MH October 15, 2012


Gili, Uel #3_2

  Bend the Knotted Oak   presents   piano duets with   UEL WADE   &   GILI MELAMED-LEV     "Two for the Show, Classical"   November 16, 17, 18,   2012   (Some details yet to come)  

Playing... Brahms,   Faure,   Bizet,   Dvorak,   Poulenc   Debussy

Melamed-Lev and Wade will also give a lecture-demo at Taconic Hills High School Auditorium on Friday, the day of the first concert (November 16 at .)

Four-hand piano music first appeared in the 18th century (notably J.C. Bach and Mozart),
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but Schubert was the first to write extensively for that combination. Most of the great literature comes from the 19th century (Romantic era). The composers represented on this concert have solved the problems of the medium impressively.

Uel and Gili agree that playing with another pianist on one piano is harder than playing with any other instrumentalist or singer. "Sitting at the bottom or the top half of the keyboard is very disorienting when you're used to middle C," says Wade. "You are constantly maneuvering for bench space and ivories while, at the same time, aiming at the most subtle and beautiful cooperation," adds Melamed-Lev."

Three iterations of this concert are offered:
  1. Friday, November 16, 7:30 pm at Taconic
  Hills High School, Craryville, NY
  2. Saturday, November 17, 3 pm at
  Camphill-Ghent (new series), Ghent, NY
  3. Sunday, November 18, 3 pm at
  St. James Church, Chatham, NY.
RESERVATIONS for 1 & 3: Leave name,
# of tickets, phone # & email at (518) 392-4697.
RESERVATIONS for 2: (518) 392-2769

Bend the Knotted Oak (BKO) Chamber Music will present a new group of concerts in November, 2012. They are of a kind rarely heard these days: duets for four-hand piano. That means two pianists sharing the same piano--in this case, Gili Melamed-Lev and Uel Wade offering Bizet, Brahms, Dvorak, Debussy, Faure, Poulenc.

Bend the Knotted Oak Chamber Music
"Uel Wade Loves Women Composers"
Chatham, NY
November 3, 2013

Reviewed by Margaret Brooks

ENTERTAINING: The program, though substantial, was well planned and paced. There was a mix of classical and modern styles, ranging from Gwyneth Walker's rollicking dances (Most of the audience was "dancing" in their chairs. I could feel the vibration going up and down the rows.) to the winsome melody of Maria Theresa von Paradis and the somber trio by Rebecca Clarke.

Gary Gelfenbien's sensitive and imaginative selection of still images provided a visual focal point to match the mood of each piece.

PASSIONATELY MUSICAL: Every work went beyond the technical into heartfelt performance. Hearing talented people in this kind of intimate setting is intensely personal, allowing a direct line between performers and audience.

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INSTRUCTIVE AND POIGNANT: With the exception of Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, I hadn't heard of any of these composers. Wade's theme of neglect, unappreciated talent, and unrealized potential, which ran through the spoken program notes, was heart-breaking. The 20th-century composers among them were up against not only gender discrimination but the prevailing academic demand for dissonance and atonality. These women didn't always buy into that aesthetic.

Most telling were some of the self-deprecating words from the women themselves. Wade quoted Clara Schumann speaking of her own work:
...naturally it is still women's work, which
always lacks force and occasionally

1) Re the program. Would it have been good to flip Gwyneth Walker and Rebecca Clarke as closers for the first act and the final? The afternoon would have ended on a more upbeat note. (The Clarke was very "heavy," especially with the addition of Gelfenbien's war photos.)
2) In Schumann's piece there was a section where the violinist had a pizzicato passage that was entirely downed out by the piano. You could see her plucking the strings, but no sound came through! Technical glitch? Sound system?


See review on READING WHAT? page

Meet poet Irene Mitchell at the Chatham [NY] Bookstore November 17, 5pm--7pm.

  Jean Giraudoux
The Madwoman of Chaillot, directed by Barbara Leavell Smith, will be the final play of Ghent Playhouse's 2011-2012 season.

Jean Giraudoux's great final masterpece is about cafes and oil wells, flower girls and prospectors. It is about a juggler, a street singer, a quack, a sewer man, a deaf girl, a busboy, a dishwasher. It is about two love stories, one young, one old. And it is about saving the world.

With a cast of twenty-three actors, the colorful production, full of humor and music and adventure, runs May 16th through June 3rd.

  Info from Judy Staber

RESERVATIONS: 518-392-6264 WEBSITE: www.ghentplayhouse.org

Futterman Champions Oak Room

  April 19, 2012
  Enid Futterman
  Claverack, NY

I love theaters almost as much as I love theater, especially old theaters, especially endangered old theaters. I was arrested standing next to Susan Sarandon just before the Morosco and the Helen Hayes were demolished to make way for a Marriott. (A theater meant to compensate was built right into the hotel, a cavernous place that not even a stage mother could love.)

