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Put a Dome On It

by Matthew J. Goguen, Burlington Writers Workshop

Sam Green and Yo La Tengo perform The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller on the MainStage on Thursday, October 30 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Sam Green’s live documentary, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, comes to the Flynn Center this October. I’m curious to see if the performance will encourage folks to re-consider some the famed designer’s ideas of a more sustainable future. If there was ever a luminary truly worthy of the designation “ahead of his time,” Fuller may be the most famous. I began taking an interest in the man’s life and philosophy since a classmate’s whimsical conversation got me hooked.

“Did you know that Winooski almost had a dome built over it?” my friend Ashley gleefully asked me last autumn. We were nearly done with a research project in our master’s program when she delivered this truth nugget. After some quick sleuthing online, she found the proposed diagrams for The Golden Onion Dome. With some inspiration from a Portlandia sketch, we even coined a new catchphrase—“Put a dome on it!”—which we would mumble under our breath whenever we were presented with design dilemmas in our historic preservation classes.

The Winooski dome idea has been a semi-common discussion piece more than thirty years later, popping up in newspapers, blogs, and even within the walls of your favorite bar. The idea was born in community development offices as a way to curb energy consumption by the small city. If successful, this project would’ve taken community revitalization to an entirely new level. While some of the banter you’ll hear at your local watering hole is about how dismal the idea was, make no bones about it: some people were taking it very seriously.

In March 1980, interested persons and luminaries converged at St. Michael’s College for the International Dome Symposium. R. Buckminster Fuller’s keynote address entitled, “Domes: the embodiment of the Principle of Doing More with Less,” outlined the Winooski Dome as one of mankind’s big ideas that could be achieved in principle but not without intense study. Robert L. Wendt of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee spoke specifically on the Winooski Dome’s practicality and discussed alternatives to the plan. Wendt suggested that the physical landscape and topography of Winooski made it an unworthy candidate to be completely domed. In order for a full-city dome to work well, Wendt suggested the entire city would need to be reorganized from top to bottom. Roads, parks, and even housing clusters would need a fresh look for this project to be even somewhat realized.

Smaller-scale domes, like ones over houses, were a more prudent endeavor that was suggested in lieu of a full-scale, citywide dome. The sad coda to the story of course was the cost. Initial funding to research this idea would need to be increased to $250,000, about five times more than the Department of Housing and Urban Development was willing to foot.

Looking back on the Dome Symposium, I had my own questions about its feasibility: How would you travel in and out? What would happen to the birds? Would the clicks, hums, and booms of urban life be amplified under a dome? Legally, could you even build a dome over an entire city?

I thought about these questions in January after seeing singer-songwriter Damien Jurado play in town during the week of the polar vortex. His latest album cover features the artist walking across a desert towards—wouldn’t you know it—a geodesic dome. As my car shivered down Colchester Avenue overlooking Winooski, I squinted one eye shut and drew a dome in breath on the windshield with my numb middle finger. Even as the thermometer read -12 degrees, I couldn’t help but think I was already insulated enough.

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Futurists, Fiddlers, and the Nile River

by Natalie Neuert, UVM Lane Series

The Lane Series and the Flynn have been collaborating for over 15 years. Sometimes, the partnership is initiated by me, when I hear about an event I know would be perfect for the Flynn MainStage; sometimes it’s initiated by the Flynn, when something that comes across their desk that feels “Lane-ish.” It’s a way to expand our outreach to a new audience, or to add something to our season that takes our patrons in a brand new direction. There have been some memorable events over the years, perhaps the most extreme example being Mike Daisey, who came to Burlington immediately following some very controversial press surrounding his exposé of Apple’s business practices in China. I’m so glad to be able to make decisions about his appearance with John Killacky, who was so thoughtful and viewed the whole thing as a learning experience for everyone. That same year, we co-presented Laurie Anderson in a stunningly personal and intimate performance. Most recently, the energy, charisma, and musical power of Fatoumata Diawara was a show for the ages!

This year is no exception, as three of our most eagerly awaited events are Flynn/Lane co-presentations.

Sam Green & Yo La Tengo: The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (Thursday, October 30) is a live documentary film about architect, inventor, and 20th-century futurist Buckminster Fuller. By “live,” I mean that it is narrated, onstage, by its brilliant and charismatic auteur, the filmmaker Sam Green (The Weather Underground). The other element that makes this show over the top special is the soundtrack, performed onstage by the legendary indie rock trio Yo La Tengo. This event has a third partner, UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and the show acts as a link between this year’s Aiken Lecture (October 2, Neri Oxman on Nature and Design). Music, live narration, and the chance to learn something new: so many elements of interest!

