from nearby National Airport, it's a street light/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Estela Velez de Paradez led a flamenco dance lesson at the Millennium Stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/Photo by Patricia Leslie
First, you put your hands in the air/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Then, you wave them all about/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Flamenco dancing is good for the middle/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Instructor Estela Velez de Paradez invited audience members up on the Millennium Stage for a flamenco dance lesson at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Can you do it? A one-on-one exchange, and the little girl dressed for the occasion/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A star is born at the Millennium Stage/Photo by Patricia Leslie

I could have danced all night

I could have danced all night

And still have begged for more.

I could have spread my wings 

And done a thousand things...


Dancing was not why I was there!

Dancing was not on my menu, but rather...

Music, music, music!

I went to the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage to hear free music, music, music, and drink Happy Hour beer and eat pretzels.

But, but, music, music, music to be found... or heard.

How about a flamenco dance lesson instead?

Estela Velez de Paradez of Joy of Motion Dance Center led the class, and she stomped.  

Her new students stomped.

She raised her hands.  

The students raised their hands.

She shouted "olé!"  

The students shouted "olé."  

She shouted "olé!" again and demanded a louder "olé!" response, and she got it.

Ms. Velez de Paradez gave a brief history of flamenco dancing (created by Gypsies "to express their emotions") and compared the dance to vino:  "It's like wine; it gets better the older you get" (!)), and she urged everyone present to practice attitude and posture, both critically important to successful flamenco dancing.  

"Stand up straight!  Hold your stomach in!" 

      You put your right foot in,
You take your right foot out,

You put your right foot in,

And you shake it all about

You do the hokey pokey

and you turn yourself around

That's what it's all about

Hold it!  That was not what Estela was leading, and there was no music.

Horrors!  If music ever started, was it to be taped a la Warner's and the Nutcracker?  No musicians nor instruments were seen.

After 30 minutes of stomping and hand wavin' and "ole's" and no signs of music making, I left at 6:30 p.m. and drifted home.  Sad.  

Whoever thought of looking at the schedule?

Coming up!  Another free dance lesson on January 31, 6 p.m., Millennium Stage, Beginner Contemporary Jazz with Jocelyn Isaac. "Please wear clothing you can move in" the Kennedy Center suggests.

When:  Free Millennium Stage performances seven days a week at 6 p.m. which last generally under an hour

Where: The Kennedy Center, 2700 F Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20566

How much: Admission is always free at the Millennium Stage.

Metro station: Foggy Bottom. Ride a free red shuttle bus (every 10 minutes) at the top of the escalators at Foggy Bottom to KenCen or walk it (10 minutes).

For more information:  800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600

Friday, January 8, 2016

Last weekend to see 'Gauguin to Picasso' at the Phillips

Emil Nolde (1867-1956) Gentleman and a Lady (Lady with a Fur), 1918, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel

Sunday will be the last day at the Phillips Collection to see 61 works hanging together for the first time in the U.S. 

The art comes from the Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland and the private collections of Karl Im Obersteg (1883-1969) and Rudolf Staechelin (1881-1946) who acquired stunning impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings (1870-1939) early on by artists of Russian, Swiss, French, German, and Dutch heritages. 

Dorothy Kosinski, the director of the Phillips, is a Swiss citizen whose friendship with those in Switzerland was key to bringing the masterpieces to Washington.  

Im Obersteg and Staechelin were contemporary collectors of Duncan Phillips (1886-1966), the founder of the Phillips, all of whom saw talent and treasure in the pieces of post-war and modern translations.
 Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) NAFEA faaipoipo (When Will You Marry Me?), 1892, The Rudolph Staechelin Collection 

Who but Picasso painted this nude below?  An abstraction of a model fondles a pillow.  It's one of four Picassos in the exhibition.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Sleeping Nude, 1934, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel

Below is a self portrait done by the Russian expressionist, Alexej von Jawlensky who was influenced by the mysticism of the Eastern Orthodox Church and his belief that "art is a longing for God." During World War I he joined other avant-garde artists in Switzerland where he met Im Obersteg, and the two became lifelong friends.
Alexej von Jawlensky (1864-1941) Self-Portrait, 1911, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel
Alexej von Jawlensky  (1864-1941) Still Life, 1915, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel

