PROVIDENCE, R.I. Oct.12, 2020 — Pianist and composer Judith Lynn Stillman, won first prize in OperaVision’s #OperaHarmony contest, for her groundbreaking short opera, Essential Business, produced remotely while in COVID-19 lockdown.
The competition was a global initiative to join creatives from around the world to rethink opera in the pandemic era, highlighting themes of connection and community. OperaVision is the online platform for Opera Europa, representing major opera companies including La Scala and The Bolshoi.
Essential Business is a powerful commentary on spirituality and the need for connection during isolation. Set during the 2020 coronavirus quarantine, Essential Business tells the story of a young pastor, as he wrestles with his faith, family, and the loss of his ministry amid the pandemic. In a moment of crisis, he reaches out to God via a Zoom call, for a modern-day confessional.
Stillman composed and performed the score and served as filmmaker/producer. The music incorporates operatic, gospel, blues, and musical theatre influences, around the story themes of religion, race and culture, the social impact of the virus, and creating music in isolation.
“For me, Essential Business captures a microcosm of the societal lockdown dilemma,” said Stillman. “Humans crave connection. Being in isolation can be devastating. To what extent do we take risks to mitigate these challenges? Is there a way to reconcile both faith and science when there can be life and death consequences?”
Stillman teamed up with Metropolitan Opera baritone, Will Liverman, who performed the role of the pastor, and U.K. artists Anna Pool and Elayce Ismail, to write the libretto and produce the 10-minute piece.
Earlier this year, Liverman was the first Black artist to play the role of Papageno in The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera. He will be a lead in the premiere of the first opera by a Black composer to be produced at the Met in 2021.
The award continues a streak of accolades for Stillman, a Juilliard trained performer, composer, filmmaker, and Rhode Island College’s artist-in-residence, whose compositions – even during COVID quarantine – have received awards from Hollywood to Cannes.
O’s Notes: Pianist Mike Renzi sets out to make something greater than the standard “Christmas Album”. He addresses the Holidays from different cultures and expressions. Renzi teams up with veteran vocalist Jim Porcella for ten duets, all classics done with class.
Award-winning pianist Mike Renzi with baritone vocal performer Jim Porcella present Christmas Is, a holiday-themed album ideal for setting a mood of celebration, joy, and compassion. Wonderful, warmhearted, and evocative, Christmas Is flows beautifully and is highly recommended for both personal and public library music collections. The tracks are “Cool Yule”, “The Christmas Song”, “The Holiday Song”, “Our First Christmas”, “Blue Christmas”, “Christmas Is”, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”, “A Christmas Love Song”, “Snowfall”, and “Winter Wonderland”.
Ken Abrams, What’s Up Newports fabulous music, arts, and entertainment writer, joined this edition of What’sUpNewp Radio to chat about life after the Newport festivals. There’s Rhythm & Roots, Providence Folk Festival, and much more music that is sure to keep you busy from now thru Labor Day.
CHARLESTOWN, R.I. – Aug. 8, 2018 – PRLog — Rhythm & Roots asked, and music lovers answered. In a survey last year the Taj Mahal Trio was the most-requested artist and Steve Earle & the Dukes was No. 2. So that’s exactly who will be headlining the 21st annual music and dance festival, which transforms Charlestown’s Ninigret Park into a three-day, family-friendly party from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.
Calling this year the “People’s Choice” festival, producer Chuck Wentworth says Taj Mahal, a legendary bluesman and Rhythm & Roots fan favorite, has performed in Charlestown three or four times. “I don’t think he’s ever had a bad show that I know of. He delivers every time.” Earle is performing as part of his 30th anniversary celebration of Copperhead Road, his breakthrough bluegrass-meets-metal album. His band will also pay homage to Earle’s love of outlaw country music.
Popular requests also included the Texas Western swing and country favorite, Asleep at the Wheel, and Boulder, Colo.-based Leftover Salmon, one of the original jam bands that play what they describe as a “poly-ethnic, Cajun slamgrass.”
“Having these favorites in there is going to make for a really good show,” Wentworth says.
About 5,000 visitors per day, from as far as the Virgin Islands, California and Louisiana, are expected to take in the laid-back groove that has made the festival an annual reunion of sorts for families and friends who appreciate all forms of roots music: blues, swing, bluegrass, zydeco, Cajun and Americana. Performances are held every day from 1 p.m. to midnight on four stages. Buy tickets at rhythmandroots.com or call 401.783.3926.
