Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jess Paniszczyn
Teens took center stage for the 13th annual Friday Nite Live teen talent competition presented at the Irving Arts Center on Feb. 15.
“The Irving Arts Center estimated the audience to be about 325, and we had about 40 performers,” said Christine Wordlaw, Youth Programs Specialist. “We had a lot of really different acts this year. In the past, we had six bands. This year we didn’t have that many bands audition, so we ended up with only three. We had more singers and variety acts this year.”
The arts and entertainment are an important part of recreation, according to Recreation Superintendent Joseph Moses.
“Friday Nite Live gives kids a chance to showcase their talents. In a lot of cities, the recreation departments have such an emphasis on the athletic side of recreational programming that we kind of forget about the arts side of it. Not everybody is going to be an athlete. Giving kids a chance to show what they can do in the arts through singing, dancing and live performances is a great recreational outlet. I am proud that we provide those outlets for our kids here in Irving.
“We also have the Spirited Youth Awards. People nominate kids who volunteer or who standout for those awards based on things they do of high character. It is very important that we recognize those kids. Far too often, there is an emphasis on kids who do something bad; but no one recognizes kids who do something good.
“One of the kids who received a Spirited Youth Award, Chris Alexander, has attended the Northwest Recreation Center for years. If you knew Chris before the last few years, one of the things that you would have noticed about Chris was his long, dark hair. It was down to the middle of his back, if not longer. When he cut his hair, it was noticeable. He went from long hair to a military style crew cut. When I asked the staff why he had cut his hair, I was informed his older sister had been diagnosed with a form of cancer, and in support of her, so she could have a wig made, he had his hair cut.
“He is a good kid. He volunteers and helps out wherever he can. When you consider that he made that kind of a jester to help his sister without a second thought, it is a great example of a young man putting aside his own wants for someone in his family. He is a great example of the youth and teens we have in Irving.”
At the end of the evening as the awards were given, there was some consternation as a couple of winners dropped their crystal awards, which shattered on the stage.
“There was a little communication breakdown,” Wordlaw explained. “The crystal awards were not connected to the boxes. The judges wanted to hand the winners the awards and have an opportunity to say congratulations to the winners. Some of the judges didn’t realize the awards weren’t connected. A couple of them slipped and fell on the stage. It was one of those things.
“I felt bad, because the winners didn’t have anything to take home with them to show their success. But we’ve already contacted the company and have new ones on the way. The winners will have their new awards shortly. It was a very fixable thing, and the kids still all had a great time.”
The 2012 Spirited Youth Award Winners are Chris Alexander, Taylor Anderson, Ericka Castilo and Hasan Yaqub.
Friday Nite Live winners include:
Best Variety: Huydini - Huy Pham of Irving High School
Best Movement: Elizabeth Hernandez of Nimitz High School
Best Singing Performance: Makenzie Barrs of Irving High School
Best Band: The Perjury- Luke Bartke, Spencer Carrol, Gabe Jordan
People’s Choice Award: (determined by audience text votes) Brandon Hassan Band –
Matthew Fowler, Brandon Hassan, Tommy Murphy, Kristina Marie Juliette Parent-Brito.
Last Updated on Monday, 25 February 2013 10:02
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Each year the Irving Chorale performs with children from the Irving Honors Choir and the Irving Children’s Chorus in a series known as the ‘Side-by-Side’ concerts. It takes a great deal of preparation, and all three groups have been rehearsing vigorously for several weeks.
“The kids have really enjoyed working on the pieces,” said Linda Hoffmann, a music teacher at Stipes Elementary in Irving. Since 2006 she has led the ICC, an auditioned choir of about 50 students in grades 3-5. “Some of the selections are challenging, but that’s what this is all about. This experience opens up a richer literature to our elementary students, and they get to perform with professional musicians.”
This year’s performance on March 2 holds special meaning: it marks the world premiere of a commissioned piece on the topic of bullying. With sections subtitled “Respect”, “Self-Identity”, “Empathy”, “Peace” and “Pain”, the work delves into every aspect of bullying in our society, and the emotional and psychological scars it leaves.
Librettist Terry York and composer David Schwoebel began working on ‘Sit in a Circle – A Choral Response to Bullying’ in the summer of 2012. For both men, the journey began with the words.
