“The Show Must Go On”: A Tribute Concert for Larry Swist – 8/6, Buffalo, NY – See more at: http://www.sonicscoop.com/2014/07/27/the-show-must-go-on-a-tribute-concert-for-larry-swist-86-buffalo-ny/#sthash.lhRCwj7R.dpu
Music Hall of Fame Inducts six
Democrat and Chronicle
Hall of Fames are, by nature, celebrations of the past. And there are certainly different degrees of the past in the fifth class of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Jazz vibraphonist Joe Locke, there’s still plenty to come from him. Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis is 75, but still active. James Rado, he’s still working on musicals at age 84, celebrated as creator of the iconic flower-child musical Hair.
The soul-rock band The Rustix, with two members having passed on, are now a sweet regional memory. Composer and director of the Eastman School of Music for four decades, Howard
Hanson died in 1981. Wendy O. Williams, anarchyhowling lead singer of the Plasmatics, died in 1998.
But even before it got around to honoring the new inductees at Sunday’s ceremony for a little more than 1,800 people at the nearly four-hour show in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, the Hall of Fame looked back in yet another manner, through the eyes of a former inductee. Bat McGrath, class of 2013.
Perhaps we should have known something was up; it’s not unusual for McGrath to make the trek from his hilltop home in Nashville to play a gig in his old hometown, as he did Saturday night at the Lovin’ Cup. But the timing… So here he was, Sunday night, opening the event with a new song he’d written, “Beauty.” “Take a moment to remember, we’ve been through this before,” McGrath sang, as behind him played video of scenes from Rochester and — let’s assume this wasn’t Rochester — bombs falling from the sky. “Intelligence and beauty, trump ignorance and war.”
A far more somber, and thoughtful, opening than slam-bang Hall of Fame shows of the past. In this confrontation- heavy political climate, McGrath’s use of the verb trump may or not have been an accident.
Then on to the inductions. Locke, a California native, raised in Rochester, graduate of the Eastman School of Music. “I’ve always been jealous almost when musicians have a sense of place and identity in their music,” he said. “I didn’t think I had that, and I wanted that.” It took a long time for him to realize that he deed indeed have it, Locke said. In fact, it came to him last year while playing the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival. “I do have a sense of place and identity in my sound,” he said, “and it’s Rochester, NY.”
Then it was time for Locke to pick up the mallets and get to work, joined first by vocalist Tessa Souter on a lovely ballad, and then hooking up with powerhouse house band Prime Time Funk for that slam-bang Hall of Fame moment, a swinging Latin number called “The King.”
Hanson is the man who built the Eastman School of Music, yet somehow found time to compose as well, winning a Pulitzer for his Symphony No. 4 in 1944. Current Eastman School of Music Director Jamal Rossi accepted in Hanson’s place, noting that both school founder George Eastman and Hanson insisted that music serve “the Rochester community and the world beyond.”
Pianist E-Na Song played Hanson’s “Slumber Song,” then a seven-piece ensemble from the Eastman performed his Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings, Op. 35 .
Then, a turn from the past to the future. Natalia Hulse, a Penfield High School senior, and Jonathan Madden, a senior at Fairport High School, were introduced as winners of the Gibson Lowry Award, named for the late Eastman Director Douglas Lowry, backed by the Gibson Guitar Corp. and its Chief Executive Officer, 2015 inductee Henry Juszkiewicz. Both performed — Hulse singing, Madden on piano — and received a $1,000 scholarship.
Rado, who co-wrote the Grammy- and Tony-winning Hair, confessed he was overcome by a bit of heart-thumping anxiety, he called it “Rochestermania,” upon returning to his hometown. He recalled seeing a production of Cinderella as a 9-year-old, and the magenta spotlight shining on the curtain before the start of the show, and how “I caught the theater bug right here in this very theater.”
