Welcome to the Schimmel Center Blog!

The Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts Blog Schimmel Center seeks to enrich and engage our audiences by bringing world-class talent to Lower Manhattan. Our programming features internationally-acclaimed talent in the areas of music, dance, film, cabaret and lecture.

04 March 2015 ~ 0 Comments

There’s No Music Like His Music

He’s back! On Friday, March 6th, Fred Barton will be back, yet again, with his 14 piece orchestra and cast of Broadway singers and dancers to present the cannon of another show stopping composer. On this occasion Fred will welcome Tony winning star, Karen Ziemba (2000, Contact) to the stage along with Broadway favorites, Brent Barrett and Lee Roy Reams to celebrate the work of that, “Father of Tin Pan Ally,” Irving Berlin. To celebrate, we are counting down some of the greatest show-stopping numbers from the composer’s career. Below are Berlin’s 10 greatest songs according to this blogger.

10 “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”

Berlin’s first hit song will always be one of his greatest! Written in 1911 to revive the Ragtime movement, the tune hit the the top of the charts during several of its incarnations. Legend has it that the song was played on the Titanic the fateful night it sank in 1912. It was revived several times by the likes of Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Mercer and Bing Crosby. Here Alice Faye sings the song in the 1938 Fox picture of the same name.

 

9 “Blue Skies

Written in celebration of his daughter’s birth in 1927, Berlin used this song to express his feelings about being a husband and father. It has been covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Judy Garland. Here, Bing Crosby sings the tune from the 1946 movie of the same name.

 

8 “Easter Parade”

First Introduced in the Broadway musical revue, As Thousands Cheer, Berlin’s classic Easter number has had several lives. No stranger to the silver screen the song has been covered by Bing Crosby in the 1942 Holiday Inn and was also featured on the small screen in the Rankin and Bass Easter special, The First Easter Bunny. The number is perhaps most fondly remembered in the 1948 MGM classic of the same name starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Here is their version.

7 “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm”

With a winter like we’ve been having there isn’t another song that could hit closer to home for us in New York. Often replayed around Christmas time, this song has also enjoyed plenty of recordings. Here the incomparable Judy Garland sings it on her 1960′s “Judy Garland Hour” with the Count Basie Orchestra!

 

6 “Anything You Cand Do (I Can Do Better)”

Written as part of perhaps Berlin’s most famous book musical, Annie Get Your Gun, “Anything You Can Do…” is one of Berlin’s most notable tunes. As one of the greatest odes to showmanship, the song has sprung up nearly everywhere. In one of my favorite reincarnations, Fran Drescher sings the song upside down on her 1990′s sitcom, “The Nanny.”

 

5 “White Christmas”

One of the greatest Christmas songs of all time! Many remember Bing Crosby singing the song in the 1954 movie of the same title. Crosby actually debuted the song 12 years earlier in the 1942 classic, Holiday Inn. Here Michael Buble sings the song for his NBC Christmas special as a posthumous duet with a hologram of Bing Crosby.

 

4 “Puttin’ On the Ritz”

Few remember Harry Richman’s debut of the famous tune in the 1930 movie of the same name. More remember Fred Astaire’s show stopping version in the 1946 film, Blue Skies. However, most remember the song best as a duet between a man and his monster. Gene Wilder had to convince Mel Brooks that the song was the perfect fit for his 1974 classic, Young Frankenstein. Thanks to Peter Boyle’s brilliant delivery of the song’s title, we will never forget this incredible number.

 

3 “Cheek to Cheek”

One of his most romantic up-tempo songs, “Cheek to Cheek” debuted in the 1935 film Top Hat starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The song has recently had a revival courtesy of a new Grammy Award winning album of the same name by Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa.

 

2 “God Bless America”

Written by Berlin twenty years earlier, he filed it away until 1938, when Kate Smith’s manager asked Berlin if he had a patriotic song Smith might sing to mark the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I. it quickly became the second National Anthem after America entered World War II a few years later. Over the decades it has earned millions for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to whom Berlin assigned all royalties. Here is Kate Smith’s original version.

