The Rapp for Jan. 16

A ‘Dream Keeper’ and an MLK celebration

“DreamKeeper” award-winner Robert Lander.
“DreamKeeper” award-winner Robert Lander. Courtesy photo

The Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration is 4 p.m. this Sunday (Jan. 19) at the Theatre in Washington, and features the 2014 “Dream Keeper” Award winner, Scrabble School Preservation Foundation President Robert Lander. There’s music by the “Riverbank” Choir of Bealton, and no admission fee (although donations are gladly accepted toward the Julia E. Boddie Scholarship, which co-sponsors the event each year with the Theatre).

The Boddie scholarship fund assists students in Rappahannock County’s public schools to further their education. For more information or questions, contact Nan Butler-Roberts at or 540-661-2013.


Washington Volunteer Fire & Rescue and the town of Washington’s Christmas Tree Bonfire, postponed twice by bad weather, is on again for this Friday (Jan. 17) at 6 p.m. on the Avon Hall grounds.

Drum circles at Belle Meade

A series of three community drum circles led by Sperryville performer Wendi Sirat starts this Saturday (Jan. 18) at Belle Meade Schoolhouse. The 7 to 8:30 p.m. events are fun, family-friendly, interactive happenings, open to those with or without musical experience. With a bit of guidance, participants end up creating music together, as Sirat says, “like a spontaneous community orchestra.” Drum circles can stimulate coordination, cooperation, self-expression, listening and stress-reduction for folks in schools, nursing homes, “at-risk” youth groups and corporate offices. The other two drum circles are Feb. 15 and March 8. Bring your own drum or percussion instrument, or Sirat has many to share. Suggested donation is $5 to $10 for the event. Belle Meade Schoolhouse is at 353 F.T. Valley Rd. (Route 231), six miles south of Sperryville.

‘Mostly Bach and Mendelssohn’ at the Theatre

After a long wait, pianist Lambert Orkis and cellist David Hardy bring the second of two “Mostly Bach and Mendelssohn” concerts to the Theatre at Washington at 3 p.m. next Sunday (Jan. 26). The first concert in the miniseries was held back in 2011.

Lambert Orkis (left) and David Hardy perform a matinee concert at the Theatre in Washington Jan. 26.
Lambert Orkis (left) and David Hardy perform a matinee concert at the Theatre in Washington Jan. 26. Courtesy photo

Orkis’ program notes for the concert speak of “the relationship between these two great composers showing how Bach’s gift for melody, counterpoint and dance rhythm influenced and gave power and emotional precision to the music of Mendelssohn’s Post-Classical Era.” The concert concludes with the Sonata in E Minor, Op. 38, by Brahms, in which the “towering final fugue,” as Orkis says, “is Brahms’ nod to the greatness of Bach.”

Orkis and Hardy first began performing chamber music together in 1983. As principal chair players of the National Symphony Orchestra, they were two of the original five founding members of the highly acclaimed Kennedy Center Chamber Players.

Formerly a frequent recital partner with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, Orkis has recorded and performed worldwide with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter since 1988. In 1999 they received a Grammy for best chamber music performance. Hardy achieved international recognition in 1982 as the top American prize winner at the Seventh International Tchaikovsky Cello Competition in Moscow. He made his solo debut with the NSO in 1986 with Rostropovich conducting and was named the NSO’s principal cellist by Leonard Slatkin.

For the complete Jan. 26 program, or for tickets to the matinee concert ($25, $10 for ages 17 and younger), contact the Theatre at 540-675-1253 or

RDA: Oysters now, art through 2014

The third annual oyster-and-wine fest (now an oyster-barbecue-wine-whiskey-art-aphrodisiac bash) is 11 to 5 Saturday, Jan. 25, at River District Arts (3 River Lane, Sperryville)

Little Washington Winery, which started up the successful pre-Super Bowl weekend outing a couple of years ago with a truckload of wine, a contract with an oyster supplier and a pretty good email list, offers oyster-wine pairings at RDA, where there’s also barbecue, art and artists and distillery tours next door at Copper Fox Distillery.

Meanwhile, Little Washington’s main winery on Christmas Tree Lane holds a “50 States of Wine Tour” seminar, and LWW’s new Wine Loves Chocolate tasting room on Washington’s Main Street offers “the Ultimate Aphrodisiac Chocolate Pairing.” The oysters will be shucked, steamed and smoked all day at RDA. There’s no admission fee; you pay for what you consume (oysters expected to be 10 for $18, barbecue $6 to $12, glass of wine, $7).

RDA, meanwhile, announced its exhibit schedule for the year, which begins with “Makin’ It in Virginia,” a collection of fine handmade crafts by juried members of Artisan Center of Virginia, which is cosponsoring the show Feb. 15-April 13. The second annual “Rappahannock Creates” exhibit, with works by Rappahannock’s painters, photographers, sculptors and others is April 19-June 15.

