Tag Archives: country music

Sounds of the season

Guitar ornaments from the Museum Shop at the Musical Instrument Museum

My search for concerts with a holiday theme began at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, where I recently spotted a festive collection of ornaments with a music vibe. Here’s a nifty summary, provided by the MIM, of their holiday concert offerings — always check before going to confirm details…

December 3, Saturday

Museum Encounter: Holiday Favorites with the Desert Echoes Flute Project. 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Get in the holiday mood as this 22-member ensemble performs holiday favorites with flutes of all shapes and sizes. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Concert: Deck the Halls – Family Holiday Classics with the Phoenix Opera. 2:30 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Holiday songs enchant even the youngest listener. Revel in the beauty of “O Holy Night,” sing along with “Jingle Bells,” and even meet Santa as you and your family celebrate the season with the Phoenix Opera and the Phoenix Opera Orchestra. Tickets: $25 (includes dessert). 

Concert: Hallelujah! Joys of the Season with the Phoenix Opera. 7:00 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Phoenix Opera and the Phoenix Opera Orchestra present a tribute to the holidays, featuring highlights from the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah as well as traditional and international holiday gems. Tickets: $35. 

December 4, Sunday 

Museum Encounter: Bartholomew Faire and Stories of the Yuletide. 12:30 and 3:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Hear the ancient musical roots of our holiday traditions with Bartholomew Faire and ancient Welsh, Irish, and German poems and stories selected for the yuletide. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Museum Encounter: James Gerber and Holiday Favorites on the Rathke Organ. 2:00 p.m., Alcove 3. Join James Gerber, one of MIM’s own, to celebrate the season with a performance of holiday favorites on the Rathke “Visible” Organ. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

December 10, Saturday  

Museum Encounter: Bells of Paradise. 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., North El Río. The entire family will enjoy this five-octave, 15-member handbell and chime choir from Paradise Valley United Methodist Church. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Museum Encounter: Dickens Carolers. 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. A quartet dressed in Victorian-era attire will delight the audience with four-part holiday songs. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

December 11, Sunday 

Museum Encounter: Chai Tones Klezmer. 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Main Courtyard. Although their specialty is klezmer―the heart and soul of their Jewish roots―the musicians of the Chai Tones also incorporate jazz, country and western, baroque, and Irish jigs into their music. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

Museum Encounter: Arizona Opera and the Gift of Music. 12:30 and 3:00 p.m., Alcove 1. Four talented singers from the Arizona Opera Singer Circle will perform a celebration of songs that embraces the spirit of the season. Tickets: Free with museum admission. 

December 17, Saturday 

Concert: Jazz Holiday Celebration. 7:00 p.m., MIM Music Theater. Don’t miss this continuing winter tradition at MIM! Special guests join forces with the “who’s who” of local Valley talent for a jazzy evening of winter and holiday favorites from around the world. Tickets: $25. 

December 30, Friday 

Celebrate with SOUND! Noisemakers for New Year’s Eve. 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Get ready to party! Make a fun, festive and noisy instrument to welcome the New Year. We provide the materials, instructions, and guidance–you provide the music! Tickets: $2 per craft with museum admission.

For a comprehensive calendar of events for families, consult Raising Arizona Kids magazine in print and online.


Coming up: Fun with holiday ornaments, Guitar tales, Giving thanks for veterans, More Christmas concert fare, “Munchkin” tales


For the love of country

A work of art available in the museum shop at the Musical Instrument Museum

Hank Williams, Jr. made headlines this week for likening America’s president to one particular genocidal monster, an analogy that doesn’t do justice to the patriotism evident in so much of country music.

My daughter Jennifer, a cultural anthropology major at ASU, is a longtime fan of country music who’s introduced me to a smarter, kinder side of the genre long-affiliated with love of country and — at its best — love of fellow citizens.

Recently she pulled me aside to watch a videotaped performance from this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards ceremony. It featured Darius Rucker performing with 25 campers from the “ACM Lifting Lives Music Camp.”

They sang “Music from the Heart,” which songwriters Brett James and Chris Young composed with campers during the summer of 2010. “Lifting Lives” is the philanthropic arm of the ACM, which sponsored last summer’s camp.

The music camp has been hosted for six years by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Tennessee, which works to “facilitate discoveries and best practices that make positive differences in the lives of persons with developmental disabilities and their families.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d spotted a country/Kennedy connection. Alan Jackson opened the Kennedy Center’s 9/11 memorial in Washington, D.C. with his song titled “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.”