“I’m really happy I’m from Rochester,” Rado said as he took a seat in one of the loges at the side of the theater, singing along and snapping his fingers while Hair was celebrated with an ambitious and exuberant “Good Morning Sunshine” by Pepe Castro. “James Rado, you changed the face of musicals,” Castro said. And “Easy to be Hard” by Ula Hedwig, like Castro from the original Broadway cast of Hair. The Cowsills, who had a hit with the song, brought on a fun version of “Hair.” The Fifth Dimension’s Florence LaRue, resplendent in a red gown and boa, led the way on “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” as Rado made his way back to the stage to sing along, a handful of suspiciously young flower children dancing in the aisles and handing out flowers.
Ellis moved to Rochester as a teenager and attended Madison High School, joining James Brown’s band at age 24 as a saxophonist. He quickly became Brown’s musical director, helping to add funk to some of the Godfather of Soul’s best-known hits, and later became Van Morrison’s musical director. “If it weren’t for you,” he told the audience, “there would be no reason to do this.”
And then they did it, with 2016 Grammy winner Christian McBride and Ellis’ horn pals from the James Brown days, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. After a jazz number, “There is No Greater Love Than What I Feel For You,” Rochester’s Danielle Ponder and Chaz Bruce joined them for a selection of Brown songs that Ellis had a big hand in. That included “Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud),” with Ponder turning Brown’s world upside down with “It’s a Man’s World” and Bruce with a slow-smoldering “I Feel Good,” with Ellis even throwing in some vocals.
The Rustix, who were together from 1966 through 1972, recording three albums and sharing stages with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Rascals, The Four Tops and Grand Funk Railroad, recording for Motown, Colombia and Chess Cadet. Two members of the Rustix, Bob D’Andrea and Al Galich, have died, although some of Galich’ s ashes did make it to the show. But Chuck Brucato, George Cocchini, Ron Collins, David Colon Jr. and Vince Strenk were on band for “When I Get Home,” “Come on People,” “Hard to Handle,” “Free Again” and “Can’t You Hear the Music Play.” They were joined by Brucato’s son, Joe, on vocals and guitarist Mike Gladstone, with once again members of Prime Time Funk and a trio of backing singers.
Closing the night was the celebration of Williams. Born and raised in Webster, Williams joined Rod Swenson to create the Plasmatics. “There was an explosion,” he said of Williams’ arrival in New York City; Williams took her own life in 1998, so Swenson was here to accept her induction into the Hall of Fame.
The explosion was a band whose uncompromising vision of non-conformity was expressed in punk, then increasingly metal, with a stage show built around destroying whatever was at hand.
The musical tribute included two ex-Plasmatics, guitarist Wes Beech and drummer T.C. Tolliver, and singer Liz O’Brien of Rochester’s The Cheetah Whores. The selection of former Runaways singer Cherie Currie on vocals might be seen as particularly inspired. Just as Williams often used a chainsaw onstage, Currie knows how to operate one, as an acclaimed chainsaw sculpture in her post-Runaways days. She gave us “Butcher Baby” but, alas, no chainsaw. Anarchy is just a memory.
Inductee Joe Locke performs during the first segment of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony Sunday.
Hall of Fame President Karl LaPorta gives some opening remarks at the start of the ceremony.
RMHF 2012 Alumni Performers to put on a Variety Show
Democrat and Chronicle
Groove Juice Swing teaches and performs locally.
LINDSAY STEPHANIE PHOTOGRAPHY
THE SWING THING
Local dance group parties like it’s 1939. Its Sweetheart Ball is a chance to get in on the action.
Way back in the ’30s and ’40s, people looking for a fun night out would find a dance hall where they could step, kick and spin to the era’s jazz and big bands. Not so way back, in the late ’90s, a new generation of enthusiasts found swing dancing, and the music and the moves jumped and hopped again in films and on the airwaves.
