Friday, February 12, 2010

Culture week: film, music, poetry, At the White House

Hi. Here's an outpouring of remarkable culture: Three events and a
review. To start, Peter and Richard are among the best musicians
ever to come out of the Ash Grove milieu, joining several mentioned
in the review. I'm not surprised, but delighted they're working together.
The poetry next Tuesday should be spectacular, the WH review speaks
for itself. Finally, the Pan-African film festival begins tonight. It is so
big, so encompassing that it would take more than this entire space
just to list the films. Not to be missed. For a descriptive lineup, click

What a week! -Ed

From: "BlueGrass West Newsletter" <>
Subject: Two shows this weekend

Friday, February 12th, 8:00 PM
Free concert!
Bridges Hall of Music, Pomona College
340 N. College Avenue Claremont, CA

We will present a program of old-time and "pre-bluegrass" tunes and songs
on fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitar. A free reception will follow the


Saturday, Feb. 13th, 8:00 PM
The S.Y. Valley Grange Hall
2374 Alamo Pintado Avenue, Los Olivos CA

Peter Feldmann & The Very Lonesome Boys will start their 2010 season with a
show in downtown Los Olivos at the Santa Ynez Valley Grange Hall, 2374 Alamo
Pintado Ave. Tickets at that show will also be available on-line at and at the Book Loft in Solvang. They are priced at
$12.00. The show will begin at 8:00 PM. Tickets will also be available at
the door, beginning at 7:30 PM, depending on availability. For on-line
ticket sales, visit:
[ ].

To subscribe:

BlueGrass West
Post Office Box 614
Los Olivos, CA 93441


This event is extraordinary for the poets present and the works of others,
and the cause is great. Read the last paragraph for fair but tricky seating
and parking. -Ed

From: Judy Branfman

Please join us on February 16 when PEN USA and the Hammer Museum present an
evening of poetry inspired by the events in Iran this past summer. In
association with Iranian-American poet Sholeh Wolpé, author of "I Am Neda,"
we collected dozens of poems by prominent poets in support of those who
speak out for freedom around the world.

The event will feature Maxine Hong Kingston, Eloise Klein Healy, James Ragan
and Tony Barnstone reading the work they created specifically for this
project, as well as actors reading the poems contributed by Yusef
Kumunyakaa, Annie Finch, Joy Harjo, Kim Addonizio, Andrew Hudgins, Sam
Hamill, Marvin Bell, Carolyn Forche, David Waggoner, Robert Bly and Thomas
Lux. All of the poets' submissions speak to the unjust circumstances of our
world, as well as the hope for change and prosperity in the future.

The reading will take place in the Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum
and will feature live musical accompaniment by Iranian vocalist Mamak
Khadem. Broadsides of a selection of the featured poems will be available
for purchase, with proceeds benefiting PEN USA's Emergency Writers Fund.

Save the date for this inspirational event on February 16 at 7 pm. Admission
is free. Tickets are required, and available at the Billy Wilder Theater Box
Office one hour prior to start time. Limit one ticket per person on a first
come, first served basis. Hammer members receive priority seating, subject
to availability. Reservations not accepted. Parking is available under the
museum for $3 after 6:00pm.

10899 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90024

Sarah Balcomb
Manager Digital Media
PO Box 6037
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: 424.258.1180 ext 200
FAX: 424.258.1184 | |


At the White House, civil rights in song

By Chris Richards
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The White House has played host to scores of musicians since President Obama
took office last year, but the talent assembled at snowy 1600 Pennsylvania
Ave. on Tuesday night delivered the most stirring concert there yet.

The concert, dubbed "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of
Music From the Civil Rights Movement," featured a spectrum of performances
that included such legends and stars as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Smokey
Robinson, Natalie Cole, John Mellencamp, Yolanda Adams and Jennifer Hudson.

The event originally was scheduled for Wednesday night, but the foreboding
prospect of yet more snowfall prompted White House organizers to move up the
event 24 hours.