 

1 “There’s No Business Like Show Business”

Originally debuting in the 1946 musical, Annie Get Your Gun, leave it to Berlin to write the quintessential show business anthem. The song has been recorded many times, spawning its own movie in 1954 featuring the woman who made it famous, Ethel Merman. This song sings for itself!

American Showstoppers: An Evening with Irving Berlin; Friday, March 6th at 7:30pm; Ticket Prices $49 | $39 | $29; Schimmel Center at Pace University, 3 Spruce St, New York, NY, 10038; (212) 346-1715 https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/938583

24 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

An Interview with Jennifer Backhaus, Founder of Backhausdance

On Friday, February 27th, Backhausdance will come bouncing on to the Schimmel stage (along with hundreds of tiny red bouncing balls) for the New York premier of Elasticity of the Almost along with a remounting of their successful Incandescent. The company will stay with us through Saturday the 28th and will even contribute to our Saturday afternoon family series with a special matinee performance of Elasticity of the Almost. I recently sat down with Jennifer Backhaus, founder and Artistic Director of Backhausdance to ask some questions about her company and the pieces being presented.

Jennifer Backhaus courtesy of Backhausdance.org

MT: What is your background in the world of dance? What inspired you to form your very own dance company? 

JB:I began dancing after I gave up a competitive gymnastics career. I had always dabbled in choreography since I was a young girl and found myself with opportunities in High School and at Chapman University to study the art form further. I continued making dances after I graduated and found success  enough to encourage me to start my own company with recent graduates from Chapman University in 2003.

MT: Backhausdance is based in Orange County, California. Do you find that your location contributes anything special to your brand of dance?

JB:Orange County has universities with strong dance programs and a strong private studio population. There is support for contemporary dance forms and Backhausdance has partnered with many of these organizations to create robust outreach and training programs. 

MT: You founded Backhausdance nearly 12 years ago. How has the company changed and evolved since then? Has your mission evolved?

JB: Our mission to create excellent art and expose and educate the community about the relevance of concert dance has remained consistent… but we keep increasing the reach we have in the community. We began the company with 6 dancers and now have between 8 and 10. Our annual performances have increased and our summer intensive programs have become very successful.

MT: Artists usually dislike labeling their work but if you had to list the best three words to describe your company’s repertory, what would they be?

JB: athletic , layered and dynamic.

MT: You have said that your dances often include, “glimpses of the human experience.” Which aspects of the human experience do you expect Schimmel audiences to take away from the two pieces you will be performing?

JB: I tend to make work dealing with our relationships with other people, understanding ourselves and navigating our surroundings. These tend to be things that most people experience in life.

MT: In what ways do the two pieces, Incandescent and Elasticity of the Almost, complement each other? Are there any obvious similarities? 

JB: They seem to be good bookends to a concert, both thematically and visually contrasting. Incandescent looks at  living in dark spaces and slowly, eventually finding your way to a light while Elasticity is about brightness and bustle, living in a quick paced and shifting world of color.

MT: Your company will be joining us for our “Family Fun” series by bringing our audiences a special performance of “Elasticity of the Almost.” What makes this such an engaging piece for younger audiences?

JB: The music is ever-changing, and quick paced. The use of balls as a metaphor creates layered meaning for adults but also works as an engaging visual element for younger audiences.

A scene from “Elasticity of the Almost” courtesy of BAckhausdance.org

MT: In the past 12 years, your company has gained a lot of notice. A few years ago you were recognized by Joyce SoHo, here in New York, as one of seven emerging dance companies in North America to watch. Where would you like to see Backhausdance in the next 10 years?

JB: I would like the opportunity to have the company work with other choreographers, continue a touring schedule and increase our local performing schedule. Making more work with a variety of collaborators would be very rewarding.

MT: If there was one field outside of the dance world that you could be happy working in, what would it be?