Those of you seeking country music closer to home can look forward to several concerts coming to Valley stages this season. Vince Gill performs at the Mesa Arts Center on Oct. 23, and Josh Gracin performs with special guest Nick Nicholson at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 9.

Chandler Center for the Arts presents Lorrie Morgan and Pam Tillis on Feb. 4, 2012 and Marty Stuart on March 31, 2012. I hope someone gives me a call when Roseanne Cash comes to town.

The Musical Instrument Museum, already home to country western fare, says exhibits about Toby Keith and Buck Owens will go up later this month in the Artists Gallery

I was intrigued to see several country music-related exhibits being prepared during my last visit to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and I’m told that Suzy Boggus will be performing at the MIM on March 23, 2012.

It’s always fun to explore country western-related artifacts at the MIM. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a genuine “Nudie suit” — named for the Russian-born American tailor who crafted rhinestone-studded garb for lots of country western superstars.

And it’s nice to know, in a day and age when some use their celebrity to pedal hate and intolerance, that others are using their own good fortune to enhance the lives of others.

— Lynn

Coming up: Art meets Americana, Spending time at the “Spitfire Grill”

One morning at MIM

I headed out to the Musical Instrument Museum Thursday morning for the media sneak peek of a photographic exhibit titled “The Power of Music.” My son Christopher, a fellow MIM fan and keeper of the family’s best camera, tagged along.

The Power of Music exhibit features photography and more

The traveling exhibit features not only photos, but also rare musical instruments and videos of music enjoyed during earlier times. The exhibit spans 1860-1915. You can enjoy it at the MIM Sept 24-Nov 27 — something to keep in mind as relatives who visit for Thanksgiving are sitting stuffed and silent on your sofa.

This MIM Cafe spread looked lovely until reporters dived in

If you hit the MIM for Halloween, be sure and stop by the MIM Cafe. After sampling tasty pizza, cookies and prickly pear cream soda on Thursday, we chatted with their chef — who seems to find inspiration in both music and the macabre.

Last year’s Halloween offerings included “Mummy Meatloaf” with a global twist and “Silence of the Lambs” ala “local AZ.” Reading last year’s Halloween sandwich menu was like browsing through a theater program from Ron May or Damon Dering. Scary. But scary good.

Once we’d explored “The Power of Music” and given a hearty thumbs up to executive chef Edward T. Farrow (only his mom gets to shorten the first name), we explored the rest of the two-story museum — including geographical galleries that group instruments by region and country of origin.

You can travel the world in one morning at the MIM

We especially enjoyed our time in the artist gallery, which “features instruments, video concert footage, photographs and other special items linked to world-renowned musicians and music innovators.”

Our fun finds included this 1945 G.I. Piano from Steinway and Sons

Our favorites included an olive green “G.I. Piano” and a “Leonard Bernstein” exhibit complete with “West Side Story” elements (which reminded me that “West Side Story” opens next week at ASU Gammage in Tempe).

Some exhibits hold special interest for theater and film buffs

It looks like several new exhibits are under development. Country music fans can soon enjoy space devoted to Toby Keith and Buck Owens. Also coming soon are artifacts from Stevie Nicks, Roy Orbison and John Denver. Elvis is already in the building.

This section of the MIM is like a blank canvas awaiting the brush

Still no Bruce Springsteen gear (just a small image tucked away on a wall in the rock and roll section of the museum) — so I had to settle for buying a Springsteen 2012 wall calendar in the museum shop.

The MIM Museum Shop is full of fun holiday shopping finds

The museum store is its own multicultural marvel. We spent part of the morning just exploring all the books, music, toys, attire, jewelry and other fare. Winter holidays will soon be upon us and the MIM museum store has lots of unique offerings, many quite reasonably priced.

If your family might enjoy a bit of morning time at the MIM, consider a visit this weekend. There’s a 10am children’s workshop Sat, Sept 24 — “How to Play the Bones and Harmonica” with Mark Gardner and Rex Rideout.

The pair offers an “Illustrated Lecture and Musical Demonstration” Sun, Sept 25 at 11am. Fine print about pricing and such (plus afternoon offerings this weekend) is available online at www.themim.org.

Musicians from Tony Bennett to Carlos Santana offer rave MIM reviews

We always enjoy our mornings at the MIM. The museum features giant windows that let the glorious sun shine in. The museum coffee shop brews a mean espresso best enjoyed while reading quotes from famous musicians painted along one wall. And the galleries offer an ever-changing selection of all things musical to delight our senses. One morning at the MIM can create a lifetime of memories.

