A Noon to Night concert series commenced Tuesday at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas with a quartet of crooning youth. Behold the Asberry Boys, aka the four winsome Taubl brothers, plus a non-blood-related rhythm section. The Taubls play guitars and violins. They sing in four-part harmonies.
On the Green, The Asberry Boys were literally Mama’s Boys, doing an a cappella medley of a dozen or so songs that mentioned mothers: “Mamma Mia,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” etc. No, the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams, Mother****ers” did not make the cut.
This was the first full weekday of Arts & Ideas 2004. Live music every day (except Monday) from now on, ‘til the fest ends June 28.
The Green is busy with local bands and Family Stage shows now, but it’s still a whole lot calmer than it was on the weekend.
Two of the biggest distractions of Saturday and Sunday have pulled up stakes, but you can sure tell they were there. The area where the pool was for Barosolo’s clown show Ile O left a little yellow patch of grass in its wake.
Far worse is the patch of Green where a Ford fellowship parked and hawked a slew of automobiles. There, there’s not just some dry patches but deep tire tracks, divots of displayed soil and other marks of misuse. Drive more carefully next time, Ford. Better yet, park elsewhere.
There are some Arts & Ideas wheels we can “wheelie” appreciate, however. On Monday, when the rest of the festival was dark, Music Haven’s String Quartet Truck was making its appointed rounds. We caught the truck—which conveys the Haven String Quartet hither and yon, thanks to Arts & Ideas and several co-sponsors—outside the entrance of the Yale School of Art and Architecture on York near Chapel.
There, the quartet played pop and jazz classics such as Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” George Shearing’s Lullaby of Birdland” and their signature version of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” They did a whole medley of Motown tunes. They did Coldplay. They closed with Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.”
They didn’t actually play anything classical, but the crowd that formed for their impromptu parking-space concert didn’t seem to mind.
Over 50 people sat listened on the steps of the A&A building. Many, many more smiled as they walked past. Countless cars caught a few notes while stopped at the intersection.
June was a huge month for Music Haven. They wound down the classes they teach during the school year to over 70 students in the “federal empowerment zones” (i.e. the poorer neighborhoods) of New Haven. They held their big annual Spring Performance Party at SCSU. They did a concert matching classical music with artworks at the Yale Art Gallery. Now they’re hitting the road with the String Quartet Truck. A purple haze indeed.
Tuesday afternoon I was a guest on Colin McEnroe’s WNPR talk show. It was a special Arts & Ideas segment alongside choreographer Adele Myers (whose dance troupe is doing Einstein’s Happiest Thought at the festival June 24-28), John Collins of the New York experimental theater troupe Elevator Repair Service (creators of Arguendo, running tonight through June 22 at the Yale Rep), Gorman Bechard (who’s put together a mini-festival of documentaries made by New Haven-area filmmakers June 29 at Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center), journalist/raconteur Jack Hitt (who spoke of electric automobiles at Arts & Ideas this past Sunday), accordionist Will Holshouser of Regina Carter’s band (which played last night at Morse Recital Hall) and the international festival’s executive director, Mary Lou Aleskie. As you can imagine, the discussion was wide-ranging. There was some reminiscing. There was some plugging of upcoming events. Mostly, there was useful discussion about how we relate to live theater in an era when other entertainment media can be so easily called up on a phone poor iPad.
Nobody disputed the need for live performance, or for festivals, or for Arts & Ideas. But it became clear that we all may relate to them, and access them, differently. Me, I just show up.
The Colin McEnroe show posts recent episodes on its website, here.
A review of Regina Carter’s righteous A&I Tuesday night can be found elsewhere in the New Haven Independent. What’s worth noting here, beyond the wonders of her playing, and the exemplary collaborative follow-along skills of her band, and the glorious silliness of Alvester Garnett’s endless jazz-rock-fusion drum solo, is what a great venue Yale’s Morse Recital Hall is for concert such as this. The only room I can compare it to for warmth, comfort, intimacy and acoustic excellence is Boston’s Berklee Performance Center. But the Berklee Performance Center is used to holding pop, folk, jazz and world music concerts on a regular basis. Though those New Music New Haven composers get pretty raucous at times, Morse Recital Hall is squarely known as a classical music room. Except at Arts & Ideas time, when some great acts from other sonic realms—Regina Carter last night, and the Irish/American folk quintet The Gloaming on June 19—reap the benefits of such a gorgeous space.
Arts & Ideas has often been able to hold ticket prices to a level that’s lower than what the same acts may be getting elsewhere on the same tours. Just as remarkably, the festival showcases these acts in better venues as well.