Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wynton Marsalis: Classic Jazz

Fresh from a Friday-night gig at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra are coming to Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium for a concert Saturday.

Article by Brian Mackey
The State Journal-Register

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An intimate cabaret setting for Susan Werner concert

“Over the course of her colorful career, singer songwriter Susan Werner has cultivated a reputation as a daring and innovative songwriter with a killer live show. She boldly endeavors to weave old with new to create altogether new genres of music when existing ones do not suit her muse, and she regularly keeps audiences guessing and laughing simultaneously. Most of her work infuses traditional music styles and methods with her unmistakable contemporary worldview, constantly challenging listeners to experience music from a fresh and unexpected perspective.”

This great quote comes from Susan Werner’s official bio on her website,, and I feel like it really sums up my own experience seeing her in concert. I find her to be an inspiring singer songwriter whose skill and talent is impressive, but whose warmth is inviting enough to make the concert venue feel like we are all guests in her living room.

I’m delighted that the UIS performance, coming up on Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m. in the Studio Theatre, will be arranged in an intimate cabaret style. Patrons can choose to sit either at small tables or in the raked auditorium-style seating just beyond the tables. A bar will be located in the foyer of the theatre and patrons will be able to bring beverages into the venue with them. It has been several years since we presented a performance with this kind of set-up in the Studio Theatre. I have fond memories of the Eddie from Ohio concert ( and am confident we can create the same kind of atmosphere with Susan Werner’s concert.

So what can you expect from a Susan Werner concert? Well, Werner sings and plays guitar and piano, and will be joined on stage by a bass player. And her style? A quick scan through the descriptions of some of her most recent albums helps tell the story of her own musical evolution:

Classics – Released less than a month ago, this is an album of new string instrument arrangements of pop songwriter tunes from the 1960s and 1970s. Classics highlights elegance and sophistication previously overlooked in the first lives of songs like Paul Simon’s A Hazy Shade of Winter, Marvin Gaye’s Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed and America’s Lonely People. Ms. Werner will only be performing in a duo for the UIS performance, but she will most likely present some of these tunes with the evening’s instrumentation, and you will undoubtedly be able to pick up the album while you are here.

The Gospel Truth – This is Werner’s 2007 “agnostic gospel” album, a collection of original songs blending faith and doubt and drawing on music traditions from Folk/Bluegrass to Americana to R&B/Soul/Spiritual. It has been praised religious believers and non-believers alike across the country and earned the 2007 Top Folk Album of the Year by NPR/Folk Alley and WUMB and likely had a strong hand in Werner being named Best Contemporary Artist at the 2008 International Folk Alliance music conference.

I Can’t Be New – In this 2004 release, Werner presented her original songs written in the style of Gershwin and Cole Porter, but from a present-day woman’s point of view. I love these songs!

I hope you’ll give her a listen online and then also in person at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 6 at the UIS Studio Theater. Tickets are available at the Sangamon Auditorium Ticket Office, 217.206.6160 or online at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

‘First Person’ takes viewers on a journey with words, photos and music

Photo: Violent surf and a petrel are seen from an icebreaker research ship in the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica. Maria Stenzel/National Geographic Image Collection
Ensemble Galilei, Neal Conan and the actress Lily Knight are coming to Springfield to present “First Person: Stories From the Edge of the World.” The show combines Ensemble Galilei’s early, traditional and Celtic music with images from the archives of the National Geographic Society and text by and about explorers throughout history.

Article by Brian Mackey
The State Journal-Register

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exploring the world through music, stories and pictures

On February 21, Sangamon Auditorium will host a performance of First Person: Stories from the Edge of the World. This performance is a collaboration between Ensemble Galilei (famous for Celtic, early music, and original works), Neal Conan (famous for being on National Public Radio) and the National Geographic Society (famous for the magazine full of pretty pictures). This show looks at the adventures of famous explorers like George Mallory, Charles Darwin and Jacques Cousteau through their own words. Neal Conan will read excerpts from their letters and journals while Ensemble Galilei plays music to go with it. You can get a better idea of the type of music Ensemble Galilei plays by listening to excerpts from songs from this project here. (Scroll down and you'll see a list of songs on the left side of the webpage.) At the same time as the music and narration, pictures from the National Geographic collection will be projected on a giant screen on stage. Everything in the show was carefully chosen to help recreate the emotions of exploration: joy, fear, wonder, and the desire to know more.

First Person: Stories from the Edge of the World
Ensemble Galilei with NPR's Neal Conan
Saturday, February 21, 8 p.m.
click here to get tickets or learn more

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Class Acts celebrates 500,000th attendee!

By the end of this season over 500,000 people will have attended a Class Acts performance at Sangamon Auditorium! The Class Acts program was introduced in fall 1986 to encourage classroom focus on the arts. Though this program, students from central Illinois have seen nearly 250 productions, ranging from children’s theater to Shakespeare to international music to dance, spanning all forms of the performing arts.

The goal of Class Acts is to present a diverse performing arts program for youth in support of educational and cultural goals mandated by the State of Illinois for grades K through 12. Class Acts strives to assist youth in understanding the nature of the performing arts by providing students with the experience of live performance and furnishing teaching packets to assist teachers. Class Acts endeavors to introduce students to new ideas that will promote their personal and social well being as well as their educational growth through familiarizing them with new forms of communication and acquainting them with the existence of other cultures and the contribution they have made to the world.

Sangamon Auditorium will celebrate the 500,000th attendee in conjunction with the performances of Mad Science: CSI: Live! on Monday, March 30. Watch the blog for updates of our celebration plans!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An exciting weekend at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS!

It was an exciting weekend at Sangamon Auditorium, UIS! Friday, January 30 brought us both a Class Acts and a Family Series performance of Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny. For the Class Acts performance, over 1,000 children and their teachers from as near as Springfield and as far away as Bunker Hill and Litchfield joined us for puppet performances of some of their favorite storybooks. Following the performance, the puppeteers led a post-show discussion with the audience and showed them how some of the puppets were made.

Friday evening, families joined us for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, first in the lobby and then in the Auditorium for the main event. Activities in the lobby included puppet-making, visiting with *actual* bunnies from Henson-Robinson Zoo, and learning about the moon from UIS astronomy faculty, Dr. John Martin.

On Saturday, January 31, visiting artists Jay Ungar and Molly Mason performed alongside the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band and the Springfield International Folk Dancers at “An Early Birthday Party for A. Lincoln.” This unique event came about through months of hard work on the part of many parties involved. Todd Cranson, assistant director of co-curricular music at UIS and conductor of the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Band, collaborated with Jay and Molly to create a program that would honor our 16th President while also highlighting the talents of the performers involved, even creating new arrangements for the band. Here are Todd Cranson and Rose Schweikhart-Cranson pictured with Jay Ungar and Molly Mason:

Amy Zepp, a UIS graduate student, worked to coordinate the Springfield International Folk Dancers’ participation in the event. Here are some of the dancers:

Following the concert, the audience and performers congregated in the lobby for birthday cake, made from a Mary Todd Lincoln recipe. The cake was cut by Auditorium Director Bob Vaughn and UIS Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Margot Duley.