Since 2004, Rochester-based Groove Juice Swing has kept swing-dance culture kicking through dance instruction, social dances and events. Other local groups do it, too, including Rochester West Coast Swing and the Rochester Swing Dance Network. But Groove Juice has an added element: An annual variety show and Sweetheart Ball (this year on Feb. 13 at the German House in the South Wedge), showcasing the kind of dance-fueled spectacle of a bygone era: from chorus girl routines to solo jazz dance.
The Valentine-themed variety show, “Dream of You,” will include with Rochester performance troupe the Flower City Follies and others, plus several musicians. A dance lesson and the Sweetheart Ball dance party will follow — a full night out, circa 1935.
Swing is the thing. You can’t talk about swing dancing without talking about the music, and swing music’s foundation is jazz.
“Jazz is basically old pop music that is played with an improvisational spirit,” says Mark Bader of the Swooners, a well-loved Rochester band who will provide the live music for the event. “Parts can be manipulated, melodies and rhythms can be changed. With swing dance music, we’re still playing the same songs, but we’re not taking as much artistic liberty with them.”
The Swooners, who play between 30 and 35 weddings a year, have a varied repertoire that includes funk, disco and, of course, swing, featuring “a big steady pulse,” says Bader. “We’re making it very rhythmic and driving for the dancers.”
The band’s plan for Saturday’s Sweetheart Ball is a wide range of jazzy numbers, “from Irving Berlin to Duke Ellington, Sinatra tunes all the way up through rockabilly, Buddy Holly. Even some modern stuff: Queen, some Outkasts, possibly Maroon5.”
Along with the music, most swing dance styles can trace their origins to African-American communities. Lindy Hop, perhaps the most enduring form, began in Harlem in the 1930s. Charleston and Balboa are other popular vintage styles that fall under the “swing” umbrella. What they all have in common is the ability to get people moving.
It was during the 1990s that Groove Juice Swing founder Mike Thibault, then an RIT undergrad in information technology, got his first taste of swing. At the time, a confluence of media was rekindling interest in the swing era’s music and dancing into a full-fledged national revival, fueled in no small part by a Gap television ad that featured killer time-slice video effects of khaki-wearing dancers who Lindy hopped to Louis Prima’s hit “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.”
College students across the U.S., including here, formed swing dance clubs. Thibault and some friends joined one at RIT and attended classes with the Rochester Swing Dance Network. A group called Lindy Jam held weekly social dances, so Thibault and his friends decided to go and try out the steps they’d learned.
“Once we got to our first dance, we were hooked,” says Thibault, now a programmer at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “I knew then I was going to do it forever.”
By 2004, the national fad had slowed and, locally, participation in the Lindy Jam dances had waned. Thibault, reluctant to let all that swinging fun wither away, formed Groove Juice Swing.
“We knew that if the scene was going to come back and be healthy again, we needed to teach people to dance,” says Thibault.
So Groove Juice Swing, with Thibault at the helm, took over the Lindy Jam weekly dances and began teaching classes. The group also hired jazz musicians to play at monthly events, usually held on a Friday or Saturday night.
Groove Juice Swing really took off in 2009, the year Rebecca Berman joined the group as a publicist and instructor. Berman, now a graduate student in optics at the University of Rochester, had met Thibault while a UR undergraduate. Berman joined UR’s ballroom dance club, which rotated through instruction in several dances. Thibault taught the club’s swing portion. Before long, Berman and some friends had caught the swing bug and were taking private lessons with Thibault for two hours a week.
“Now I’m really happy to teach alongside of him,” says Berman.
Berman got the word out about their old-time activities through the very contemporary LivingSocial, Groupon and social media outlets. “A struggle for a long time was just letting people know we existed,” Berman explains. But eventually, Groove Juice had an influx of new students. “People started talking and telling their friends.”
The group now enjoys a steady stream of dancers of all ages, from high schoolers to senior citizens, and of all abilities.
“Our weekend events are very well attended,” says Berman. “People who have never been before take a onehour lesson and stay for the party.”
