Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saginaw Choral Society's "Shades of Blue" a red hot night

The Saginaw Choral Society "Shades of Blue" concert

review and photos by Janet I. Martineau

Who knew blue could shine so bright.

It sure did so on Saturday night at the Temple Theatre when the Saginaw Choral Society kicked off its 2012-2013 season with a concert titled “Shades of Blue.”

All but two of its 16 selections dealt in some manner with blue -- from Claude Debussy’s submerged-in-water Brittany castle in “La cathedrale engloutie” to Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” from Aaron Copland’s “At the River” to Irving Berlin’s  classic “Blue Skies.”

Enjoying a blue martini
We’ve said it before and will probably say it until we are blue in face -- director/conductor Glen Thomas Rideout, in his second season now, sure knows how to program with class, creativity and, well, color. In two hours he and his singers served up Cuban folk music, American pop, jazz, blues, bluegrass, classical, spiritual and British poetry set to music.

Woven into  the piece  “Breaths,” the singers and audience joined forces to create the sounds of a gentle rain turned to thunderstorm, after the maestro  himself started it off with some wordless sound impressions. And the song itself, the rhythmic  music by composer  Ysaye M. Barwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock blended with a nature/ancestors poem that is poignant, was flawlessly sung by the chorale.

Saginaw composer/pianist Mike Brush premiered a new piece titled “Blue,” with bass David Brown languidly easing through its lyrics with Brush at the keyboard. 

Soprano Cindy Humphrey’s voice rose above the rest of the singers and then just hung there magically in the opening piece, “Charles Villiers Stanford’s “The Blue Bird.”

The entire choral society made like an orchestra in the vocalization of Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo a la Turk.”

Soprano Shannon Morse evoked goosebumps with her strong and crystal clear delivery on the Parton piece.

Moses Hogan’s “Wade in the Water” featured two altos and two sopranos sharing its lyrics with the rest of the singers as a backdrop.

And pianist  Carl Angelo delighted in the long center section solo in the Debussy work, with the singers joining in at both ends.
A concert patron with a flare

Delightfully,  the entire firsr half of the program was performed non-stop -- meaning no applause interruption between songs. Talk about building a mood.

The two non-blue pieces?

One was by Brush -- a new piece titled “U,” which features 50 words with the letter u in them, sung exquisitely, as usual, by Julie Mulady. It may just be Brush’s best song ever in terms of lyrics. Poetic, sentimental, thoughful.

And the evening closer was the raucous “Bile Them Cabbage Down” -- about as far from a Debussy as one can get, but a piece one which we suspect Copland might have liked.

The stage setting was bathed in blue. Pre-concert festivities featured Blue Moon beer, blue martinis, blue corn chips and 14 blue-hued piece of art by nine artists.

Yep, this evening left us anything but blue.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

6th Riverside Saginaw Film Festival shows fare from Iran to own back yard

by Janet I. Martineau

“Stars” in two of the movies playing the 6th Riverside Saginaw Film Festival in November are making headlines this fall, and the subject of a third is the fodder of a national debate over the future of local radio stations.

Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez
“We have 26 movies and documentaries on the schedule this year,” says Susan Scott, on the festival’s board. “As usual for us, they range all over globe -- visiting an Iranian family dealing with Alzheimer’s; a Woody Allen tribute to Rome; an Algerian immigrant teaching in a Montreal grade school; France’s doomed Marie Antoinette, and the legacy of Jamaican musician Bob Marley.

“And our short film contest has entries from Greece, Israel and Canada as well as throughout the U.S.

“But what we are the most excited about are a pair of documentaries -- ‘Searching for Sugar Man,’ its subject Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez who was profiled recently  on ’60 Minutes,’ and ‘Ai Weiwei-Never Sorry,’ about a Chinese artist at odds with his nation’s government. The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. just opened an exhibition featuring an entire floor of his work.”

The festival runs Thursday, Nov, 8, through Sunday, Nov. 11.  The films are playing on six screens at five venues: Court Theater, 1216 Court; Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, 805 N. Hamilton; First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson Ave.; two screens at The Saginaw Club, 219 N. Washington, and Hoyt Library, 505 Janes, all in the city of Saginaw.

Each of the movies plays twice throughout the four-day festival.

As has been tradition with the festival, each year brings in a special guest or two or hosts a special event connected with a film.

Filmmaker Jennifer C. Douglas
This year  Saginaw native Jennifer C. Douglas, a 1982 graduate of what is now Heritage High School in Saginaw Township, will show and discuss the documentary she wrote, co-produced and filmed.