JB: I can’t imagine doing anything else- perhaps working for another arts organization- or non profit. Supporting other artists or creating arts experiences for the public would be fantastic.

Backhausdance: Incandescent and Elasticity of the Almost; Friday and Saturday, February 27th and 28th at 7:30pm; Special Matinee “Family Fun” performance of Elasticity of the Almost on Saturday, February 28th at 2pm; Ticket Prices $49 | $39 | $29; Schimmel Center at Pace University; 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038; schimmel.pace.edu

 

03 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Connecting Music, Dance, Culture and Minds: The Koresh Dance Company

 

This weekend, Schimmel Center is excited to welcome an exciting dance company straight from Philadelphia, The Koresh Dance Company. The acclaimed ensemble is the brain child of choreographer, Roni Koresh. As a teacher and collaborator, Koresh has created a unique and highly emotional movement blend of ballet, modern and jazz. Since 1991, the company has cemented an international reputation for  highly technical and emotionally charged work. In one of his latest works, Come Togetherthe audience is taken on a musical journey with classical and contemporary composers from Israel and Turkey set alongside classic western compositions by masters such as Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and more. The piece bridges the gap between middle eastern and European musical aesthetics while grounding and driving “earthy rhythms of the old world with the ethereal, heavenly sounds of the new.”

Koresh Company member Jess Daley

Koresh Company member Jess Daley

Please enjoy the following video, showcasing the astounding choreography of Koresh. The video includes a short preview of this week’s astounding piece, Come Together.

 

 

 

 

Part of Koresh Dance Company’s mission is community outreach and education. It is all the more appropriate that Koresh Dance Company will take place in a unique “STEAM” workshop that will teach young students important computer, math and science skills through the lens of dance. On Friday, February 6, Koresh will take to the auditorium of public middle school, MS 188. Led by professors from Pace University, around 100 middle school students will discover math and science problems inspired by the dance performance. Students will also learn basic foundations of computer coding as they “code their own dance.” As Koresh’s choreography blends different music and cultures, it  will also help to bridge the gap between math and sciences and the humanities. The students who partake in the workshop will also be given the opportunity to see the full performance of Come Together for free at the Schimmel Center. The STEAM project is made possible with a grant from Time Warner Cable.

Koresh Dance Company: “Come Together”; Friday and Saturday, February 6th and 7th at 7:30pm; Tickets Prices $49 | $39 | $29; Call our box office at (212) 346-1715 or visit schimmel.pace.edu

See you at the Schimmel

Michael Scott-Torbet

Season Blogger

For more info on Time Warner Cable and the Connect a Million Minds initiative, visit http://www.connectamillionminds.com/

A STEAM project with Koresh Dance Company has been made possible with a grant from Time Warner Cable.

A STEAM project with Koresh Dance Company has been made possible with a grant from Time Warner Cable.

 

 

28 January 2015 ~ 0 Comments

A brief conversation with Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton

 This February, Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton will take the Schimmel Podium once again to bring us an exciting new series titled “Architectural Masterpieces.” This time, she will be bringing particular attention to global architectural achievements. The first three lectures will focus on the architecture of a single Western European nation, including Italy, France and England. The final lecture in the series is titled, “Extreme Architecture,” and responds, “to the global nature of recent architecture that crosses all geographic boundaries.” I recently had the opportunity to interview the esteemed lecturer and learn first hand what scholars will learn from this series.

This photo was taken by Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton in Rome.The Tempietto  was designed by Donato Bramante

This photo was taken by Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton in Rome.The Tempietto was designed by Donato Bramante

MT: You are known to Schimmel patrons for your exceptional lecture series on “Great Masters” and French and Italian art. You have included architecture in your lectures before. Why did you want to focus primarily on architecture this time around?

