Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Heart-Warming News for Lovers and Lovers of Beautiful Music!

The Union City Chamber Players are back at Arts at St. John's this Sunday, February 10th at 3 p.m. Featuring violinist Peter Borten, mezzo-soprano Bernadette LaFond and pianist Marina Korsakova-Kreyn

Especially if you're in to "Rach" music.
This may sound like quite a departure from our favorite neighborhood classical music group, The Union City Chamber Players. However, they do have some experience performing this type of music every now and then.  Peter Borten, founder of the Union City Players, has been known to blast "Rach" in his car stereo after the kids are dropped off for school in the morning. He likes to crank it!

This is why you must attend the concert this Sunday, February 10th at 3 p.m. Cause man, If you love Rach' or rather Rachmaninoff, you're in for a pre-Valentine's Day treat.  Young love at its most dramatic can only be best expressed by a horny teenage boy during the turn-of-the-century.

In the words of Peter Borten
"Oh, gentle feelings, soft sounds, the goodness and the gradual stilling of a soul that has been moved; the melting happiness of the first tender, touching joys of love—where are you? Where are you?" exclaims Turgenev in First Love. Rachmaninoff wrote both of the songs we are performing this Sunday at the age of 17 and in the throes of his first love—a summer romance in 1890 with the bewitching 15-year-old Vera Skalon, a close friend of his cousin and future wife, Natalya Satina (then only 13). All of them were staying at Ivanovka, the bucolic country estate belonging to Natalya’s aristocratic family, playing music constantly and enjoying rural pleasures. Ivanovka became Rachmaninoff’s refuge for the next several decades, until he emigrated to America in the wake of the 1917 revolution.

Vera (left) and Natalya at about the time Rachmaninoff met Vera.

Rachmaninoff’s feelings for Vera unleashed a compositional outburst, and he dedicated a Romance as well as the song In the Silence of the Secret Night, with a text by Fet, to her:
 O, long in the silence of the secret night
I hear your subtle whisp’ring, see your easy glance
I am drunk, and against all reason
I’ll wake the silent night with your beloved name!

 When the couple was discovered holding hands, Rachmaninoff was forbidden to write to her; after the summer, he sent his messages to Vera, whom he affectionately called his “little psychopath,” through her older sister. Although he would eventually marry his cousin Natalya (to whom the other song on our program was dedicated), Rachmaninoff wrote nearly a hundred letters to Vera and was devastated by her marriage. Shortly before her death at the age of 34, Vera burned all of the composer’s letters.

 Asked once about the source of his inspiration, Rachmaninoff replied, ““Love. Love – this is a never fading source of inspiration. It inspires like nothing else. To love means to combine happiness and force of the mind. It becomes a stimulus for the flourishing of intellectual energy, and as such – for creativity.”

The Young Rachmaninoff

Call me old-fashioned but if my daughter got a letter from a young man, referring to her as his "little psychopath" a restraining order would be on my to-do list. Ahh teenagers!! You gotta love 'em and you gotta bring them to this concert.  Other musical compositions include works by Mozart, Gounod, Strauss, Massenet and Faure´. Bring your sweethearts or your sweet self. The donation is $8 and children are free. Wine and scrumptious things will be on hand to eat afterward.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What a week!!

Union City Chamber Players Provide Calm After the Storm
November has just begun and haven't we all had enough? I think  this will be the most memorable week in the Northeast since 9/11.  My heart goes out to all of you readers who endured this storm. If you get this blog post, you probably have electricity, so please pass this on to all your friends who are in the dark.

My friends, there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a neighborhood concert.  Bring us your hungry, tired and powerless to Arts at St. John's this Sunday, November 11th at 3 p.m.  Arts at St. John's is proud to once again to present the Union City Chamber Players, the brainchild of  Union City resident and violinist Peter Borten, along with his opera singer wife Bernadette LaFond a mezzo soprano who has performed with the New York City Opera and the Dallas Lyric Opera, to name a few. Peter Borten has performed extensively in Europe and was a silver medalist in the International Chamber Music Competition held in Stresa, Italy.

