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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

USAF New Horizons Clarinet Ensemble

The McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
© Lydia Lowe 10/28/2012

New Horizons Clarinet Ensemble  . . . The McPherson Opera House played host to a special concert by the United States Air Force New Horizons clarinet ensemble.  The band played a variety of music which included everything from jazz to ragtime, show tunes, marches, and classical music.  No matter what your musical preferences, there was a tune for every musical taste.

The band started its set with “Dizzy Fingers” which I had never heard before but is now one of my new favorite tunes.  It’s a fast rollicking tune that gets your toes tapping.  I have a love/hate relationship with the tune “The Girl From Ipanema”, another tune that the band played.  I’ve heard so many versions of this song and some of them are just so incredibly bad.  But I loved the version that the band played.  The timing was exceptional and I felt like I was actually there at a sidewalk cafĂ© in South America as the girl from the song walked by me.   

The clarinet players took a break to catch their breath and a marimba was wheeled onto the stage and Sr. Airman Gary Steinberg played a couple of tunes on it.  Quite the highlight of the show, as the audience was unfamiliar with this instrument and the sheer size of it as well as how it was played was an instant hit.   

Some of the other songs that I enjoyed from their set were:  “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Summertime”, and of course, the final song which was a medley of military marches.  It was hard not to feel patriotic while all branches of the armed forces were recognized.

This band is playing in the area for a few weeks, so if you get a chance to go and see them, do.  It is definitely worth your time.   Get there early, as they have CD’s of their music that you can have for free.  It’s a great concert and a CD you can take home to listen to again and again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Passing Zone

The McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
© Lydia Lowe 10/19/2012

The Passing Zone . . . what do you get when you mix in one part comedy, one part athletic ability, one part skill, one part magic, and one part showmanship?  Well, you get a lot of parts known as The Passing Zone.  Whether you classify this juggling team of Owen Morse and Josh Casey as comedy or circus act, you're right.

The running comedy themes throughout the show are hilarious and worth going to see on their own.  But when you add in the juggling, the sheer timing and athletic ability that it takes to pull off a lot of their stunts; everything from juggling fire torches while balancing precariously on unicycles and on boards set on top of a ten pound drum laying on its side, to chainsaws weighing several pounds that are actually running at the time, to audience members wearing flaming hats while holding spinning plates as knives are thrown back and forth around them; the timing has to be perfect.  And this juggling team makes it seem so easy, when you've got to know that these juggling stunts require amazing amounts of practice time.

Then there's the site gags.  The bowling ball to the face that turns out to be a regular rubber ball, the two dozen eggs carefully balanced in the air on a plank of wood that intentionally falls out of the their cartons onto the audience in the front row but are really ping pong balls, as well as a variety of other gags.  You'll have to go to the show to see the rest.  No wonder they were finalists on America's Got Talent.

The Passing Zone is definitely worth the price of admission.  If you didn't see the show at The McPherson Opera House, you  missed a lot.  Don't let this happen again.  Check out their website on the links page to see some of their act, and then find one of their shows and go to it.  You won't be sorry.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Journey To Inspired Art Quilting

Journey To Inspired Art Quilting
Jean Wells
© Lydia Lowe  10/19/2012

     Are you interested in taking your quilting to another level?  A level beyond the basic block pattern and into the realm of possibility?  If you answered yes to these questions then you are ready for Jean Wells newest book, “Journey to Inspired Art Quilting”.

     Wells uses the art that we have around us every day that many of us miss.  She holds up nature as inspiration, seasonal changes in weather, unique windows on homes, peeling paint on houses, you name it and she incorporates it into her designs.  She juxtaposes diverse elements together to create quilts that exist only in dreams.  The whole concept lifts the reader up into imagination and a different level of art and design.

     Using photographs, journals, sketchbooks, and thoughtful questions, Wells guides us on a journey that includes small assignments to wet your appetite and encourage your own creative endeavors.  She covers everything from inspiration, to color to design, to imagery/embellishment, to artful presentation.  Through a series of assignments Wells leads the reader on a journey to a more inspired quilt.

     This book is not for everyone.  If you are an advanced quilter and interested in new techniques, this is a must read.  If you are a beginning quilter, just starting out, this book would be a bit of a challenge.  Basic techniques are not covered.  There is a supplies section at the back but it is more for reference than for instruction.

     I found this to be a delightful book and I can’t wait to try the assignments to learn more about art quilting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


The Stiefel Theatre
Salina, KS
© Lydia Lowe 10/05/2012

Kansas. . . When you say the word Kansas it makes you think of a flat piece of land in the middle of the United States.  Until a garage band from Topeka Kansas emerged onto the national stage with the name- Kansas.  Suddenly, Kansas was cool.  The band is still around and they still sound incredible.

One of the things that I love about bands from the ‘70’s is that they are all about style.  There are speakers and amps crowding the stage, there’s usually a unique backdrop behind the band, there’s always a light show, usually there’s the unexpected instrument, and just great music.  This show had it all.  The backdrop featured the cover the first album, self-titled Kansas, which is also a picture of a famous painting that is in the Topeka capital building of John BrownThe light show was like none  that I’ve seen at more recent shows, the music was fantastic, and I’ve always heard that you’ve got to have a fiddle in the band.  The unique and unexpected instrument in this band is a fiddle.

Kansas played all their hits.  There was Fight Fire with Fire, Point of No Return, Hold On, Dust in the Wind (which started out as a way to practice scales and ended up being a #1 hit) and the show closed with Carry on Wayward Son that had the entire audience on their feet.   The crowd knew every song and sang along.  What a great night, a fantastic band and wonderful music.