The sound of the Phoenix Chorale can be something like an instantly addictive drug – often, listeners are hooked after hearing just a few notes sung a cappella, without accompaniment. In addition to winning Grammy Awards, the Chorale’s mesmerizing sound recently received even more recognition – iTunes named the choir’s recording Northern Lights: Choral Works by Ola Gjeilo as Best Classical Vocal Album of the Year.
Led by Artistic Director Charles Bruffy, the Chorale turns those clear, pure tones to holiday repertoire for a program scheduled for performances December 20-23 at venues around the Valley, including Brophy Chapel and Trinity Cathedral. While the concerts include traditional favorites like “I Saw Three Ships,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and the “Wexford Carol,” the centerpiece is a 10-movement suite called Gaudete! (“Rejoice”) written by former Phoenix Chorale director Anders Öhrwall, and performed by the Chorale in his memory.
Born in Sweden in 1932, Öhrwall founded the Bach Choir at Stockholm’s Church of Adolf Frederik, leading it for 36 years. He received a Swedish royal medal for his work, and conducted the Swedish Radio Choir and Youth Choir, the Stockholm Philharmonic Choir, and the Drottningholm Baroque Festival. Öhrwall was known not only for his meticulous rehearsal technique, but also for his numerous and popular choral arrangements and compositions.
Öhrwall conducted the Phoenix Chorale for two years when it was known as the Bach & Madrigal Society of Phoenix, leading the ensemble’s change of name to the Phoenix Bach Choir from 1990 to 1992. He died on February 4, 2012 at the age of 79.
The tunes of Gaudete come from a collection of Latin songs published in 1582 in Sweden, and while the melodies may be recognizable – from carols like “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” – the text is less familiar. Öhrwall’s work stands apart with its addition of a woodwind trio, featuring a local ensemble: the Paradise Winds. “It’s the clarity of the Phoenix Chorale that sets it apart, but also that they make such a warm sound,” Bruffy explains. “I think it’ll be a really nice and complete sonority in this pairing with instruments.”
Founded by bassoonist Joseph Kluesener, the Paradise Winds shape themselves into a flexible, varying ensemble depending on the requirements of the music. “For this concert,” says Kluesener, “there’s a combination of bassoon, oboe, and flute, and the repertoire divides the winds into different arrangements of those three instruments.” The oboist is Nikolaus Flickinger, and the flutist is Arizona State University professor Elizabeth Buck.
Kluesener, who also organizes Classical Revolution PHX, created the Paradise Winds as a genre-bending group in 2009 using ASU graduate students, alumni, and faculty. “That was the point,” he explains, “to control the programming, the repertoire we play, and to really get to know what our instruments can do together.”
As a testament to the group’s innovative and tight-knit sound, it’s been featured on American Public Media’s radio show Performance Today. Although the musicians don’t have a regular rehearsal schedule, they do enjoy a deep familiarity with their ensemble. “Everybody is really keenly capable,” says Kluesener, “so we don’t have to waste a lot of time mastering the vision of the presentation…because we’ve done so much together over the last three years.”
Beyond Öhrwall’s Gaudete, other holiday repertoire takes advantage of the Paradise Winds in different configurations – for example, Philip Stopford’s arrangement of “Silent Night” adds flute to the choir. “It’s one of my favorite songs throughout the year,” says Bruffy. “I love the melody of it, and the peace that it always evokes. It’s just quite lovely in its simplicity with an occasional fingerprint on the harmonies [from Stopford].” Born in 1977, Stopford has been compared to iconic choral composer John Rutter.
In the case of “Hark, the Herald Angels,” Bruffy says he told his friend Jim Taylor, “Hey, I like this piece, but I’m only going to have flute, oboe, and bassoon – can you hook me up?” Bruffy smiles and continues, “So he created this arrangement with the specifications of just the three instruments instead of a whole orchestra.” He laughs. “It’s the ‘Hark, the Herald’ that we know, but this time ‘Herald’ has a little more character.”
For contrast, the Chorale also performs three other arrangements of the classic Gaudete verse – one is from Phoenix Chorale soprano Kira Zeeman Rugen, who created her version for the male voices in a choir she conducted at ASU. Audiences even have the chance to sing along during a few favorite carols at each concert.
“One thing that I really like about the entirety of the program,” says Bruffy, “is that with the complexity and velocity…and even voracity of the season, the pieces we’re going to be doing are simply beautiful.”
Hugo Medina is a force to be reckoned with; he’s not just a talented muralist and the winner of the Public Art Award category in the newly announced Mayor’s Arts Awards, he’s someone who can rally a community and make things happen.
