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Author Topic: Feast. A high quality show comes to the boonies.  (Read 1302 times)
Moscapoet
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« on: March 20, 2011, 02:06:21 PM »

   Earlier in the week I found out that some Celtic music would be arriving in Alamosa so I thought why not treat myself. It was one of the best $29 investments I've ever made. They are top drawer.

    I did my usual routine for the day with laps at the pool and then work. Then I left around 5 for a nice dinner at Calvillo's In Alamosa. Mmmm, bonus happy hour so a couple of very tasty Margueritas are in order. I arrive plenty early at Richardson Hall on the campus of Adams Sate College. Once inside I see they are selling both a CD and DVD of a show recorded by PBS a few years ago. PBS? Yes, RMPBS here in Colorado recorded the event. Hey, a CD and DVD for $20? Sure! Doors opened at 7 for the 7:30 show. Richardson is a small, intimate venue of about 500 seats or so. It has a balcony that makes up half the seating or so. The venue is rather plain and dated from when it was built  I was advised when I bought my ticket to avoid seats up close as the stage is high. Well, those folks don't know what a high stage is as I've seen a great many over the years with CW. I selected second row dead center as there were no seats in front of me. The stage was shoulder high so not an issue at all!!! Perfect seat! But so many had opted to not sit close that I could drape my fiddler crossing jacket over the seat next to me.

      Before I get much farther here is the link to their website:    http://www.musicbyfeast.com/index.html   where you can see this is no second rate show. This is top drawer stuff. No, not CW, but also no multi-million dollar budget. So, lights dim, curtains open, and the backdrop is lit with color to reveal eight artists on stage. They are just that, artists. Yes there are lights with this show. Not the computerized light show on the ceiling and around you that you get at CW but still varying colors on the backdrop and use of spots that was effective. There was not a written program and I did not bring a notepad so I do not have the set list or order. The show was two hours including a twenty minute intermission. Sound familiar? The show is a mix of traditional Irish with some twists now and then, some gypsy, some classical that has been nicely jazzed up a bit, and even an interesting Indian (as in Asian) dialog which I'll get to. The following are some of the highlights of the show for me.

      They did a beautiful and soulful version of Star of the County Down that had me teary eyed. There was a lovely rendition on fiddle and vocal of Last Rose of Summer portrayed as a romantic dialog between a couple. This show also includes some Irish dancing with two soloists on the tour, both from Ireland. Sadly the girl in the show had hurt an ankle and could not perform but did appear at the very end. More on that later. There was a fun duet between a base fiddle and viola that had both humor and amazing dexterity. The introduction to it stated that such instruments aren't held in that high regard and are relegated to slower pieces. They showed it did not have to be so. Then there was the drummer who at one point came out along with another percussionist, she looks of Asian decent, and did an intriguing lyrical dialog in Indian. It was great fun and only to the beat of their claps and slaps on their legs. Now that is something you don't see every day! The show is a mix of slow and fast and contains elements of both Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance. What? Dueling violins?! Really? Oh cool!!! The image of M and Cora flew into my head! Quite a number of familiar pieces to many of us made their way through the show. Not all the elements you'll see on the website or on the DVD are in play here. The touring show is trimmed a bit obviously to hold expenses down as well as the limited size of the many small stages they encounter. There was not a bagpiper and not a full dance troupe. Those elements likely go in play at key events.

        At intermission I made my way back to the tech boards. Both the sound and lights are like smaller versions of what you see at the CW show. Very professional and the people running them are very amiable. I asked about set up and they said lights and sound arrived in late morning and early afternoon with sound check at 4. I asked how many were on the road and they said 19 in all. So, by my count that was 12 artists on stage and 7 off stage. They travel in a a couple vehicles towing trailers. The sound man and I talked and he said he'd pass along some information to Catie who is the matriarch of the group and we'd meet after the show. Now about the specific artists.