Once again, inspired by the beauty of the space at Arts at St. John's and its flawless acoustics, both these artists came out of the woodwork (or rather the "hood" work) to share their world-renowned gifts with us all. I had the pleasure of seeing their inaugural performance last September, a "Schubertiade," featuring the music of Franz Shubert. It was a homage to the chamber music afternoons Schubert hosted himself.  This ensemble of players (violinist and violist Peter Borten, cellist Annette Espada,  violist Jack Rosenberg, pianist Marina Korsakova-Kreyn, and mezzo soprano Bernadette LaFond) gave a Carnegie-worthy performance, in my opinion.

If you missed that concert, you will have another chance to hear them  Sunday, November 11th at 3 p.m. This time, the Union City Chamber Players will be performing Bach, Brahms, and Barber with Bernadette LaFond singing, Peter Borten on viola and violin, along with pianists Marina Korsakova-Kreyn and Leslie Frost.

 Peter Borten's reflection on these pieces to be performed: "My own response to the music has to do with the almost unbearable intensity Bach manages to sustain for about seven minutes, and the pleasure-in-pain aspect of that, a fascinating contradiction. Why does listening to music that speaks of suffering give us a kind of rarefied nourishment we then begin to crave? It's a kind of mystery."

An afternoon of much needed beauty will only cost: $8 for adults (and kids are free). A reception will be held afterward with a little something to eat and a much needed glass of wine.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Cabaret was GREAT!

This past Saturday Arts at St. John's was once again graced by the Donovan Ensemble with their Fall Revival Cabaret. Betwixt the show, wine, music, poetry, laughter and altogether joy the evening was an occasion that all present enjoyed to a maximum.
Christine Santelli was gracious enough to come and play the blues for us, and she was wonderful! Please check her music out at http://www.christinesantelli.com/fr_home.cfm
 Guinevere and Sarah did some tap dancing.
Biolu Min Essence and Caridad Rivera put on a song for us!
 Fellow blogger Melissa Murray-Mutch entertained.
 Jay Hebert and Jacqueline Thompson of Union City Opera sang to our hearts!
 Billy Joe dazzled us with fire and candy!
 Peter Borten and Bernadette Lafond of the Union City Chamber Players stirred our souls with beautiful music.
The whole act list was such:

Christine Santelli (Blues)
Mavis Pan (Jazz)
Peter Borten and Bernadette Lafond (Union City Chamber Players)
Jay Hebert and Jacqueline Thompson (Union City Opera)
Solangel and David Vasquez (Song and Guitar)
Joe Kolbow and Johnnie Niel (Hosts)
Karen Ethelsdattar (Poetry)
Melissa Murray-Mutch (Theater)
Aimee German (Comedy)
Guinivere DiPiazza and Sarah Kaye (Tap Dance)
Billy Joe (Magic)
Biolu Min Essence (Song)
Caridad Rivera (Dance)

All people of all ages were very impressed, and have us chomping at the bit to go to the next show! We'll let you know when the Donovan Ensemble and the Cabaret will return to St. John's.

We also thank Yvonne Selen for the delectable food that she provided for everyone! It was delicious.

Photo credit due to Gennarose Pope.

Please leave a comment below and tell us how much you enjoyed the evening  :-D

Friday, October 5, 2012

Revival Cabaret Night Returns October 6th at 6:30 p.m.

A fun filled, soul stirring and somewhat irreverent evening of Comedy, Music and Art.
Put down the Ipad, the Nook and the Kindle fire.  It's time for a holiday and I'm not talking about Christopher Columbus. A night of fun and entertainment awaits you at Arts at St. John's this Saturday, October 6th at 6:30 p.m located at 1516 Palisade Avenue in Union City, NJ. Hosted by the world famous Donovan Ensemble and a host of other performers. Tickets are $15 at the door or get them in advance for $11 on http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/280662

Health and Wellness Back with a Vengance

We are back and a little behind on our blog because we've been busy!! We are into week 2 of our Fall Health and Wellness program with some old favorites and some all new classes from September 25th- December 18th. Here's the run down:
Tuesday Nights
• 6:30-7:25 Sculpt and Tone
• 6:30-7:25 Belly Dancing
• 7:30-8:25 Zumba®
• 7:30-8:40 Kundalini Yoga
• 8:45-9:30 Meditation
Saturday Mornings
• 8:30-9:25 Tai Chi
• 9:30-9:25 Zumba       
• 9:30-10:25 Kundalini
•10:30-11:25 Boot Camp
• 11:30-12:25 Gymnastics 6-9yrs
• 11:45-12:30 Meditation
• 12:30-1:25 Gymnastics 10-14yrs