Groove Juice makes it easy to take lessons. Dancers don’t need experience or, contrary to what many believe, a partner. Participants show up and, customarily, they rotate through different partners. “You don’t get used to one person’s habits, so you’re ready for anything,” says Thibault.
Groove Juice can also take credit for spawning the Flower City Follies, a female, vintage-jazz dance troupe that performs at Groove Juice Swing’s events as well as the Fringe Festival and other Rochester venues. In 2014, the Flower City Follies won first prize in the Chorus Girl Competition at the Ultimate Lindy Hop Championships in New Orleans.
Besides the Follies, Saturday’s “Dream of You” show also features Stila Dance, a dance company and instruction studio in Scottsville run by Amy Sullivan and Jena Morey, with Sullivan also as artistic director and company performer. Stila will perform modern dance.
The evening’s festivities include a photo booth, souvenir dance cards and — for revelers who work up a thirst or appetite — a cash bar and light fare offered.
“We knew that if the scene was going to come back and be healthy again, we needed to teach people to dance.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Dream of You” variety show, free beginner swing dance lesson with Groove Juice Swing instructors and sixth annual Sweetheart Ball
Where: The German House, 315 Gregory St., Rochester When: 7 p.m. Saturday (dance lesson at 8 p.m., Sweetheart Ball 9 p.m. to midnight)Tickets: $20 for the show, $20 for the Sweetheart Ball; or discounted pre-ordered tickets for $30 to attend both the show and dance, available through groovejuiceswing.com.
The Flower City Fellas are part of the Groove Juice Swing Family
LINDSAY STEPHANIE PHOTOGRAPHY
King of airwaves dies at 93
Nick Nickson, WBBF voice
Nick Nickson at WHAM 1180, where he retired from the radio industry in 2007.
Nick Nickson, a familiar and popular voice on WBBF radio for two decades,has died. The Rochester Music Hall of Fame member celebrated his 93rd birthday in December.
Shows with the “Ole’ Professor” on WBBF-AM during the 1950s and 60s had, at times, the attention of at least 60 percent of the listening market, a mega-share in the radio industry.
“The way he approached his job, he not only wanted to talk to people on the air, he wanted to meet them off the air,” Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster and son Nick Nickson Jr. said. “I think that mindset made him popular.
“People could see the face behind the voice.”
Mr. Nickson’s 20 years on air was just the beginning in a career that spanned six decades. The Brighton resident was inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame during 2013, with a class that included performers Lou Gramm, Bat McGrath and Don Potter.
Jack Palvino, another hugely popular figure in Rochester radio, wrote to Dan Guilfoyle after he received the news of Mr. Nickson’s death. Guilfoyle, a longtime board member of the Rochester Press-Radio Club, called Mr. Nickson a mentor.
“Danny, the clouds in Florida are crying this morning,” Palvino wrote. “Now I know why. Nick was a true legend with a heart of gold. His BBF accomplishment will never be matched. I’m proud to have carried his record hop box (to play at dances).
“Rest in Peace Ol’ Professor.”
Mr. Nickson, born Nick Nickitiades in New York City, entered radio in 1944 during World War II. He was with the Army Medical Corps in New Guinea. After the war, Mr. Nickson went to work for a station on Long Island, before he arrived in Rochester in 1947. His lengthy stay here began at what was then known as WARC, the forerunner of WBBF, where in 1956 rock ‘n’ rollprogramming was in. “I was able to see him do his job,” Nickson Jr. said. “I used to go downtown after school in Penfield and I would watch.
“I grew up in the radio environment. It kind of stayed with me. It’s worked out.” Nickson Jr. worked at WBBF as a senior at Ithaca College. The Los Angeles Kings radio play-byplay announcer has broadcasted professional hockey games for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.
