Tag Archives: Fiddler

J is for Jersey — and Juneau

“Alaskan Fiddling Poet” Ken Waldman, who’ll be performing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix next weekend, does plenty of traveling as a sort of modern day troubador.

I’ll bet Waldman didn’t expect to be in New Jersey late last week – but he was a stowaway of sorts as I traveled to the East Coast with one of my daughters.

When I went to rev up my laptop, I discovered Waldman’s bright green “D is for Dog Team” CD inside.

I’d listened to several of his CDs, and read two of his books, just a few weeks before. He was kind enough to send them my way so I could get a feel for his work before he hits the Valley with his family-friendly blend of music, poetry and storytelling.

One book, a memoir titled “Are You Famous?,” is a detailed read standing in sharp contrast to the mini-memoirs I write in many of my posts. Perhaps he’s not ready to accept rumors of readers’ shortening attention spans. Or maybe he just gives people more credit than most.

Waldman’s “D is for Denali” — featuring Alaskan acrostics from A to Z — is more my style. There’s “A is for Avalanche,” “I is for Iditarod,” “R is for Reindeer” and more.

It reminds me of the years I spent living in Anchorage — and my mom’s brother Bob, who lived with his family in Juneau.

Its development was “made possible in part through a grant from the New Jersey-based Puffin Foundation” — an organization dedicated to “continuing the dialogue between art and the lives of ordinary people.”

The name of the non-profit caught my eye because my daughter Jennifer, who’ll turn 20 this week, was quite the puffin fan during childhood.

Animals are a common subject in Waldman’s works. The “D is for Dog Team” CD includes “Stubborn Old Mule,” “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” “Duck River” and several other selections.

Another offering — a pair of CDs titled “All Originals, All Traditionals” — features one CD with 28 instrumentals and another with fiddle tunes and poems.

When you open the packaging, you see a poem titled “Suffering Democracy” — one of my favorite little gems from Waldman’s world.

Head to the Musical Instrument Museum this Friday (April 29) at 4pm for “Experience the Music: Ken Waldman and Poetry and Storytelling for Kids.” The event, designed for kids ages 4-8 (with a parent), is just $15/child.

Waldman also performs a series of three free events at the MIM on Saturday, April 30. Other MIM activities that weekend include “Listen to the World” — a celebration of the museums’s first anniversary, complete with music, dance and workshops.

If “M is for Moose Pass” — then “MIM” is for music, imagination and memories. It’s unlikely you’ll see a moose around these parts. But thanks to the MIM — music exhibits, performance and education are always available right here in Arizona.

Now if only I could get New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen to pay a visit to the MIM…

— Lynn

Note: Waldman is currently a featured poet on the website for “49 Writers,” an Alaskan non-profit supporting writers and their work. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: Costume shop treasures


My fondness for “Fiddler”

Scene from "Fiddler on the Roof" (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Most folks know the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” thanks to songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Tradition.”

It’s a lovely part of one of our own family traditions — enjoying touring Broadway productions, and other performing arts fare, at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

Often I take in shows with just my 17-year-old daughter, Lizabeth, herself a bit of a fiddler after a decade or so of violin study. She’s the family musical theater expert — and eagerly awaiting letters from the colleges where she recently completed B.F.A. auditions.

But seeing “Fiddler” at ASU Gammage — like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” — has been a family affair.

The musical has plenty of elements that appeal to children — the rooftop fiddler, the sibling spats, the grandma “dream sequence,” the lively songs and dance sequences.

I first saw the show while parenting three young children, but this time around I’ll have the perspective of a mom with three grown children grappling with many of the issues treated in the show.

The longing to belong. The urge to break away. The pull of duty. The push of desire. The traditions shared by generations. The new paths forged by youth. The interplay of the personal with the political.

I confess to forging my own path with the song “If I Were a Rich Man” several years ago while performing with fellow parents at a talent show.

We were chaparoning a summer camp session of the Phoenix Girls Chorus, and changed up the words as an homage to artistic director Sue Marshall (who now heads the blossoming Arizona Girlchoir).