Titled “Save KLSD,” and about a radio station San Diego where she now lives, its subject is one of national concern -- the increasing lack of local and diverse radio in America with the rise of media consolidation. Among the people interviewed are Phil Donahue, Rachel Maddow, the Dixie Chicks and Bill Moyers. 

“Between the Folds,” a documentary about the passion of artists and scientists in making increasingly complicated pieces of origami art (Japanese folded paper), will  find representatives from the Saginaw Japanese Cultural Center and Tea House assisting filmgoers in making two pieces to take home as well as demonstrating the craft.

And “Honor Flight Michigan, the Legacy Documentary,” the story of airplane flights taking Word War II veterans to see the new memorial in Washington, D.C., will feature the son of the Honor Flight Project taking about its success during one of its two showings. World War II veterans are admitted free to both showings.

Among the other films playing feature a sequel of sorts to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a retired cat burglar returning to his “career” with the help of a humanoid robot, a dark comedy about a small town mortician (Jack Black) and a wealthy widow (Shirley MacLaine), and young ballet dancers preparing for a competition.

Festival passes are $40 and single admission to the films $6. For more information and a schedule: Passes are on sale by calling 989-776-9425 and using a credit card. Passes and single tickets also are on sale on the festival web site through the Paypal system.

Among the sponsors of the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival are: Citizens Bank Wealth Management, the Saginaw Arts and Enrichment Commission, Hemlock Semiconductor, Public Libraries of Saginaw, Delta Broadcasting, Morley Foundation, and Harvey Randall Wickes Foundation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Actress Morgan Fairchild no vile vixen in Horizons Town Talk speech

by Janet I Martineau

Who knew?

Actress Morgan Fairchild, the porcelain blonde cast as a vile vixen in such television soaps as “Search for Tomorrow,” “Dallas,” “Flamingo Road” and “Falcon Crest,” was in her Texas childhood a “weird nerd science kid.”

Still is, at age 62. She has, over her adult years, appeared on “Nightline” and “Face the Nation” and spoken before the U.S. Congress and other groups about foreign policy, environmental concerns, global warming, virus outbreaks and the military.

And AIDS. 

Morgan Fairchild, left, and her sister
She told her Horizons Town Talk audience on Monday at the Horizons Conference Center that she was the first American celebrity to give a voice to AIDS/HIV as it became known; the first to legislate for more research money; the first to welcome in open arms AIDS-infected people when the rest of the world was afraid to touch them -- the last of which, she said, cost her friends because she visited AIDS hospice facilities and they were afraid she would transmit it to them.

“I cleared the way for other celebrities to come out and speak about AIDS. It takes one person with guts to make it safe for everyone else; to help ease the stigma. The lives I changed, saved, helped doing that is more important than my acting career.”

Her talk in Saginaw may have surprised many. Yes she mentioned her acting career with its long list of television and movie roles, but its was more a pep talk about learning to live happier lives.

Quoting Thoreau’s famed “lives of quiet desperation,” Fairchild  used her hour speech to offer advice on how to deal with pessimistic thoughts and fears; how to write a better script with a happier ending by embracing fears, acknowledging them and moving on.

Thoreau, she said, also wrote that “each child begins the world anew.” To that she added, “And each of us has that capability every day we get up -- to shape the world for the better.”

Among her advice in brief: “Force yourself to be bold.” “Don’t let other people define your life with low expectations.” “You can always walk out on reality and create your own reality. I did.” “Putting yourself on the line is important -- but you also need know when to fight and when to accept.” “Learn to say no -- especially women.” “Be kind to each other ... some of what passes for humor today I find horrifying.” “There is no one in the world whose opinion is more important than your own.”

And perhaps most important of all, Fairchild stressed, “Don’t be jealous and envious of what someone else has or how they look or what they do. Appreciate the gifts God gave  you. We don’t get to choose the gifts. Being jealous and angry stands in the way of each of us realizing our own gift.”

Fairchild often used her own life to illustrate those ideas on how to create your own happiness.

When she was in elementary school she was so shy she could not even read an oral book report in her class. So  her mom enrolled her in an after-hours drama class. Her sister loved the class; Fairchild threw up. But when at the end she was cast in a play, cast as adult, she was hooked.

Divorced at age 22, with no degree, she left Texas for New York City and worked dinner theater roles. Her sister, meanwhile, enrolled in Juilliard. 

Fairchild could not even land an agent (usually an absolute must for actors)....being told she was too elegant, too porcelain. She went to audition after audition after audition on her own and was rejected “but if I didn’t go, then I said no for them. I have a backbone of steel behind this blonde hair and blue eyes.”