On March 13, we have our annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration with the great Irish fiddler Eileen Ivers. Ivers and her band are thrilling in the sheer virtuosity of their amazing playing. If you don’t know Eileen’s resume, she is truly the real deal: original fiddler from Riverdance, musical partner of Sting, founding member of Cherish the Ladies, and nine time all-Ireland fiddle champ. For me, the thing about Irish music is the physicality of the experience. I can feel my heart rate increase as the fingers fly, and my eyes well up at the sad bits, which is part of it as well.

We follow that with what may be the world music event of the century (there’s a lot of century left, but you know what I mean). The Nile Project is the brainchild of San Francisco-based Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero (part of the Lane Series four years ago) and Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis. This project, both musical and environmental in scope, brings together musicians and activists from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The ensemble is in Burlington and on the UVM campus for three days of outreach activities launched by a concert of epic proportions on Saturday, March 28.

I look forward to seeing you at the shows!

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Los Lobos at the Flynn

by Doug Collette

Review of Los Lobos at the Flynn Center on October 1, 2014. 

Los Lobos are celebrating four decades together by returning to their acoustic roots on tour in support of their live release of late last year, Disconnected in New York (Shout Factory, 2013). And the band certainly celebrated on their return to Burlington after a five year absence, offering an progressively loose and raucous performance that nevertheless never lost its decidedly intimate mood for the course of the two sets.

Perhaps because he had missed the previous two stops due to a personal matter, guitarist/vocalist Cesar Rosas lost no time in exhorting the crowd to lose its inhibitions to dance and singalong, acting as a role model of unself-conscious joyful expression with his throaty lead vocals and, even more so, through his repeated blues-based guitar solos. Often as not stepping to the front of the stage and out of the minimal lighting that distinguished a total (and wholly welcome) absence of stage production, Rosas’ outgoing high-spirited demeanor brought exhortations from the diverse audience as well as his bandmates, ultimately leading to both guitarists, David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, taking a seat at the drum kit late in the second set.

These spontaneous intervals were perhaps a bit too much of the kind, at least insofar as they sacrificed the stylish and energetic presence of drummer Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez. Not that either Hidalgo or Perez were lacking in skill—after all, the latter functioned as Lobos main percussionist for many a year—but only that the panache of their (comparatively) youthful comrade added so much punch to the music, literally and figuratively, on a night when the sound in this elegant venue didn’t quite match its renovated beauty or the focus of the band itself.

Many of the nuances multi-instrumentalist Steve Berlin adds to the sound of Lobos, on keyboards, sax and percussion, were lost, as was a clarity in Hidalgo’s lead singing, and to a lesser extent in Rosas.’ And while the sparkling precision of the latter pair’s guitar work was ever-present, the deep resonance in Conrad Lozano’s basswork, was hardly noticeable.

Not that this relatively minor technical shortcoming lessened the impact of the band’s playing. Far from it as the sextet charged to the end of their forty-five minute opening set with “I Walk Alone” and “That Train Don’t Stop Here. ” While this unexpectedly abbreviated interlude left some audience members baffled, a far greater number were no doubt among those hollering during second half of the performance for “How Does the Wolf Survive,” a request to which Los Lobos graciously acceded in homage to Burlington’s and, by extension, the state of Vermont’s, independent spirit.

While a good portion of the crowd gleefully and quite capably sang along to the crowd-pleasing encore of “La Bamba,” rendered closer to its authentic Latin-American roots than the hit from eighties movie of the same name, even more energetic still was the first encore number delivered after a rousing demand for Lobos return to the stage at the end of the second set proper.

In response to Rosas’ query for fans of Sir Doug’s music (to which the good-natured Lozano immediately raised his hand), Los Lobos’ rollicking rendition of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s mid-sixties hit “She’s About A Mover” served as the punctuation mark on the practical and passionate versatility the band had displayed throughout this peak autumn evening as well as the demonstrative appreciation they were accorded.

Those precious few early attendees who left at intermission missed what may turn out to be one of the high-water marks of the 2014-2015 Flynn Center season.

This review first appeared at All About Jazz.