JB: Architecture is said to be the most representative art form of a culture—more so than painting or sculpture—on the grounds that to create a building usually requires a consensus of opinion among several people, as well as a significant commitment of money, time, effort, and land. A building must serve a purpose or several purposes—it must be functional. And it must withstand the elements. On a more personal level, architecture holds a special appeal to me; when I was an undergraduate at Cornell I seriously considered switching my major from Fine Arts to Architecture.

MT:Each of your first three lectures in the series focuses on a specific country’s architecture from antiquity and onward. How did you go about selecting which countries would be discussed?

JB: I focus on major Western European countries that are home to exceptional examples of architecture and that represent many centuries and a variety of styles. The intent was to present a country’s chronological “architectural profile”—which really is a history of that country and its culture.

MT: Do you find any of the three countries’ architecture to be your favorite?

JB: Ah, that is akin to asking a parent to choose their favorite child! I wrote my doctoral dissertation at Brown on an Italian topic, lived in France for 4 plus years, and have family in England. But, if pressed, I would pick France because it is the country of origin of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, as well as home to countless expressive gargoyles that perch on these buildings.

MT: As an avid traveler yourself, I imagine you have seen a great deal of the architecture in person. Is there a single building that, upon seeing it for the first time, exceeded your expectations of it? Why? Is there any building that you found to be underwhelming?

More photography by esteemed lecturer, Dr. Janetta Benton. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Architect: Gustave Eiffel.

More photography by esteemed lecturer, Dr. Janetta Benton. The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Architect: Gustave Eiffel.

JB: You ask excellent, very difficult, questions! Yes, I travel extensively and do as much of my own photography as possible. For a building that exceeded my expectation, I would pick Beauvais Cathedral. This High Gothic cathedral demonstrated just how high it was possible to build a vault (158 feet) using flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribs—the technology of the time. Beauvais collapsed, was rebuilt, but never finished. After Beauvais, buildings became lower in the Rayonnant Gothic style. Underwhelming? Please do not be horrified, but it would be Stonehenge! Although I knew the dimensions and had seen the photographs, when I actually arrived at Stonehenge I expected it to be physically larger. But in no way did that diminish the fascination and mystery of Stonehenge.

MT: Your final lecture in the series focuses on “Extreme Architecture.” What qualifies as extreme architecture to you? What are your criteria for the buildings being discussed?

JB: My problem in preparing the last lecture was not that I had to search for buildings to include, but that there were too many possibilities. There were also several points that I wanted to make with the examples selected: Perhaps most important is that architecture is now more international and global than ever before. A museum in France may be designed by a Chinese architect (the Louvre pyramid by I.M. Pei) and a theater in China may be designed by a French architect (The National Grand Theater in Beijing by Paul Andreu). I also wanted to document the current interest in novelty, in creating a building that is functional but is visually distinct from anything created before—like a house shaped like a spiral sea shell. And I wanted to indicate that architecture had shifted from focus on religious buildings (churches and cathedrals) and secular dwellings for the wealthiest (palaces and castles) to museums, theaters, office buildings and skyscrapers, and an interest in recycling materials.

MT: Do you have a favorite architect of this current generation? What separates their work from the rest?

JB: Another tough question! I am going to select the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, not for the beauty of his buildings, but for the importance of his work in creating housing for disaster victims. Using recycled cardboard construction, his buildings are quickly and inexpensively erected.

MT: Living in New York City, one can see an array of different architectural styles. We are blessed with gorgeous art deco sky scrapers like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, Neo-Gothic cathedrals like St. Patrick’s and incredible suspension bridges like the Brooklyn Bridge. Do you have a favorite piece of New York architecture? Why is it your favorite?

Frank Lloyd Wright' Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Taken by Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Taken by Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton

JB: The Guggenheim Museum. I will not even hesitate to answer. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim offers the visitor art exhibitions within a work art. The previous division between architecture and sculpture blurs—the Guggenheim may be viewed as an enormous inhabitable sculpture. Do you find that the building complements or conflicts with the art work displayed here? The Guggenheim raises the possibility that the museum itself may be a work of art.

