Jan 122016

Rivendell is coming to Salem, featuring music from Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and More – as performed by the New England String Quartet. It is the much-awaited second production from Salem Classical and is set for Saturday, Jan. 16, at 8pm in Old Town Hall.

RivendellRivendell is of course an Elven outpost in Middle-earth, a fictional realm created by J. R. R. Tolkien. It can be found, for example, in the The Lord of the Rings tales.

As for Salem Classical, it is intended to become the home of classical music located in the heart of the pedestrian zone of historic downtown Salem with the Old Town Hall as its principal venue. Created to establish a musical home for local and touring musicians, it is designed to provide a constant source of classical music to the residents of Salem and the thousands of visitors to the city.

The fertile mind behind Salem Classical is Richard Guérin, and we asked him two basic questions to help entice potential attendees. Why a string quartet and why science fiction & fantasy themed music?

Guérin explains, “the medium of the string quartet is the most intimate of them all. The grandiosity of the scores chosen for this program take on an entirely fresh form for listeners when heard this way.”

On the other hand, he points out that string quartets present the greatest challenge to composers, “to many it’s the most intimidating way of writing because for centuries it has been the proverbial mirror to which composers hold up to themselves to see if they have anything to say as artists – because it’s not possible to hide behind the orchestra.”

By expressing this music through the intimacy of a quartet, the Rivendell concert will bring the folk tunes of our time into a fresh light, all the while also showcasing their absolute musical value. Translate that as give your ears a delightful treat!

Established in Boston in 2007, the New England String Quartet is dedicated to expanding the contemporary chamber music tradition through performances, recordings, educational activities and community outreach projects. The ensemble seeks to develop collaborations with contemporary composers, soloists and other ensembles. Having made their debut at Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, the ensemble is featured in concert series across New England including 3rd Sundays @ 3, Menotomy, Bach’s Lunch, Parma Music Festival and the Chromatic Club of Boston.

String QuartetThe quartet also collaborates with popular music, soundtrack, and video game producers. In 2014, NESQ recorded soundtracks for Lord of The Rings and Dungeons & Dragons online video games (for Warner Bros. Entertainment).

Guérin describes, “The huge canvas and broad brush strokes of the brilliant tapestry of sound Howard Shore created in his scores for Lord of the Rings will be communicated brilliantly through this new arrangement by Nikolai Clavier by an ensemble the size of which you might find in a pub in the Shire.”

“And as a simple matter of musicality,” he adds, “I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say what Ramin Djawadi’s theme to Game of Thrones which we will hear performed by the sublime New England String Quartet, is possibly the biggest ear-worm composed in the last decade. I met Djawadi this summer in Poland and heard the piece played by a 100 piece orchestra in a stadium of 10,000 listeners. I myself can’t wait to hear it in the warm setting of Salem’s Old Town Hall with some of the finest players in this area.”

As for the SF/fantasy theme of the music, he notes we are in Salem which can have its own comparisons with Rivendell.

“The strongest commonality is the sense of being a magical place. People from all over the world come to Salem and we meet them all the time. I met someone from California last week visiting Salem for the first time. To her eyes Salem appeared to be a movie set. She’d go up and knock on the bricks to see if the buildings are part of a set like in Hollywood.”

Guérin points out “Salem’s greatest asset is, more than any other factor including its history and architecture, its gravitational pull that makes you feel you are at a destination. There are very strong reasons why people want to live and work here and it’s the same magical pull.”

As odd as it seems, this concert might be the first opportunity some of these people have had to hear a string quartet. For more info on the quartet, go to www.nestringquartet.com

“There’s a great responsibility here to present interesting things in the right way because everything Salem Classical will present, will aim to transcend barriers and make people excited to come hear what we are doing. These things happening in Salem are so exciting and wonderful, even if it’s like the weather north of The Wall,” muses Guérin.

He concludes, “The music on this program is tremendously important to me and to have a chance to bring people together in Salem to celebrate it, is significant. This is music that everyone knows and loves.”

For the full musical program go to this Creative Salem page. For ticket details go to Eventbrite.

Oct 282015

Spice ChallengeWhat isn’t different in Salem MA during Halloween what with all the witch-stuff, ghostbusters, zombie nurses, etc.? How about these two alternative events for Friday Oct. 30th evening: the First Annual Spice Eating Challenge at Artists’ Row and the Salem Classical production Songs of the Supernatural, produced with support from Salem Main Streets and Creative Salem.

Deborah Greel, Public Art Planner for the City of Salem (Department of Planning and Community Development) describes both events as having an “appeal to tourists but definitely geared for locals too.”

The Heat is ON

Step up to the 1st Annual #Salem MA Wicked Hot Spice Tasting Challenge!!! It will be conveniently located in one of our hottest creative spaces, Artists’ Row, and hosted by Karen Scalia of Salem Food Tours (which is itself located at Artists’ Row). The Challenge will run from 6-7pm, rain or shine. Sign up sheet to be a taster available night of the event.

“The tastings will be four types of mashed chili peppers,” explains Scalia. “Four levels of hot fun – from mild, medium, hot, and SUPER HOT!”

