Music

Review: Michael Martin Murphey “A Cowboy Christmas”

Michael Martin Murphey Promo Photo 1

By Janet Warner, Guest Blogger

I was pleased to be able to attend A Cowboy Christmas with Michael Martin Murphy at Lone Tree Arts Center on December 22nd, 2017.  My husband is not a fan of country music in any form (his loss, perhaps?), but the dear friend I took with me was looking forward to this show as much as I was. I must be honest, however, and admit that we were forced to leave the show at intermission due to illness, so I can only write about what I saw and heard during the first hour of a nearly two hour performance.

As we drove into the rear of the Arts Center parking lot, we passed the big tour bus that Murphey arrived in.  It looked pretty fancy to my eyes, and if one is going to take an extended road trip, I would think this would be the way to go.  After looking at Murphey’s tour schedule from November through July 2018, he’s going to get a lot of use out that bus.

Shortly before the performance, I was curious to know whether the show was sold out.  It was close, with only three single seats still available on the online seating chart; the next night’s performance looked the very much the same.  Either people had heard about or seen Michael Martin Murphey before, or the marketing department had done its job selling the show.  I suspect the former was true, because from my vantage point near the back of the theatre, it appeared that the majority of the audience knew the artist and were already fans.  I say this because it looked to me like many of those attending were prepared to see his country show and dressed accordingly; I saw a plethora of cowboy hats, boots, western shirts and leather.  In fact, a few of the women were dressed in full western regalia and would have been entirely comfortable in any 1800s Wild West saloon!  And, no surprise, the bulk of the audience were baby boomers like me.

Photo By Kim ThompsonThe stage itself was sparsely set up, with five microphones on stands and a blank video screen behind them.  A young man walked out to introduce Murphey, and it turned out to be his youngest son, Brennan.  He said a few words about his dad, the band, the “Murphandise” for sale, and the show itself, and injected the introduction with enough humor so that I didn’t much mind the sales pitch.  Michael Martin Murphey appeared soon after, along with his band of four.  Two, in addition to Murphey, played guitar, one played electric violin, and Brennan played some sort of string instrument that I didn’t recognize, but it added a nice layer of interest to the music. Murphey, dressed in a long, fringed, soft leather jacket, neckerchief and jeans, looked the quintessential cowboy, but then again, they all did!

My impressions of the show were many.  Truthfullly, I was not very familiar with Murphey’s music, other than the songs that made it on the radio years ago (such as “Wildfire” and “Carolina in the Pines”).  I didn’t recognize most of the songs he did, but it didn’t really matter, because the music was really good.  It was interesting too, because I could understand every word of the lyrics so I was drawn in by the stories he told.  Murphey may be in the latter part of his career (due to getting older, and not because he’s lost any of his talent), but he can still keep an audience engaged .  The show was a mixture of storytelling, poetry and music.  Murphey said he’s been doing this show in one form or another for twenty-four years, and it’s obvious he still enjoys performing it.  One of the things I most enjoyed was the harmonizing.  Though there was only one woman in the band, her voice was strong and full of character, and the combination of voices behind Murphey was first rate.  I’m sure the whole point of having a band behind you is to enhance the main performer, and that was definitely true here, all of them fine musicians in their own right.

The video screen behind Murphey and the band was used to show still pictures and video, its purpose to enhance the poem or story he was telling.   Some of the pictures and video showed repeatedly, and that would be my only minor complaint with the stage and setup.  I think more could have been done to improve the quality of the whole experience by having something interesting to look at onstage besides microphone stands and a video screen.  But, perhaps that was the whole point; the focus was solely on the music and not on bells and whistles.  And after such a long and successful career in music, perhaps Michael Martin Murphey knows what he’s doing a little better than I do!  Well done – I think everyone had a great time.

