Student operas, artwork galore, graphic novels, gardens
The folks of Glen Ellen
Everybody loves an opera
Picture this, taking in the scene slowly, letting it unfold and develop in your imagination as I describe it here. Last week, Dunbar School hosted the San Francisco Opera Guild and its presentation of Opera a la Carte with the production of “The Pirates of Penzance,” a comic opera by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It was a knock down hit.
First, imagine the cavernous multi-purpose room, echoing walls, blank and bare, except for the opera stars who have gathered up front awaiting the student performers who will join them on the stage. Still in their street clothes the adult singers look like everyday normal folks you’d encounter anywhere. Enter the fourth- and fifth-grade students who have been selected to perform with the SF Opera stars.
There is much evidence of shyness, and even reluctance. An uneasy embarrassment occupies the children’s actions. They stand back.
The baritone, who will play the king of the pirates, steps forward, greeting each child, extending his welcome hand for a shake or a high-five. The young, beautiful soprano joins him, greeting the girls with warmth and openness. They respond in kind, gathering in a small circle around her.
Costumes are distributed, and donned, a lovely painted prop is erected and rehearsal begins, barely half an hour before show time. The singers and
students are busily preparing for their audience.
Shortly, the doors to the multi-purpose room burst open and noisy students begin to file in with their attendant teachers. The children scatter. Chaos and cacophony erupt. A room rapidly filling with 200 youngsters is not a quiet environment. Rehearsal is over.
Soon all the students are seated, jabbering and gesturing, few faces turned forward toward the stage, most thoroughly engaged with their compatriots, not the scene up front.
Quickly order is established and the spokesperson for the Opera Guild steps forward. Instantly, the audience is quiet and calm, eyes glued to the singers up front. The show will begin.
The pirate king, a baritone, steps up and begins singing the exposition, loudly, forcefully and entirely clearly. Simple words, a simple message and everyone sits silently, obviously enthralled. The sea of black haired audience, punctuated by an occasional light brown or blond head, is focused front, while the pirate king’s voice booms on, a tale of treachery unfolding, all accompanied by the piano.
Next, we meet the pirate king’s assistants, students Samuel, played by Jason Pine; Horatio, played by Steward Ramirez; and Ruth, a maid of all work, played by Jaymee Pearce. Frederick, the pirate king’s apprentice, a lovely, mellow tenor steps forward, singing a melancholy song about his capture and duty to the pirate king.
Following this, we meet the lovely young maidens of Penzance. Edith, played by Dunbar student, Yolanda Figeroa; Kate, played by student, Jocelia Garcia and Isabel, played by Adrienne Otten. These girls are joined by the SF Opera soprano, Mabel, who is the daughter of the Maj. Gen. Stanley, a role played by student, Phillip Bodwell. Two policemen, students Marco Herrerra and Kurtis McIntyre are introduced with the narrator roles performed by students Rion Cox and Alexandra Rincon.
All are outfitted in elaborate costumes provided by the Opera Guild with the pirate king’s gilded royal purple waistcoat being awesome. The stage is set with a beautifully painted backdrop featuring a mild ocean cove and a huge pirate ship under sail. A wooden cask, that holds the drinking gourds and other prop items, sits center front.
As the show continues, the audience remains engaged, laughing when appropriate, listening carefully, enjoying all of the arias, from the deeply booming baritone, to the mellow-voiced tenor to the trilling, lilting soprano. The show is a grand success and the students and staff are well entertained and happily pleased with this high art form, opera, the epitome of western culture. Yes, Dunbar students love opera. You can see it in their eyes and on their faces.
Many thanks to the San Francisco Opera Guild, to Dunbar principal Melanie Blake and especially to the parent helpers, Barbara Martin (former school board member, back in the day), her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Martin, along with Audra Bodwell. Congratulations to all for providing a good introduction to the fine art of opera. I’m impressed.
Beginnings of a graphic novel career
Earlier that day, as the opera cast was setting up, I briefly visited Melanie Blake’s office. No, I wasn’t sent to the principal’s office for bad behavior. I was invited in to view her artwork. What a lovely collection of student art Melanie has. Foremost in my mind are the amazingly beautiful pieces by Lydia Wastell, one an illustrated version of the Donner Party, the other an illustrated version of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Raven” poem. Both are stunning and if this young lady isn’t producing graphic novels by now, I can’t imagine why. Her work is among the most talented high school art I’ve ever seen. Truly!
Jose Chavez was another student who presented Blake with artwork, a pencil sketch for the mural that is now in the Altimira library. It’s a lovely little piece showing Sonoma’s long history in a brief few steps.
Blake’s office also features a beautiful central conference table that was designed and created by Sandy Lane’s fifth-grade class as a Moon Dance auction product. It’s lovely and fits perfectly in the space highlighting the talents of young folks.
All in all, my brief visit to Dunbar that day renewed my faith in the future generation. Yes, we are a multi-cultural community with eager learners both Hispanic and Anglo, working together. The Dunbar community is a vision of a peaceful and inclusive world; I see much healing and goodness coming from this generation of students. Need I say, Dunbar is the best? Nah, that’s apparent.