Thankfully, “If I Were Miss Sue” made its debut before the advent of YouTube and viral videos. Seems to me I did something similar with “Memory” (from the musical “Cats”) one year during a parent talent show at my children’s elementary school.

My favorite audio of the “Fiddler” variety is a recent interview with Harvey Fierstein that Lizabeth and I heard in the car one day — where we often listen to the SIRIUS XM “On Broadway” channel.

Fierstein has performed the lead role of Tevye (the father and milkman in this tale inspired by the stories of Sholom Aleichem), and eloquently shares the impact the show had on him as a young Jewish boy.

My “kids” may roll their eyes when the “Fiddler” song “Sunrise, Sunset” comes through the car radio speakers. But I know that one day, they’ll appreciate the lyrics to this and other “Fiddler” songs that capture the currents of change in family life and the world beyond.

— Lynn

Note: Watch the ASU Gammage website for the early March announcement of their 2011-2012 season — and head to ASU Gammage this week to enjoy the musical “9 to 5.”

Coming up: More musical theater with a family-friendly feel, Valley students present a series of one-act plays

Ballet on the brain

Having spent a decade or so as a ballet mom to my youngest daughter Lizabeth, part of my daily ritual includes reading dance-related stories in various publications, including The New York Times. Still, the number of stories I’ve read pales in comparison to the number of tightly-twisted ballet buns I’ve precisely pinned to a particular spot on the back of Lizabeth’s head.

I always take special joy in seeing photographs of one dancer in particular — David Hallberg, principal with American Ballet Theatre in New York. He was one of many older dancers Lizabeth looked up to during her training with Kee-Juan Han at Arizona Ballet School (now the School of Ballet Arizona), and also attended Arizona School for the Arts.

I came home Thursday evening to a press release from ASA noting that Hallberg will be a featured guest at an upcoming event honoring ASA’s 15th anniversary and recent expansion. The March 1 “Breakfast Club” is free and open to the public, but I’m guessing it will fill up quickly thanks to highlights like Hallberg and performances by current ASA students. Watch the ASA website for details.

Earlier in the week, I got news of Ballet Arizona’s 2011-2012 season — which includes two works based on popular children’s tales. A world premiere production of “Cinderella” choreographed by Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen will be performed in October of 2011, and the company will perform Andersen’s “Sleeping Beauty” in February of 2012.

Other exciting news out of Ballet Arizona includes the advent of Thursday night performances during the opening week for each show, the addition of early Sunday evening performances of the “full-length story ballets” and earlier curtain times in general. All but one production will be performed at Symphony Hall in Phoenix — featuring music by the Phoenix Symphony conducted by Timothy Russell.

My latest foray into ballet world was a delightful conversation with actor Rich Hebert. He’s performing the role of “Dad” in the touring production of Billy Elliot, which comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe April 26-May 8. Billy’s dad wears a hardhat, not a leotard — and the macho miner must come to grips with his son’s determination to dance rather than follow in his father’s footsteps.

I’ll share more about Hebert’s background and “Billy” musings in a future post titled “Being Billy’s dad.” Hebert actually awakens each day grateful to be five-year-old Neely’s dad (he shares the credit with Neely’s mom Natasha). Neely has yet to formally don the tutu, but Hebert tells me she’s already quite the performer.

Watch for more ballet tales in coming posts — and in the meantime, check out this review of the movie “Black Swan” written by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times.

— Lynn

Note: Last call for glee club/show choir photos. Please include name of group, hosting school or organization, and person who took the photo (if available). Send to rakstagemom@gmail.com for possible use in a future post.

Coming up: My fondness for “Fiddler,” Get your “Glee” on!, Performing parents

Update: David Hallberg recently accepted the position of premier with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia — www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/arts/dance/american-to-join-the-bolshoi-ballet.html?_r=2&hp. Visit www.balletaz.org to learn about this week’s “Ballet Under the Stars” offerings from Ballet Arizona. — 9/20/11