      Tyme Mientka is the patriarch of this partly family based group. He plays cello but not like most you have heard. He has great fun with it throughout the show and is very gifted. He speaks at times during the show, alternating with his wife of 30 years and leader of the ensemble, Kathryn. You'll like what he does with the cello.

      Kathryn Mientka, is of at least partly Irish heritage and holds dual citizenship. Only a handful of countries allow that. Not only is she the leader but also the artist at the keyboard. She also is the musical director and arranger. Very obvious she knows what she's doing and the show is a perfect balance of what they want to bring to their audiences. BTW, their stated goal is to bring quality music both Celtic and other to smaller communities. Most places won't ever be able to bring in Riverdance, Lord Of The Dance, or Celtic Woman. They could either not afford them or do not have a big enough venue. Thus the nice mix of Riverdance, LOTD, classical, and even some original works are brought to a place like Alamosa, population around 9000. I'm here to say it is a great concept and these folks have a great future. Bravo Catie.

     David Alderdice is the rebel, at least in his look. He has that combination hippie and guru look and I've already mentioned the interesting dialog he did in the show. He did absolutely wonderful work all the way through the show with a nice mix of instruments. He was not alone at times as at one point the other percussionist and even the harpist got into the act. At one point the male dancer came out with a bodhran (now you can't have an Irish show without one!) and he and David did a bit of a duel. He adds a great flavor to the ensemble that you'll like.

      Dr. Marcin Arendt. Yes, I said doctor! In spite of his youthful appearance this man is to me the most gifted of any on stage. His slow and fast airs are excellent and he is engaging and has a fine stage presence. OK, so he isn't in a pretty flowing dress, with long blond locks, and flying all over the stage. He'd probably feel a bit odd that way!  Cheesy But I would bet that if M heard him she would be very impressed with his skills and interpretations of the music. All of the artists are classically trained and you can hear that throughout the show. But translating that into Irish/Celtic fiddle is something M can tell you is not at all easy. Marcin is top notch, no question, and any violinist will love his work. Star of the show if there is one, but like CW this is an ensemble of many gifted parts that would lack without any one of them.

      Elise Helmke, is the harpist with the group. She is aggressive in her play and wonderfully talented. I could easily see her as a harpist touring with some group like Trans-Siberian Orchestra. She has the look and the style with her instrument to be a perfect fit for that. She did one solo in the show that was made up of about three pieces backed by the others. Superb.

      Stephanie Mientka is a violinist but primarily plays viola. Daughter of the other two on stage and clearly a family with a musical gift. She is both very pretty and very gifted. I found her Irish airs most engaging and in my opinion she is the closest to feeling those Irish roots. Viola is not quite like violin but she makes you think so. Wouldn't have bothered me at all to see her out and about fiddling away and engaging audience members. Her parents have every reason to be proud as she is wonderful.

       Ben De Kock, plays the bass fiddle and also guitar. I've already mentioned his duel in the show and it is clear he loves what he's doing. In many ways like the strings members of the CW band, remaining in the background, but at times brought out to give the show his own unique spin and showcase his gifts which are many.

       Andrew Krimm is another viola player and is the one who joined Ben in the duel. As with Stephanie, he makes the viola do what a violin does. It talks and what it says is well worth hearing. I watched throughout the show as Andrew, Stephanie, and Marcin attacked their pieces with great vigor and passion. What an amazing threesome.

       Two other artists were Arlen Deva the lady who played percussion and was the other half of the Indian dialog with David. She looks to be of Asian decent but I'm told she is actually Hungarian and Irish! She too contributes and gives the show a flavor that is unique. The other artist is their wonder soprano, Rebecca Arendt, wife of Marcin.  She will soon join her hubby in being a doctor in music, she in vocals. Her singing is classical and she has no shortage of power. She has short blond hair and is medium height. Really lovely and she had two gowns she wore during the show. At times I wished she had a male partner to duet with vocally but she did have one with Marcin as they did Last Rose with he on violin. Big smooch at the end of it too!! Aww.