Review: Cherish The Ladies

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By Janice Hubbell, Guest Blogger


My daughter and I celebrated our Celtic roots in another stirring, sold-out Christmas performance by the all-girl music ensemble Cherish The Ladies. I fondly recalled my Irish grandfather playing the fiddle while Lindsey was transported back to her study abroad summer in Ireland where she experienced first-hand the lilting voices and warmth of the Irish!

This ladies’ group is composed of Irish Americans, native Irishwomen, and performers from Scotland and Canada. The performers expertly combined Christmas music, jokes, stories, and dance with traditional Irish folk songs. Within the intimate venue of the Lone Tree Art Center, the music carried the audience on gentle waves of haunting ballads through energetic currents of foot-stomping, toe-tapping rollicking jigs!

Band leader Joanie Madden, humorist and warm-hearted flautist, revealed her artistic, sensitive spirit in the penny whistle composition “American Wake,” which delicately depicts her emigrant mother’s pathos as she says goodbye to her family in preparation for her journey to the United States—not knowing if she’ll see her loved ones again.

A founding member of the group, acoustic guitarist, Mary Coogan, expertly accompanied the music and singing. Mirella Murray, also an original “lady,” played the accordion with ease and dexterity, blending seamlessly with other instruments and voices. The young and talented Kathleen Boyle played piano in a traditional folk style. Nollaig Casey’s star shone brightly as she shared her distinctive talent in playing the fiddle, especially notable in historic ballad solos written more than 300 years ago and singing in the Gaelic with a pure alto voice.

An important element of the show was the athletic male Irish step dancers Jason Oremus and Garett Coleman who periodically left us breathless with hearts pounding until they took their final bow! They were joined by the lovely, accomplished fiddle player and dancer, Julie Fitzgerald, who played and danced with joy and abandonment.

An evening highlight was guest singer, Don Stiffe, from Galway, Ireland. Don sang with a clear, rich tenor voice, reminiscent of Burl Ives. He ended the evening with a poignant, memorable Christmas version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as his voice soared majestically on the last chorus. We left the performance feeling refreshed and ready for the holidays!

Review: A Kantorei Christmas

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By Theresa Allen, Guest Blogger

Performing the last of their three sold-out performances of the holiday season, Kantorei brought the audience to its feet at the Lone Tree Arts Center on December 19. A Kantorei Christmas featured a stellar performance by the 50-singer chorus coupled with instrumentals on harp, percussion, string bass, and piano.

Kantorei, an a capella group of international renown, opened its first set with “Come Let Us Adore Him” a traditional carol performed with a medieval drumbeat that reminded the audience of ancient times and the birth of Christ. The chorus transitioned into “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” and “Still, Still Night” as well as a few other Christmas carols produced with a musical twist by composer Jackson Berkey, one of the founders of Manheim Steamroller.

The evening featured several elegant harp solos and accompaniment with the chorus by Janet Kay Harriman, who performs with Opera Colorado and the Central City Opera Festival. The full-bodied warmth of Harriman’s performance of “Asleep in My Arms” evoked the austere beauty of the Christmas season. “Long Expected Jesus” opened with the delicate tones of the harp, the rise of the voices of the sopranos and altos, and became interwoven with the tenor and basses to produce a swell of sound that was ethereal in nature.

The audience was treated to My Perfect Stranger, a composition by Bob Chilcott, which was originally performed by the BBC Singers in 2016, and presented only two other times in the United States. My Perfect Stranger is a poetic retelling of the nativity story that raises the question of what is our role in the Christ story and what part do we play in welcoming others into our lives. Christianna Sullins performed a magnificent solo as Mary and the piece featured dazzling solos by other Kantorei members as the Innkeeper, the angels, the wise men, and even Herod.

The peacefulness of the nativity story was followed by rousing renditions of “Carol of the Bells,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Sing We Now of Christmas.” However, it was Kantorei’s “Silent Night” sung with the members of the audience that reminded us that Christmas is a season of community, of reaching out to others and celebrating all that is good in this world.