“He was a people-person,” Nickson Jr. said. “He loved to be aroundpeople.” Guilfoyle met Mr. Nickson, who sometimes would enter rooms all smiles and saying ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’, in 1964 after moving from New York City. It was not long after that, the veteran of radio pointed out how important it was to get out there and rub shoulders with people. “He taught me to give of yourself,” Guilfoyle said. “There were charities, like Saints and Sinners, where he would work not just as a member, but leading the charge for new membership and raising money.”
Mr. Nickson went off the air in 1967 and became WBBF’s sales manager. He later became general sales manager of WBBF and its FM sister station WBFB, where he also was the station manager.
An article by a Democrat and Chronicle music critic described Mr. Nickson as “a real pro,” aggressive, hard-nosed and tough. There was a battle among radio stations in Rochester during the 1970s, to be the place to listen to classical or “good” music.
“We’re trying to give the housewife something she can listen to during the day,” Nickson told writer Michael Walsh then “She’s getting damn sick of WEZO and WPXY, two ‘easy-listening’ stations.”
Times change, and Mr. Nickson was in a new radio home in 1985, when he became sales manager at WHAM and reunited with former WBBF co-workers Ed Musicus and Palvino. After Mr. Nickson retired in 2007, he told the Democrat and Chronicle
just maybe he would keep on going, keep on meeting people and keep on working, maybe in commercials.
Mr. Nickson, decades later, may still be a familiar voice on Rochester radio.
“If there is a commercial for Zweigles on the air, it probably still has his voice,” Guilfoyle said.
Mr. Nickson is survived by Janette, his wife of 63 years; Nick Nickson Jr., who lives in Los Angeles; and daughters Andrea Relyea, who lives in Fairport, and Jennifer Nickson, who lives in Los Angeles; two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Calling hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Richard H. Keenan Funeral Home, 7501 Pittsford Palmyra Road in Perinton. The funeral service is 11 a.m. Monday at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 9623 East Ave in Rochester.
Copyright © 2016 Democrat and Chronicle 1/29/2016
MORE THAN MOZART
Rochester Lyric Opera turns 10 with music and a gala for fans of ‘something fun to do
So you want to start an opera company. You’ll need unwavering dedication and the ability to navigate a quagmire of artistic, logistical and financial considerations. Susan Cotroneo knows this well, after founding Empire State Lyric Theatre — now known as Rochester Lyric Opera (RLO) — a decade ago with her husband, Anthony. But she has had good reason to make it work.
“I love to sing, I love opera, and I want to share it,” says Cotroneo, a Rochester native.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, RLO will present Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s short opera, The Impresario, on Friday, Aug. 28, in RLO’s new home, the magnificent and historic Lyric Theatre at 440 East Ave. in
Rochester. The evening will also include selections from other well-known Moz-art works, The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi Fan Tutte. And a pre-concert gala reception will take place in the theater’s Cabaret Hall, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The curtain rises at 8 p.m.
That gala is an important part of Cotroneo’s vision for RLO, whose motto is “Opera for everyone.” The idea is to provide a festive atmosphere that appeals to new audiences. RLO’s model, says Cotroneo, calls for a “a social affair connected to the opera, so that opera becomes part of a complete evening.”
Opera as a social event is nothing new, says the performance’s musical director, Eric Townell. Historically, opera-goers “ate and drank, talked to each other, waved to friends, and shouted across from balcony to balcony.”
Mozart, known as someone who liked a good time, no doubt would have approved. And The Impresario, written in 1786, was meant to amuse audiences. The showy, comedic one-act opera depicts a competition in which two singers battle to see who can hit higher and higher notes.
The Lyric Theatre will provide a fitting backdrop for Rochester Lyric Opera’s performance of Mozart’s The Impresario and several other popular selections by the composer.
That plot line holds an intriguing parallel to real life, and even more so to the Hollywood version seen in the film, Amadeus . Viennese Emperor Joseph II had ordered a competition between Mozart and court composer Antonio Salieri, and The Impresario was Mozart’s entry. (See sidebar to learn more about how it played out.) “There’s nothing really safe about The Impresario. It’s a very flashy show,” says Townell. “It has everything you can enjoy about an opera experience in a small framework.”