Thumbs up kids, an educational program
Having lunch recently with amazing friend, Tricia O’Hara, at our favorite back garden spot, Sonoma’s Sunflower Caffé, she commented, with a wry chuckle, “Once a teacher, always a teacher.” That had to do with my last several poetry posts in this column. But Tricia’s a teacher, too and she knows the affliction.
How can one resist sharing favorite poems and poets when given the opportunity for print? This week I’ll refrain, but I don’t promise that always.
Tricia has spent the past four years developing a program to help train teachers to be more effective. Simple, straightforward and based on extensive research, the program has recently been released to schools in Colorado. Now she is set to bring it home to our Valley. Watch for “Coaching What Works,” a systematized, multi-year, peer coaching professional development course that will transform education. I’m impressed. Stay tuned for more.
Find folks in Glen Ellen on the web
Instead of plaguing you with more poetry today, I have a musical suggestion (poetry’s first cousin). But I’ll save that for the end of the column, as it should be. If my favorite fall music doesn’t show up on these printed pages, be sure to check the online version at sonomanews.com/lifestyle-history/.
From that portal you’ll have access to both me and Mr. Howell. He’s the relaxed gent, keeping his booted tootsies off the couch. I’m the matronly teacher-type ready to listen to your tales.
I’m not sure how Mr. Howell feels about his photo, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to my looming five-inch tall, tilted visage. It intimidates me.
Robbi Pengelly knows her art and I love her photos of my family and friends. It’s just me … or maybe not. Do you, too, feel photographs of you don’t match your inner image? Oh well.
Back to news of the day in our town.
That big news, of course, is this Sunday’s magnificent, FANtastic Glen Ellen Village Fair. That’s Oct. 14, downtown Glen Ellen on Arnold Drive between London Ranch Road on the south and Warm Springs Road on the north. The day commences long before the noon parade begins its amble down the two blocks of our village.
Vendors, the Village Fair Committee, nonprofits and musicians will be assembling their booths, readying for a full day of activities. There’s music, there’s food, there’s good wares to purchase, fun for kids and all in Glen Ellen’s simple and laid back country town, hometown style. Slightly Bohemian, wrapped with a bit of gentile dilapidation, and crowned with a natural environment that can’t be beat: that’s Glen Ellen. Join us at our October fair.
If you want to participate in the fair, please contact these folks soon: Kids Alley: Shannon Lee 996-3352 or email@example.com. Vendor booths: Leslie Vaughn 935-9163 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Quilters: Lisa Hardy 996-9305 or email@example.com. Parade: Trina Oliver 935-9030 or firstname.lastname@example.org. General information and T-shirts: Leslie Vaughn, again, as above. You can also visit the fair site on Facebook at Glen Ellen Village Fair.
Who’s the fairest of them all?
While these are the folks to contact about the fair, they are just a small part of the stalwart team that has been orchestrating this year’s big party. Those good folks include: Glen Ellen Village Fair board members: Lisa Hardy, Eileen Berger, Vicki Nightingale, Janie Soto and Leslie Vaughn. Some of the committee members include Mary Ann Carr, Archie Horton, Rick Dunham, Michael Hardy, Andrea Perry, Steve Perry, Leslie Bonino, Bob Bonino, Shannon Lee, Steven Lee, Trina Oliver, Norm Oliver, Dyani Bachelder, Lisa Coleman, Matthew Dickey, Riitta Vesterinen and Kevin Vaughn. Our grateful thanks to them for their FANtastic efforts.
Studio tours this weekend
While most of us will be spending Sunday, Oct. 14, enjoying our annual outdoor celebration of Glen Ellen, a few fine artists will be home, welcoming guests to their studios. It’s time for the annual self-guided studio tours taking place this weekend, Oct. 13 to 14, and 20 to 21, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Among the Glen Ellen artists is Erika Schmitt with her exquisite pieces of jewelry created from found items, antique and unusual. Painter Sandy Lane is nearby showing her figurative, landscape and abstract imagery paintings. Christine MacDonald also paints, offering images of raptors, figures and landscapes.
Judy and Ray Watten are showing their home and garden ware in Kenwood. Another Kenwood artist is Susan Miron, a fiber artist who works with horsehair, kelp and palms.
In Sonoma, my favorite artists to visit are Joanne Monks and Irene Guidici Ehret, both of whom capture nature in paint and pencil, creating botanical art that inspires reflection.
To find out more about the artists featured in ARTrails, visit their website sonomaarts.com/artrails where you can download maps and artist’s descriptions.
The mountains ring with joy
Which mountains? The Mayacamas or Sonoma Mountains? Both shelter our village. So, choose either; I’ve got stories from both sides. Let’s start in the east, where the sun comes up.
I heard via rumor that a super Surf Dude from one of the wine families in the Mayacamas recently had good news to share about his sweetheart. Happily ever after, could be. But until I hear it from the Hawleys themselves, we’ll all just have to wonder. In any case, I’ve known those Hawley boys since they were infants, love them dearly and am excited to hear their good news as much as you.