Ferdinand Hodler rendered more than 100 works devoted to his companion, Valentine Godel-Darel, as she coped with illness.  He called her "a Byzantine Empress in the mosaics at Ravenna," and destroyed many he made of her because they did not "represent what I have seen."   
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) The Patient, November, 1914, The Rudolph Staechelin Collection

Marc Chagall's three 1914 "monumental" rabbi paintings are in the show, including the one below.  The label copy notes his works show the influences of his Jewish Russian heritage and his training in Paris. (Who can deny their past?) The outbreak of World War I prolonged a trip Chagall made to his homeland (of what is now Belarus), giving him opportunities to meet rabbis and beggars invited into his family's home.  Here Chagall combined them into one personality. A self-portrait he made, also in 1914, is pictured further below.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) Jew in Black and White, 1914, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel
Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) The Garden of Daubigny July, 1890, The Rudolph Staechelin Collection
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) Red Roof by the Water, 1885, The Rudolph Staechelin Collection
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) Portrait of Regina Morgeron, 1911, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel

In the self-portrait below, the label copy says Marc Chagall combined Cubism and Orphism to paint himself (in 1914 at the outbreak of World War) as though looking in a mirror. Years later after the Nazis called his work "degenerate," the artist fled to New York in 1941 where he met a dealer who sold one of Chagall's works to Duncan Phillips, the host of one of the first Chagall shows in the U.S.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) Self-Portrait, 1914, Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel

Also on the walls at the Phillips are works by Camille Pissarro, Cuno Amiet, Paul Cezanne, Andre Derain, Wassily Kandinsky, Edouard Manet, and Amedeo Modigliani.

And Claude Monet, Odilon Redon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Rouault, Chaim Soutine, Maurice Utrillo, Suzanne Valadon (Utrillo's mother), and Maurice de Vlaminck.

For more enjoyment of the show, a catalogue and audio cellphone tour are available.

The paintings pictured above are the ones which had the most impact on me, whether it was subject, colors, perspectives, mood, emotions, or eye contact (!), but the names of the artists had no bearing on my choices.  How do they strike you?  Go and see, and please write soon. 

What: Gauguin to Picasso:  Masterworks from Switzerland -  The Staechelin and Im Obersteg Collections

When: Now through January 10, 2016, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Sunday, 12 - 7 p.m.

Where: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St., N.W. at Q St., Washington, D.C. 20009

Tickets: $12, $10 for students and those over 62, free for members and for children 18 and under.

Metro Station: Dupont Circle (Q Street exit. Turn left and walk one block.)

For more information: 202-387-2151

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Free organ concert Jan. 6 at St. John's, Lafayette Square

Janet Yieh
It will be Epiphany and the star will shine on St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square when concert organist Janet Yieh plays  "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" by William Bolcom (b. 1938) and works by Brahms, Widor and Locklair.

The concert is part of the church's First Wednesday Concert Series and will begin at 12:10 p.m.

Ms. Yieh, a native of Alexandria, Virginia and a recent graduate of the Julliard School, is former assistant organist at Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York.  A first-place winner in several competitions, she has performed at venues throughout the U.S. and Asia, including Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie Hall.

She is working on her master's degree at Yale University's Institute of Sacred Music and School of Music and is the organist scholar at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven.

In addition to "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," Ms. Yieh will play:

   Prelude and Fugue in G Minor  by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) 

  Rubrics: IV. The Peace may be exchanged  by Dan Locklair (b. 1949)
Symphonie V I. Allegro Vivace  by C.M Widor (1844-1937)
 St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./Photo by Patricia Leslie

St. John's known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, is often called the “Church of the Presidents” since beginning with James Madison who was president from 1809 to 1817, every president has been a member of St. John's or has attended services there. A plaque at the rear of the church designates the pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by St. John's during the Civil War.  

This year the church celebrates its bicentennial, and its history and stained-glass windows are described in books and booklets available at St. John's.

First Wednesday concerts begin at 12:10 p.m. and last about 35 minutes. Food trucks are located two blocks away at Farragut Square.

Who:  Organist Janet Yieh

What:  First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., January 6, 2016

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

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square (White House exit), Farragut North, or Farragut West

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

Future dates and artists of the First Wednesday Concerts are:

February 3: Bob McDonald and Friends will sing to celebrate the crooner's centennial in "Sinatra Turns 100."
March 2: The Lafayette Square Duo with Rebecca Smith on harp and Michael Lodico on organ will play a composition by Peter Mathews. 