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The Hopeful Future of Ballet in America

by Erin Duffee

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performs on the MainStage on Saturday, October 18 at 8 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

On October 18, Aspen Sante Fe Ballet are performing at the Flynn. It is with great delight that I write these words and I strongly encourage dance and theater aficionados of all forms, to buy their tickets now! The ASFB strikes out on their 2014 national tour this week—their brief stop in Vermont is nestled between bookings at University Park, Pennsylvania and the Joyce Theater in New York City. Normally I might say that we are lucky to receive such a small company early on in their tour, while energy and attitudes are still high, but ASFB is no stranger to travel. In fact, one of the company’s greatest strengths is its dual-city relationship between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Aspen, Colorado. This relationship has allowed the company to develop a broad and diverse body of followers, as well as financial resources. Every year, the ASFB offers a full roster of activities to both cities, including performances, educational opportunities, special presentations, and community outreach programs. In 2010 the company announced their artistic alliance with Juan Siddi Flamenco Sante Fe, which is now included in ASFB’s arts management umbrella.

All in all, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is a very forward-thinking company, and not just in terms of its dual locations. Founded in 1996, the company is still quite young in comparison to most successful American ballet companies. They had to build their repertory from scratch, commissioning new works from emergent choreographers. These early years of development solidified ASFB’s reputation as an advocate for the development of new choreographic work, as well as the break down of boundaries between modern dance and classical ballet. The company’s current repertory includes work from some of the most renowned choreographers in contemporary dance. Next week’s program includes pieces from Jorma Elo and Nicolo Fonte; both choreographers who got an early start with the ASFB and are now considered to be two of the most sought after contemporary dance makers in the world. Next week’s show will also include a piece from Jirí Kylián, one of the late 20th century masters of choreography.

The athleticism and artistry of the Aspen Sante Fe Ballet paired with it’s trailblazing attitude on new dance development puts this company in a caliber of dance that is all it’s own. Regardless of where your stylistic preferences lie in the realm of 21st century dance this is a show worth seeing—in fact it may be one of the best of the season. Consider this your personal opportunity to support the continued development of American dance and the avant-garde arts!

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A Ballet Infatuation and Invitation

by Colleen Ovelman, Burlington Writers Workshop

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performs on the MainStage on Saturday, October 18 at 8 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

I don’t have to try hard to love ballet. I spent years hanging onto ballet barres. Tendu after endless tendu, unsickling my foot, unswaying my back, pulling chin in, tucking tail under. Tendu, pas de bourreé, glissade, assemblé. I can do the combinations in my sleep. I hear the piano playing, the eight count resonating. Ballet, for me, is entwined with nostalgia. It lives somewhere in the heart of my cells, dancing with a melancholy cello.

But why should you love ballet? What’s in it for those not weaned on pliés, for those whom the pas de deux of the Nutcracker does not elicit immediate tears, knowing that another season has come and gone, that curtain is falling, that when the ballet ends, we go back to being just some freckled girl with sore feet and too many brothers?

So why should you love ballet? Because there are bodies. Strong, human bodies. Trained and toned and liquefied, all at the same time. There are lines. Lines drawn from fingertip to shoulder through neck and knee and toe, perfectly drawn and undrawn. And along with the bodies, there’s light and sound and shadow, and each is its own elemental force, something like fire, something like wind, something like water. They all move. They all speak to each other, to us, sitting, watching.

You should love ballet because you know what it is like to strive towards perfection, minute perfections, one muscly sinew twisting towards another in exquisite tension. Hold, rotate, hold.

You should love ballet because it is full of story. The kind of story with no right answers, no moral, no ah-ha. Ballet stories are the messy, complicated stories like the ones we live each day, wrought with emotion that is at times raw, that is at times uncouth, unexplained, unwieldy.

On October 18, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet brings its stories, its lines, its bodies to the Flynn. They are set to perform three contemporary pieces that are sure to enrapture the senses. Come sit with me in a comfortable seat in the Flynn, drink in the music, and see ballet jump outside the lines and frames you imagine it lives in.

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Planting the Seeds

by Barbara Alsop, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Chicago sketch comedy group Second City at the Flynn on October 2, 2014.

H

Second City came to the Queen City and blew the house down! Six incredible talents portrayed in excess of fifty characters Thursday night. I couldn’t keep track! They were improvisational specialists, feeding off ever subtler and more erratic prompts from the audience. Their first skit was lauded mainly with happy applause, but their subsequent numerous pas de deux and folie a trois had the audience rising to the challenge of outdoing itself with praise for every new skit.

Some of the skits were simply quick jokes, a straight man and the lucky giver of the punchline, stage lights going down as the audience roared. But one of the best skits of the night pulled a brave man from the audience to play one of the partners in a gay wedding. The jokes flew around him and he held his poise, joining in the giddiness when asked about this partner’s pet name for him. His response “Fritzi” found its way into other improvs through the rest of the evening. The audience roared in approval for him when he returned to his seat.