Meanwhile I heard a funny story about one of Bill Hawley’s compatriots over on Sonoma Mountain, the west side. It involves the other poet-winemaker of our Valley (or maybe there are more?). Talking recently with Cherie Hughes, she was telling me about her vineyard manager, a poet and philosopher, as much as a farmer. My first guess was, “Ah, Bill Hawley?” Oh no, replied Cherie. Second-guess: of course, it must be Phil Coturri, one of the original organic winemakers. Yep, it’s Phil who manages the Hughes vineyards. And doing a fine job, according the Cherie.
Off to college for a Sonoma Valley coed
Other good news that Cherie Hughes shared was about her mentoring group. A pilot program with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, Cherie and several other friends mentored a small group of girls. Now the mentees have gone on to college and it is clear that group mentoring is a grand success. I could easily share Cherie’s enthusiasm and happiness about her mentee, now a freshman at Sonoma State University living in the dorms. The young lady excelled at Sonoma Valley High School, received scholarships to help finance her studies and is now the first of her family to attend college. Congrats to Cherie and her pals. These are the stories that make me so thrilled about our local mentors.
Water closet update
Good news from Jim Hill pastor of the Glen Ellen Community Church. Their big project of the year will soon be complete. A couple of weeks ago, they tore out the old, outdated bathrooms hauling multiple rumbling truckloads of debris down O’Donnell Lane. Now the new bathrooms are nearing completion and Jim says that among those folks who will be thrilled are the Boy Scouts of Glen Ellen, who use the church’s Mayflower Hall for their meetings. Sans facilities has made the meetings shorter and scout leader Jayne Phillips will be happy to take the news to her boys.
The contractor on this job is a local fellow, with a well-known name. Thanks Pete Shone for your wonderful work. Parishioners, along with the Boy Scouts are relieved.
How does your garden grow?
Via the grapevine, I’ve heard (from multiple folks) how beautiful Kathy Prentice’s garden is. Kathy’s a natural at this. She doesn’t schlep to the nursery for her yearly supply of plants, but simply picks the old buds, and later shakes the seeds over the ground.
Recently, I told my friend Patricia Livingstone how much I loved hollyhocks (of course from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses”), as I admired them in her lush Kenwood garden. Several weeks later, on my doorstep, along with a sweet, cheerful note, were hollyhock seeds, to be dried and planted later. Let’s hope this works even half as well for me as it does for Kathy and Patricia.
Finally, many thanks to two Dunbar School volunteers who help make the flowers grow with frequent watering. Former teacher Sandi Everett and her friend, Jane Witkowski, wife of former teacher, Mr. Mike, have been busy this fall keeping all the nicely planted barrels at Dunbar School watered and healthy looking. It takes many hours to accomplish the task, but Sandy and Jane are happy to contribute to a school they love.
A joyful noise
My friend Pat Coleman is soon to be married to her Sweetheart Rick Suerth. Their blossoming relationship will be officially blessed at a beautiful ceremony in the historic Sonoma Mission. While on the hunt for music entertainment for their ceremony, someone recommended that Pat call the local high school. She did and connected with Emily Moore, the head of the music department and conductor of the Madrigals. That student ensemble will be singing at Pat and Rick’s wedding as well as leading the bridal party and guests from the Mission to the Depot Hotel where the celebrations will continue.
Rick and Pat are grateful to the Madrigals and especially to their leader, conductor Emily. Among the performers will be Naomi Blinman, Kelly Braun, Neeozzi Dickerson, Ari Encarnacion, Hanna Encarnacion, Josh Farley on guitar, Alex Gruber, Sean Hall, Jessica Hood, Ella Krikorian, Molly Lobsinger, Michael Molina, Alanna Shaffer and their teacher, Emily Moore on flute.
Ending on a sweet note
Among my favorite music is the “Peer Gynt Suite” (not sweet, as I thought as a child) by Edvard Grieg. A more sublime piece of orchestration, I can hardly imagine. It’s the perfect ode to autumn, slightly melancholy, and alternately rousing. Sounds reminiscent of whispering winds to sunrise fogs, from shining sun, to falling rain. From “Morning Mood” to “Arabian Dance,” it’s music to greet the morning and to end the day.
Grieg composed the pieces (both orchestral and choral parts) to accompany Henrik Isben’s play “Peer Gynt,” a long poetical piece based on Norwegian myths and fairy tales.
While it is appropriate October music, I’m also reminding all of you about it today because it just so happens that Oct. 14 is the momentous day that Ibsen completed this work. While the music came later, it is still this date that I celebrate the birth of a national myth that all Scandinavians love. Maybe you, too?
While 1867 was the year that Ibsen completed his task, this year, 2012, brings us the FANtastic Glen Ellen Village Fair on Oct. 14. See you there.
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Share your good news with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at email@example.com. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least three weeks before the run date. If your news doesn’t appear here, check online. Excess often appears online at sonomanews.com under “Lifestyle and History.”