Friday, June 23, 2017

Entertainment

PORTSMOUTH
Popular 70s R&B vocal group Ray, Goodman & Brown was the headliner at the Seawall Festival in Portsmouth on Saturday night (June 10). The group, originally called the Moments in the late 1960s but for contractual reasons changed their name to Ray, Goodman & Brown in 1979, has reorganized with new members, but still delivered the same smooth, silky soul sounds that gained them fame in the early 80s.

Ray, Goodman & Brown sang all of their classic hits, including “Special Lady” to the delight of Seawall Festival attendees. The group signed autographs and took pictures with fans after the concert. A fireworks display from Norfolk’s Harborfest closed out the evening.

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent

As President of the Tidewater Area Musicians Branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians, I am honored to announce that the winner of the NANM Eastern Region String Scholarship competition held at the Eastern Region Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland on April 22, 2017, is Mr. Brendon Elliott. Brendon is a violinist from Newport News, Virginia and a first year graduate student at Juilliard School of Music in New York City.

After having won the TAM local string competition held at Norfolk State University on March 11, 2017, Brendon, one of six contestants from the eleven branches which make up the Eastern Region, won the Eastern Region competition hands down.

His performance of the Camille Saint-Saens “Violin Concerto in B minor, 1st Movement” written in 1880 for the virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasota was a showcase for Brendon’s virtuoso skills which just excelled above the rest.

By the conclusion of his performance of a required African-American selection, “Suite for Violin and Piano, Mother and Child” by William Grant Still, his stunning performance  electrified the audience.  The room was filled with an overwhelming appreciation for this young musician’s musicianship. Brendon is obviously destined to be one of America’s premier virtuoso violinist.  The Richmond Times Dispatch has described Brendon Elliott as an accomplished performer who plays with substantial sound and a lovely feeling of warmth, with a not especially youthful self-possession.

Brendon Elliott is a graduate of the prestigious Curtis Institute and a graduate student at The Juillard School. His Curtis teachers have been Pamela Frank, and the late Joseph Silverstein.  He currently studies with Sylvia Rosenberg.  He began his violin studies under his mother’s tutelage at the age of three.

Brendon was a guest soloist with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra for five special Young Peoples Concerts, “Songs for a Dreamer” concert, and a  9/11 Memorial Concert.  As a three-time concerto competition winner, he was also a guest soloist with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra on their Masterworks Series.  He also performed during a special concert with the New York Philharmonic.

In 2015, Brendon performed in a national tour with the Sphinx Virtue Ensemble which included a stunning performance at Carnegie Hall. He toured with the Virginia Symphony performing the Hailstork Violin Concerto, and performing alongside the legendary Natalie Cole.

Brendon was a three-time semifinalist in the National Sphinx Competition; earning the National Sphinx Competition Achievement Award in 2012.  He was also a National Finalist in the American String Teacher’s Association National Solo Competition.

The Eastern Region competition was stiff as all of the competitors were gifted with great performances and great training from prestigious schools of music.

The Second Place Winner was Ms. Dara Hankins, Cellist and another native of Virginia. Dara received her Bachelor’s Degree form the New England Conservatory of Music and completed her Master’s at Manhattan School of Music in New York.

The Third Place Winner was Drew Alexander Forde, Violist who performed the “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra” by Bela Bartok. Drew acquired his Bachelor’s Degree in viola performance at Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University and finished his Masters Degree studies at the Juilliard School.  He has performed as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Carmen Lavada Johnson-Pajaro, Violinist was the Fourth Place Winner; Mr. James Keene, Violinist was the Fifth Place Winner; and Mr. Aaron Stokes, Cellist, was the  Sixth Place Winner.

Mr. Brendon Elliott will move on to the National String Scholarship Competition to be held at the National Convention of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. to be held in New Orleans, LA  July 16-July 20, 2017.  He will compete against other regional winners from all across America.

The Tidewater Area Musicians Branch is affiliated with the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. (NANM). TAM is dedicated to upholding NANM, an organization supported by people of cultural ideals and music groups of high standards, all of whom care deeply enough for the fine art of music and for musical culture throughout the country to lend their support and influence to one of the most powerful forces for spiritual and cultural development.

Founded in Chicago in 1919, the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. is the country’s oldest organization dedicated to the preservation, encouragement and advocacy of all genres of the music of African-Americans. Tidewater Area Musicians (TAM) meets on the first Wednesday of each month on the campus of Norfolk State University in the Fine Arts Building in Room 329 at the 5 o’clock hour.  In as much as the  life and continuance of NANM is dependent upon the strength and viability of its local branches, TAM is always seeking members to help fulfill the mission of its parent organization, NANM.  Members may be musicians or patrons of the arts.  Interested in joining, please (757) 553-7545.

