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Out-side the Box

The Box Factory for the Arts hosted a concert on Saturday, June 15, 2013 which sparked my curiosity and proved to be a great example of pushing the envelope of what cabaret can do.

“Portraits and Landscapes, an Illustrated Concert” brought two seasoned singers, Claudia Hommel and Elizabeth Doyle, to St. Joseph, Michigan in collaboration with the artists of the Berrien Arts Guild. With Ms. Doyle at the keyboard and Greg Ladewski on cello we found ourselves at a Chautauqua like entertainment that not only scintillated but enriched our appreciation of what music, poetry and visual arts can do in our lives. The program was eclectic but leaning toward art songs and original works. There were lighter moments from Broadway and Tin-pan Alley, but Erik Satie and Ned Rorem seasoned the predominantly Parisian repertoire which mixed favorably with the gallery atmosphere.

The performance was not only multi-media from the stand-point of integrating a slide show into a musical concert, but proved also to be a collaboration between patrons and practitioners as the artists and writers seemed to make up much of the audience. The poetry, paintings and sculptures of the Art Guild in many cases stimulated original songs or musical underscoring which accompanied projections of the words and images of the works themselves. Composer-performer Elizabeth Doyle contributed compositions and improvisations that were transporting and elevating. Together with Ms. Hommel, the globe-trotting chanteuse, who has made something of a specialty of bringing cabaret to galleries and museums, the musical collaboration here wove a tapestry which, for an evening, wrapped the audience in the arms of creativity: decidedly thinking out-side the box.

These collaborators have explored similar Gallery Concerts elsewhere of note, such as The Detroit Institute of Arts and the Virginia Museum. How extraordinary that we were treated to such a unique and inspiring artistic happening in Southwestern Michigan.

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