Friday Fish Wrap 6.7.19

Five (nearly all kid related) things worth knowing this week

1 – The Birds are Back!  Two Weeks Only!

The most sensational show of our visual art year breaks cover this week!  Yes, that fluttering and flapping sound you see in our covered breezeway is the annual Fourth Grade bird exhibit.

In case you missed it last year, or just don’t know about this island tradition, these luminous works on paper are the penultimate project of a great big project that teamed artist Bruce Morser teamed with 4th grade teachers Shanon Browne, Karen Barich, Chris Muller, and Laura Jensen for their birding unit.

Students coupled their bird scholarship with lessons from Bruce. The budding artists worked small at first, finally transferring what they learned to larger, poster-size images that were painted using water-color.

Each piece truly has its own genius and joy. As a complete body of work stretched down our big breezeway wall, well, it’s just magic.

Drive safely by, stop when you can, do whatever it takes to come see this amazing homage to our island birds. And do it soon!  The show will only be up through June 18th!!!!

2 – Bold and Brave at the Blue (Heron)

Courage and vision have found a new purchase on Vashon thanks to Becky Blankenship, the visionary and compassionate leader behind and before the first ever women’s studies program at McMurray Middle School.

As part of the program, VCA Artist in Schools program resident, Britt Freda, had the opportunity to work with this group of courageous, passionate young people to create what Britt describes as “conceptual and activist self-portraits.”

The visual works on display find their roots in the personal narrative journals the class participants created.  Britt tells us . . .

“While most of the journals may not be exhibited in the show the practice of writing and drawing or doodling has a neurological, calming effect on the brain.  It is a great tool for anyone to incorporate into their busy, confusing, sometimes stressful lives.  It is readily accessible, requires a minimal and flexible commitment of time and can be a powerfully revealing yet simple way, like a conscious breathing practice, to reboot the brain—especially in times of stress.”

The work is profound. Some pieces are clear calls to speak up and to make your voice heard. Some address reproductive rights, sexism, misogyny, discrimination, sexuality and equality.  Some are deeply intimate and revealing of complex, painful life challenges.

“I am inspired by the vision, acute perception, authenticity, bravery and strength of these young people!” says Britt. “Brava to the school district for incorporating this important class into the curriculum.”

Come by the Blue Heron Gallery on Friday, June 7th from 6:00 – 8:00 PM to see this powerful, emotionally moving exhibit.

3 – Ravel takes flight this Sunday

Music mavens take note . . . the final chapter of this season’s music history lecture season unfolds Sunday, June 9th at 1:00 (note the time!)

The series is the passion project of Island resident, musician, and musicologist Michael Tracy. The shows are a delightful combination of Mike’s deep research, insights, and first-class live performances by notable soloists . . . and this edition, centered on the life and music of Maurice Ravel, will be no exception.

Ravel proves to be a pivotal figure in 20th century music, indeed all of western performative arts.  More than 90 years ago, Ravel (1875-1937) wrote a composition for the Ballets Russes, which became an overnight success when it premiered at the Paris Opéra House in 1928. “Boléro” then garnered world fame and until its expiration, was the largest grossing copyright ever written.

Michael will delve into the influences and trajectory of Ravel’s career during his two-hour presentation that will cover the composer’s first to last pieces.

“The whole point of these lecture/concerts is to help people appreciate the music by knowing something about the composer, what their environment was like and why, in Ravel’s case, his music was so emotional.”

An early proponent of recorded music, Ravel was among the first composers to recognize how recordings could bring their music to a wider public audience. Michael believes that while that was both prescient and beneficial, there is nothing like hearing live music.

“No matter how good your sounds system is, it is compromised. To hear sound in an acoustic setting like VCA, the music has a visceral effect, you can feel it in your bones and direct connection with the performer. It helps you concentrate. It’s too easy to get distracted at home, but at a live acoustic performance your eyes watch music come alive and you hear much more than with a recording. It makes all the difference to be live.”