And then, finally, a director hired her the day of an audition to play an evil sorority queen in the 1979 TV movie “The Initiation of Sarah.” She told him she would rather play another softer role and was told, “A good bitch is hard to find (cast). If the bad guy does not work then this movie does not work.”

The film scored high ratings “and set me on the road to witchdom.” She has, or course, played many non-bitch roles as well. Even got into tongue-in-cheek comedy parts -- an Emmy-nominated guest role on “Murphy Brown” and guesting also on “Roseanne,” “Cybil” and “Friends.”

As for her example of saying no, she says she said no to the Hollywood culture of sleeping around, drugs and parties long into the night.

Asked by an audience member what became of her sister who went to Juilliard to study acting. “She went to L.A. for while but found it too difficult to get acting work. So she teaches acting in Dallas -- to attorneys, sales people, children. She’s a great motivator. She loves what she is doing.”

Oh, and her name, Morgan Fairchild.

She was born Patsy McClenny but as a part of creating her own reality became Morgan Fairchild -- thanks to friends.

One had seen a 1966 movie called “Morgan,” about a man who lived in his fantasies, and told her “This is movie is you.”

And a second friend said, “You are a fair child.”

“I liked the sound of the two of them together. And by the way, Morgan is a guy’s any girl today named Morgan is named after me.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mid-Michigan big winner in Michigan history awards

The Castle Museum's "History on the Move" mobile museum

by Janet I. Martineau

History is alive and well in mid-Michigan.

In the recent awarding of 17 State History Awards bestowed by the Historical Society of Michigan, the state’s official historical society, this area took home four of those awards.

The Castle Museum’s History on the Move museum on wheels was honored in the educational programs category. When schools faced a decline in money funding field trips, the Historical Society of Saginaw County modified a tractor-trailer, colorfully painted its exterior and filled its interior with artifacts to visit schools throughout Saginaw County. 

Sheila Hempsted, on the staff at the Castle Museum,  travels with the rig to present the free visits and hand-on programs which are available to all 14,000 public, charter, and private elementary school students (grades K-5).

Its first traveling exhibit dealt with archeology. It is now touring a lumbering era program.

“This award recognizes the hard work our team has completed to provide local culture and history to Saginaw County schools,” said Ken Santa, president & CEO of the Castle Museum, 500 Federal,.

In the  category of publications/private printing, Roselynn Ederer of Thomas Township won for her book “Indiantown.” It features oral histories and information from newspapers, deeds and journals in delivering a history of two cultures—the Native Americans who lived there first and the German immigrants who followed them. The residents of Indiantown also played a significant role in developing Michigan’s agricultural industry.

Ederer has written numerous local history books, among them “Where Once the Tall Pines Stood,” “Growing Up on the Banks of the Mighty Tittabawassee,” “On the Banks of the Beautiful Saugenah,” “Church Bells in the Valley,” “Saginaw County” and “Thomas Township.”

Winning a publications/university and commercial press award was Edward C. Lorenz, on the history and political science faculty at Alma College, for his book  “Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Greed,” published by Michigan State University Press. 

Edward C. Lorenz
In it Lorenz documents how corporate executives at Velsicol Chemical in St. Louis left behind an economically shattered community and some of the most heavily polluted industrial sites in America. Velsicol’s actions included stock and financial manipulations; the largest food contamination accident in American history when it mixed chemicals into cattle feed; environmental pollution and a massive shift of jobs overseas. 

The book provides analyses and conclusions, and offers communities facing similar situations a blueprint for action.

And for his role in preserving, protecting  and interpreting Michigan’s Native American history and culture, William Johnson received the distinguished professional service award.

For the past decade, Johnson has served as the curator of the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways in Mount .Pleasant. Through his efforts, the center’s excellence in exhibits and events has earned it numerous awards, including the 2006 Museum Award from the Michigan Cultural Alliance, the 2008 Harvard University’s “Honoring Nations” Award, and a Gold Muse Award from the American Association of Museum’s Media and Technology Committee.

In 2011, Johnson became the chairman of the Michigan Anishinaabek Cultural Preservation and Repatriation Alliance. He worked as a coordinator of Flint’s Stone Street Ancestral Recovery and Reburial Project, helping oversee the proper burial of more than 108 ancestral remains and their associated funerary objects that were inadvertently discovered during a construction project. And he has also worked with many Michigan museums and colleges to accrue and respectfully inter Native American remains that had been removed from their resting places.

Johnson serves on the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School Committee. The boarding school, which operated from 1879 until 1934, sought to educate Native American children but also had the darker purpose of “taking the Indian out of the child.”  The committee is charged with preserving and transforming this site to become a place of awareness, education and healing.