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Reading, writing and a rhythm stick

The audience joined in while the Saakumu Dance Troupe performed in Monticello, NY.

March 3, 2011

I was stunned this week to hear one of my pals exclaim that there was “nothing to do around here.” I know that most of us have grown weary of winter, and the weather tends to keep us inside—but nothing to do? Hardly.

I scanned my schedule and made several suggestions, but while she had to admit that there were events of interest on my list, when push came to shove, she simply did not want to go out. “Fine,” I replied, “but I’m hitting the road.”

The Monticello Performing Arts Booster Club ( monticelloschools.net ) offered a perfect opportunity for something different this week, in the form of “Sounds of Africa,” led by award-winning “Master Drummer” Bernard Woma and the Saakumu Dance Troupe, arriving in the Catskills from Ghana, West Africa. Their music ranges from “spiritual, ceremonial, recreational genres to contemporary African dance forms.” Woma has performed with artists Maya Angelou and Yo Yo Ma, and has appeared at Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall, with the New York Philharmonic and for the likes of Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II. Oh, and for a SRO crowd in Monticello, NY.

Woma was recently honored as the cultural resource person for President Barack Obama’s family while they visited Ghana. Considered one of West Africa’s “cultural treasures,” his resume is extensive as both a dynamic artist and educator, lifting students’ spirits while sharing a rich history of music and dance.

The Eugene D. Nesin Theatre was packed with people stomping their feet, clapping their hands and dancing in the aisles. While one friend stayed home, I attended with another, and we were invigorated by the spirit of this (IMHO) amazing troupe, which had already performed its whirlwind program twice that day, before hitting the streets of Monticello and heading off to Buffalo to spread more joy.

Variety being the operative word this week and with “nothing to do,” I headed a bit west—to the Sunshine Hall Free Library ( rcls.org/eld/friends.html ) in Eldred, NY for a bit of light reading. The bill of fare for the afternoon showcased Port Jervis’ “Ghost Detective” Michael J. Worden—who is, by day, a real-life police officer and in the off hours, a man who hunts for “things that go bump in the night.”

Worden regaled the attentive crowd with personal anecdotes, sharing stories of local hauntings, peppered with helpful hints for the would-be ghost hunter in all of us. His book “Ghost Detective” and website ( paranormalpolice.com ) are designed for both the novice and avid enthusiast.