Seattle pianist Mark Salman, who performed at the previous lecture concerts, will return to play some of Ravel’s most challenging and exquisite compositions for solo piano. He will accompany his son Jonathan in Ravel’s “Cello Sonata.” Islanders Christopher Overstreet and Holly Johnson will sing three songs by Ravel set to the poetry of French poet Stéphane Mallarmé.

Buy lots of tickets here.  Students may attend for free!

4 – Kids get eco-active

And the kids just keep showing us the way.

You can tell the school-year is winding down because all the wonderful resident artist powered projects are ready to show!

To back up and remind you, our Vashon Artists in Schools program, run with passion and skill by Kaycie Alanis, matches school teachers and resident artists around specific classes and learning objectives.  Fourth Grade Birds is one of those projects.  Bold and Brave is.  Here’s another, and it will make you tear up.

There is no bigger threat to our shared human project than the condition of our planet. This year the third graders at Chautauqua Elementary have taken the challenge to heart, creating “activism art” to call attention to protecting the eco-systems of our Salish Sea.

As a part of the Action Network, led by third grade teachers, Margie Butcher, Paul Wahlen and Erin Calhoun, these young students spent the winter learning from an all-star group of experts including

  • Director of Sound Action, Amy Carey
  • Marine ecologist with Washington Sea Grant and UW, Jeff Adams
  • Researcher and founder of Killer Whale Tales, Jeff Hogan
  • UW lecturer Erik McDonald
  • Co-founder and executive director of The Natural History Museum,Beka Economopoulos
  • Marine biologist and marine veterinarian, Tag Gornall
  • Sustainable and restorative landscape architect, Betsy Severtsen
  • The VMI Land Trust’s Erika Carleton
  • Education Specialists for Vashon Nature Center, Maria Metler
  • Founder and Director of Whale Scout, Whitney Neugebauer

I mean seriously, don’t you wish you were in that class?

With the help of local environmental advocate artist Britt Freda, their culminating project has been to create activism posters that will be displayed in the windows of Vashon businesses from Friday, June 7- June 17th.

Here’s just a tiny taste of this amazing body of work.

Says Britt . . .

“We hope all of the local businesses will support the Chautauqua Elementary third graders in getting their environmentally engaged voices heard, literally.  The posters have QR codes on them which, when scanned, connect the viewer to a 30-60 second audio recording of the student’s narrative about why we should take action to protect our local marine eco-systems.  I love that the posters are interactive, and parents, friends and visitors can hear the resonance of a child’s voice calling us to action.” 

You can see the entire project by clicking here.

A few students, parents and educators will be visiting local businesses on Wednesday, June 5 and Thursday, June 6th with their posters and hopes that their activist art will be displayed for Vashon’s public.

5 – Time to get serious about Stand and Sway

I hate putting this item so deep in the FishWrap, but if you’ve made it this far I want you to stop, click here, and buy lots of tickets for you and your friends to come hear Ara Lee James and Beth Wood kick it at VCA on  June 14that 7:00.

Honestly, these two, Stand and Sway, fall squarely into the “holy smokes, I had no idea” category. Think Dolly Parton meets Aretha Franklin meets hang onto your hat. I double promise you won’t be sorry for even a minute for coming to hear these two.

Beth Wood has won almost every major songwriting competition in the United States and has 20 years of touring and 11 studio albums under her belt. She also writes books, publishes poetry and teaches songwriting to pass the torch of music for music’s sake. Her second book of poetry, Ladder to the Light, is the winner of the 2019 Oregon Book Awards Readers’ Choice Award and was a finalist for the Stafford/Hall award for poetry.

Ara Lee James is a singer, poet, and truth-teller with an unmistakable sound, commanding presence, and a voice that will leave you gob smacked. Ara has been singing professionally for over 20 years as an award-winning soloist, studio vocalist, and songwriter (formerly Ara Lee).