While popular acts on the festival circuit have been requested this year, “We haven’t abandoned the concept of bringing in new music,” Wentworth says, noting that he is introducing fans to the “fantastic” 18-year-old duo from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nick Earle and Joe Coffin, discovered on one of his music trips to Canada.
Also new to Rhythm & Roots this year: Big Sam’s Funky Nation, a New Orleans blend of funk, jazz, rock and hip-hop; Larry Campbell,formerly with Levon Helm and the Midnight Ramblers, and Teresa Williams, a married couple who will perform Delta blues, folk and Americana music; bluegrass quartet Hot Rize, is celebrating a milestone and will play with the country quartet Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers. “I couldn’t resist bringing them in here for their 40thanniversary,” Wentworth says.
This year’s lineup may represent the widest spectrum of roots music yet. Rhythm & Roots always offers a heavy dose of Louisiana music (Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, Cedryl Ballou & the Zydeco Trendsetters, Bonerama, CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band to name a few),and this year offers a sampling of Americana music(Girls, Guns and Glory and Session Americana, both from the Boston area) blues(Taj Mahal Trio and Earle and Coffin), bluegrass (Hot Rize), Tex-Mex (Los Texmaniacs) and swing (Asleep at the Wheel).
Music lovers can set up the blankets and chairs and relax at the main RHYTHM STAGE, which features at least seven performances a day, or check out daily music workshops followed by extended performances and jams at the ROOTS STAGE. The DANCE STAGE, with its covered, 4,400-square-foot wooden floor, attracts dancers from 40-plus states and three Canadian provinces. The FAMILY STAGE features music, dance, storytelling, crafts and nighttime movies for kids of all ages.
Other attractions of Rhythm & Roots:
Camp Out – Ninigret allows camping only during Rhythm & Roots, and about 1,500 people stay for the entire weekend. Last year, Rhythm & Roots added an extra night of camping on Thursday and a new upscale offer of “glamping” to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Those additions will continue. “Glampers” arrive at the festival to find a tent already set up and outfitted with four cots, a lantern, table and other amenities. Quiet camping spots are available as well.
Park Close to the Entrance – If you’re not camping and want fewer steps between you and the music, premier day parking is for you. The 100 spots close to the front gate will be can be purchased for $20 per day, or $50 for all three days. Spaces are limited. To reserve a spot purchase parking passes online at rhythmandroots.com/tickets/.
Eat and Drink – Choose from barbecue ribs, Cajun/Creole specialties, chowder and clam cakes, gyros, Middle Eastern food and desserts, along with craft beers, wine, frozen lemonade and other beverages. Fan favorite Chili Brothers will attend again this year, and a new vendor, Gotta Q Smokehouse and BBQ of Cumberland, RI, has won the Motif award for best BBQ food truck two years in a row.
Join the Rhythm & Roots Youth Music Camp – It’s free.Children can learn to play Cajun fiddle, accordion, guitar, bass and mandolin from talented artists, including director and expert fiddler Pam Weeks. No festival ticket is needed for the camp, which ends with a graduation gig in the DANCE STAGE Sunday at 2 p.m.
Play With Your Kids – Story-telling by the well known Len Cabral, Marc Levitt and Thawn Harris parades, games, comedians, hula hooping, and one act every day by the Contemporary Theater Company in Wakefield can be found at the FAMILY STAGE.
Buy Tickets Today – Buying before August 24th saves $15 per day. Once tickets are in hand, it’s quicker and more efficient to get in to the event than to buy at the gate. Visit rhythmandroots.com or call 401.783.3926. Children 12 years and under are free, and 13- to 19-year-olds get in for half price. “The basis of it all is it’s a good family festival, and we try to keep that at the forefront,” Wentworth says.
The 26th annual Cajun and Zydeco Mardi Gras Ball arrives in Cranston Saturday with great food, wide open dancing, and of course, the best music. Bands include favorites Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas, and the Knickerbocker All Stars, who will be playing a special set dedicated to Fats Domino. The event is run by Chuck Wentworth, producer of the annual Rhythm and Roots Festival. Details here.