Officers are Byron Smith, National President; Geraldine T. Boone, National 1st Vice President; James H. Butler, Regional Director; Julius E. McCullough, TAM President; and DeVaughn Q. Scott-Smith, TAM Scholarship Chair.

By Julius E. McCullough
Special to the Guide

The Virginia Stage Company (VSC)/Norfolk State University (NSU) collaboration  on the production of The WIZ at the Wells Theatre has proven  to be  a hit this spring.

The VSC/NSU  joint venture is a rekindling of the 1974 stage hit The Wiz  which was an Afrocentric interpretation of the famous movie The Wizard of OZ, that debuted in 1938.

The Cowardly Lion played by Bert Lahr in the  now 75-year-old classic, joined Dorothy and two other main characters – the Scarecrow and the Tinman. The four were on a journey to Oz to petition the Wiz, who they believed would help them achieve their individual goals.

The King of the Beast was  supposedly cowardly and nervous. But in the end, it was discovered that he was not so cowardly. The Scarecrow, who wanted a brain, found out he had one and the “heartless” Tinman indeed had a heart. Of course, Dorothy who wanted to return to Kansas, learned that she always had the ability go home on her feet.

The VSC/NSU’s  Wiz Lion is played by Darius Marquel Nelson, who has been using his talent  and  his  lion’s tail to capture the audience’s imagination during  the show’s runs this spring.

Nelson said he notices the magic  he has created with his performances, but does not want to “get big headed about it. I just love the comedy and the character.”

Nelson said, as a child,  his mother introduced him to the movie The WIZ   which was frequently aired on the African Heritage Network movie channel hosted by the late   Ruby Dee and her spouse Ozzie Davis.

The  Lion in the 1978 Wiz movie  was played by  the late Ted Ross, a television, movie and stage character who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of  the Lion. He died in 2002 at age 68.

Ross won $5 in an amateur-night contest by singing ‘’Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz when he was a teen.

Nelson fell in love with the Cowardly Lion as a child, too.

“I was amazed because I  had never seen a man playing an animal before in a movie,” said Nelson. “If it were not for Ted Ross, I don’t think I would  have dreamed of playing that role. His performance stuck with me.”

“As a child  I would mimic the Cowardly Lion for  fun, imitating the way Ross played  the character,” recalls Nelson, now 26. “I have played in six professional shows before this one, but I truly believe this is something special because I started so early loving that character.

After graduating from Granby High School, Nelson joined thousands of other aspiring artists who flocked to New York or California for training, networking and getting a shot on Broadway or Hollywood.

He attended the American  Music and Drama Academy’s New York and Los Angeles campuses.   After that, back home, between auditions he has been keeping busy, running his own operation  helping other aspiring actors develop  the skills and  tools needed to “get in the business,” and make a career and a living.

This is when he got wind of the VSC/NSU collaboration to do The WIZ.

Nelson is not a member of the NSU student Theater Troupe. But he  has professional credit during this run of The WIZ  at the Wells.

Anthony Mark Stockard, the Director of NSU Players and leader of the NSU Division of Drama, recruited  Nelson to  continue his education at NSU this fall  and lend his considerable skills as a Spartan Thespian.

It only takes the make-up techs 15 minutes to  outfit Nelson in the two-piece furry costume he wears for the performance.

But it is the Cowardly Lion’s tail in this production which has helped him to  steal scenes, even having to  return to the stage after a cast exit to retrieve it.

“He (the Cowardly Lion) is supposed to be  nervous,” Nelson explains.  “So like him, I  even use it (the tail)  to create a comfort  or security zone when I am squeezing and  twirling it.”

His mother died recently,  so Nelson said his mother, Mildred Renee Nelson,  did not get a chance to see her actor-son play a role she introduced him to as a child.
“Her legacy was she inspired me and many others because of her love of art and entertainment,” said Nelson. “Each time I get on that stage, it’s in honor of her.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

Oxon Hill, MD
While married to the D.C. sniper, John Allen Muhammad, Mildred Muhammad was intimidated into silence about the domestic abuse she suffered. Her 2009 memoir, Scared Silent, was widely acclaimed, and she now returns with the follow-up.

I’m Still Standing: Crawling Out of The Darkness Into The Light covers the compelling events during and after the conviction and execution of her former husband. Through the eyes of their embattled mother, we learn what was going through the minds of the three young children as they learned their father was going to be executed for his crimes in the October 2002 sniper killings that took place in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 

I’m Still Standing is a gritty, raw, and emotional account beginning with Mildred’s choice to turn to isolation as a way of protecting herself and her children. As she triumphs over the external and internal systems putting her in a place of fear and isolation, Mildred Muhammad’s story glows with resilience, strength and faith in God. Now she can say with confidence, “I’m still standing!”

