Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Sorcerer enthralls

The Sorcerer: Gilbert & Sullivan Society of AustinYes, it’s silly; yes, it will make you laugh. The Sorcerer is the current production of the Gilbert & Sulllivan Society of Austin.

A mysterious potion in a teapot causes upheaval in a country village. Love is everywhere but perhaps not always where it should be.

Not least among the pleasures is a full accompaniment for the excellent vocalists provided by the Gillman Light Opera Orchestra under the expert direction of Jeffrey Jones-Ragona: nineteen instrumentalists!

There’s no stinting on the fine chorus: ten men and ten women! The principal parts are sung by old favorites and new. Each is wonderful in his or her individual fashion, and there’s no justice in singling out anyone.

All are easily understood, thanks to the small auditorium with its excellent acoustics. There are, nevertheless, supertitles for all dialogue and lyrics. The libretto is available on line, but why spoil the story in advance if it’s unfamiliar? Keep the suspense. Read it after the performance.

Direction, costumes, lighting, set and sound design, stage business, and choreography are all just as they should be. We attended a performance preceded by an hour-long children’s program. Little children attended that and then stayed for the two-act show afterwards. The Sorcerer is truly a delight for audiences of all ages.

There are no bad seats in the house at the Worley Barton Theater, Brentwood Christian School, 11908 North Lamar. Remaining performances are:

Thursday, June 25; 7:30 pm
Friday, June 26; 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 27; 2 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 28; 2 pm

Ticket prices are most reasonable, from $7 to $25. The Sorcerer is a sparkling jewel, one not to be missed.

Juneteenth parade 2015: a beautiful day!

Juneteenth 2015This was Year 150 for Juneteenth, and Austin turned out in great numbers to observe the occasion.

The Austin All Star Band is larger and sharper than ever. The Spirit of the Drum and Murchison Middle School were among the aggregations that provided music for the day. It was good to see children riding in the Wells Fargo stagecoach; some years it runs the course empty.

Politicos turned out in force, and volunteers were encouraging registration to vote. The weather, although threatening, cooperated; the downpour did not arrive until there’d been time to picnic.

See pictures and unedited videos for a hint of Juneteenth in Austin.

Austin conjunto festival: 25 years of bringing happiness

conjunto t-shirtsHappy music makes for happy people and happy feet. The Austin conjunto festival marked its 25th anniversary on Sunday, May 3, established by Johnny Degollado all those years ago, when people first gathered in July in the heat, but in the shade of Parque Zaragoza, to hear and dance to the many rhythms of the accordion, bajo sexto, and other customary members of a traditional conjunto, so complex yet simple enough to set up in about five minutes.

The festival and dance contest were a happy component of the tenth Fiestas Patrias of Austin celebration of Cinco de Mayo. The weather was more than cooperative under the shade of the trees and the pavilion at Fiesta Gardens, with a beautiful breeze playing as children scampered and people of all ages danced and danced. Seven conjuntos were on the bill; we could be present for the first two only: Conjunto Aztlan and Santiago Jimenez, Jr.

This event is always perfect for music-lovers of all ages. See still images and unedited videos from this year’s festival and resolve to attend next year.

Don Giovanni: a disguished production

Don Giovanni: Austin Opera 2015If you miss the Austin Opera production of Don Giovanni (the May 3 Sunday matinee at 3 pm is the last live performance, with a KMFA live broadcast Don Giovanni beginning at the same time), you’ll miss a highlight of 2015 music and theater in Austin.

The music is always a delight to hear whether or not the opera is staged in such a fashion as to awake emotions and promote deep engagement with the plot. So many times, for example, Donna Elvira is almost a figure of ridicule; not so in this staging. The entire cast sings beautifully, alone and with other members; the sets and lighting are evocative and speedily set up for each succeeding scene so that no virtually no time is expended in waiting and so that the momentum never flags. All stage business is inventive, but never to the extent that outpourings of song are hindered. The singers are not just vocally agile; they are physically agile, to the extent that they appear able to enjoy second careers as acrobats and dancers. It would be unfair to single out any individual member of the cast for particular distinction: everyone sounded wonderful, as did the orchestra and chorus.

The Friday night audience was attentive from beginning to end; no departures were observed during the sole, brief intermission; enthusiastic applause lasted and lasted. Check on line for available remaining tickets for Don Giovanni (as low as $15 and there are no bad seats), and don’t forget the live broadcast. What a triumph!

The circus is in town!

Circo Hermanos Vazquez 2015Circo Hermanos Vazquez+ is smartly paced and choreographed and very beautiful as a spectacle. The costumes are not extravagant, but they are fresh and very becoming to the artists, who are of the first class. The band is live. The clowns are laugh-out-loud funny.

Circo Hermanos Vazquez is set up at Highland Mall through this coming Sunday, April 12, when there will be shows at 2, 5, and 8 pm. Monday through Thursday weekday shows are at 7:30 pm. On Friday and Saturday, the shows begin at 6 and at 9 pm. Tickets may be purchased on line; the box office is open every day beginning at 10 am. Discount coupons admitting a child under 10 accompanied by an adult with a paid-for ticket are to be found around town; there was a plentiful supply at Chango’s on the Drag. Doors open a half hour before the spectacle begins.