The plays that inspired me to write were musical plays--Carousel (which I fell for at 6, at camp), West Side Story, Sunday in the Park with George, The Light in the Piazza. You get the picture--the hopelessly and hopefully romantic. So the rooms that echo the music of the American Popular Songbook, once identical to the music of the American Musical Theater, are as precious to me as theaters, and as Theatrical.
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None more so than the Oak Room [NYC], the quintessence of cabaret and the site of more enchanted evenings than I can count, but will not forget. When the news came from, you guessed it, Marriott, that the Oak Room would not reopen after renovation with the rest of the Algonquin Hotel, but instead become a "breakfast nook" for Elite Marriott Rewards members, it felt like a fatal wound to New York's idiosyncratic heart.

Once again, I'm fighting a quixotic battle against the same Goliath [if I may mix my literatures], but with a better weapon: the Internet. I wrote a petition [Google: petition Oak Room] with Vicki Stivala, who is writing a whole book about the Oak Room; and, like the social media butterflies we've become, I'm promoting it relentlessly on Facebook and Twitter.

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More than 3000 people have signed, commented (eloquently and urgently), shared, tweeted, and forwarded, including dozens of fellow theater women. There is much favorable press (Back Stage, NPR, QXR, HuffPo, blogs, podcasts); The Oak Room was named "A Place That Matters" by the Municipal Art Society; Community Board 5 [midtown Manhattan including the theater district] is poised to recommend to management that the room be used for cabaret again, and the latest word from management: "It's not off the table."



  Uel Wade

LIAISONS: Re-Imagining Sondheim form the Piano
Hudson Opera House,
Hudson, NY, January 20, 2012
Anthony de Mare, pianist

The lyrics and music of Stephen Sondheim will always evoke the broadest range of emotions imaginable.

On January 20, that full range was on display in a program for solo piano presented by Anthony de Mare, "internationally recognized champion of contemporary music."

De Mare has comissioned 36 composers from a wide range of genres to create a short piano work based on a favorite Sondheim song.

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Although this approach is meant to shine a light on Sondheim's music, separated from his brilliant lyrics, the 13 composers represented here notably took account of the particular characters and scenes that gave rise to the original songs.

Each approach generally fell into one of two categories: tasteful-respectful or big, loud and virtuosic.

Composer Nils Vigeland, in the first category, says of Sondheim's music that it "does not...admit of harmonic alteration; it's already perfect." This is a welcome rebuke to those critics who have adored the man's lyrics but belittled the man's music. Always retaining the flavor of Sondheim's astringent "Merrily We Roll Along" harmonies, Vigland's solution is to use contrapuntal elaboration.

Fred Hersch loves "No One Is Alone" (from Into the Woods) both for its tender lyric and simple melody, which he does reharmonize with a taste that does no harm to the original. William Bolcom expertly weaves motifs from two songs into a lush, warm fabric that includes many shifting tonalities.

Not surprisingly, Steve Reich chose "Finishing the Hat" (from Sunday in the Park with George), a song that reflects Reich's own influence on Sondheim's later style. Not surprisingly, Reich wrote his tribute for two pianos, one of which this audience heard via recorded deMare. Somewhat surprisingly, Reich didn't make it too long. It was effective, capturing the Sondheim/Seurat joy in artistic creation with brilliant textures and motoric drive.

Perhaps the most successful liaison of the evening was David Rakowski's gloss on "The Ladies Who Lunch" (from Company). Following Sondheim's structure, the composer transforms the recitative-like opening with Lisztian "three-hand writing." The left hand provides bass, harmony, and melody and the right hand plays bi-tonally chilling, broken octaves in the high register. When tempo arrives, the left hand uses Sondheim's bossa nova rhythms while the right hand plays the tune in octaves. The dissonances and outbursts suggest the woman who is becoming slowly unhinged; and instead of the the song's big, drunken outcry at the end, Rakowski evokes her deep sadness with quietness and a final chord stripped bare.

The composers in the second category may be trying to out-Liszt Liszt. True, Ricky Ian Gordon knows how to write in the big, post-Romantic style, extracting moods both wrenching and poignant from "Every Day a Little Death" (From A Little Night Music). Yes, Paul Moravec captures another unhinged woman using the song "Losing My Mind" (from Follies), and Ricardo Lorenz finds ironic humor in "The Worst Pies in London" (from Sweeney Todd), by turning the pies into empanadas with a flurry of Latin American grooves. Kenji Bunch almost captures the terror of the Sweeney Todd opening, and Gabriel Kahane effectively presents "Being Alive" (From Company) in the styles of Gershwin and Copland, even though employing a Ligeti etude is a bridge too far.

Unfortunately, these second-category pieces, issuing from a bright piano in a small room, were often too loud, too relentless, and too long. For example, in spite of Moravec's soft, spooky E-flat ending, most of his piece was a harsh assault on the ears; and, Mr. Bunch, no one should try to out-terror Sondheim's own Sweeney opening.

The ambitious endeavor of Anthony de Mare to create liaisons between musical theater and so-called "art music" is certainly an interesting project. To it he brings his commissioning labors, his formidable piano technique, and his charming, easy manner.