Author, speaker, advocate and survivor, Mildred Muhammad has risen to become a voice for other victims and survivors, especially for the 80% who do not have physical scars to prove they are victims.

She has received many awards such as a Special Commendation presented by the Office on Violence Against Women, the Maya Angelou Still I Rise Award, the Shirley Chisholm Woman of Courage Award and the Redbook Strength & Spirit Heroes Award, as well as multiple awards from the military community.

Available online everywhere and at the author’s website: http://www.mildredmuhammad.com/publications.html

PORTSMOUTH
Three major bands will share headline duties at the annual UMOJA Festival on Saturday, May 27 at Portsmouth Pavilion.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

The Stylistics had 12 straight Top-10 hits, and their debut album was the first to ever produce six hit songs. From Philadelphia, the band’s hits include “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” “I’m Stone in Love With You,” “Break Up to Make Up” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New.” Of all their peers, the Stylistics were the smoothest and sweetest soul group of their era.

The Delfonics’ unique style of singing and their patented dance steps capture the fancy of popular music followers both Black and white, making them a stellar attraction at rock concerts, theaters and on the night club circuit. Their breakthrough song “LA LA Means I Love You” began a steady string of hits including, “You Get Yours I’ll Get Mine,” “I’m Sorry,” “Break Your Promise” and “Ready Or Not.”  “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time” won a Grammy for the top Soul hit of 1970.

The Manhattans are recognized for their timeless romantic ballads. They had eight songs in the R&B Top 10 between 1973 and 1978, with the composition “Kiss And Say Good Bye” going to #1 on both the R&B and Pop Charts in 1976 and placing in the top five in England and Australia. “Shining Star” made it to #5 on the Pop Charts, staying on the charts for 14 straight weeks.  Other hits include: “One Life to Live,” “There’s No Me Without You,” “Don’t Take Your Love,” “Hurt,” “I Kinda Miss You,” “It Feels So Good to Be Loved So Bad,” “We Never Danced to a Love Song,” “Am I Losing You,” and “Crazy.”

Tickets go on sale Friday, April 21 at 10 a.m. at the Pavilion Box Office and all Ticketmaster locations, charge by phone at (800) 745-3000 or purchase online at www.ticketmaster.com.

NORFOLK
The Word Singers of Norfolk held their annual Resurrection Day Gospel Concert Sunday (April 16) at First Baptist Lamberts Point. The concert was packed and local gospel radio personality Brother Donald Eason and gospel comedian Steven Alexander served as the MC’s.

The spiritual praise and worship-filled concert featured Daryl Harris and the Original Vocalairs, Elder Ronnie Harper and the Harmonizing Echos, the Farrow Sisters, Ricky White’s Fully Committed, the Hurdle Brothers, the Gospel Sensations, the God Boys, the Gospel Harmoneers of Ivor, Val Spence & the Familaires, Tommy Mitchell & the Mitchell Singers, Men & Women of Faith, Evangelist Pickett & the Pickett Gospel Singers, Sister Linda Roundtree, and Claude Riddick & the Gospel Angels.

The Word Singers thanked the New Journal and Guide for covering their Easter celebration. They also thanked the gospel community of Hampton Roads for supporting their musical ministry over the years.

By Randy Singleton
Community Affairs Correspondent

When L. Frank Baum published his classic novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900, he likely had no idea that the subsequent 1902 Broadway musical adaptation, “The Wizard of Oz,” would one day receive frequent productions featuring exclusively African-American casts. The latest local rendition, jointly staged by Norfolk State University and the Virginia Stage Company, is a colorful, inspired “The Wiz,” blessed with a conspicuously gifted cast.

Staged at the historic Wells Theater and co-directed by the VSC’s Patrick Mullins and NSU’s Anthony Stockard, this “Wiz” is decidedly afro-centric, sweetly laden with subtle African and African-American themes, manifested in scenic designs, choreography, and make-up. A towering African mask predominates the Wiz’s lair and numerous performers’ faces are painted in a fashion that harkens back to tribal Africa.

And then there’s the talent, the directors having elicited performances rich in expressive African-American colloquialisms and culture. The cast delivers, giving naturalistic performances to wholly fantastical characters. Prominent amongst them of course are Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion.

Alana Houston, who splits her studies as a senior at Elizabeth City’s Northeastern High School and a freshman at NSU, makes for quite an endearing and alluring Dorothy. She is at once appropriately starry-eyed, feisty and compassionate. This young woman can also really belt out a tune.

Though the Scarecrow had been suspended on a post for quite a long spell, he appears to have found fleet feet amazingly fast, only stumbling a time or two. Still, Matthew Jackson’s portrayal of the affable, charismatic straw man remains true. You like him instantly.