The popcorn (palomitas) was fresh; the beverage was Coca-Cola. Opportunities for souvenir photographs with the members of the circus are numerous.

Photographs and unedited videos give only the merest notion of what a very fine show this is, definitely a treat for all ages.

Honk!Tx 2015: joyous sights and sounds

dancing in the streets

dancing in the streets

HONK!TX festival of community street bands brings life to the streets of Austin. For the fifth year, music and dance were to be found all over town, all free to those enjoying the event.

This is Austin as we know and love it. Some contingent (Wheatsville Co-op?) was offering kazoos to the onlookers during Sunday’s free parade to the park. They were put into immediate use.

View still images and unedited videos to see an acquaintance or to realize what you missed, if you did miss it. And if you did, resolve to listen for it next year and let your ears lead you to some of the best fun Austin offers.

Juneteenth parade

Saturday’s parade in observance of Emancipation Day brought out the politicians, including Chris Riley, Sheryl Cole, Mike Martinez, Steve Adler, Kirk Watson, and more; Riley cruised by on a bicycle and Martinez walked the route in flip-flops. Police chief Acevedo traveled the route on foot as well.

The mood was festive, as always. Apart from the Wells Fargo team of four drawing a stagecoach, horses were few this year. Church groups, City departments, corporate sponsors including H-E-B, and small businesses were there. The most appreciated were the providers of music, including Spirit of the Drum, the Austin All Star Band, WAMM, and bands all the way from Hearne and Houston.

We usually watch from a spot across the street from the Fresh Up Club. This year we returned to the Gonzalo Garza Independence School, where we admired the butterfly garden.

There’s no way to capture the spirit, really, but these unedited videos and pix made the attempt.

H.M.S. Pinafore: this saucy ship’s a beauty

This production of H.M.S. Pinafore captivates. The orchestra’s bigger and brighter than ever (19 members counted), and so’s the chorus (28 members counted). Both the men and the women of the chorus excel, and for once the men get to dance more than the women. The orchestra is bold and bright, a true pleasure to hear.

Austin favorites Holton Johnson, Russell Gregory, Janette Jones, and David Fontenot reprised starring roles to great applause; Gil Zilkha as the captain and Carol Brown as Josephine, his daughter, shone. We attended the Sunday matinee that was preceded by a one-hour program for young people. H.M.S. Pinafore held the attention of children for the entire performance. There was no difficulty at all in understanding the snappy lyrics, so clearly sung, but there are supertitles above the stage for anyone who may find them to be a helpful supplement to the performance.

This show is crammed with songs that are not to be forgotten. Most are jaunty and funny; some are a bit more serious and are treated so (for example, “Refrain, audacious tar”). Pinafore will make happy people happier and will brighten the darkest day.

Remaining performances are: Thursday, June 19, 7:30 pm; Friday, June 20, 7:30 pm; Saturday, June 21, 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sunday, June 22, 2 pm. All seats are reserved; tickets may be purchased on line for pick-up at the theater (Brentwood Chistian School, 11908 North Lamar).

Thank you, Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin!

The circus: mejor que nunca!

Circo Hermanos Vazquez is back in town, set up in the Highland Mall parking lot, and it truly is “better than ever,” which is saying something!

The seats in the capacious and sturdy big top are more comfortable than ever. No bad seats are to be found. There’s an eight-person live band again this year to accompany the acts, and the volume is not too loud for anyone, including all the infants, toddlers, and older children at the show attended. There are porta-privies available as there are at most events in Austin, and there are also sinks with soap for hand-washing inside the tent near the food-service area. The lighting seems to be entirely LED and provides excellent illumination. The audience is allowed to take still pictures and videos, so long as no flash is used.

The artists without exception were most entertaining and the acts were smartly paced and well done. They included funny dogs, a beautiful liberty act with white and dark Arabian horses, Russian swing, balance performances, an ingenious act featuring diabolos or Chinese yo-yos, aerial shows, two outstanding clown acts, and more. We were spared the cliches of the “wheel of death” and the “motorcycle globe of death.”

There’s a fifteen-minute intermission, during which attendees may have their pictures taken with the beautiful dog-act lady and some of the featured canines, with the result printed on the spot. Following the circus, there were two other photo opportunities, with the clowns and with the beautiful dancing girls.

Remaining shows are tonight (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30 pm, plus Friday and Saturday at 6 pm and 9 pm, with the last performances on Sunday, April 13, at 2 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm.

Prices are: adult general admission, $40.00; adult senior general admission, $35.00; children’s admission, $15; so-called “better seats” for adults, $50.00, and for senior adults, $45.00; with “VIP” adult seats going for $60.00. Radio 107.7-fm is stationed at Highland to give away free promotional items.

There’s no need at all to know any Spanish to enjoy this Circo Hermanos Vazquez. Safety announcements are made in English for those who need it; after that, words are completely unnecessary. See a few pix and unedited videos; go to the circus!

The box office is open every day from 10 am to 9 pm; tickets are also sold at Fiesta Mart.

John Mueller Meat Co.





This is just some of the signage at this wonderful BBQ place on Pedernales Street.

John Mueller Meat Co. was selling out of everything quite early in the afternoon yesterday.

We caught some brisket just in time.

There were walk-up neighbors dining under the canopy, along by SXSWers. Everyone was happy, and rightly so.

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