“Art History Alive” with Dr. Janetta Rebold Benton: “Architectural Masterpieces. Schimmel Center for the Arts; 3 Spruce St. New York, NY; February 4: Italy; February 11: France; February 18: England; February 25: Extreme Architecture; All tickets $29; All lectures take place at 12:15-1:15pm; Call (212) 346-1715, (866) 811-4111 or visit schimmel.pace.edu

 

 

12 January 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Musicians of the Highest Order: An Interview with the Legendary Béla Fleck

All of us at the Schimmel are ecstatic to be welcoming back premiere banjo legend, Béla Fleck. Mr. Fleck sold out our house two years ago with his acclaimed “Banjo Summit.” This time, he is partnering with the enterprising new chamber orchestra from Brooklyn, The Knights. I recently corresponded with the great banjo legend about his upcoming concert on Wednesday, January 28.

The one and only, Béla Fleck!

The one and only, Béla Fleck!

 

 

MT: How did this collaboration come about? Had you been aware of, The Knights’ work prior to this collaboration?

 

BF: I’ve had the pleasure of performing with Brooklyn Rider, which features two members of the Knights. Everything I heard about the Knights from BR made them seem like a group that I would really enjoy working with. As I was getting to know these guys, my concerto was about to be released on Dutsche Grammophon, and they were intrigued by the idea of playing it with the Knights. Any opportunity to hang with the brothers Jacobson is one to be pursued!

 

MT: As the undisputable master of the banjo, do you find yourself still learning about your chosen instrument? Has the collaboration with The Knights taught you anything new?

 

BF: We have yet to actually play any notes together, everything at this point is on the drawing board, as our rehearsal/performing dates loom closer. We will rehearse in the week leading up to the first performances in January.

 

MT: This is not your first collaboration. You have worked with a wide range of artists including Edgar Meyer, Zakir Hussain, Chick Corea, your wife; Abigal Washburn, as well as many others. What traits do you look for in other artists when choosing to collaborate with them?

 

BF: I look for people that I have something to learn from, people I can offer something to, and people who I have a good time being with. These folks satisfy all 3 requirements!

 

MT: Certainly, your concerto and this tour makes the case that the banjo deserves a seat at the classical music table alongside other string instruments like the violin and viola. What would you say to a person who doesn’t think the banjo’s history lends itself to orchestral music.

 

BF: Wrong you are! I am certain that the banjo and it’s cousins existed far before the violin family came into vogue. Remember the banjo came over from Africa in the early slave days. And It was an ancient instrument already. Now it certainly has been modified and cleaned up from the 1700′s on, but the instruments in Africa haven’t changed much. Pete Seeger maintained to me that the banjo actually migrated to Africa from the Tigris Euphrades River in what what we now call Iraq.

 

MT: What would you like the audience to take away from this concert?

 

BF: I’d love for them to say that they heard something that they never heard before, and had a blast during the process.

 

MT: You are known for your ability to convey many different musical styles on the banjo. Having studied in New York City, do you feel that the city’s musical landscape helped shape your eclectic repertoire?

 

Yes, I do. Growing up in NYC during the 60′s and 70′s meant that I was hearing a lot of music that Earl Scruggs didn’t hear in his youth. I didn’t grow up in a cabin home on the hill, and my musical personality derives a lot from it.

 

MT: Two years ago, your, “Banjo Summit,” sold out the Schimmel Center. Are you excited to be returning to the venue?

 

BF: Boy, was that was a fun show! I remember the joy and energy we had that night, and I look forward to the same high spirits but with a completely different musical offering. That’ll be our first show together, so it should be very exciting.

See you there soon!

Béla

The Knights with Special Guest Star: Béla Fleck; Wednesday Januar 28th; 7:30pm; Schimmel Center at Pace University, 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038; Ticket Prices $59 | $49 | $39; Call (866) 811-4111, (212) 346-1716 or visit schimmel.pace.edu