— Lynn

Note: Our favorite photos were identified as follows — Ladies’ orchestra or glee club; Hispanic man and woman playing banjo; Salvation Army musicians; Twins with banjo and wooden flute; and Theresa Vaughn, actress, with five string banjo (she looks like my lovely daughter Liz). Checking out the hair and clothes in the photos is nearly as much fun as spying all the old-timey (a phrase borrowed from my Blue Bike Kids Show buddies) instruments.

Coming up: Film and theater reviews — think “Sparrow” from Stray Cat Theatre, “West Side Story” from ASU Gammage and “Footloose” on the big screen.

Woman playwright talks “Respect”

The "Respect" cast album will have you singing and dancing along to 100 years of "top 40" tunes

Fans of the “feel good” musical will love the dressed-up “top 40” tunes of “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” — playing through Feb 12, 2011 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

But so will those who enjoy deeper fare — because the 50+ tunes featured in “Respect” are a vehicle for recounting the changing roles of women during the last 100 or so years.

It isn’t every day you come across a playwright with a Ph.D. to her name, or even a playwright you’d refer to as “her.”

“Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” playwright Dorothy Marcic, Ph.D., notes that just 15% or so of playwrights whose work is produced are women.

I marveled even more at this math after learning from Marcic that only 15% of “top 40” hits from the last century were recorded by women. She knows because she studied the issue extensively long before bringing “Respect” to the stage.

Research for this book led to the musical "Respect: A Musical Journey of Women"

Her foray into the musical journey of women — from dependence and passivity to empowerment and strength — took the form of research for a book she titled “Respect: Women and Popular Music.”

You’ve got to respect Marcic for the breadth and depth of her academic and professional life — which isn’t readily apparent until you look past the feather boas and “Jackie O” sunglasses that are a sort of trademark of her show.

Though her first teaching job was at the Arizona State University business school, she ultimately spent many years as a professor at Vanderbilt University.

Marcic has been a Fulbright scholar in Prague, consulted with major corporations on leadership and organizational management, worked with the PBS television series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” published several books (including children’s titles) and more.

We forget sometimes that the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified less than 100 years ago — in 1920.

Often we fail to help our daughters appreciate the great progess that’s taken place — and the work undertaken by previous generations to make it happen.

Cheryl Williams, Carly Mayo, Heather Mayes and Andrea Dora (L to R) perform in "Respect: A Musical Journey of Women" in Phoenix (Photo: Sierra Smith)

Marcic describes “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” as “a great conversation starter.” Mothers, fathers or grandparents who take children to see the show will enjoy much more than a fabulous “feel good” musical.

They’ll help younger generations understand the world, and work, that came before them.

Americans take so many privileges, including the opportunity to vote, for granted. I love the fact that there’s a show combining good clean fun with a dash of history — even activism.

So what of the musical journey of men? Marcic sees a similar arc, noting that songs by men recorded before the ’60s focused on control, power, planning and such.

During the 1960s, songs performed by men began to reveal a greater vulnerability, more emotional accessibility.

By the end of the 20th century, American pop music often spoke not only of healing relationships but also of healing the world.

Proceeds from the sale of "Respect" tickets, totes and such benefit "The Respect Project" as it works to empower women and children

All this talk of pop music got me thinking about other genres — from country music to rap — and images of women in contemporary pop tunes.

If you’re parenting a tween girl, you’ve no doubt noticed the musical menace of songs that emphasize beauty over brains, fleeting pleasure over sustained effort, and snagging the perfect boyfriend over cultivating inner strength.

“Music bifurcated early in the 21st century,” muses Marcic. While several songs feature strong, independent women — others offer suggestive, even “slutty” lyrics.

But even this, I suspect, may be another step forward.

For the goal of feminism — a key theme in my own doctoral studies in religion and philosophy during the ’80s — was never to tell women they had to choose one particular approach.

Rather, it was to expand women’s options. To foster limitless opportunities. Which options a woman chooses to pursue are for her alone to decide.

I like to think that shows like “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” help us all see those choices more clearly, and to chart the path of our own lives instead of settling for lives mapped by others.

— Lynn

Note: “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women” is produced by Philip Roger Roy and Dana Matthow in association with Act 2 PlayhouseClick here to find additional resources on the topic of women’s empowerment — including a comprehensive “Respect” study guide and the non-profit “Respect Project Inc.,” which uses theater and other arts to “help women transform their lives through smart thinking, smart choices, smart results.”