“Usually I’m writing for church,” said York, a professor of liturgy and theology at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. “And this was quite different for me.
“So I turned for help to my wife, Janna. She is a counselor in a Waco grade school, and she helped me see how widespread bullying has become.
“Realizing the deep emotional harm that can be done - that even young children may consider suicide – it was very painful for me to put those concepts and those words into the mouths of children.
“I’ve learned that bullying is not benign – you don’t outgrow it. Kids who were bullied may act out in ways that impact them their whole life.
“So I tried to find themes, using words like peace and pain, and I brought in the concept of how teachers will have kids sit in a circle when there’s something important to communicate. You have to make eye contact in that setting.
“I deliberately left some of the tensions unresolved, almost like homework for the audience after the concert is over.”
David Schwoebel hopes the music will also linger with the audience.
“I have an understanding of how children sing,” said Schwoebel, the minister of music at Derbyshire Baptist Church in Richmond, VA.
He varies the pace in his composition, alternating bright musical passages that sound like nursery rhymes alongside those that convey sorrow.
“I worked to have the music communicate the emotion of the text,” he explained. “You don’t want a happy melody when you’re talking about a word like ‘pain’.
“I actually had one of the secretaries at my church make a comment, just hearing the music for that particular section. She walked in and said, ‘this is dark.’
“My attempt is just to make the words come to life.”
It worked that way for the Director of the Irving Children’s Chorus.
“Just reading through the words – I’m an Asian child,” said Hoffmann. “Growing up, my family was very different from everyone else, so a lot of this hits home – not because I was bullied, but just being different. I know what it’s like to not quite fit in, and have people comment about a different appearance.
“It reminds me of how much people have changed from childhood through adult, or maybe how they haven’t changed. You’ll always have people who push other people around. Who whisper behind each others’ backs.
“At the end of the day we have to stop and remember, we’re all the same. We all hurt the same, and we all laugh the same.”
For Irving Chorale Artistic Director Harry Wooten and the Board members whose discussions led to the creation of this commission, the hope remains that this piece will show society how to move toward the goal of treating all persons with dignity and respect.
One more thing – it will be a musical joy.
“Every year teachers and administrators have really complimented the quality that has come out of this collaboration,” Linda Hoffmann said.
For more information on the Irving Chorale, Side-by-Side concerts and ‘Sit in a Circle – A Choral Response to Bullying’, please visit www.irvingchorale.org .
Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 09:44
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
The theater at Jack Singley Academy in Irving will soon resound with the talents of the DFW All-Stars, a Branson-style troupe of vocalists and musicians. The first presentation of their 2013 season was a Valentine event on Feb.9.
The entrepreneur behind the DFW All-Stars is Kerry Brown, himself a past Nashville studio musician and songwriter who now teaches business courses in CFBISD.
“Everybody here is local,” said Brown. “All of them are very talented professionals, and seven actually work in local churches as praise leaders. It’s a family-friendly, values-oriented organization.”
Their names may not be familiar, but you’ll recognize some of the voices. Sean Mitchell is the vocalist who sings the DQ jingle, ‘That’s what I like about Texas,’ while Erika Stevens sang ‘God Bless America’ at one of the World Series games in Arlington last season. Lani Stacy sings with the Grapevine Opry, comedian/MC Zac Wilson was cast as Goofy at Walt Disney World, and Alecia Echols appears with Granbury Live. Her husband Mike plays a mean fiddle when he’s not leading the music at First Baptist – Seagoville.
Brown promises an opportunity for a local talent to join the troupe later this season.
“We feature a Rising Star in every concert,” Brown said. “We’ll actually hold auditions in Irving this March to select someone, usually a young person, to come out and sing a couple of songs. They’ll be folks you haven’t seen before, maybe without a lot of professional experience but really good vocalists.”
The Valentine show featured a 14-year old girl from Mansfield as the designated Rising Star.
The decision to locate in Irving for the 2013 season came easily, according to Brown.
“We’re excited to come to Irving,” said Brown. “We were looking for a location in the mid-cities and put our feelers out. Four cities responded. The City government and staff at Irving was far above anything else, and we really wanted to work with them. The facility at Singley is the perfect size for us, with a perfect layout, free parking, and no steps to climb up.