I had the  opportunity to take my first Boot Camp class.  I was rather nervous, thinking that this will truly kill me.  I pictured a drill sergeant reminding me how weak and pathetic I am while attempting  to eek out a push-up. The instructor, Tony Gomez, whom you may have seen outpacing everyone in the annual O'Connell Run here in Union City, looks like he could easily fill in for Captain America.  Before we started Tony gave us his story which in a sense, is history.  “I used to obese” he tells us. Yeah, right.  I couldn't  believe it. I thought surely he’s kidding. However he showed us skeptics in the class, a photo of himself in 2009. Sure enough, Boot camp instructor Tony was more or less, back then, "Fat Tony".  Sorry for the Simpson’s reference, but it was hard to believe there was a “Fat Tony” photo on his cell phone who  transformed himself into “Fit Tony”-(sorry again! but seriously Iron Man fit)  Before I could pick up my jaw we were working out.  There I am trying to do something--badly and here he comes. “Oh no!” I panic.  “I’m not doing it right! I really am a pathetic weakling!!” But instead he just gives me an adjustment and shows me the right way to do the exercise. No humiliation tactics were necessary. Whew! So now I think I can do this and so can you. We are lucky to have once again amazing instructors in a beautiful place--newly painted, in the neighborhood without having to go to Hoboken. I’m not down on Hoboken, it’s just nice to know we have something nice in our neck of the hood.  Also there are more classes this time, even something for kids!!  A rather new and fabulous  addition to the Health and Wellness roster  is  Gymnastics for kids.  Taught by Roxy Dobre-- she is the real thing. Trained in Romania, Roxy, performed with Ringling Brothers and toured  Asia and Europe. Along with favorites from last summer (Belly Dancing, Kundalini Yoga and Meditation) our new classes include Tai ChiVinyasa Yoga, Sculpt and Tone and Zumba ya'll. Now friends of St. John’s, please do not wait until the day after Thanksgiving to decide to turn over a new leaf. Start today and come to the feast with all the trimmings on your gut instead of the on the turkey! Can I get a witness? You have no excuse. Especially on Saturdays, darn it!  Classes are reasonably priced, especially if you sign up for 10 classes at $12 per class but one can drop in for $15 if you sign up as a member for $20.  A full class schedule can be found at www.StJohnsUC.com. See you there!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tomorrow, September 15, 2012, I'll be at the Union City Arts & Crafts Festival at Ellsworth Park on New York Avenue at 23rd Street. The Festival is from 10 to 6, admission is free, and there will be food and drink, and live music & dance performances.

I'll have a table set up to do portraits, caricatures, comic book or cartoon characters, or whatever my customers want me to draw. I'll also have a couple of easels set up this year to display some of my artwork more visibly to passersby. 

I can do a portrait or caricature of you live, which can take 30 minutes to an hour, or if you prefer, you can contact me at a later date, and I can work from photo reference, which may be a bit more expensive, but gives me more time to work on your piece with greater care, giving it a more detailed and less "sketchy" look.

To give you an idea of what I'm capable of, here are some samples of my work:

Here is a portrait, done live: 

Here is a caricature, done live, for someone who asked that his head be drawn on a giraffe:

Here is a portrait done at home from a photograph. Note that it has a more delicate, controlled, less "sketchy" look to it:

This is an ink caricature done on commission for a customer who wanted to be drawn in his Captain Kirk uniform, posed with Star Trek actress Marina Sirtis on bridge of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation:
This is a pencil sketch of an eight-and-a-half-year-old NJ Devils fan:

 This an 18th birthday card for another New Jersey Devils fan:

This is a 10th birthday card for a boy that was intended tie in thematically with his birthday gift. The gift was an hourglass with green sand (hence the green rocks draw into the black hole), and a pair of books on cars, one of which bears a cover depicting a car resembling the spaceship he's riding in the illustration:

And for comics art lovers, here is the Hulk doing his thing:

These and other artwork is available on my Facebook page in the following albums:

Portraits & Caricatures
Live Figure Drawing
Miscellaneous Artwork

See you at the Festival!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Health and Wellness Class Have Only Just Begun

“IT’S ALIVE!!” A very famous scientist once cried.