Equine and canine paintings, photographs and more are part of a Virginia Equine Artist Association exhibit from June 21-Aug. 10; a “Plein Air Shenandoah” group show is Aug. 16-Oct. 12, and the second annual Piedmont Virginian Artist Showcase is Oct. 18-Dec. 28. Contact RDA’s art and marketing director Jim Allmon at 703-789-0124 or for more information.

Celebrity waiters’ star turn is Jan. 25

The annual Benevolent Fund Dinner, aka the Celebrity Waiter Dinner, is set for Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Old Washington School. For the 6 p.m. event — which raises money to help the Benevolent Fund assist needy people in the community — “celebrity waiters” from around Rappahannock will invite people to their tables. But if you haven’t yet been invited and you’d like to attend — or help out — please contact Bette Mahoney by email at

Norman Ornstein on not-pretty politics

Norman Ornstein, one of the nation’s most acclaimed political analysts, spoke to an overflow crowd at the library in Washington last Friday (Jan. 10) as part of the Second Friday at the Library Series. (The series is sponsored by RAAC, the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community.) He discussed his newest book, a bestseller entitled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.”

Political analyst Norman Ornstein.
Political analyst Norman Ornstein. Courtesy photo

Politics is never pretty, Ornstein said, since it requires that people with fundamentally different views find a way to work together. But politics today, he argued, has become uglier and less productive than ever. He identified the culprit as “tribalism,” which he defined as party loyalty gone berserk: “Tribalism means that if you’re for it, then I’m against it, even if I was for the identical thing yesterday.”

The key point, Ornstein argued, is that this is not a game where both parties are equally guilty. Ornstein works at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-of-center think tank in Washington, and for 40 years he has cultivated a reputation as a non-partisan. But he published a recent op-ed in the Washington Post that ran under the headline, “Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.”

This is a story that the media tell poorly, Ornstein argues, because journalists are trained to present stories in an even-handed, balanced way. “But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality,” he said. Reporters fall into a Republican-made trap, Ornstein argued, when they cover political news in the conventional back-and-forth manner.

In a 40-minute follow-up to to his talk, Ornstein took questions from audience members. An optimist by temperament, he took a pessimistic view of the near future. Republicans have withdrawn support for bills that they themselves proposed, he noted, after Obama came out in support of them. That makes gridlock a near certainty in his judgment. The influence of outside money in elections is dangerous, he believes, and now has Supreme Court sanction. The Republican party may tear itself in two, Ornstein forecast, but if that does happen, the result would not be good, even for Democrats.

The Second Friday talks continue through May. They are held on the second Friday of each month, at the library in Washington, and are free to the public. Some speakers are from Rappahannock and some come from far afield. February’s talk will be on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14); the Valentine-related talk will be announced soon. In March, Second Friday welcomes Arthur Golden, the author of “Memoirs of a Geisha.” In May the last speaker of the season will be Bud Meyer, author of “Mother Fracker,” an environmental thriller set in Rappahannock. For more information, visit

— Edward Dolnick

Smithsonian’s Irwin is presidential award winner

Smithsonian planetary geologist Rossman P. Irwin III.
Smithsonian planetary geologist Rossman P. Irwin III. Courtesy photo

Rossman P. Irwin III, the son of longtime Rappahannock County innkeeper and environmentalist Phil Irwin, was among the 98 federal research scientists named by President Barack Obama as recipients of the 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Irwin, a geologist at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, was recognized for his research in the role of water in shaping the landscape of Mars.

“I couldn’t be happier for Ross — it is rewarding to see his dedication to research recognized with such a prestigious award,” said Thomas R. Watters, senior scientist and chair of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. “His work has contributed to new insights into the early history of Mars, during the time when life originated on Earth.”

The three most significant findings by Irwin and his colleagues include evidence of complex climate change on Mars, river channels that are similar in size to those found on Earth and Martian lakes that overflowed to produce large floods. The research suggests a variable change in climate rather than a simple decline.

Irwin joined the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies as a staff geologist in 2012. The department performs original research and outreach activities on planetary science, terrestrial geophysics and the remote sensing of environmental change. After receiving his doctorate in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 2005, Irwin completed a post-doctoral appointment at the Smithsonian in 2010. From 2010 to 2012, he worked for the Planetary Science Institute as a visiting scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The impressive achievements of these early-stage scientists and engineers are promising indicators of even greater successes ahead,” said Obama, who’s expected to present the awards later this winter. “We are grateful for their commitment to generating the scientific and technical advancement that will ensure America’s global leadership for many years to come.”

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