Coming up: More Marcic musings — on contemporary theater and playwriting

Don’t push my buttons!

Pushing buttons…

It’s a common occurrence when the “teen taxi” is in service.

Sometimes it’s the emotional kind, but usually it’s just the radio that’s in play. I push the ‘70s button, Christopher pushes the ‘80s button, Jennifer pushes the country/western button and Lizabeth pushes the Broadway button.

'50s crooner Eddie Fisher

We get a ‘50s station thanks to Sirius XM, but it’s never had its own button. James and I are at the back of the “Boomers,” born in the ‘60s after the heyday of soda jerks and juke boxes.

So it surprised me when I actually got chills listening to the cast of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s The Sound of Plaid” perform the show’s final number, “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.”

The show—an Arizona premiere of “The Sound of Plaid: The New Glee Club Version of Forever Plaid”—features mostly music popularized in the ‘50s. Think “Lady of Spain” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.”

I attended the Saturday matinee at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale, which was also enjoyed by youth from a variety of non-profit organizations—including Free Arts of Arizona, Chrysalis and Girl Scouts.

Collaboration is a many splendored thing, and Phoenix Theatre does it so well.

I never met a mic I didn't like

I’m also rather partial to their take on all things plaid. If ever there was a show with the potential to be a monotonous “one note”—this has to be it. I’m more of a spandex and disco ball kind of a gal, so I really didn’t expect to find this show all that enchanting.

Contemporary crooner Michael Buble

But they had me with the very first notes out of the tuxedo-clad quartet that opened the show (all looking a bit like Michael Buble brandishing braces)—which follows the performance of a high school glee club who’ve come back to earth after perishing in a 1964 crash with another school bus.

Students on the other fictional bus, en route to watch the Beatles’ debut on the Ed Sullivan show, survived—but that’s the last we hear of them. They haven’t got the power of the plaid.

I loved the show’s many references to all things nostalgic. The club sang a round rather than a rap. They pined over LPs instead of iPods. They used words more common many decades ago—uranium, Korea, harmonic convergence—even “Holy cannoli!”

Ed Sullivan & the "Fab Four"

The show featured especially strong vocals, with plenty of stunning solos and heartfelt harmonies. I’d have to give the best overall performance award to Ryan Kitkowski, an Arcadia High School sophomore who plays Jinx with true comedic flair.

I was also impressed by the balance of various creative elements—the live music (piano, bass and drums), the simple but sophisticated scenic design, the polished costumes and the playful props.

The youngest trio of cast members—including 2nd grader Alex Kirby (Gladys), 3rd grader Sam Primack (Lionel) and 4th grader Madeline Bates (Irene)–were both capable and cute. Madeline is the youngest of three Bates siblings in the show, and the cast member I’d pick for “most likely to make it big as a dancer” one day.

The Andrew Sisters

As always, the Greasepaint Theatre lobby was transformed into a world reflecting the cultural context of the show. Patrons enjoyed clips of songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Andrew Sisters on a tiny black and white television. And yup, they even managed to dig up an old record player.

Exhibits featured photos and descriptions of cultural icons like American Bandstand—and true American idols like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Big Mama Thornton and Bing Crosby. A mock recording studio with stand-up mic and “On the Air” sign made a great setting for snapping souvenir photos.

“The Sound of Plaid” makes for a refreshing afternoon or evening of theater for all ages (recommended for 5 & up). If you want to treat the grandparents in your life to some quality time with the grandkids, get them tickets to see this show.

Dick Clark

Or if you want your child to see the polished, but not plastic, performance of a real live “glee club”—this is the show for you. Long before 3-D televisions invade our family rooms and kitchens, we’ll have plenty of live performance art to transport young imaginations to new dimensions.

But don’t get me started. The tragedy of television time taking over theater time is one of my hot buttons…


Patsy Cline

Note: If, like my daughter Jennifer, the radio button you’re most fond of pushing is for country/western tunes, don’t miss the presentation of “Always…Patsy Cline” coming to Phoenix Theatre on May 19. It’s a touching glimpse into the world of singer Patsy Cline, whose life was cut tragically short by a plane crash in 1963 when she was just 30 years old.

Coming up: Spotlight on summer theater camps, including those offered by Phoenix Theatre, Childsplay, Valley Youth Theatre and more. If your child has had a positive experience with a Valley theater camp (or you’ve seen another youth theater production you’d like to recommend), feel free to comment below to let our readers know.