Too afraid to try the heat??? Then just come on down to cheer the poor souls on!! Bwahahahahahaha

The chilis are being supplied by Salem Spice, which also will have them for sale during the event.

“We are thrilled to stage this free community event,” states Scalia. “It’s a fun and exciting way to start Halloween weekend in Salem, a fantastic way to celebrate Artists’ Row, and a great way to support our local fire department.”

Salem Fire Department Local 172 will be in attendance selling tee shirts to raise money for local fire station amenities (which are usually paid for out of pocket by fire-fighters).

SHU ChilAs for just what makes chili peppers such a hot deal? According to the website chilipeppermadness.com, “That spiciness we all love and crave comes from a compound called capsaicin that is found in all hot peppers. Interestingly enough, capsaicin is found in no other plant than the chili pepper. A single drop of this substance combined with 100,000 parts water is still noticeably spicy.”

As for advice when the heat is too much to beat? The website advises “Don’t Drink The Water! Pure capsaicin is soluble in alcohol but not soluble in cold water. Hence, instead of dousing the raging flame on your tongue, the water will only spread the spices around in your mouth and make the situation worse. Instead, try sugar or milk to curb that luscious heat.”

For more info, check out the Challenge website.

And if you DARE for more, The Lobster Shanty (also on Artists’ Row) will be serving some delicious spicy HOT specials to get your taste buds roaring.

Coldly Haunting Classical

A siren haunts a rock on the river Rhine.
A princess, locked away in a Bronze Room.
A charlatan conducts sham séances.
A teenage girl, driven to suicide by cruel fate

The Salem Witch Trials are not the only persecutions fixated on the supernatural. Explore dark magic and tragic heroines, set to hauntingly gorgeous music by Schubert, Berlioz, Liszt, Menotti, Lees, and Rorem, when Salem Main Streets and Salem Classical present the Salem debut of Songs of the Supernatural at the First Church in Salem (316 Essex Street) at 8pm.

Kate KostopoulosKate Kostopoulos will be the performing soprano; she is from Boston and has been pursing vocal performance for the past six years and simultaneously maintaining a career in Arts Administration.

She is a recent graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music where she received her Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance. Earlier this year Kostopoulos was a Young Artist at the Atlantic Music Festival performing opera and art song repertoire.

Brendon Shapiro will be her pianist; he is a vocal coach, musical Brendon Shapirodirector, and conductor based in Boston. Currently serving as a staff pianist at Boston University and organist for First Parish in Arlington, MA, he has additionally been hired by numerous opera companies, recitalists, choral ensembles, and religious organizations in the area.

He also is on faculty as a vocal coach at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Shapiro holds a Master of Music degree in Collaborative Piano Performance from Boston University and a Bachelor of Music degree from the Ithaca College School of Music where he won the Mary Hayes North Piano Competition Award.

Salem Classical is the home of classical music located in the heart of the pedestrian zone of historic downtown Salem. The mission of Salem Classical is to remove the boundary between the public and performers, bringing some of the greatest music ever composed to Salem.  Audiences are invited to frequent concerts as a compliment to the overall cultural experience in the city of Salem that includes dozens of restaurants, shops, and museums. And witches, ghostbusters, etc., etc.

For more info go to the Classical Salem website.

This upcoming Friday night is the “calm before the storm,” so why not venture out for chili and classical? Only in Salem MA would saying that make any sense.

Oct 252015

halloween photos 012Fun is the operative word for Halloween day and evening this coming Saturday in Salem MA. And to make it so for event sponsors, participants, observers, and folks who aren’t even taking part, the City of Salem has put some measures into place. These can be broken into things to do/not do when you get here and for when it is time to say good night.

For the full list of rules check out the Haunted Happenings website.

Getting here should be a calculated experience. There will be numerous road closures posted on various sites and twitter accounts. Check them out for the most up-to-date info as there will be road delays, detours, and blocked streets. We’ve been here/done that for enough years to know it to be a stone-cold fact. Definitely arrive before 8:30pm.

And don’t get stuck. For example if you do decide to arrive by car and look to park at the MBTA station, be advised that it will be closed from 8pm to 1am. Keep that in mind. You won’t be able to leave early.

Speaking of the MBTA, it would be an excellent alternate source of transportation as extra trains have been put on the schedule. 

No ParkingFor if you do drive and you mistakenly or blatantly (the law does not differentiate) park in one of our many “Resident Parking” zones assigned to local residents, you will be fined and your vehicle quite possibly towed.

To make it a safe environment for all, obviously bring no weapons, real or artificial as they will be confiscated— same goes for alcohol.

When it is time to go— you will know as we put on a lively fireworks show beginning around 10:15pm and ending 10:30pm— we ask that you do go quietly into the night. There are many apartments and homes of residents on your paths exiting the city’s downtown district.

And if you had parked at the train station, (which we advised against earlier in this blog) you will not be able to get your vehicle out, as the garage will be closed from 8pm to 1am.