While Jonathan Cooper’s Tin Man may have initially gone wanting for oil, you sensed he had found a fully charged battery eons ago. His performance is entirely electric, lightning especially having taken up residence in his tap shoes.

As the comical, rotund cowardly Lion, Darius Nelson is choice, his comic timing impeccable. The actor enjoys his assignment and it shows.

Jackson, Cooper and Nelson are all also talented vocalists and excel in their individual numbers. When they join Houston for the popular “Ease on Down the Road” and “Who Do You Think You Are,” however, you feel they are taking a journey beyond that which throws their characters together.

Other notable performances include NSU senior Meredith Noel as Addaperle, Broadway veteran Laiona Michelle as Evilene, and NSU junior Indya Jackson as The Wiz. The statuesque, seasoned Michelle is deliciously evil, sensuality reeking. She is commanding and you love to hate her and hate it when she disappears. Departing senior Noel continues to show extraordinary range. She appears comfortable in any skin and adapts to character like a chameleon.

Mullins and Stockard cast against type by using Indya Jackson in a traditionally male role. I have seen other females portray the great and powerful Oz. It can be a risky enterprise, demanding that the audience dare to greatly suspend belief. Jackson is truly a gifted performer, but she was hampered somewhat by audio challenges that taunted her opening number. It’s certain to improve.

“The Wiz” is generally performed on a stage much larger than the Wells proscenium offering. Yet, the directors have effectively captured the magic that the production demands, packaging it in a sensory feast of color, sight and sound and a huge cast, much too large to mention all here, uniformly dedicated to having you join them on their wonderful journey to Oz. The production continues through April 30.

By Terrance Afer-Andersn
Arts and Culture Columnist

NORFOLK
The Virginia Arts Festival will present Brooklyn-based dance company Urban Bush Women (UBW) in the world premiere of Hair and Other Stories on Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. at the Attucks Theatre.

Urban Bush Women’s Hair and Other Stories addresses how one’s self-image is formed through perceptions of family, history, identity, and values. This often humorous, sometimes poignant, always compelling piece combines dance with storytelling, and builds on conversations with the audience.

The new work has roots in the past: Hair and Other Stories grows out of a 2001 multi-media piece exploring race, gender, and cultural identity. “With the original work, we set out to explore the place of hair in women’s lives, and its relationship to ideas about beauty, social position, heritage, and self-esteem,” says Urban Bush Women Artistic Director Jawole Willa Jo Zollar.

In keeping with UBW’s core value of community engagement, the company hosted “Hair Parties” in private and public spaces, which not only provided performance material, but also created a framework for dialogue that went beyond the performance itself. The topic of hair offered a “way in” to issues like race, social status, gender, sexuality, and economics.

“It was a story that would not let me rest,” says Zollar, who notes that the issues that arose in the creation of Hair Stories persist, as does the need to continue the conversation. So she decided to write a new chapter.

The company is polishing the new work in a process that will take them from their own studios in Brooklyn to the historic Attucks Theatre in Norfolk, where they will put the finishing touches on the world premiere.

It’s an opportunity that Virginia Arts Festival Artistic Director Robert Cross finds intensely exciting, and one in keeping with the Festival’s own mission. “To present this bold company for the first time in a space like the Attucks Theatre, which echoes with so much artistry and history – that’s a chance of a lifetime,” says Cross.

Tickets are $20-$35, available online at vafest.org, by phone at (757) 282-2822 or at the Virginia Arts Festival box, 440 Bank St., Norfolk (10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday).

The New Journal and Guide hosted an Appreciation Night at the Wells Theatre on April 15 for staff and community volunteers. Following a pre-show reception in the front lobby, the group enjoyed the dynamic performance of The Wiz, featuring the NSU Theater Company and the Virginia Stage Company. The show continues through April 30.

 

VIRGINIA BEACH
The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore was the beneficiary of the first “Celebrity Chef Throw Down” last Saturday, April 8 at the the Virginia Beach private estate of Kevin and Shevette Jones. Dr. Ruth Jones Nichols, the Foodbank’s CEO, was on hand at to bring greetings and express gratitude for the charity event.

The outdoor event attracted upwards to 100 persons who socialized as news teams from stations WTKR and WVEC competed in cooking demonstrations, with judges selecting WVEC as the winner. The teams created several dishes using only ingredients provided in a mystery basket.

In addition, there was live entertainment, a cash bar, silent auction and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Celebrity Chef Jamie G of Bowie, Md., was among the line up of personalities who were “throwing down” to make the event a success.

Along with the Jones Family, media correspondent, Paula Beckett, and Shannon Gibson of Charmisey Events developed the event which promises to become an annual gathering.