The actors were at one point giraffes, at another kindergarten students. The giraffes had secrets from each other (one was actually a duck) while the children drew pictures of kleenex. Needless to say, the kids’ imaginations were huge. Who knew you could do so much with tissue? The drawing paper returned for a wondrous game of Pictionary, pitting inept men drawing lengthy tales while the women were sailing through with a dot or a line.

One of the problems with reviewing comedy is that the telling of the jokes on paper can never reflect the manic quality of the presentation. The only props were four chairs and the occasional use of the large pad of paper, and yet we were treated to a number of rooms and places created totally from the artistry of the players. The mood was changed by a few simple words, and we followed them wherever they took us. We offered them words and they gave us stories from their fertile group mind.

As I was leaving, I passed a group of young people who were discussing which of these wonderful actors would be snatched up for Saturday Night Live or some other big time adventure. Each one of the performers had a proponent, and the friendly banter was a pale shadow of the performance we had seen. But I walked away knowing that the introduction of excellent banter and whimsy into the community had planted a seed that was already growing.

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Reflections of a Burlington Saturday Night

by Barbara Williams Sheperd, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Soovin Kim and Fred Child with Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival musicians on September 27, 2014.

I made the long drive into Burlington on Saturday to attend the Souvin Kim concert at the Flynn. It was a warm, balmy evening—unusual, but welcome weather for late September.

It’s been a long time since I was on Church Street on a Saturday night. The streets were jammed. People were dining at outside tables or just milling about visiting with acquaintances. Music from several different cafes competed for attention. The windows in the clubs along Main Street near the Flynn were open to the street and happy celebrants, probably mostly college kids, filled the area with an energy that only the young truly understand.

As I waited for the box office to open, I shared a stoop with a young man who had an alternative look but a good heart. Sitting there, I noticed how dirty the sidewalks appeared and wondered if the city ever asks the fire department to hose them down during the night.

I had thought I was going to the Flynn theater, but found the concert instead at FlynnSpace next door, a level down and having the characteristics of a black box theater. I’ll admit that when the two young women from the quartet arrived in beautiful ball gowns, I wished to transport all of us to a lovely old opera house or cathedral, something like the Haskel Opera House in Derby Line.

But what the black box lacked in ambiance it made up for in community. The space filled quickly, and the chairs were close together for the sold-out venue. Waiting for the concert to begin, people were chatting happily. There was a great sense of camaraderie and enjoyment in the air. This doesn’t often happen in a big hall.

I am not qualified to critique the concert, and I won’t even try. I will say that from the moment Soovin Kim took the stage to introduce the young artists until the last note was sounded, I found the music exquisite, delightful, truly amazing.

Fred Child opened his remarks with this quote, taken from a letter Mendelssohn wrote to Marc-Andre Souchay: People often complain that music is so ambiguous, and that what they are supposed to think when they hear it is so unclear, whereas words would be understood by everybody. But for me it is exactly the opposite, and not just with whole discourses, but also with individual words, which seem to me so ambiguous, so unclear, so liable to misunderstanding in comparison with good music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words.

On this matter, I agree with Mendelssohn. Fully satisfied, I made the long journey home to Derby.

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Los Lobos: Believe Your Ears, Not Your Eyes

by Jeffrey Lindholm, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Los Lobos at the Flynn Center on October 1, 2014.

For their 40th anniversary tour show at the Flynn on Wednesday, Los Lobos didn’t “take” the stage. After a low-key introduction, the six band members just kind of ambled onstage. Or perhaps they shambled; I’m not sure, but it sure wasn’t a big show-biz entrance. They looked unobtrusive, too, dressed to a middle-aged man in varying shades of gray broken only by guitarist-singer David Hidalgo’s faded blue jeans.

Then they started to play a couple hours’ worth of their wide-ranging folk-rockers, opening with a relatively new tune, the slow and wistful title song from their 2010 album, Tin Can Trust, sung by Hidalgo. Hmmm, looks like a low-key night.

Then . . . then from the other side of the stage, the band’s other guitarist-singer, Cesar Rosas, kicked off song number two with some bluesy guitar twang and drummer Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez (the band’s relatively young newcomer) laid into a tightly skittering shuffle beat. Bam—they’re off with “That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore,” for about ten minutes of wildness, with a crazy mid-song interlude for interweaving solos and a drum break from Gonzalez that was driving, dancing, light, and bouncy all at the same time. Oh, yeah, and some sonorous baritone sax soloing from Steve Berlin.