Together these two are a rooted, soulful, powerful foot-stomping, tear-inducing, mountain-sized presence.

Here they are doing an original song by Ara Lee called Gypsy Woman . . .

And here’s a killer cover of Motherless Child . . .

Have you bought your tickets yet?  We’ll get to it.  Seriously, they are that good.

June 14 | 7:30pm
With special guest Kathryn Claire

$15 Student, $18 Member, $20 Senior, $22 General, $25 Front Rows
All Tickets at the Door: $25

Buy Tickets

6 – Finally, and this is a sixth thing

As often happens, an item from the FishWrap sends me joyously down a rabbit hole. I can honestly say that before my conversations with Michael Tracy, I knew almost nothing about Maurice Ravel. I was peripherally aware he composed Bolero, but after the movie “10,” it was a piece of music I avoided.

According to Michael, of all the music composed in the 20th century, “a greater amount of Ravel’s is still being played. His work impacted film scores, Broadway musical orchestration and while Ravel was influenced by American jazz, jazz composers were also influenced by Ravel’s bold harmonies and orchestrations.”

So that got me through the looking glass and after the rabbit where I found a piece Lousie Burton, write for CSO Sounds and Stories,where she qotes extensively from a book by Howard Pollack, called George Gershwin: His Life and Work. Borrowing her words now . . .

At a party held in his honor by soprano Eva Gauthier, Ravel celebrated his 53rd birthday on March 7, 1928. One of the guests that evening was Gershwin. During the soirée, the young Broadway songwriter entertained Ravel and the other guests with an impromptu performance of Rhapsody in Blue and a selection of songs including “The Man I Love.”

Gauthier later wrote: “The thing that astonished Ravel was the facility with which George scaled the most formidable technical difficulties and his genius for weaving complicated rhythms and his great gift of melody.”

Apparently, the admiration was mutual. Gershwin, who was always looking to learn new styles and techniques, asked the French master to give him lessons in composition. According to Gauthier, Ravel gave serious consideration to Gershwin’s request, but decided that “it would probably cause him to write ‘bad Ravel’ and lose his great gift of melody and spontaneity.”

Ravel spent several nights with Gershwin, listening to jazz at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, where dancers did the Lindy Hop to hot jazz from some of the nation’s greatest bands. Ravel also visited Connie’s Inn and the nearby Cotton Club, where he heard Duke Ellington and his orchestra.

“It’s surprising to many people that Gershwin would have some exchange with Ravel, but Gershwin actually was very knowledgeable about contemporary music,” Pollack wrote. “As a famed and well-known and brilliant composer, he had access to meet whichever composers basically he wanted to meet. And he did, in the course of his life. He was very knowledgeable about their music.”

Dropping out the other end of the “in with Ravel out with Gershwin” rabbit chase, I thought it would be fun to share the two tunes Pollack references, Rhapsody and The Man I love.

First, here is a lovely period version of Rhapsody in Blue . . .

Note, the title indicates this is the “Rhapsody in Blue Debut,” which is historically incorrect.  It was first performed in February of 1924 by Gershwin himself, but it was in this same concert hall and with this band.

And this wonderful piano-only arrangement by Jack Gibbons will make you sit up and listen.

Moving on . . . You can’t even begin to start to think about “The Man I love” without conjuring either Ella or Billie.  At least I can’t.

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald over an arrangement by Nelson Riddle recorded in 1959

And here she is, never to be duplicate, Billie Holiday.


Why “Fish Wrap”? Years ago, living in San Francisco, I became a devotee of a legendary journalists named Herb Caen. While he may not have been the first to use the phrase in connection with “yesterday’s news,” he is the one I remember. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish wrap. Maybe it’s a generational thing. At any rate, we call our Friday wrap up, The Friday Fish Wrap . . . Five things worth knowing about VCA this Friday.

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