Kantorei, led by artistic director Joel Rinsema, includes more than 50 volunteers, who sing in the chorus as well as serve as teachers, musicians, and conductors in their communities. In 2018, Naxos Records will produce Kantorei’s work with Norwegian composer Kim Andre Arnesen. For more information about Kantorei, visit their website at www.kantorei.com.

The Lone Tree Arts Center hosts professional theatrical and musical performances all year long. In 2018, Ben Vereen, PostSecret, and the Moscow Festival Ballet as well as many other entertainers will bring performances to the Denver area. For more information, visit their website at www.LoneTreeArtsCenter.org.

Preview: Michael Martin Murphey

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By Janet Warner, Guest Blogger

The Lone Tree Arts Center is excited to welcome back Michael Martin Murphey, performing December 22nd and December 23rd, 2017.  He previously appeared with the Lone Tree Symphony in 2013, but A Cowboy Christmas will be a show with his own Rio Grande Band.  As a testament to his talent and popularity, Murphey was originally scheduled for just one appearance, but ticket sales were so brisk that a second date was added. While you may not be so familiar with his name, you have probably heard his music on the radio over the years, with classic hits like “Wildfire,” “What’s Forever For,” and “Carolina in the Pines.”

Murphey’s holiday show celebrates what he calls the cowboy culture – a life based on faith, family, hard work, and his passion for conservation and the environment.

Photo By Kim ThompsonMichael Martin Murphey is drawn to all things having to do with the American West.  He is a student of its history, culture, landscape, and the characters who shaped and built it.  Murphey’s music reflects these interests and passions, and with more than 35 albums produced over a long career, his life experiences documenting the cowboy culture are what drive his music.  It goes without saying that he is also a gifted songwriter, his songs having been recorded by artists such as Kenny Rogers and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In addition, he’s had multiple gold records and been nominated for several Grammy awards.

He continues a busy tour schedule of his Cowboy Christmas show through the end of the year in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Colorado.  You are in for a real treat if you’re lucky enough to get tickets to see Michael Martin Murphy this Christmas season – it will be impossible not to tap your feet, clap your hands, and enjoy yourself!

 

Preview: Cherish The Ladies

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By Janice Hubbell, Guest Blogger

Celtic music evokes memories of my Irish granddad playing the “fiddle”—not to be confused with the violin! I have not yet visited Ireland, Scotland or Wales, but my daughter spent a summer as an undergrad at The Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland, and I loved her photographs of haunted castles, crystal chandeliers, rugged coastlines, trees hundreds of years old and little bog houses decaying back into the soil. These images felt familiar… like I had been there before. Maybe Ireland is imprinted in my DNA!

Traditional Irish music style encompasses a wide range—from haunting to boisterous, depending on the tempo, instrument, and the song’s intended emotion and message. My daughter and I are looking forward to celebrating our Celtic heritage on December 20 with Cherish The Ladies who have been authentically representing Irish music and step dancing for over 30 years. This Grammy-nominated Irish-American group broke into the male-dominated Irish music scene in New York City in 1985 and they are coming to perform for us at the Lone Tree Art Center!

It’s Ladies Night…See you there!

 

Preview: A Kantorei Christmas

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By Theresa Allen, Guest Blogger

In the deep still of a winter’s night, there is nothing more beautiful, more transcendent, than the lift of human voices in song.  Begin a new holiday tradition with your loved ones at A Kantorei Christmas on December 19, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lone Tree Arts Center.

Denver-based Kantorei, is a world-class a cappella choir, led by artistic director Joel Rinsema. A Kantorei Christmas features the soaring voices of more than 50 singers who will be performing My Perfect Stranger, a beautiful retelling of the Christmas story, premiered by the BBC Singers in 2016 and written by former King’s Singer Bob Chilcott. Janet Kay Harriman, the principal harpist with the Central City Opera Festival and a frequent performer with Opera Colorado, will accompany the choir. The evening will also feature the choir’s performance of an arrangement of traditional carols by Jackson Berkey of Mannheim Steamroller and the audience will be invited to join in the festivities.