With my head reeling, I wondered how they were going to follow that! And it was only the second song.

But, boy, did they; alternating song to song between Hidalgo’s more rooted Americana sound and Rosas’s blues mayhem—Hildalgo the big implacable master at stage left and Rosas the careening, sunglassed scamp at stage right.

Halfway into the first set, someone yelled out a request for “Will the Wolf Survive,” arguably their best and/or best-known song. Rosas looked over at Hidalgo and asked, Should we do it? And they decided they would—why keep it for the big encore? Rosas told the audience, “You’re the boss,” and Hildalgo lit into a flat-picking acoustic intro that sounded a bit out of place, but the song itself soared.

And so the evening ensued. There were no show-biz histrionics, no dazzling light show; heck, the guys in the band hardly moved, but the music, now, the music really kicked the night along. And the not-so-secret weapon in that aspect (along with Conrad Lozano’s rock-solid bass) was Gonzalez’s drumming. The guy’s a wonder, light-sticking the songs along, keeping the beat going with all sorts of different rhythms and patterns, a Gene Krupa-esque jazz drummer propelling a band presenting a wide range of American music, including blues, rock, rockabilly, folk, and traditional Latino sounds—as during the second set when Hidalgo finally broke out his accordion and original drummer Louie Perez, who’d played guitar up to that point, moved behind the drums for several Spanish-language songs, including a polka. They even busted out the Sir Douglas Quintet’s Tex-Mex Top-40 classic “She’s About a Mover” for their encore (probably because they’d already played “Wolf”)!

It was that kind of night—low-key stage craft, virtuoso musicianship, and while there was no slam dancing to echo the band’s early punk rock roots, there was some amiable side-aisle shimmying, and as I turned to leave the hall, the middle-aged guy in front of me was smiling as he zipped up his leather motorcycle jacket, but he didn’t look dangerous; he looked serene.

 

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Let Us Give Thanks for Second City

by Barbara Alsop, Burlington Writers Workshop

Chicago sketch comedy group Second City performs on the MainStage on Thursday, October 2 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at www.flynntix.org.

Second City comes to the Flynn on October 2 for its 55th Anniversary show. They’ll reprise many of the group’s greatest hits along with showcasing brand spanking new material to delight and titillate fans.

Second City has been an incubator for some of the most famous names in comedy during its entire fifty-year tenure, and we’ll have a chance to relive characters and skits that were wonderful years ago and still as timely as the newly minted sketches of today. And don’t forget the insane art of improv that Second City stars have been famous for from the very beginning.

Let us now give thanks for the greats that Second City has produced in its 55 years of comedy, including Alan Arkin and the late, great Joan Rivers.

But for many of us, the crown jewels of the early days of Second City were the nucleus of those first episodes of Saturday Night Live. The comedy chops of John Belushi, Gilda Radner, and Dan Akroyd, followed closely by Bill Murray, were all honed in the footlights of Second City. They gave us some of the most famous skits of early SNL.

A listing of later stars should turn your head, too, including Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey, Mike Myers and Eugene Levy, Chris Farley and Amy Sedaris.

What is it about this venerable institution (and doesn’t the word “venerable” seem out of place in a comedy troupe that reinvents itself every year with raw talent on its way to the big show?) that has allowed such continued excellence in the discovery of talent and the production of timely shows? Second City has not faltered, as did its younger sib SNL on a number of occasions over the years. It has just keeps on keeping on with wonderful shows and fabulous finds of talent. How has it made such contributions to the pantheon of comedy? One can only assume that the best young talent flocks to Second City for a rare spot on its stage, knowing that this is the place to start.

It helps that SNL was a further springboard for so many characters, including the wonderful Roseanne Roseannadanna, Lisa Lupner, and Emily Litella, who were all gone too soon. John Belushi alone as the Samurai chef, or as a Blues Brother alongside Dan Ackroyd, was an exemplar of the insanity and genius rewarded by the Second City troupe.

When Tina Fey played Sarah Palin, the whole world cheered, again applauding Second City for its illustrious offspring. With other alums including Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, and Keegan-Michael Key, the excellence of this troupe, this company, cannot be gainsaid.

So what does this mean for the Flynn? Why nothing short of an opportunity to see the performances by the stars of tomorrow today, as they skit us and improv us to death, or at least to hilarity.

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Get Happy*, Indeed

by Ana Hernandez, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Pink Martini at the Flynn Center on September 24, 2014.