“We’re happy with our decision to move to Irving.”
Learn more at www.thedfwallstars.com
Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 09:41
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Andrew McElwee
The Irving Black Arts Council kicked off this year's Black History Month with The Diaspora: From Motherland to the Homeland. A reception for art exhibit was hosted at the Irving Arts Center on Feb. 2. Featuring a gallery of cultural portraits and wood carvings, the exhibit treats art-lovers to impressionistic landscapes, ethnic realism pieces and carvings reminiscent of African heritage.
Three prominent African-American artists, George Cephus, Jr., Willie James Johnson, and Murielle White, created the works. It's not often you get to meet the masters behind the masterpieces. But all three artists could be seen mingling about the reception, enjoying refreshments with patrons, and later engaging in a Q & A session.
George Cephas, Jr., originally from Louisiana and a graduate of University of North Texas graduate, was pleased to show off his realism portraits and landscapes. An artist for 40-plus years, he continues to paint and runs a design studio in Dallas.
"I think it has a real strong impact," said Cephas, when asked about his artistic influence. "I think [people] are amazed at how my colors go well together in my paintings, and they like how much effort I put into it."
Many of the carvings on display also belonged to Mr. Cephas, whose woodworking further spurs on his creativity. Like Michelangelo, he possesses the ability to see the work of art in the raw material, waiting to be released.
Willie James Johnson, a Dallas native, offered a more spiritual side to his works. An evangelical minister for over 50 years, his artistic prowess has developed alongside his preaching. Both talents seem to provide a sort of back-and-forth inspiration between them.
"I have been painting for 60 years and an evangelist for 52 years," said Johnson. "God gave me this ability, because I've never been to school. So I feel good about being out here."
Without any formal training, Reverend Johnson's ability to create striking renditions of Christ or the America bald eagle is truly a spiritual gift.
If diversity could be embodied in someone, it is definitely Ms. Murielle White. Born and raised in Paris, her parentage is a unique blend of Asian, Indian, and French. Skilled in traditional Chinese landscape painting and educated at the University of South Florida (and UNT), her portraits bring out her multicultural identity through the abstract and the impressionistic.
"It's very different for me because I'm not American," said White, when asked about displaying her work locally. "I feel very privileged to showcase my work here, and make it all fit in."
Though not from the United States, her diverse background nonetheless enables her to connect with the African-American community. Ms. White has also been a featured artist in several national competitions, and currently teaches holds a professorship in art at the University of North Texas.
The Diaspora: From Motherland to the Homeland is truly an experience to share, no matter what your heritage. If anything, it is a reminder of how ethnicity and creativity has helped shape America into what it is today.
The exhibit runs through Feb. 28. For more information, visit www.irvingartscenter.com or call 972.252.ARTS.
Last Updated on Sunday, 10 February 2013 22:05
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
His voice dried our tears after September 11, 2001 – now former New York Police Officer Daniel Rodriguez will be the featured performer as the Entertainment Series of Irving launches its 2012-2013 season.
On Thursday, Sep. 27at 7:30 pm, patrons at the Irving Arts Center/Carpenter Hall will hear the acclaimed tenor as he is joined by his wife, soprano Marla Kavanaugh of New Zealand.
“It was the events of 911 that brought acclaim for Daniel Rodriguez, but he was actually a classically trained musician before he started singing ‘God Bless America’ for all those baseball games and so forth,” said Marlene Steward, President of the Entertainment Series, now entering its 57th year.
It will be a diverse season for the group. “We’re not just an orchestra, we’re not just plays and we’re not just musicals,” said Cathy O’Donnell who handles publicity for the city’s oldest arts group.
“We’re first class entertainment at affordable prices. And we’re glad to be part of the wonderful entertainment offerings in Irving.”
Other performances will include hometown favorite Amy Stevenson Nov. 16, the Abrams Brothers on Jan. 29, 2013 and Floyd Cramer’s grandson, Jason Coleman, on April 8, 2013.
Learn more at www.entertainmentseries.com.
Last Updated on Sunday, 30 September 2012 21:19