The Rapp for Feb. 5

Bring down that cabin fever

There’s two places to find potential cures for cabin fever this midwinter weekend, starting with the Events calendar — highlights there include RAAC’s “Boyhood” screening Friday (Feb. 6) and the Theatre at Washington’s cutting-edge bluegrass concert Saturday with Jake Schepps on Saturday (Feb. 7), plus the Lions’ annual Bland Music Contest on Sunday (Feb. 8). The other place to find romance-related activities and items is our Valentine’s Day roundup in the Countryside section.

Where were you in 1978?

The Inn at Little Washington: Magnificent Obsession cover

The Inn at Little Washington, which opened 37 years ago (on Jan. 28, 1978), has been asking its longtime fans to send in their “wackiest photo from 1978,” and plans to select their favorite to appear on a special commemorative menu — plus the winner will also get a personally inscribed copy of chef Patrick O’Connell’s new book, “The Inn at Little Washington: A Magnificent Obsession,” which is due out in April. If you can track down that photo of you, and your sideburns, at that Jimmy Carter inaugural party, you’ll need to submit it to The Inn’s Facebook page by tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 6).

Kid Pan . . . Symphony

This report came in from Kid Pan Alley founder and artist director Paul Reisler the other day:

The announcer started the concert with, “We have the music of three famous composers: Robles, Reisler and Tchaikovsky.” Famous with the children perhaps, but that had to be one of the most extreme examples of hyperbole that has ever been applied to me. Nonetheless, no one laughed out loud and the concerts were fantastic.

We wrote nine songs with the children during a weeklong residency in inner city schools in Stockton and Lodi, Calif., back in October.

After we wrote the songs, we spent a day working with the children and a quartet from the Stockton Symphony in arranging the songs. We like to have an odd quartet, not a regular string quartet, so we had four wonderful musicians from the orchestra — bass, trumpet, drums and a musician who doubled on sax and clarinet working with us.

The musicians showed the kids all the different sounds they could make on their instruments from the beautiful to the rude and offensive. Then we went through the song and decide where we want each instrument to play in order to highlight the meaning of the lyric. It really got the kids interested in the orchestral instruments as they see used in service of their music, not the music of a European composer who has been dead for 300 years.

With vocalist Tracy Walton and conductor Peter Jaffe, Paul Reisler and school kids perform last month with the Stockton Symphony in California.Courtesy photo
With vocalist Tracy Walton and conductor Peter Jaffe, Paul Reisler and school kids perform last month with the Stockton Symphony in California.

Ryan Benyo worked with me on the songwriting and arranging sessions. Ryan went to Rappahannock County High School, and he was the best songwriting student I ever had  — and I got him summer jobs at Dave Matthews’ studio as well as Bias Recording. He earned a full scholarship at music school and after graduation, went to work for an artist development firm in L.A. He joined Kid Pan Alley in September as director of creative and licensing. He’s a great engineer and producer and is working hard at recording some of the vast catalog of the best of the 2,500 or so Kid Pan Alley songs in the catalog.

We performed two concerts back in October with the children and the quartet.

Then we shipped the charts and recordings off to our Kid Pan Alley orchestrator in Nashville, Don Hart. He’s done a number of our orchestrations over the years and I really feel he is the best I’ve ever heard for creating real orchestrations for songs. One of the orchestrations he did for us on our Nashville record received a Grammy nomination.

In January, we went back to Stockton and after a couple of rehearsals, with vocalist Tracy Walton and I as soloists, we performed the first concert in Atherton Auditorium before a crowd of more than 1,000 people. I was pretty intimidated at having our music on the same program as Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, “The Pathétique,” a true masterpiece. But the orchestrations and the cute factor of 50 elementary school children singing on stage with a fantastic orchestra of more than 60 musicians brought a lot of the audience to their feet.

Peter Jaffe, the music director of the orchestra, was the conductor. He must be about 6-foot-5 and he conducts with his whole body. During one of the concerts he got so carried away that he knocked the music off the stand of the second violinist. It was fascinating watching him breaking a sweat with his big, passionate gestures and enthusiastic commentary between the pieces. It was such a contrast to watching Maestro Maazel who could control a whole orchestra with just a slight lift of the eyebrow.

We then performed six more education concerts over the next week to over 7,000 children bussed in from the surrounding schools. I loved watching their reactions — they were so excited to hear music written by kids just like them.

Pam Lee, the president of the Stockton Symphony, wrote, “Without a doubt, you have transformed the lives of the students you touched. Someday, we will hear about them in tributes. I am sure that Roger told you about the little boy who told a social worker that he did not want to miss school that day because it was the day of the field trip and the Steppin’ Out concert. The child was in the middle of testifying in an abuse case involving he and his brother. Imagine that, for a brief few hours, he could forget his troubles and pain, immersed in our/your music.”

And we must imagine what it’s like for an 8-year-old to get to sing a song they wrote with a great orchestra. And, it’s a thrill for this old folk singer, too.

Meet your founding fathers

The Founding Fathers posed on the steps of the town hall after the last Presidents Day event sponsored by Friends of Liberty. Courtesy photo
The Founding Fathers posed on the steps of the town hall after the last Presidents Day event sponsored by Friends of Liberty.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to sit down and hear George Washington talk about fighting the Revolutionary War, overseeing the Constitutional Convention, and serving as the first President of the United States?

Mortality being what it is, that is not possible, but the next-best thing will be happening in the town of Washington on Sunday, Feb. 15, at the annual President’s Day Celebration sponsored by Friends of Liberty and the Committee for the Republic.

 “President Washington” will be the featured speaker at the Washington Town Hall on Gay Street, starting at 2 p.m. He will talk about his life as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, his presiding over the 1789 convention that drew up the U.S. Constitution and his years as our country’s first president.

George Washington will be portrayed by Travis Brown. In addition to Brown as Washington, the Feb. 15 event will feature other members of the Committee of the Republic as James Madison (Bruce Fein) Alexander Hamilton (Bill Nitze), George Mason (Rappahannock’s own John Henry of Flint Hill) and Edmund Randolph (Bob Randolph, playing his ancestor). They will comment on Washington’s remarks, and all will take questions from the audience.

Also attending will be Frank Buckley, who teaches law at George Mason University and has written a book about the Constitutional Convention, “The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America,” and a play about the convention titled “Philadelphia.”

The event is free and open to the public. For students in elementary or high school, this is an opportunity to understand the life of Washington and some of the other Founding Fathers who inspired, designed and guided the new nation in its early years of independence.

Friends of Liberty and the Committee for the Republic are citizens’ groups dedicated to increasing public understanding of the founders and the U.S. Constitution.

For further information, call 540-937-2504.

Bel Canto auditions

Bel Canto is holding auditions for male voices.

Bel Canto Vocal Ensemble is a mixed-voice community chamber choir that sings a wide variety of repertoire ranging in character from the silly to the sublime. Based in Madison, members of the group are drawn from the surrounding counties, including a number from Rappahannock.

Auditions for tenor, baritone and bass voices will be held at Piedmont Episcopal Church, 214 Church St., Madison, from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17. Auditions will consist of pitch-matching, a range check and a few vocal exercises. Prepared pieces are not necessary, but please be warmed up before the audition.

Visit belcantovocalensem.wix.com/belcanto to sign up for an audition time, or email belcantovocalensemble@gmail.com for more information.

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