Last Wednesday, Pink Martini opened the Flynn Center’s 2014 season with a show so intimate, it felt as if they had invited us to a party.

An elegant party for which the “little orchestra” dressed in black suits and flanked China Forbes (vocals), in a floor-length gown and sparkling necklace. A party in a lovely setting, as the Flynn is an engaging venue offering clear, crisp views and sound from both balcony and orchestra. A raucous party—audience excitement was palpable crossing City Hall Park as we trotted in (one lone couple walking in the opposite direction wondering “What’s going on at the Flynn, tonight?” turned around to watch the gathering crowd).

From start to end, the applause, occasionally punctuated by shouts of approval, encouragement, or simple release, threatened to drown out performers’ commentary about songs or each other.

China Forbes was a consummate hostess—richly talented, warm, never lingering too long, elegant.

The cast of friends included Timothy Nishimoto on vocals, percussion, and, coincidentally, owner of a wine bar, who often played a bright red scratcher as he swiveled between the others; Antonis Andreou, stiffly attentive until he brought his trombone to his lips; Nicholas Crosa on violin, to whom the “insiders” were quietly deferential, and so we were, too; Brian Davis and Anthony Jones on percussion—slightly more somber except when Brian pulled out the whistle—perhaps especially grieving, feeling their way through the void left by Derek Rieth, another percussionist who died last month.

The guests of honor were four members of the von Trapp family, great-grandchildren of Maria and Georg. While introducing the the Trapps and describing their collaborative work, Thomas Lauderdale (piano and artistic director) mentioned, perhaps with a little longing, his desire to hear “The Lonely Goatherd” over and over. The piece was featured toward the end of the program, during which Lauderdale worked himself into a sweat, quickly wiping his upper lip as he played in his light, yet vigorous, style and finally mopping his brow before the last notes had finished ringing.

And, of course, Lauderdale—a charming, disarming, slightly disheveled host, invited people to dance onstage or conga in the aisles and then ran to film them on what looked like his own phone. He squeezed in as many anecdotes and funny observations as possible (“This song [‘Hang on Little Tomato’] was inspired by an advertisement for Heinz tomato catsup,” in a 1964 issue of Life magazine, he explained, then launched into a description of the goal of every tomato to fatten up, ripen up, and be chosen for Heinz, and maybe even one day be paired with a burger. “It’s a song about hope.”). He was respectful, inclusive, and even loving of his musical antecedents, guests, and colleagues.

And who were we, the rest of the guests? Forbes and the von Trapps have deep and widespread roots in Vermont, and frequent mention was made of their family and friends’ presence last night at the Flynn. The uproarious reception and applause lavished on the band at every opportunity, and the sold-out crowd, might have spoken to this, also.

Forbes spent some of her childhood in Chelsea and greeted her “Verm-aunts and Verm-uncles.” The four von Trapps were raised in Montana, but proved distance is relative when they acknowledged their nervousness at singing for the first time before their extended family in the audience. There were some new fans who buzzed with delight during intermission, and some established ones who erupted into spontaneous applause and whistles as Forbes, for her first song, broke out the gorgeously long and powerful opening note and lyric to “Amado Mío,” or sang along to favorites like “Hey Eugene.”

Pink Martini is as much an original as it is a cover band, paying homage to music of the mid-20th century. “Amado Mío,” for example, dates to Gilda, a 1946 film, and “Hey Eugene,” a classic pop tune written by Forbes “about a boy I met at a party in New York City, a very flirtatious boy,” is the title track to a 2007 album, although it had been in concert rotation for years before. The group offers a range of genre—including tango, jazz, lounge, pop in a dizzying number of strains—to which they pay skilled attention by way of a diverse “little orchestra” comprised, last night, of at least piano, violin, guitar, big bass, drums, congas, the aforementioned scratcher, castanets, trombone, trumpet, an assortment of tambourines and shakers, and a whistle. Forbes’ voice, silky and powerful, alternately leads and corrals a collective musicianship that can fly from high-energy Afro-Cuban salsa to an introspective violin concerto. Together, they pour a lovely evening cocktail—retro, a little kitschy, classy, very polished, and incredible fun.

[*Get Happy is the title of a 2013 Pink Martini album, for which the title track is a cover of a duet between Judy Garland and a “very young” Barbra Streisand in 1963. Their duet, in turn, borrows from various compositions in the early 1930s, including the original Warner Brothers’ “Merrie Melodies” theme music in 1932.]

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Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
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