Lucky passers-by strolling along Lincoln Road in South Beach Saturday evening found themselves privy to lush blends of song emanating from the open doors of the Miami Beach Community Church. The sanctuary was packed to capacity and resonated with an energy as electric as a small pop show. The free concert, held by the 2015 The Betsy A Cappella Festival (TBAF), served as a final showcase to celebrate the collegiate and professional groups and instructors who all gathered for the weekend’s festivities. In its second year, the festival brings 150 high school singers from around the country to participate in workshops and vocal intensives with professionals from the a cappella industry. Continue reading Harmony in South Beach: The Betsy A Cappella Festival Closes on a High Note
This past Saturday, the already-popular Gramp’s transformed into the place to be in Miami for both music and activism. The funky Wynwood bar known for karaoke and 80’s power hour dance parties, played host to a massive, 11-hour Everglades Awareness Benefit, featuring some of Miami’s biggest bands and over 18 short talks by local politicians, environmental activist groups, and Floridian non-profits.
Ploppy Palace Productions and Love the Everglades, the movers and shakers behind the Benefit, utilized Gramp’s three different performances spaces to host the volume of events, featuring headlining acts and speakers on its Outside Stage (complete with dance floor, et al), a lineup of performers on its smaller “Inside Stage” in the back barroom, and its main entrance as a performance space for acoustic acts, DJ’s, and speakers. At any given point in time, from 4 pm Saturday to 3 am Sunday morning, one could weave through the venue and focus in on their pick of musical style or political discourse. Gramp’s is an interesting choice for such a large event, given its size – but the close quarters worked to the Benefit’s advantage, as participants were forced to brush elbows. The effect cultivated an overall “party” environment that celebrated the art and music on display as much as it illuminated the plight of the Florida Everglades and the many efforts by present organizations to restore and preserve them.
The event kicked off with speeches from the Love the Everglades movement, then ran a tight schedule through the afternoon. Highlights of the speakers on the main stage included an appearance by Mayor Phillip Stoddard of the City of South Miami and Rep. David Richardson of the Florida House of Representatives, and Laura Reynold, Executive Director of the Tropical Audubon Society. In true Miami fashion, the lengthening of the shadows did little to turn numbers away: Mike Antheil, the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, wasn’t slated until after 11 pm.
Musical highlights included Magic City Hippies (until recently known as the Robby Hunter Band), an indie-funk staple that has captured an infectious throw-back sound, and always draws a regular crowd. Acoustic act from Hollywood, Fl, Brendan O’Hara, also managed to still the inside room with a set of originals, relying upon looping equipment and the wonders of modern technology to fully produce his songs as he performed. A simple midi keyboard, guitar and pedals, and sparse auxiliary percussion transformed into multi-tracked indie-pop replete with harmonies and modern dance rhythms. The headliners, Spam All-Stars and Suenalo, weren’t slated until later in the evening, with Spam All-Stars on at 11:30 pm-12:20 am, and Suenalo on at 1 am. Almost the entirety of the outdoor space was packed with audience members dancing, spilling off the dance floor into side spaces where local artists and artisans had set up shop.
The Benefit comes at a time when the Florida Everglades have been front and center in state policy dialogue. A source of water for over 20 million Americans and home to 20 different species on the Endangered Animal List, the Everglades have been the victim of much state legislative controversy. Though an “Land and Water Amendment 1” to the state’s constitution received 75% approval of voters in 2014, partitioning off $700 million for the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund over the next 20 years, only $109 million was approved by Florida Legislation and Gov. Rick Scott for Land acquisition and Everglades Restoration. A number of wildlife groups have filed a lawsuit charging the Legislature with violating the State’s constitution.
Anyone who missed this event should absolutely keep a look out for follow up performances by the many artists who performed and next year’s Benefit. In addition to Ploppy Place Productions, promotional materials listed The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, Dr. Michael Lemus and VolunteerCleanup.org as sponsors as well.
Contributions can be made at: www.gofundme.com/LoveTheEverglades
Following the success of the Miami Summer Music Festival’s adorable production of Hansel and Gretel last weekend (and we mean adorable – see our previous post about the instrument petting-zoo), we decided to check out the festival’s concert at the New World Center this past Saturday, July 25th. The New World Gala concert offers a “best of,” from the festival, showcasing singers from the Opera Institute and competition winners from the Composition, Piano, and Conducting Institutes respectively, and closing with a major orchestral work.
‘Tour de Force’ would be a more apt descriptor for the concert than ‘gala.’ Under the baton of its founder and artistic director, Maestro Michael Rossi, the evening opened with a set of zarzuela, or Spanish operetta pieces, which resonated with the audience, many of whom could be heard humming along to familiar melodies. Most notable of these was a spirited rendition of the old standard “Granada,” by Lara, shared between three tenors in a duel for the most show-stopping high notes (Jose Mangelós won this reviewer’s vote, charming the audience with a brilliance in his timbre and disarming charisma).
The iconic first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor (Op. 16) was so elegantly executed by 18 year-old Isabella Ma that the audience seemed compelled to erupt into applause afterward, breaking traditional conventions to hold ovation for after the entire work. Standouts from the opera scenes were Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Gour as a richly voiced Rosina with lightning accuracy in her coloratura, and baritone Anthony Potts for his comedic timing as Figaro in the trio, “Ah! Quel colpo inaspettato… Zitti, zitti, piano, piano,” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Soprano Allison Lonstein also made an impression as the tragically lovely Mimi in “Donde lieta usci,” and the subsequent quartet from La Boheme, her dark tone ever present and plaintive over the doubling of Puccini’s lush orchestration. Here Rossi led the orchestra with skillful navigation of the work’s wide dynamic range, demonstrating clear deference for the stylistic nuance of the Italian composer.
The MSMF orchestra is comprised of students, pre-professionals, and emerging artists from over 20 different countries. Their reading of Stravinsky’s enormous instigation Rite of Spring, however, was above and beyond for a young orchestra. One would think the most compelling feature of the Miami Summer Music Festival is that it provides opportunities for young musicians to cut their teeth in the professional world – but rather, the Festival’s true gift is the energy in the music it provides its community. Young performers commit to their craft with an enthusiasm rarely exhibited by professional orchestras, and Stravinsky’s ballet was no exception. The hushed introduction of the opening act still simmered in anticipation of the explosive Augurs of Spring to follow, where the percussion ensemble stole the show, following Rossi’s lead with precision and flourish. The dramatic second act, the Sacrifice, reprised their exuberance in full cacophony. Maestro Rossi shaped the reading in an enormous arc, never retreating from the rise in intensity in its most cathartic moments.
The takeaway from the concert is clear; the Miami Summer Festival is carving an important place for itself in South Florida’s classical scene. Set in the off-season, the Festival provides musical enrichment and accessibility the city has been thirsting for, produced by exceptional performers at affordable prices. They will close their 2015 season with two fully staged operas set to premiere this week, the whimsical fairy tale Cendrillon by Massenet (Jul. 30, Aug. 1), and Mozart’s titillating Don Giovanni (Jul. 31, Aug. 2). Both productions will be held at Barry University’s Broad Auditorium. Tickets range from $15-20 and feature full orchestra.
More information and tickets can be found at www.miamisummermusicfestival.com .
Thurs., Jul. 30 – 7:30 pm
Sat., Aug. 1 – 7:30 pm
Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Fri., Jul. 31 – 7:30 pm
Sun., Aug. 2 – 2:00 pm
The Shepard & Ruth K. Broad Performing Arts Center
11300 Northeast 2nd Avenue
Miami, FL 33161