Onstage, no one seemed rushed -- especially not Dylan. Giving his first
performance at the White House, America's most iconic pop songwriter ambled
onstage and dragged his wonderful, weather-beaten voice over a handsome
piano and bass arrangement of "The Times They Are A-Changin'." After the
song, there was an awkward pause, a handshake with the president and a hasty

Adams, the gospel great, knew when to linger. She kicked off the proceedings
with what first seemed like a light, clarion take on Sam Cooke's "A Change
Is Gonna Come." She wore a glowing smile as she tiptoed through the opening
verses, perhaps to hint at the triumphal, big-voiced finale still to come.
Impossible not to smile along with that.

Both songs captured the essence of the night: music that vitalized and
comforted a generation through one of the most difficult cultural
transformations in American history.

"The civil rights movement was a movement sustained by music," Obama said.

Timed to celebrate Black History Month, Tuesday's concert was the latest
installment of the White House Music Series, a string of concerts
celebrating uniquely American strands of sound.

Since last summer, the series has hopscotched from genre to genre, with nods
to jazz, classical, country and Latin music.

But this show was genre-free, focusing instead on the songs that gave voice
to a pivotal shift in our nation's history. Hosted by Morgan Freeman, the
concert was streamed live on the White House Web site and will be televised
Thursday at 8 p.m. on WETA.

Baez, the folk icon, offered a highlight, coaching the audience through a
touching singalong of "We Shall Overcome," a song she performed beside
Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington. Her voice wasn't the most
forceful of the night, but it certainly didn't diminish the power of the

And it wasn't the only singalong, either. Bernice Reagon stopped her fellow
Freedom Singers after a few bars, and told the audience they had no choice
but to join in.

Not all interruptions were intentional. Hudson and Robinson's duet of
"People Get Ready" suddenly turned a cappella. Whoops. Turns out the band
had tripped into a flub that will undoubtedly be edited from Thursday's

Cole sang a zippy "I Wish I Knew How It Felt to Be Free" and an even zippier
version of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Cole was another artist who has
deep personal ties to the civil rights struggle: Her father, Nat King Cole,
advised Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson on early rights

Mellencamp spoke about his teenage years in an interracial band, then lunged
into a growling take on "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize." Ignore that lavish
chandelier hanging over his head -- this tune was roadhouse-ready.

The Blind Boys of Alabama offered an equally rousing contribution to the
event's educational component, held Tuesday afternoon. Performing "Perfect
Peace," the veteran gospel troupe concluded an hour-long workshop held for
100-plus high school students visiting from across the country: Chicago,
Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, as well as the Duke
Ellington School of the Arts here in Washington.

The Freedom Singers -- featuring mother and daughter Bernice and Toshi
Reagon, along with Rutha Harris and Charles Neblett -- also sang for the
high schoolers with enough to force to make you wonder whether the Abraham
Lincoln pictured in an oil painting over the State Dining Room fireplace
might start tapping his foot. The Singers summoned resplendent harmonies
during "There Is a Balm in Gilead" and "This Little Light of Mine."

After the latter, Bernice Reagon recounted being jailed after participating
in a march in her native Georgia: "It was when they locked me up that I
really understood that song."

After a truncated version of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," Adams stuck around
to sign autographs -- a few of them on programs that didn't reflect the
rescheduled workshop's last-minute changes. Due to scheduling conflicts,
first lady Michelle Obama had to skip the daytime event, as did two of the
musical Johns (Legend and Mellencamp).

Robinson picked up the slack, delivering the afternoon's most powerful
remarks. He recounted the inequalities of yesteryear in heartbreaking detail
with a story about how he and his fellow touring musicians were often denied
access to gas station bathrooms -- sometimes at gunpoint.

"You're so fortunate and so blessed that you won't have to go through that,"
he told the young faces in the crowd.

During the session, students clapped along to the music, cheered when the
singers reached for the big notes and even snapped a couple digital photos.
But they didn't ask questions. Considering the last-minute energy coursing
through the event, the planned Q&A session had to be scrapped to get the
performers ready for the evening's concert.

By the end of the show, the last song of the evening was introduced by the
president himself. Joined by all the performers (sans Dylan) for "Lift Every
Voice and Sing," Obama ceded the spotlight, saying: "Singers in the front

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