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December 18, 2014
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The hills are alive

Leina and Tarrell Spencer of Callicoon took to the stage during the hands-on aspect of the Sankofa Drum & Dance experience.


It wasn’t only the sound of music that I experienced this week, but there was plenty of that along the way. I stopped by the Nugget in Monticello and heard singer/songwriter Tony Penn belt out a tune or two as I belted back a shot (or two) while sampling their new menu, which was delish. Penn was performing solo that night, but he and new singing partner Sara Hulse have formed a partnership, “The Haunted” (facebook.com/hauntedofficial#!/pages), and (IMHO) they are off to a swell start.

“To laugh like a brook when it trips and falls, over stones on it’s way” came to mind as I recalled what a great time everyone had last fall when the Laugh Tour (TheLaughTour.com) made it’s way to The Nutshell (Nutshellarts.com) in Lake Huntington, NY, and Saturday night’s show was no exception. The ethnic-based humor of newcomer Subhah Agabwal gave way to blond bombshell Rachel Robbins’ self deprecating riffs on dealing with men, while host Rich Kiamco’s gay rants (oddly, his act was about men, too!) led up to headliner Dan Naturman, who hit a major slam dunk with his hilarious set.

All of the comics were on point, and it’s nice to know that the community at large comes out to support this kind of entertainment. With future comedy nights scheduled for June, September and November, visiting the website will give everyone an opportunity to catch an upcoming show. These talented comics have been seen repeatedly on national television, so evenings like these, right here at home, are not to be missed.

The Event Gallery Series at Bethel Woods (bethelwood scenter.org/bwevents) is still the best-kept not-so-secret in town and the new season of free-to-the-public family concerts got underway on Sunday when Maxwell Kofi Donkor, an international master drummer, dancer, choreographer, sculptor and cultural educator, was in the house with the Sankofa African Dance & Drum Ensemble performing (as the song goes) “songs they have sung for a) thousand years.”

Donkar “considers the preservation of the indigenous Ghanaian art and culture his mission.” The troupe engaged the audience, drawing us into the stories, through song and dance, of life in the small village where many of them were raised. “Our ancestors are all here with us now” he shared with the large crowd of children and adults “and we celebrate by calling to them now.”

Water was a theme that surfaced repeatedly during the performance, reinforcing the knowledge that it is the source of life on Earth and necessary for human existence. The group expressed the need to care for, protect and preserve our natural resources through traditional drumming and ceremonial call and response, involving the audience and infusing the large hall with joy, exuberance and a palpable energy that had many on their feet as the kids joined the troupe on stage.

I counted 27 performances scheduled in and around our area that are still to come, so the opportunity to experience this incredible show awaits those interested. For a listing visit www.bak2roots.com or email kofi@bak2roots.com.

Due to inclement weather (it’s over, right?), the Manhattan School of Music had to reschedule last week and appeared (also at Bethel Woods) on Monday, performing a kid-friendly 45-minute version of Mozart’s’ “The Magic Flute,” replete with glorious singing, beautiful costumes, a wonderfully played score and a basic primer on the history of the opera.

Gordon Ostrowski directed the afternoon, speaking directly with the busloads of students, and informed beautifully as he explained the various terms and traditions associated with the art form. The kids were as mesmerized as the adults, and the entire company answered questions after the show, as hand after hand shot into the air, making it crystal clear that the audience had enjoyed every minute of this finely tuned program.

Events like this, made possible with corporate sponsorship, are an invaluable, enriching experience that the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts continues to foster and for that, we give thanks.

Passover is looming (it starts on the 18th), to say nothing of Easter, so I had better start giving thanks at home and honor my ancestors, inspired by Kofi & Co. Spring has definitely sprung and I am reminded that “I go to the hills when my heart is lonely. I know I will hear what I’ve heard before. My heart will be blessed with the sound of music and I’ll sing [and laugh] once more.”.