For engaging pianists such as de Mare and Jenny Lin, gratitude is due to Gary Schiro and David Hurwitz of the Hudson Opera House. They engage them, thereby engaging us.

February 8, 2012

"What on earth is an ensemble made up of a bassoonist, an oboist, a pianist, a singer, and a percussionist? Pleasure. That's what it is. Pleasure."

BKO Chamber Music Concert Goes Afro-Classical

  Oct. 30, 2011
Spirituals, jazz and blues traditions have found their way into the classical music forms created by black composers since the Civil War, and Uel Wade's Bend the Knotted Oak presented a vivid sampling of them at St. James Church in Chatham, NY, on Sunday, October 30th at 3pm.

This year, the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of our bloodiest conflict, is an opportunity to honor some brilliant composers of African heritage who have been unleashed to make the most of their gifts, not just in jazz and pop, but also in classical styles.

The program ranged from autistic/savant "Blind Tom" Wiggins’ idea of the Battle of Manassas to David Baker‘s modernist boogie, performed by pianist/Artistic Director Uel Wade, violinist Joana Genova, and cellist Nathaniel Parke. The repertoire makes use of Romantic, Classical, Baroque, and 20th/21st century techniques. There will be spoken words about music, biography and history, along with art projections.

Violinist Joana Genova began playing at the age of six in her native Bulgaria and made her solo debut at the age of twelve with the Plovdiv Chamber Orchestra. In Holland, she was concertmaster of the

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 Amsterdam Bach Consort and a member of Amsterdam Sinfonietta. In the United States since 2000, she has performed as soloist with Adelphi Chamber Orchestra, Metropolitan, Rockaway, and Danbury Symphonies, the Berkshire Symphony and the Manchester Festival Orchestra. She also teaches at William College.

Cellist Nathaniel Parke is a member of the Bennington String Quartet and is principal cello of the Berkshire Symphony and co-principal cello of the Berkshire Opera Orchestra. As a soloist, he has played with the Wellesley, Berkshire and Sage City Symphonies. He can be heard on the MMC label playing new works by Boston composers and on Albany Records doing solo works by Ileana Perez-Velasquez. He teaches at Bennington and Williams Colleges and maintains a private studio.

Actor/teacher/film producer Kevin Craig West in the role of BKO's "Pokeberry" provided some history, briefly played each composer and generally gave the musicians a hard time.

The images projected behind the musicians were chosen by the Reverend Gary Gelfenbien, art historian, pastor of St. James Church, and teacher at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute.

The program was recorded by Joseph Jurchak of Valatie.

Expert chronicler of African-American classical music Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma (Lawrence University) has assisted with the choice of repertoire. He calls this concert "unique and important." It has been encouraged by a decentralization grant from Columbia County Council on the Arts.

Admission to the concert was $20; students 18 and under were admitted free.






  MH November 1, 2011
If there is any artistic justice, some undertaxed Co Co multimillionaire will build David Anderson a proper theater--and then spend a pile to remind the world that the world's quality of life depends on putting fannies in those seats.

Mayors and Council folks might get on the case--after they have dealt with the floods and the sewers, of course. Theater-tourist $$ will help pay for flood damage and sewers. The multimillionaire will get hugs, admiration, his/her name in large print, and revolting expressions of gratitude. Lives will change because of WTD.

"Oh donors," says Wade, "Your well-tempered hearts are making much music!"

Percussionist Brian Shank, winner of the 2010 Uel Wade Music Scholarship, is now in his second year at Juilliard, studying with Daniel Druckman (New York Philharmonic).

Here is part of what he recently wrote to Scholarship donors:

"Every day I feel the effects of what you [Wade] and the other donors have done. Because of your aid I have had the opportunity to perform and be educated by the best artists in the world. I have performed with world renowned solists, premiered about a dozen new works, performed under such conductors as James Levine (Met. Opera) and Alan Gilbert (NY Philharmonic), played at Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. The things the Scholarship has allowed me to do are truly unbelievable.

I've shared much of it with another Scholarship winner, clarinetist Anton Rist. Our conversations often turn back to these competitions and concerts."

Brian Shank,
Percussionist, 2011


  [MH Sept. 2011]
Cathy Lee-Visscher, a director-actor-singer highly favored in these parts, takes over from Tom Detwiler. She has a long association with the Playhouse and experience with many other theater companies.

The Ghent season opens Friday, October 14th with the Frederick Knott thriller Dial 'M' for Murder.

A strong cast of Playhouse veterans includes Jill Wanderman, Paul Murphy, Dan Region, Neal Bernston, and John Trainor. Paul Leyden produces. Flo Hayle directs. Robert Bisson designs. Lisa Baumbach does costumes. Nancy Hammell stage manages and assistant directs.

Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00PM, Sunday at 2:00PM. Tickets: $18.00, $15.00 for Friends. For reservations call 518-392-6264. More information at the website:

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