In this case, that “something” is an extraordinary public mural that will emerge over this weekend at the inaugural Phoenix Festival of the Arts. The mural will be extraordinary in both size and scope and it took a dynamo like Medina to make it all work.
Using Facebook, Medina put out a call to artists to participate in the project. “I wanted a diverse group of artists to get involved,” said Hugo. “Everything from accomplished muralists, to fine artists, students, graffiti artists, and novice painters.” Over 80 artists responded to his call.
Medina’s concept created a simple but elegant way to bring artists into contact with each other and the public. Each of the 80 artists will have a 4’ X 8’ wooden panel (donated to the festival by Home Depot) to make their own. In between each artist panel will be a blank panel where the community will be invited to participate. The two artists working on either side of the blank panel will collaborate on an idea for the community to realize.
This allows for each artist to make their own work, but also gives artists who may have never met previously the chance to work together. The only restriction on the work is that it not be negative and that it is in some way focused on Downtown Phoenix. By placing the blank community panels between the two artist panels, Medina is hoping that a natural flow will develop from one panel to the next.
The mural will be completed during the three-day festival and when done, will consist of 160 four-foot high panels, stretching for 1,280 feet. There will be several mural stations throughout the festival where the public can watch the artists work, or grab a brush and participate. Everyone is invited to lend a hand and make their mark, including kids.
Bring the whole family down to Hance Park this weekend to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts to make your mark on this unique public art project that is bringing artists and the public together to create something everyone can be proud of and enjoy.
“Come Monday morning, I’ll be working with the City of Phoenix to pack up the panels and move them to the corner of Central and Indian School,” said Medina. This is the new PHX Renews site at Indian School Road and Central Avenue; a large empty space that has been activated into temporary multi-use public space. “I’ll curate the placing of the panels around the park,” he continued. “Some will be placed along the fence to make them visible from the street, and others will be scattered along the paths within the fenced space.” The panels will remain at the site for the next three years.
If you go:
Event: Community Mural at Phoenix Festival of the Arts
When: Friday, Dec 7 through Sunday, Dec 9
Times: Friday 2 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What’s required: Your creativity. Paint, brushes and wood panel canvasses will be provided.
It’s Friday afternoon and half of your office has joked about cutting out early and having a beer. You daydream about it but you stay at your desk. Our unwritten rules about when we drink are ingrained. We’re supposed to cram it into a happy hour, often Thursday or Friday. The drinks are big, the food is small. That’s our workplace culture–the larger culture.
Welcome to Beer Culture.
The Phoenix Brewers Invitational (PBI) in Phoenix Heritage Square is a new event for Arizona and it is billed as, “an opportunity to provide the Arizona craft beer scene and the City of Phoenix with a signature event to help generate awareness of our developing craft beer culture.” Craft beer culture says that it’s OK for your local community to be involved in beer and beer events and this extends to our city leaders.
In most parts of the country, it wasn’t politically acceptable for politicians to be seen with a glass of beer. President Obama is credited with changing that thinking with his beer summits. He’s been photographed raising a pint of Guinness. He’s bought a round of Buds at the Iowa state fair. He’s had his chefs brew beer in the White House kitchen and famously shared them on the campaign trail.
The Mayors of beer culture-centric cities have always embraced beer. In San Diego, Mayor Jerry Sanders openly courts breweries to locate in San Diego County. Former Denver Mayor and now Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper once owned a brewery and is heavily involved in the Great American Beer Fest. Portland’s Mayors have traditionally opened the 25 year old Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) by tapping the first cask following a downtown parade. On Friday, December 7 at Noon, Phoenix Mayor is slated to open the Phoenix Brewers Invitational with a toast.
Did you miss that? Noon. Friday.
Famously, Postino Winecafe has a bumper sticker that reads, “Drinking Wine at Lunch is not a Crime.” That is true of wine culture and it is also true for those that enjoy good beer. If you’re not able to make the leap from work culture to beer culture you can still check out the fest with your worker-bee cred intact. The PIB is free to enter. You can check it out during your lunch hour and see what is being offered without paying. The PIB will have Food Trucks on hand and there is craft root beer.
If you want to partake, there will be over 60 breweries each offering a single beer. Over 25 styles will be represented. You need to purchase a commemorative mug and drink tickets. The glass will cost you $10. Tickets are $1 each for a 3 oz sample. The mug and the tickets can be used when you return after work on Friday, or Noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday.
Another tenet of beer culture is that beer should be enjoyed with food. Often at a festival, you’re enjoying great food with a tiny beer. The PIB will let you trade in four tokens for a full 12 oz serving. You can wash down the fare from Aji Mobile Food, Ole Dixie Southern Food, Torched Goodness, Emerson Fry Bread, Luncha Libre and Epic Hot Dogs with a hearty pour! Beer was meant to be enjoyed by the glass.