Yes, ASJ Health and Wellness is in full effect here in Union City. A fairly good turn out on was in store on our first official opening on July 17th at Arts at St. John’s.  Visitors got to meet our very own super artists, Felix Gross, Joe Kolbow, Caridad Rivera and Guinevere DiPiazza. I’ve decided that they are more or less like the neighborhood  “Avengers” without the ginormous green, muscular dude, however I’m told that Guinevere DiPiazza gives a smashing workout in her Strength and Stretch class. She is petite, probably the size of Hulk’s thumb but just as mighty. GDP is apparently capable of kicking some major flabby ass. A very sweaty friend of mine sauntered into a much-needed Yoga class with Felix Gross after sampling her S&S class. As the fluids continued to flow from his forehead, I asked my sweaty friend if he liked Guinevere’s class and he replied with some leftover panting saying “Yeah, I needed that.” And what you need to know about Guinevere’s talents is that there are many. Guinevere DiPiazza or “Lady Guinevere” in some legendary circles is a professional aerialist dancer, teacher, choreographer and personal trainer. A true artist, who followed her passion for being awesome, all the way from Michigan.  She has performed her aerial acrobatics for Usher, Lady Gaga, Flo Rida, T-Pain, Rob Base, DJ Grand Master Flash and New York Mayor Mayor Bloomberg.  Yes, she’s all that and a bucket of chicken. And she will teach you Aerial Acrobatics right here at ASJ!! She would like to teach a class and offer private lessons if you are interested.  What could be more interesting? You don’t have to be a wealthy upper-eastsider and you don’t have to wait for Groupon to hook you up. ASJ WILL DO IT FOR YOU!! If you don’t believe me check out her website:    http://www.
I also had the great fortune to sit in on Felix GrossKundalini Yoga Class. I was challenged by the notion of sitting still and clearing my mind. Really? I thought to myself surely this guy is asking the impossible. Clear my mind? That’s like asking someone to get through the day without a cellphone.  But nonetheless, I managed to focus.  I focused and listened to the sound of calm and managed to shut out status reports on Facebook. I think I actually liked that. I found that class accessible and unintimidating. Felix Gross is a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor and has been teaching in New York and New Jersey for 1and half years.

Caridad Rivera ASJ’s resident Belly Dance teacher, who taught me all of my fabulous moves. A taste for the exotic and a desire to put your right hip in and take your right hip out and put your right hip in and shake it all about with a beaded skirt. Just think of it as a sort of centuries old, grown-up version of the kid’s game designed to make you feel like Cleopatra. Caridad who is often mistaken for an Arabian Disney Princess, is actually a Hudson County Cuban Princess who incorporates classic Egyptian, Moroccan and Middle Eastern Belly Dancing styles, (with a little tribal dancing) focusing on abs and core work then finishing with improvisation and cool choreography to impress your friends!!                            
And last but not least one of founding fathers of Arts at St. John’s Joe Kolbow a.k.a Merrill Garrick, one half of the Donovan Ensemble duo, who is also one of the brains behind this endeavor to keep us all healthy and alive. If you sign up for classes that run until September 4th and find a newer you, Aside from bringing his theatrical talents, locally, nationally and internationally, Joe is teaching Mediation on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m.  Classes begin with a short talk about mindfulness and an instruction in a simple meditation. So if Joe, tells you to sit down and be quiet, you better do it or else!! This way you won’t confuse the path of enlightenment for Port Authority Bus Terminal.

 So on Tuesdays, drop in or sign up for classes, starting at 5:45 p.m. and running until September 4th. One can enter St. John’s feeling one with the universe and taking in the sweet smell of incense and herbal tea all included!!!  Here's the schedule: 

* 5:45-6:45 Belly Dancing
* 6:00-7:00 Stretch and Strength
* 7:00-8:00 Kundalini Yoga 
* 8:15-9:00 Guided Meditation
* Saturday 11:00 am - 11:45 Guided Meditation 

For more info: ASJWellness@gmail.com