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Culture and Happenings from the WMUK Listening area! 

Courtesy of Farmer's Alley Theatre

During a summer of COVID-19 cancellations, a ray of hope: Farmers Alley Theatre, in collaboration with Face Off Theatre and the Black Arts and Cultural Center, will stage Three Little Birds in LaCrone Park and Bronson Park in Kalamazoo this month. The family-friendly show, featuring the music of reggae legend Bob Marley, has an adult cast of six and a story by Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley.  Cara Lieurance spoke with Farmers Alley artistic director Jeremy Koch and Three Little Birds director Marissa Harrington, artistic director of Face Off Theatre, about how they ran rehearsals during a pandemic and how the story of Three Little Birds is one especially suited for uncertain times.


Theater Review: Face Off Kalamazoo's Summer Season

Aug 3, 2020
Face Off Theatre Company

Theater companies around the world are trying to find new ways to reach audiences as the COVID-19 pandemic rolls on. That includes theater groups in Kalamazoo. WMUK reviewer Gordon Bolar has this look at the Face Off Theatre Company’s summer season.

John Lacko/Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

It may seem like a conductor's job is to spend all their time rehearsing musicians and conducting concerts, but according to Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra resident conductor Daniel Brier, that's only 10% of the work. The other 90% is studying and interpreting the scores. So when the COVID-19 crisis prevented Brier from conducting, he found new ways to be productive.


Choral conductor Nick Sienkiewicz graduated in April from Western Michigan University with degrees in music and biochemistry. He also helmed the Unitarian Universalist Community Church choir and was working with the Kalamazoo Children's Chorus. But the pandemic changed all that. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, Sienkiewicz shares his science-oriented perspective on how choral activity was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and why it's important to use current research to find ways to continue singing. 

Sienkiewicz summarizes some of the recent developments in our understanding of the transmission of the virus, and vaccine development. He says that even with his background in biochemistry, it's still a challenge to read and absorb the latest research published in different science journals. That contributes to laypeople's confusion about COVID-19. It doesn't help that official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control  is being contradicted, questioned and even changed by the current administration. But, he says, the efforts of scientists working around the clock to combat COVID-19 is a beacon of hope.

Sienkiewicz will attend Indiana University-Bloomington this fall to pursue a Master's degree in Choral Conducting.


Ad Astra Music Festival

Austin McWilliams had recently earned his master's degree in choral conducting from Western Michigan University and was working for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra when COVID-19 abruptly ended all musical activity within a few days. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, McWilliams remembers getting the news that other schools were shutting rehearsals down, and after one final choral rehearsal, so were his. It was quite a blow. The much-anticipated performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion was going to bring together hundreds professional and student performers just before Easter for a work which hadn't been presented in decades. 


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