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WMUK Culture

Culture and Happenings from the WMUK Listening area! 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/cayusa/. All creative commons.

No Copland, no Gershwin, no Bernstein. Instead, music director Andrew Koehler programmed Florence Price, Lou Harrison, and Roberto Sierra for the Kalamazoo Philharmonia's concert at 4 pm on Sunday, Mar 8 in the Light Fine Arts Center at Kalamazoo College. In a conversation with Cara Lieurance, Koehler says he put these unknown composers upfront to highlight their music and acknowledge the orchestra's tradition of musical discovery in its 30th season. 

20 musical acts, nine workshops, and 25 vendors will fill the halls and stages of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Kalamazoo Valley Community College's downtown campus this Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7 for the 15th annual Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival. Museum director Bill McElhone and festival curator Bryan Heany share the details with Cara Lieurance, highlighting the solo and group acts, pop-up concerts, beginner and intermediate workshops, and kid-friendly fun that makes this free festival draw over 4,000 people each year. 

Wikimedia Commons

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center is planning a series of events between March 19 - 28 which will focus on the arts, music, food, history, politics, and poetry of Venezuela. Destination: Venezuela, like the other Destination events before it, draws on the knowledge and expertise of Venezuela-linked community members in West Michigan. Cara Lieurance spoke with Brian Berheide, the artistic director of the Vickburg Cultural Arts Center, Anglo-Venezuelan visual artist Natalya Critchley, and WMU professor Dr. Claudio Mendoza about how they narrowed their focus on different aspects of Venezuelan culture and history. Critchley's Venezuelan paintings will be highlighted during the series, and Dr. Mendoza will moderate a panel discussion about Venezuela's current crisis of economic hardships and political unrest. 

Craig Freeman

It's known under many names - "gypsy jazz," "jazz manouche," "hot club," or "Django jazz" - and refers to the popular music of 1930s Parisian clubs and cafés, pioneered by Romani musician Django Reinhardt and others.  The appeal for musicians and listeners alike is a strong as ever - the music is melodic, danceable, humorous, virtuosic and a little subversive. WMUK contributor Craig Freeman spent an hour in WMUK's Takeda studio with Kalamazoo-based  musicians The Birdseed Salesmen:  Helen Yee on violin, Nathan Tabor on lead guitar, and Jay Gavan on rhythm guitar. 

Tabor says the group's name is a reference to the film Sweet And Lowdown, which followed the story of a fictional Django-era guitarist. The Birdseed Salesmen play Reinhardt's own "Nuages," and "Douce Ambiance," Lew Pollack's "Two Cigarettes in the Dark," and "Tchavolo Swing" by Tchavolo Schmidt.

Jon Reeves

Silent Sky is the story of real-life astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from 1898 until her death in 1921. In Lauren Gunderson's play, we learn about her work, the work of  her fellow female astronomers (called "computers"), and the significant discoveries she made. Leavitt was not the first woman to join the observatory staff - that was Willamena Fleming, the Scottish-born housekeeper of the observatory's director. In an interview with Cara Lieurance, actors Aly Homminga (Henrietta Leavitt) and Milan Levy (Willamena Fleming) talk about their roles in the upcoming production at Kalamazoo College, along with director Ren Berthel. 

Silent Sky runs Feb 27 - Mar 1 at the Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse. Tickets and more information available at the playhouse website