Cotroneo, a soprano, will star in the performance along with Mitchell Hutchings (baritone), Brittany Mrucek (soprano), Grant Knox (tenor) and Allyn Van Dusen (mezzo soprano). The concert will also feature an as-yet-unnamed guest in the role of the the impresario. Lindsay Warren Baker directs the performance.
“We have very gifted singers,” says Townell, “and they’re from the area, which is important to us. We have the best players in town.”
RLO staged The Impresario as its inaugural performance a decade ago. That 2005 event updated the opera’s setting to one taking place in the 1940s. This month’s anniversary performance returns The Impresario to its original late-18th century timeframe.
That original setting of The Impresario seems tailor-made for the Lyric Theatre and its grandeur, which evokes a bygone era.
“The building is so gorgeous, so oldworld,” says Cotroneo. “We’re doing full period costumes and powdered wigs. It’s so fitting for this space.”
The Lyric Theatre, built in 1915 for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, before its recent sale to RLO, “has that stepback- in-time feel about it that’s just magical,” Townell says. “It’s like you took a European opera house and planted it in Rochester.”
“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” echoes Agneta Borgstedt, M.D., president and treasurer of the Opera Guild of Rochester, a not-for-profit group that supports area opera. “George Eastman came over and looked at the ceiling. … (Subsequently) he got the same artist to do the ceiling at Kodak Hall.”
Besides being visually superb, the Lyric Theatre offers another perk to concertgoers. “The Christian Scientists, one of their priorities was excellent acoustics in all of their facilities,” says Arthur Axelrod, vice president of the Opera Guild of Rochester. “The acoustics are great. This theater is going to be a major cultural resource.”
One that RLO fans want to see appreciated by many. Pittsford resident Tina Mattia, who enjoys RLO performances, but says, “It’s not just about opera. Whether its the jazz festival or an opera, you don’t have to be a jazz fan or an opera fan to enjoy it.” You just have to be “a fan of something fun to do.”
Ready to perform as stars
More than 30 area kids in six bands rehearsed Thursday as part of Camp ROC Star, which is in its seventh year under the direction of Elvio Fernandes, a member of the Grammy-nominated band Daughtry. The campers will appear in their final performance at 4 p.m. Friday at the Lyric Theater, 440 East Ave.
Buffalo remembers an award winning studio and monitor designer with ties to Rochester
“The show must go on” A tribute concert for Larry Swist.
Douglas Lowry, Eastman’s Dean Emeritus dies
Douglas Lowry Photograph courtesy of ESM The Board of Directors of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, would like to extend its most heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Douglas Lowry, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, who passed away on October second. A remarkable academic leader, conductor, composer and great friend to the Hall of Fame. Douglas Lowry (1951 – 2013) http://www.esm.rochester.edu/news/2013/10/university-mourns-the-loss-of-eastman-school-dean-emeritus-douglas-lowry/
Now it’s the Four Rs
Summer school for the kids at The Children’s School of Rochester, school No. 15 in the city offers instruction in the basic Three Rs—Reading, Riting and Rithmetic, but a new R has been added. The fourth R is Rmhf as in, the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. RMHF president Karl LaPorta with Board members Tracy Kroft and Jim Richmond gave a history lesson on local music to the kids on July 24th at the request of Curriculum and Instructional Practice Specialist, Mary Frenzel. The children thoroughly enjoyed the presentation which included discussion on local luminaries such Cab Calloway and Chuck Mangione, a short video of clips taken from the Class of 2012 hall of fame induction ceremony and live musical performances by LaPorta and Richmond. Cab Calloway seems to have piqued their curiosity the most according to Frenzel, “…We already have several kids wanting to research Cab Calloway further!” Hall of fame Board members are available for similar presentations for students of all ages. Inquires can be made on the contact page of this web site.