The Rapp for Feb. 21

Fourth (Estate) Friday

Tomorrow is Fourth Friday, both here at the Rappahannock News and throughout Sperryville, and that means more sales and special events there, and another public story conference meeting (with free coffee) for us.

Janet Brome, working on one of her screen sculptures. Courtesy photo.
Janet Brome, working on one of her screen sculptures. Courtesy photo.

We’ll be at Tula’s Off Main, on Gay Street in Washington, for our usual Fourth (Estate) Friday informal get-together, where we’ll be looking forward to hearing your ideas, complaints or suggestions from 9 until 10 a.m. Bill Dietel, whose time in Flint Hill is exceeded only by his knowledge of nonprofits and philanthropy, will be there to help us start a discussion of Rappahannock’s not-for-profit organizations and how we might better cover their activities and their impact on the community.

Meanwhile, at that other Fourth Friday, at Old Rag Photography, Bette Hileman gives a presentation on her photography in the Canadian Rockies at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sleepywood Rustic Furniture and Triple Oak Bakery are having Fourth Friday sales, with the bakery offering a “spring cleaning” indoor yard sale with pans, kitchen gadgets and knickknacks, and 20 percent off chocolate raspberry truffles.

Coterie is offering previews of its new creations and wares for the spring garden, including tools and other useful objects, and Middle Street Gallery is hosting artist Janet Brome, whose 7 p.m. show-and-tell will explain how she makes her amazing metal screen sculptures (and how she works with sharp wires and jagged screens without suffering even a scratch). The gallery, at Rappahannock Central, 3 River Lane, is open from 5 to 8 p.m.

Castleton’s homegrown chamber duo: Saturday

Lead cellist Daniel Lelchuk. Courtesy photo.
Lead cellist Daniel Lelchuk. Courtesy photo.

Serendipity plays a large role in general at the Maazels’ annual summer music and opera festival at their Castleton Farm (as anyone knows who’s left a performance feeling incredibly lucky, if not also momentarily lost on an unfamiliar, unpaved lane). It also played a role in the birth of the Castleton Festival Chamber Players, who make their official debut at 8 p.m. this Saturday (Feb. 23) at Castleton’s Theatre House, as part of the Castleton in Performance fall-winter concert series.

“We started chatting one day, and, as musicians do, you say, ‘Hey, do you want to play something together sometime?’ So during an orchestra rehearsal break, he came and sat next to me with his violin,” says Daniel Lelchuk, the 23-year-old lead cellist with the Castleton Festival Orchestra the past two summers (and this summer), speaking of Eric Silberger, the 24-year-old violinist who came to play with the company for the first time last year.

The two sat and played Beethoven’s C Major Duo, which both happened to know by heart. “It’s an overused word, but there was a chemistry,” Lelchuk says by phone from his home in New Hampshire. “It was just easy to play with each other.”

Then, when last summer’s derecho winds killed the power at Castleton (and across much of the region), serendipity again put Lelchuk and Silberger on a makeshift stage in the lobby to entertain the 250 folks who’d shown up for a cancelled “Carmen.” Maestro Lorin Maazel, having had his opera postponed by power problems, was among the crowd and liked what he heard.

Eric Silberger. Courtesy photo.
Eric Silberger. Courtesy photo.

The rest is history – or so hope rising soloist Silberger and Lelchuk, who’s hoping eventually to sign on with an orchestra or opera company – and you can hear it in the making by calling Castleton’s box office at 866-974-0767 and getting your tickets ($35 to $50). At this July’s festival, the Castleton Festival Chamber Players – with Silberger and Lelchuk at its core, and others joining for various numbers, as at this Saturday’s concert – are already on the schedule for several performances.

– Roger Piantadosi

Bland Music winners are anything but

First-place vocalist Alex Diehl. Photo by Fred Diehl.
First-place vocalist Alex Diehl. Photo by Fred Diehl.

The Rappahannock Lions Club held its Bland Music Contest Feb. 10 at the Theatre, where 16 contestants in grades three to 12 competed in vocal or instrumental categories for cash prizes. More than 100 spectators enjoyed the performances which, per contest rules, were all presented from memory.

First-place instrumentalist (at the high school level) Lauren Light. Photo by Krista Hale.
First-place instrumentalist (at the high school level) Lauren Light. Photo by Krista Hale.

The vocal contest, which is usually split between grades 3-8 and high school, had just one high school contestant, so all vocalists were rated in the same grouping. First-place winner Alex Diehl (Wakefield Country Day School) sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and earned the right to proceed to regional competition. Sophia Hernandez (Rappahannock County Elementary School) came in second; Mary Leskovec (WCDS) won third; and Brooke Miller (WCDS) received an honorable mention.

There were two groupings in the instrumental contest. Lauren Light (RCHS) took first in the high school class, performing “Blues in the Night” on the trumpet. Miller Kines (RCHS) earned second place playing piano.

First-place instrumentalist (grades 3-8) Tyler Johnson. Photo by Charles Johnson.
First-place instrumentalist (grades 3-8) Tyler Johnson. Photo by Charles Johnson.

In grades 3-8, WCDS’ Tyler Johnson earned first place with a banjo rendition of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” Bryce Jones (RCES, piano) earned second place; Connor Martin (home school, piano), took third; and Hollis Martin (home school) received an honorable mention.

Winners received cash prizes and all contestants received certificates recognizing excellent performances. Spectators and contestants were treated to a performance by bagpipe player Jacob Loughlin, an eighth-grade student from the Front Royal area. Lion Jim Blubaugh also provided a very informational history of the Bland contest in Virginia and its namesake, James A. Bland.

RAAC movie night: ‘Argo’

Ben Affleck (right) in the next RAAC movie, “Argo.”
Ben Affleck (right) in the next RAAC movie, “Argo.”

The Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community is showing the film “Argo” at 8 p.m. March 1 at the Theatre. “Argo” won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture and was nominated for Best Picture (and five other awards) at the Academy Awards. It stars Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin and is is a drama depicting the 1980 CIA extraction of six American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran.

Admission is $6, run time is 120 minutes and it is rated R. The concession stand will be open for popcorn, candy and water. For more information about this and other events visit

Bloom country

Middle Street Gallery is celebrating spring early with “Understory,” a collection of plant portraits by Jackie Bailey Labovitz. The public is invited to come and see her photographs on canvas of plants that make their home in the woodlands of Rappahannock County.

“Virginia Bluebells” by Jackie Bailey Labovitz.
“Virginia Bluebells” by Jackie Bailey Labovitz.

“If a plant blooms in a forest and no one is around to see it, did it bloom?” Labovitz asks. In each of her photographs on canvas the viewer can see a native plant alive, well and blooming in the forest.

Labovitz has spent half a decade visually scouring forest floors, and says photographically collecting often overlooked botanical jewels beneath the canopy is her passion. Lying flat on the ground, using a long lens, she achieves a naturalistic perspective few get to see.

The Smithsonian premiered her exquisite portfolio of photographs in 2010. An expanded collection is currently on view at the U.S. Botanic Garden on the grounds of the Capitol. Later this year, her photos will be exhibited at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

The Middle Street Gallery exhibition runs March 1-31, with an artist’s reception from 2 to 5 p.m. March 2.

Also, Labovitz shares tales of how her search began and what happened along the way, hiking day in and day out, with one lens and one camera, in natural light just beneath the forest canopy, in an 8 p.m. talk March 8 at Rappahannock County Library.

The gallery is located at River District Arts, 3 River Lane, in Sperryville. Hours are 10 to 5 Friday-Sunday. Call 540-987-9330 or visit for more information.

Rappahannock couple combines artistic talents

Michael Wolniewicz has been designing and building custom furniture and sculpture for more than 24 years for clients throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Recently he began creating mixed media “spirit boxes” with his wife, Cathy, in their studio just north of Flint Hill.

The mixed media spirit boxes are made with reclaimed wood bases with ceramic lids featuring semi-precious stones, bamboo and other natural and organic elements like feathers and leaves. Each box is one of a kind.

Mike and Cathy Wolniewicz with one of Mike’s unique wood sculptures. Courtesy photo.
Mike and Cathy Wolniewicz with one of Mike’s unique wood sculptures. Courtesy photo.

Michael and Cathy display their custom designed furniture, sculpture and spirit boxes from 10 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 23) at River District Arts, along with a slide presentation highlighting their craft, as part of RDA’s “Cabin Fever RX” series.

“I first saw the mixed-media spirit boxes at the Christmas in Little Washington Artisan Market.  Cathy had a booth in the town hall. I bought a spirit box for my son-in-law, who is a collector of crystals and gemstones as a way for him to store them and have a work of art at the same time. He loved it!” said Jim Allmon, art and marketing director of RDA.

Working independently for almost a decade, Michael received a degree in furniture design with a minor in pottery from Buffalo State University in 1989. His love for the craft and value of a “job well done” are indicative of the old-world values he picked up from his Uncle Ray (a woodworker) and his father Clem (a farmer and no-nonsense kind of guy).

He moved to Virginia to work for Hardwood Artisans. There, he designed and built custom furniture, designed custom hardware used for the company’s Urban line and worked on developing the Waterfall line. Prior to joining Hardwood Artisans, Michael worked in antique furniture restoration while exploring his own design voice.

“When you combine creativity with quality, you have a winning combination,” Allmon said. “Michael and Cathy are the perfect team.”

River District Arts is open 10 to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday. There is no admission fee and the gallery is handicap accessible.

Donk on, one more time

Donkey Basketball, a fundraising hit last spring, returns to Rappahannock County High School at 6:30 p.m. March 20. This year’s teams battling over the coveted “Buckin’ Bobble Butt Donkey” trophies include, in addition to student teams, a staff contingent made up of RCHS vice-principal Amy Gubler, RCES principal Cathy Jones, Jennifer Jobber, Dave Naser, Chuck Way, Patti Hottinger, Ginger Estes, Karen Ellis, Alex Coffroth, James Rinella, Molly Bailey, Terrence Johnson and Stacy Devine. Steve Hrabak has the play-by-play.

RCES fifth-grade science teacher Chuck Way attempts a shot during Donkey Basketball. Courtesy photo.
RCES fifth-grade science teacher Chuck Way attempts a shot during Donkey Basketball. Courtesy photo.

The “Donkey” in Donkey Basketball, by the way, refers to actual donkeys, which the players ride (or try to, anyway).

Tickets are $6 in advance ($8 at the door); gates open at 5:30. Along with concessions, $1 donkey rides for kids 12 and younger are offered, as well as different $1 raffles. Tickets are sold at the high school, elementary school, the Sperryville Corner Store and the Co-op.

Growing your own edible paradise

Jonathan Bates, contributing author of “Paradise Lot: Two plant geeks, one-tenth of an acre, and the making of an edible garden oasis,” speaks about his 10-year-old edible forest garden in Holyoke, Mass. from 1 to 2:30 p.m. March 9 at the Rappahannock County Library.

By using the principles of permaculture design, Bates and co-author Eric Toensmeier created a thriving edible ecosystem from a blighted dead landscape and are now sharing some information on the hundreds of edible and useful plants that fill his abundant paradise. Bates, the son of Ralph and Gwen Bates of Huntly, shares his challenge-to-opportunity story through vibrant pictures and enlightening discussion. For more information, call the Bateses at 540-675-9987.

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