A Kantorei Christmas promises to be a truly special evening of newly composed music and classic carols that will fill your heart with the Christmas spirit. Tickets for A Kantorei Christmas are on sale now from $33 to $40 and can be purchased at http://www.lonetreeartscenter.org/kantoreichristmas. The Lone Tree Arts Center is located at 10075 Commons Street in Lone Tree. Free on-site parking is available.

Preview: Home for the Holidays

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By Monica Jarrell, Guest Blogger

Come celebrate the wonder, warmth and magic of the season.  Home for the Holidays is an unforgettable experience that is bound to leave you and your family in the Christmas spirit.

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Home for the Holidays 2014

Home for the Holidays has become a tradition at the Lone Tree Arts Center.  It is a celebration of holiday songs, music, dancing, and tons of energy that will thrill the whole family! Mrs. Claus and Santa are the hosts of the show.  Santa will be played by local actor Colin Alexander, who was last seen in LTAC’s The Explorers Club.  Mrs. Claus will be played by Margie Lamb (Town Hall Arts Center, Next to Normal).  The emcee of the show is Rob Costigan, who was last seen at LTAC in EVITA. Trent Hines, recently seen in DCPA’s The Wild Party is the music director and Piper Lindsay Arpan (LTAC, Reunion ’85) is pulling triple duty as assistant director, dance captain, and assistant choreographer.

This year the show is completely new with singers, dancers, and musicians both local and from out of town – and maybe even a few surprise guests! This year’s performances also includes a kids choir. So, invite all your friends and family to come join in the celebration. It is sure to get you in the holiday spirit!

Lone Tree Arts Center

10075 Commons St, Lone Tree, CO 80124

The show is starting Thursday, December 7 running through Sunday December 16.  Get your tickets here for this popular event.

Living Legends Blind Boys of Alabama in Lone Tree

By Katie Konishi, Marketing Specialist

We throw around the title “living legends” a lot but the Blind Boys of Alabama truly deserve the moniker. Formed in 1939, this group has lived through some of the most tumultuous times in our nation’s history and come out singing on the other side – literally. The group’s soulful gospel music has matured over the years, but their mission has never changed. As a track on their new album states, they “Stay on the Gospel Side” in their work.

The founding members of the group met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Alabama. The original group consisted of Clarence Fountain, Jimmy Carter, George Scott, Johnny Fields, and Tommy Gilmore. Of the original members, Jimmy is the only one still touring with the group. Clarence appears on their latest album, but rarely travels with the group. The group just released a new album titled Almost Home, their 68th album, if Wikipedia is to be believed. 68!

Currently, the line-up of the group consists of founding member Jimmy Carter, Ben Moore, Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, Joey Williams, Trae Pierce, Peter Levin, and Paul Beasley. Clarence Fountain still appears with the group when his health allows. The group has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards and have won six, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. They’ve been invited to the White House by three different administrations: President Clinton in ’94, President Bush in ’02, and President Obama in ‘10.

And while the awards they’ve racked up are certainly impressive, their music really speaks for itself. They practically created the gospel sound of the 21st century and continue to define the genre today. Just see for yourself in the video below of “Singing Brings Us Closer.”

We’re so excited to bring this slice of music history to Lone Tree and hope that you can join us for this uplifting night of music on September 15th at 8pm. Tickets and more information are available here: http://www.lonetreeartscenter.org/blindboys

Fun fact: “Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time,” a Grammy-nominated track from the compilation album God Don’t Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson was recorded at FAME Recording Studio, which should sound familiar if you saw Muscle Shoals: I’ll Take You There – it’s one of the studios in Muscle Shoals! They also recorded a track from their latest album in Muscle Shoals as well.