Thursday, June 25, 2009

Death of a Down to Earth Diva

I will never forget the day that JD Parran brought me to meet Betty Allen. JD was doing his best to get me onto the faculty at the Harlem School for the Arts. Even though Betty had been nudged out of her upstairs office by the young HSA Director of the moment, she maintained a deep cellular connection with the school and it's community. After all, it was her passion that birthed and raised up HSA from modest beginnings in a church basement.

"So, you want to teach here?" Even sitting in the corner of the music library that she had taken over, Betty was nothing if not regal. We talked for a half hour about music and what we loved, what was important to share with children. Betty gave me her blessing.

I used to stay at school late some evenings to watch Betty teach her weekly opera workshop. She was so dynamic, so generous with her time and spirit. Betty may have been a diva, but Betty was always real.

I shall miss you Miss Allen. Truly.

Portrait of Betty Allen, 1958 by Carl van Vechten

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CT Improvising Composers Project

CT Improvising Composers Project
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

The first of four statewide concerts of the new Connecticut Improvising Composers Project took place week before last at Real Art Ways. Plenty of friends turned out for the music. Local music witness Maurice Robertson was there, and these are a few of his images of the ensemble at work. The local press was supportive, with a preview from the stalwart scribe Owen McNally, and reviews from Chuck Obuchowski and Dan Barry.

Satoshi Takeishi joined us with very little rehearsal time and did what he always does, fitting the music like a glove and swinging with aplomb.

We will be back in Hartford September 12. Soon after that we will take the group into the studio to record. This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism through their Special Initiative Grant Program and the deep partnership of Music for People.