On the other hand, if you came by train, you have ample time to trek to the Salem Depot where the last train departs around 11pm.

Fun is the operative word for the big finale of Haunted Happenings 2015, but to make it so, everybody has to be on the same page. Be safe. Be considerate. Use common sense.

Sep 242015


When first performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1913, the avant-garde nature of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” caused a sensation and reportedly near-riot in the audience. New local organization Salem Classical is bringing this work to Salem on Sept 26th to Old Town Hall in a slightly different format through the Cambridge-based Composer Focus concert series.

Salem Classical is intended to become the home of classical music located in the heart of the pedestrian zone of historic downtown Salem with the Old Town Hall as its principal venue. Created to establish a musical home for local and touring musicians, it is designed to provide a constant source of classical music to the residents of Salem and the thousands of visitors to the city.

The brainchild of Richard Guérin, the vision of Salem Classical “is to remove the boundary between the public and performers, bringing some of the greatest music ever composed to Salem. Audiences are invited to frequent concerts as a complement to the overall cultural experience in the city of Salem that includes dozens of award-winning restaurants, shops, and museums.”

Salem Main Streets, Creative Salem, and the City of Salem have partnered with Salem Classical to bring this project to fruition.  “We have a cultural scene that’s constantly evolving in Salem, but classical music, especially chamber music, really doesn’t have the presence in the downtown that it should,” says Salem Main Streets Executive Director Kylie Sullivan. “Richard came to us with this idea for a classical music series that would be high-quality and innovative, but accessible in every sense of the word – content, location, ticket price – and it just seemed like a no-brainer that this needed to happen.  And with a beautiful asset like Old Town Hall, it’s such a natural fit.”

This Salem Classical performance, “Composer Focus: Stravinsky at Old Town Hall,” will feature chamber music transcriptions of Stravinsky’s revolutionary “The Rite of Spring” (a Salem premiere) and his neoclassical “Pulcinella”.  Also included will be shorter solo and chamber works, and commentary by Composer Focus founder Nick Dinnerstein.

This presentation of the Composer Focus concert program includes:

  • Salem premiere of the four-hand piano version of The Rite of Spring performed by Paul Jacobs and Yilin You
  • Suite italienne for violin and piano from Pulcinella
  • Three Pieces for String Quartet with violinists Angel Valchinov and Li-Mei Liang, violist Chen Lin and cellist Nick Dinnerstein
  • Elegy for solo viola performed by Chen Lin
  • Tango for solo piano performed by Paul Jacobs

Composer Focus is a classical concert series, specializing in 20th and 21st century chamber music for piano and strings. The series introduces local audiences to some of the most original and accomplished composers of our time through vibrant performances in Cambridge and in towns throughout New England. Each concert explores the music of a single classical composer and consists of major as well as rarely performed works in a variety of instrumental combinations. For more information please visit www.composerfocusconcerts.com.

For tickets go to this link.  Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for seniors and students. The performance begins at 7:30pm at Old Town Hall which is located at 32 Derby Square.

Salem has welcomed Jazz, Steampunk, and other forms of music— time for classical, wouldn’t you think?

Jun 192015

rainbow-hpThis is what Salem aspires to be all about. Diversity & inclusion. The town that discriminated against witches is now the place where the LGBT community will hold its annual expression of solidarity (and fun) – – – the 4th Annual North Shore Pride Parade and Festival, June 20 starting at noon.

If you’re looking for a historical perspective on the Pride Parade, Wikipedia provides one.

Essentially the Pride Parade endeavors to broadcast to the world, or for the Salem march at least to the North Shore, that LGBT people are composed from a variety of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. They are real people. And although communities strive to foster diversity and inclusion, the parade is also a platform to say there are still issues to be resolved.

That said, the 4th Annual North Shore Pride Parade and Festival has been designed to be a colorful, lively, loud expression of personal choice. This year’s theme is Standing Proud Together.

The parade kicks off from the Post Office at noon (see parade route) and makes its way to Salem Common, where festival activities (including food, arts, crafts, live music, plus local nonprofit and business vendors) will take place from 1-4:30pm.

This year’s entertainment lineup at the festival showcases the talents of headliners XELLE.  Also in the lineup: Adrienne Mack Davis as part of her world tour; local favorites, The DeJas, Big Ol’ Dirty Bucket, Sarah & The Wild Versatile, Pocket Tanya, Siren of the Circle, Jenn Lombari and Lucky United.

Pride print 1Retailers and local artists have also been getting involved and showing their support. A wide variety of rainbow flags can be seen everywhere. For example, Diane Hoffman on Artists’ Row (of DINO Diane Hoffman Textiles) has been gleefully cranking out rainbow prints in preparation for the day’s events.

There will also be a special 5 pm performance of “The Normal Heart” at Salem Theatre.

And rounding out the day will be an official After Party outside at Murphy’s Pub starting at 5 pm ($5 suggested donation at the door).

North Shore Pride is a 100% volunteer run non-profit organization. The annual North Shore Pride Parade, Festival and year-round community events are made possible by the work of countless volunteers, individual donations and the support of community sponsors.