, Newburyport, MA

May 13, 2009

Pentucket arts spring shows on tap

By Jennifer Solis

WEST NEWBURY — As it does each year at this time, the Pentucket School District's arts department offers three free events that will blow the community's creative socks off.

The multiday artistic bonanza kicks off tomorrow at the annual Arts Festival, featuring art produced throughout the year by students in the visual arts program, music ensembles, theater performance, film and music production classes. The event, which runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the high school, not only highlights the talent of students and staff, but also emphasizes the importance of Pentucket's sequential arts program.

Art Department chairwoman Ellen Hart and her staff transform the high school into an art gallery — with paintings, sketches and photographs on every wall, and vocal, instrumental, comedic and theatrical performances around every corner throughout the building.

Festival-goers can grab a schedule of events to follow as they enter the high school, or simply stroll the hallways, lobby, cafeteria and auditorium enjoying the artistic sights and sounds.

As a fundraiser for the Pentucket Fine and Performing Arts Foundation, small plates of refreshments will be on sale in the cafeteria. West Newbury Selectman, Glenn Kemper, who owns a catering business, has donated beverages to the concession fundraiser. PFPAF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the arts in the Pentucket schools.

Next up, the melodious sounds of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis will be heard wafting from the high school on Friday at this year's final Café Jazz. The 7 p.m. concert includes performances by the Blues Ensemble, the Big Band and the Jazz Combo — which took a silver medal at the MAJE Jazz Combo Competition in Worcester this year and fourth place at the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival. Freshman vocalist Morgan Mahoney will sing a Cannonball Adderley/Nancy Wilson arrangement of 'Happy Talk' from Roger's and Hammerstein's South Pacific.

Each year Pentucket Director of Jazz David Schumacher features a guest artist at the spring session of Café Jazz. This year bassist and composer Mark Urness will lead workshops for teen musicians in the afternoon, then appear with the Jazz Combo at the evening performance.

An assistant professor at Lawrence University, Urness is an experienced orchestral, chamber, jazz, salsa and solo performer. He has served as principal bassist for the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre and for the Cedar Rapids Symphony Orchestra. For three years, he freelanced in New York City playing with a variety of accomplished jazz musicians. His compositions have appeared on numerous recordings, and he was awarded first prize in the International Society of Bassists Jazz Competition in 2001.

Café Jazz is a free event, with complimentary refreshments provided. Anyone wishing to support the Pentucket music program can toss a donation in the broken drum at the entrance to the cafeteria.

Then, on Wednesday, May 20, at 7 p.m., the Middle and High School Percussion and Mallet Ensembles take center stage in the auditorium.

Zach Field, Pentucket's Director of Percussion, said he aims to highlight a variety of styles for the audience during each performance.

This year the Middle School ensembles will play four pieces: 'Samba Batu' — a samba-like rhythm that allows every player to improvise before the grand finale; the traditional march, 'Bellwood Six'; an intense piece called 'Bayport Sketch' that "paints a picture of a very active seaport"; and 'Streets of Ankara," whose driving tom-tom and mallet lines create a "trance-like feeling," Field said.

The High School Mallet Ensemble will perform "Children's Songs," written by renowned jazz pianist, Chick Corea; the Latin composition, "Pire;" and "Daybreak," a slower, more emotional piece that "will be a nice change of pace for the evening," Field said.

High School Percussionist will offer "Stick Schtick," a Stomp-inspired piece featuring wooden poles, a drum stick, vocals, and feet; and "Bonham" — an ode to rocker John Bonham, legendary drummer for the Led Zeppelin band.

"Bonham will definitely be a crowd favorite," Field predicted.