April 6: Soloists from St. John's Choir will sing.

May 4: The U.S. Air Force Strings Chamber Orchestra with harpsichordist Brandon Straub will play Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.

June 1: Concert organist Roderick Demmings, Jr., will play works by Bach, Wammes, and Widor.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas at the Mormon Temple

The Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kensington, Maryland/Photo from the LDS website

When you drive on the outer loop on the western side of the Beltway at night, do you crane your neck to look up and see the beautifully lighted spires of the Mormon Temple?  It is straight up, and I have often wondered how many car crashes have happened at that curve when drivers lean forward to catch a glimpse of the sacred monument on the hill. As you approach, the spires seem to almost lean over the roadway before they are obscured by trees.
The Washington, D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Once I saw the Temple's Festival of Lights listed in the paper, I jumped at the chance to go and visit, but, not unexpectedly, upon arrival, my entrance to the Temple was denied. 

Without adequate training and education, I was told by two "sisters" at the adjacent Visitors' Center, I was not "worthy" to enter the sacred space of the Temple of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But, I was not the only one.  Some Mormons themselves do not pass the "worthy" test!

The sisters, both in their 20s, guided me through the Visitors' Center, explaining in a gentle manner that "worthiness" (sounds like Colbert's "truthiness") requires training, commitment, and devotion.  

Not something which can be taken lightly or done overnight.

As a matter of fact, the married Mormon aunt and brother-in-law of one of the sisters were not "worthy" themselves, having committed some "unworthy acts" (not defined) and were undergoing training and education at the very moment to learn and practice "worthiness." Once they passed the test and gained approval by the Temple's bishop, then, in one of the Temple's "sealing rooms," they would participate in an eternal marriage or "celestial sealing."

"'Till death do us part" is not long enough for Mormons.

In the Visitors' Center, a large cutaway model of the interior of the Temple (160,000 square feet) stood nearby. The sisters explained to me the purposes of many of the rooms.
At the Visitors' Center at the Mormon Temple, the large cutaway model of the Temple shows what the Temple looks like inside on multiple levels. The spires of the real thing are seen through what appears to be fog in the distance but is actually a window at the Visitors' Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Reflection on the heavy plastic or glass of the Temple model diminishes clarity for the photo/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
A close-up of one of the sections of the Temple model/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the Visitors' Center is a tall statue of Jesus.  Note its size compared to the adults standing nearby.  The base is marble and the statue components are ? Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jesus at the Visitors' Center flanked by poinsettias and decorated Christmas trees/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sister Tillitson asked if she could read to me a short verse from the Book of Mormon which I was happy to hear.  She read Chapter 10, verses 4 and 5.  
 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
The sisters carried their own well-worn copies of the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.  To fulfill Mormon requirements they said they volunteer their time and talents for 18 months and serve as guides at the Visitors' Center, among other duties.  Males must spend two years in service for the church/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Washington Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  On top of the spire at far left, clearly visible from the Beltway, is a gold statue of Moroni (pronounced "Mo-roan-eye"), the Mormon prophet/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Moroni, atop the Temple's tallest spire (288 feet), the closest spire to the Beltway/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Many tall decorated Christmas trees including this "doll tree" filled the Mormon Visitors' Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 A close-up of the "doll tree" at the Mormon Visitors' Center/Photo by Patricia Leslie
One Christmas tree was filled with scenes from a children's book, Bethlehem, based on art by Mikolas Ales (1852-1913), a Czech artist/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Crèches from around the world filled a separate room at the Washington Temple's Visitors' Center.  This one was from Honduras and made with banana leaves/
Photo by Patricia Leslie
In the "Crèche Room" at the Visitors' Center was a figure from Russia/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A crèche from Bolivia/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A crèche from Bulgaria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A crèche from Tanzania/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A crèche from Ecuador/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A crèche from Thailand/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The Washington D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Aerial view of the Washington D.C. Mormon Temple from Carol M. Highsmith Archive, U.S. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division/Wikipedia
Wikipedia says the Temple cost $15 million and was completed in 1974 when 750,000 persons visited the building.  It was the first Mormon temple built east of the Mississippi River since the original temple was constructed in 1846 in Nauvoo, Illinois.

What:  The Washington D.C. Mormon Temple Visitors' Center

Where:  9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, Maryland 20895

When:  Open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

How much:  It's free

Parking:  Plenty of spaces on-site and free

For more information:  301-587-0144