The Invitational is patterned after Portland’s Oregon Brewer’s Festival and it is one of the reasons that the city is referred to as Beervana. We expect that type of an event from such a beer city. Will Phoenix rise to the challenge? Will your Downtown Beer be a Friday afternoon one?
If you go:
Location: Phoenix Heritage Square, 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Dates: Friday & Saturday, Dec 7 & 8
Times: Noon to 10PM
Cost: Admission into the festival grounds is free, In order to consume beer, purchase of a 2012 souvenir mug is required & costs $ 10.00. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens. Tokens cost $ 1.00 per. Patrons pay four tokens for a full 12 oz. mug of beer or one token for a 3-oz. taste.
Friday, December 7th:
Headliner – Bird City,
Support – Versions of You, Cartoon Lion, We are Searchers, Inept Hero, Cosmic Goat, Libertine Social, Johnny Lee
Saturday, December 8th:
Headliner – 80 Proof,
Support – Black Bottom Lighters
Proceeds of the event benefit The Beer for Brains Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
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Mayor Greg Stanton will present the first-ever “Mayor’s Arts Awards” at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts this weekend.
Stanton launched the awards to highlight the cultural richness of Phoenix and recognize excellence from the visual and performing arts in the community. A panel of distinguished members from the arts and culture areas selected awardees in five categories based upon excellence and community impact.
Stanton will present the awards Saturday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. on the main stage at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts at Margaret T. Hance Park, 1202 N. 3rd St. in Phoenix.
“Arts and culture are vital to the social and economic well being of our city,” Stanton said. “They improve our quality of life, uplift our spirits and help attract and keep talented employees and innovative businesses in Phoenix. The Phoenix Festival of the Arts is an important opportunity for all of us to celebrate the breadth and depth of the arts and culture community in Phoenix.”
The winners of each category include:
Dance Organization Award
Scorpius Dance Theatre
Formed in 1999 by choreographer, Lisa Starry, Scorpius Dance Theatre is observing its 11th season in operation. The contemporary dance company has been a constant presence in the metropolitan Phoenix arts community since its inception, combining the motifs of humor, drama and both organic and technical movement to form a very distinct brand of dance theater.
Music Organization Award
Downtown Chamber Series
The Downtown Chamber Series brings chamber music to distinctive art spaces in downtown Phoenix, showcasing professional musicians and the works of local artists.
Public Art Award
Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Medina immigrated to New York as a child, where his interest in art was fostered by his architect father. While completing his undergraduate work in New York, Medina volunteered to teach classes at a summer program at the Kumayya Indian reservation in San Diego, Calif. His experience at the reservation is what led him to become an art teacher. Hugo’s desire to give back to the community and his love of children led him to a teaching career. Medina’s great appreciation and admiration of the southwest brought him to Phoenix, where he has been the mastermind behind some of the city’s best murals.
Rising Youth Theatre
Rising Youth Theatre is Phoenix theater company founded by ASU grads Xanthia Walker and Sarah Sullivan to create youth driven theatre that is riveting and relevant, challenging audiences to hear new stories, start conversations and participate in their communities. Recently, the diverse company of students has created plays based on immigrant youth.
Visual Artist Award
Grigsby, 94, came to Phoenix following World War II to teach art at Carver High School. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 1966 and served as a Trustee of Phoenix Art Museum. His public collections are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Printmaking Workshop in New York City, the Library of Congress, the Cape Coast Museum in West Africa and Philadelphia’s Brandywine Workshop, as well as art centers and galleries in leading universities and public venues across the nation.
This weekend’s Phoenix Festival of the Arts runs from Dec. 7 to 9 at Hance Park and is the city’s first signature arts festival. The free event features three days of live entertainment, arts vendors, a hands-on community mural, food trucks, Kidz Korner and more. Celebrate artists and arts organizations from across Phoenix’s cultural landscape. Hosted by Phoenix Center for the Arts and sponsored by Lou and Evelyn Grubb, this free festival will become an annual tradition.
Image of Eugene Grigsby by Dee Dee Woods
Far more than a friendly group of birdwatchers, Audubon Arizona offers a surprising range of outings for all ages from its little-known home on Central Avenue near the Salt River.
The opening of Audubon Arizona’s Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Center in October 2009 was the culmination of seven years of fundraising efforts, says Valerie Ramos, the organization’s development and marketing associate. “A lot of people still say, ‘I never knew this was here,’” she explains, so a primary goal is greater awareness of the Center’s existence.