      Two Irish dancers are with the ensemble on this tour. Marc Morrison and Tanya Baird. Marc was solo tonight and you could tell at times in the show when Tanya was supposed to be doing her thing. He juiced the already happy crowd plenty of times with his great footwork. He also did very well with the bodrhan. I'd love to see a duet with he and Stephanie using something like Mason's Apron or Pacific Slope. Tanya came out in her costume at the very end and wearing the soft shoes. She later told me she "had to be there". No doubt a consummate professional that was dying not being out there for a good audience. Courageous and very nice of her to do that.

       The audience here was small, maybe 3/4 capacity, but excellent. They needed no prompting at clapping and there were plenty of hoots and others supportive sounds being uttered. It was clear the artists on stage felt that too. I was alone in a standing ovation at the end of the first act. Sorry. but it has become habit and seems the right thing to do. At the end folks eventually joined me in standing and those on stage deserved it. We were told the entire cast would come out after the show and greet folks and sign things. They did just that. Photos, autographs, and plenty of conversation. I mingled a bit for awhile and let the crowd thin a bit. No photos as I did not bring the camera. I did not ask for autographs either as I fully plan to attend another show. I chatted with the two dancers for a bit. Marc is from Belfast and Tanya from Dublin. Tanya makes M look like an amazon. She is truly pixie sized but I'll bet ten times her size in energy on stage. Both were delightful and are members of Irish dance troupe DAHMSA. I then made my way over to Ben and Andrew and thanked them for the great show and especially that fun duet. Down the stairs and to the fiddlers and ma and pa Mientka. Tyme was very gracious and I told him a bit about myself and my CW adventures and connections. He seemed honored someone who was such a big CW fan would be impressed with this show. No worries, Tyme, like them you are nice people and with great gifts you are sharing. I met with Marcin and Stephanie and flashed my FC crossing jacket at them. "Do you think I like fiddle?!" I exclaimed. They loved it and got a chuckle out of it. Finally a chat with Catie and a fuller explanation of my own story. I put some irons in the fire about some things and we'll see if any of them get hot. Either way I'll maintain contact and support them on line and by attending more shows.

       This was a great warm up to seeing Orlagh in Boulder in a week. I told their harpist about the show and also told the group about CW Christmas symphony tour stop in Denver. That really excited them. There just might be a whole bunch of FC signs for that one!! Thank you, Feast, for a real feast of music, and for making a stop here in the boonies. Very much appreciated and please come back.     
« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 07:19:41 PM by Moscapoet » Logged

An fidléir's mínealaíne i sprite iomlán sin
Ron
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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2011, 02:16:01 PM »

That's cool, Scott. I'll have to watch for them. While we all love the visual impact CW treats us to, there's a lot to be said for the show being all about the music. Thanks for sharing.
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MrPeabody
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« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2011, 02:45:56 PM »

Thanks for the review, Scott.  Sounds like a "feast" for the eyes and ears.  Based on their tour dates, past and present, it looks like they are a regional group since I didn't see anything outside Colorado.  They should come east, perhaps to Dublin, Ohio, this summer.
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Mike

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« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2011, 02:52:06 PM »

Yes, Mike, they are mostly regional though you can see they did a German tour as well. Their PBS exposure is not national but only on RMPBS. That having been said, I think they have great potential to go anywhere in the country and tour a region. They may have some constraints they operate under that limit that for now but I'd love to help them venture farther afield. You would have loved the show. Ron, yes, about the music and less about the production. We'll all see that on the CW Christmas tour when it is simply the girls and a symphony, though I expect the girls will be clad in their Christmas gowns from 2007. Last night was certainly a night well spent.
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« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2011, 06:43:43 AM »

A nice treat. Sounds similar to CELTIC CROSSROADS I've seen snippets of their work on PBS. I had intended to see their concert locally in early February which was held at a smaller venue. Unfortunately, I couldn't work out the scheduling.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 06:46:08 AM by Tom~Tom » Logged

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