Tuesday, December 27, 2011

SPOTLIGHT Encore: Joshua Bell!

To celebrate the release of "French Impressions," Joshua Bell's new CD of French music for violin and piano, Mountain Lake Journal Extra has an encore presentation of Paul Larson's exclusive interview with the world famous violinist. Bell discusses his career, his passion for the arts, and the mishaps he's had with his 300 year-old Stadivarius, an instrument worth millions.

The "Spotlight" segment on Joshua Bell runs on Mountain Lake Journal Extra beginning January 5 at the following times,

Thursday 8:30pm
Friday 6am and 12:30pm
Saturday 7:30pm
Sunday 6am and 10:30am

"French Impressions," Joshua Bell's first recital program for Sony Classical features the Grammy Award-winning violinist and his longtime friend and recital partner, pianist Jeremy Denk, offering a passionately nuanced interpretation of works by Saint-Saens, Ravel and Franck.

When Bell and Denk performed Saint-Saens Violin Sonata No. 1 in D Minor during their 2010 recital tour, the New York Times raved "Mr. Bell and Mr. Denk gave a passionate performanceThere were plenty of fireworks in the whirlwind of the concluding movement."

Says Bell, "French Impressions is the culmination of my last decade of exploration and performance with pianist Jeremy Denk, and I hope that with this recording we can affect the listener with the same joy and spiritual enrichment that these masterpieces have provided us over the years."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

SPOTLIGHT Encore: The Boobie Sisters

To celebrate our upcoming Holiday Spectacular show and a national award we recently won, the Boobie Sisters story will have a special encore presentation on Mountain Lake Journal Extra. This story, about breast cancers survivors who offer hope through humor, received an award from NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association, for outstanding work in public affairs content. The Boobie Sisters, with their funny name and humorous songs, actually sing about some pretty serious issues. Their performances tackle breast exams, cancer treatments, dealing with family issues and changing bodies. This encore"Spotlight" airs on Mountain Lake Journal Extra Thursday night at 8:30 on Mountain Lake PBS. It repeats on Friday at 6am and 12:30pm, Saturday at at 7:30pm and Sunday at 10:30am. Also, the Boobie Sisters will perform some festive music on the Mountain Lake PBS Holiday Spectacular this Saturday night at 7, and I will interview some of them live in our studio.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Olivia Newton-John!

The singer and actress had a benefit in Albany on Saturday for her Cancer and Wellness Centre in Australia. It's a facility for medical research, treatment and wellness care. So nice to meet Olivia after being a fan of hers since I was nine years old. She is a breast cancer survivor of nineteen years.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SPOTLIGHT: The Reindeer Keeper

Ogdensburg, New York author Barbara Briggs Ward discusses her first novel aimed at adults, The Reindeer Keeper. She has written books and short stories for children, and this is her first work of fiction geared for the Baby Boomer audience. The project grew out of a chaotic holiday season, during which she lost the Christmas spirit. Writing The Reindeer Keeper helped the author recapture the nostalgic wonder of the season.

You may see the story on the Spotlight segment ofMountain Lake Journal Extra, Thursday at 8:30pm, on Mountain Lake PBS. It repeats Friday at 6am and 12:30pm, Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 10:30am.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

You're invited to visit the studio of Joel Prevost

Joel Prevost, sculptor, invites you to the second anniversary celebration of the opening of his studio, gallery and student workshop in Montreal this month. You may recognize sculptures by the Monteral artist, because they decorate the set of "Art Express." The second anniversary celebration will showcase new works by Prevost, as well as pieces by students of his art classes. The celebration begins at 5pm on Saturday, December 10 and lasts until 9. The gallery is located at 1206 boulevard de Maisonneuve E in Montreal. You may learn more about the opening from our Spotlight story: http://video.mountainlake.org/video/2172740531

NUTCRACKER: Pacific Northwest Ballet


Seattle, Washington has a real treasure to reveal every holiday season. In the early 1980s, the director of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, a Seattle-based ballet company, decided he wanted to set his Nutcracker apart from every other version of the ballet in the country. He asked the famed author/illustrator of the children's classicWhere the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, to design the sets and costumes for a slightly re-imagined version of The Nutcracker. The result is a ballet extremely faithful to the glorious music of Tchaikovsky, while referencing the darker elements of the original story by E.T.A. Hoffmann more than other stagings of the ballet do.

Actually, the least successful aspects of this show involve trying to weave in the rather complicated backstory of the nutracker and his grudge against the mouse king into the production, an effort that includes the addition of a brief opera piece by Tchaikovsky just to allow for more time to tell the story. This awkwardness in narrative can easily be forgiven, thanks to the eye-popping sets, dazzling costumes, and a few special effects I'd never seen before in any version of The Nutcracker. Also, the music of Tchaikovsky never fails to enchant me, and the choreography, by Kent Stowell, is beautiful.

After I saw the Pacific Northwest ballet version and read the tie-in book, the original Nutcracker story illustrated by Sendak, it occurred to me that the narrative of the ballet has never been all the strong. It's simply an excuse to see a big Christmas party, the giving of gifts, a growing Christmas tree, a spectacular battle between soldiers and mice, a lovely journey through a forested winterland, and a series of exotic dances in an otherworldly setting. These are precious images to behold during the holiday season, accompanied by music that is sometimes whimsical, sometimes sensual, often dramatic, and forever linked to Christmas. Whatever the strange story of the Nutcracker is, the ballet just works!

Seeing the sets, designed by Sendak, is definitely worth the trip to Seattle. They resemble a giant, magnificently illustrated pop-up book, complete with moving parts. Because Sendak also created the look of the costumes, colors and patterns blend to create a unified whole.

What's a bit of a shame is that the Seattle Nutcracker seems like a well kept secret. When I told my friends and family that I was seeing the Pacific Northwest Ballet version of the Nutcracker, I had to explain to them why this was so special, and why I would bother to go to Seattle to see a ballet that is in pretty much every city in North America during the month of December. Among fans of the Nutcracker, the Seattle-based show is indeed the most famous, along with the New York City Ballet spectacle, choreographed by George Balanchine. In fact, these two versions of the Nutcracker were both filmed for release in cinemas.

Even though the Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker has toured briefly and minimally, many people who might marvel at its wonders still do not know about it. Perhaps a bigger tour one day will allow Mr. Sendak to share his magical visions with a much wider audience.

At any rate, the option remains to do as I did and make a trip to Seattle. I also enjoyed the Space Needle, the EMP, and some fine dining.

Performance photos by Angela Sterling.