Part of the 600-acre City of Phoenix Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, which stretches over a five-mile former industrial dump site, the Audubon Center welcomes visitors to a riparian region of astonishing natural wealth. More than 200 species of birds have been spotted, along with beaver, muskrat, coyote, jackrabbit, and javelina.
“It used to be a flowing river, and over time it became a landfill,” explains Ramos. “Then the federal government and the city were able to build a flood control channel…they restored the area by planting 70,000 plants and trees.”
The Center itself is certified Platinum LEED, which means that the United States Green Building Council considers it a high-performance, sustainable green building. Rooftop solar panels, wastewater reclamation, and recycled building materials all contribute to the rating.
Offering free admission year-round, the Center not only maintains interactive exhibits and acts as a gateway to 16 miles of trails through the Habitat, but also provides classes. “Our mission, in a nutshell, is to connect people with nature,” Ramos says, “primarily through children’s education programs. A lot of the kids who come for one-time field trips come back with their families and stay engaged with Audubon.”
Multiple after-school sessions like River Keepers and the high school program called River Pathways, in which teens collect field data for the Bureau of Land Management, encourage kids to think of the Habitat as their own beloved resource.
Ramos smiles enthusiastically. “We really are building a community of stewards, developing a love of nature — we’re getting them when they’re young. How can we expect people to care about the environment,” she asks, “unless we expose them to these experiences when they’re at an impressionable age?”
Adults have been finding their way to the Center through events like Birds and Beer, a monthly Thursday evening program. “We sell Four Peaks beer,” says Ramos, “and we recruit a wildlife biologist to give a punchy, enlightening, entertaining talk that usually involves some aspect of mating and wildlife reproduction.”
She laughs. “So you can see how that program would draw the professional audience — we’re just two miles south of downtown Phoenix.” It’s sort of a naturalist’s happy hour, a wilderness getaway in the heart of the city.
Financial support for the Center continues through innovative fundraising events like this weekend’s Gifts from Nature, an annual art sale and festival. “It’s an opportunity for Audubon Arizona to engage art lovers,” says Ramos. “With every item that’s purchased, a portion of the proceeds benefits our nature education and conservation programs.”
30 artists offer jewelry, wearable art, home décor, photography, paintings, ceramics, and garden pieces, all chosen through a juried process – if you’re an artist interested in participating, contact the Center next July.
The $25 ticketed kick-off event Friday night gives guests a preview of the exhibits and an artist meet-and-greet plus wine and hors d’oeuvres. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is free, and this year’s event features food trucks like Luncha Libre, Pizza People, and Burgers Amore as well as live music performed by students from Arizona School for the Arts, acoustic guitarists, and Ensemble Indigo (full disclosure: I’m a member of this chamber group).
Kristel Nielsen is one of the show’s newest artists, bringing a connection to nature through ceramic bells and wind chimes. “I want my work to look as though it belongs in the natural world,” she says. “I enjoy making forms that are organic and have a splash of color.”
Nielsen continues, “My style is slightly ‘Arizona primitive,’ very folkloric…some bells look archeological, as though they came from a temple ruin.” Along with outdoor art, she creates plates, jewelry, and holiday ornaments, including terra-cotta angels.
“I use a one-step firing process,” she explains. “It’s an environmental practice to not use that much energy, to not have to fire twice on one object.” Nielsen developed her technique when Taliesin West opened its clay studio for employees to use after work, and began selling her creations at the Desert Botanical Garden and Southwest Gardener.
The show’s artists, including Allison Shock, Caren Gomez, and Nathaniel Smalley, are all local. “The bottom line is that you’re contributing to a non-profit whose mission is to connect people with nature and provide opportunities for inner-city kids,” says Audubon’s Valerie Ramos emphatically. “Every dime spent at the event contributes toward our programs.”
If you go
Event: Gifts from Nature
When: December 1 & 2
Where: The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix, 85040
Artists participating in Gifts from Nature: Joan Baron — Jacqueline Benard — Cynthia Eral — Dos Damas Designs — Julius Forzano — Lynn & Mark Gardner — Caren Gomez — Wendy Goodma — Nora Graf — Pam Harrison — Sue Laub — Mary Lavan — Michael LiPira — Regina Lord — Brenda Lovejoy — Devon Meyer — Daniel Moore — Kristel Nielsen — Barbara Pohan — Arlene Powers — Rebecca Rush Profeta — Walter Salas-Humara — Christina Scherer — Amanda Scheutzow — Allison Shock — Nathaniel Smalley — En Chuen Soo — Vivian Stearns-Kohler — Genie Swanstrom
All photos courtesy of artists and/or Audubon Arizona.