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Friday, December 18, 2015

The Good Dinosaur

      What would have happened to life on planet Earth if the meteor completely missed the earth and dinosaurs continued to rule the world?  The Good Dinosaur attempts to answer that question.

     Brontosaurus would become farmers; planting, tilling, watering, and harvesting their crops.  They'd build and live in barn like structures, raise their children, and live quiet peaceful lives.  No surprises there, brontosaurus were plant eaters, peaceful creatures that lived in groups. This is how the movie begins.  There's a little bit of a Flintstones twist to the story as the brontosaurus family adapt the environment to their needs.

     Stegosaurus makes an appearance in the movie as a frightful looking creature who does his best to camouflage himself and stay safe with the help of his friends who hang out on his many horns.  I'd always heard that stegosaurus was a fierce creature but not in this movie.  Stegosaurus introduces his friends to Arlo, the good dinosaur, and tells Arlo what they do to help him.  All except for Debbie, the redbird, who seems to have no purpose except to look pretty.  At one point she flies away and stegosaurus goes chasing after her.

     My favorite dinosaurs of the movie were the family of Tyrannosaurus Rex.  These dinosaurs were said to be fierce and dangerous.  And they were in the movie, too.  They were also a cowboy family running a herd of longhorns that appeared to be Wooly Mammoths.

     At this point the world has turned upside down.  Nothing is what it appears to be.  Then there is the boy named Spot, a quest to return home, what makes a family and how important it is to do what you think is right, to help a friend even when your scared, and to be a good dinosaur.

     Adults and children will enjoy this movie equally.  It's full of action and adventure.  This movie will hold your interest throughout the film.  There was only one place in the movie that I was a bit shocked by and that was when Arlo and Spot came across some berries on the ground that had fermented and there was some brief scenes of being on a psychedelic high.  The 6 year old that was with me didn't seem to pick up on it, but it shocked me that it was in a Disney film.

     If you need a family activity to do over the Christmas holidays, be sure to check this movie out.  It's great and will bring a tear to the eye of adults and children alike.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

     The lights blinked three times and the crowd drifted from the concession area to their seats.  As the house lights went down, nine dapper gentlemen in vintage suits and hats, took to the stage.  Everyone held their breath, and then . . .it began.

     An explosion of music and sound that had everyone rocking in their seats.  The evening started off with the song: Rockabilly Christmas which was quickly turned into a medley of Christmas standards.  It included Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer played on saxophone, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and The Night Before Christmas. This wasn't your standard songs, BBVD put their own spin on all of them and worked their band name into the lyrics.

     Then we heard the entire song Santa Claus is Coming To Town, on the trumpet, which was amazing.  The amount of air that had to be produced to get such overwhelming sound to come out of that small brass instrument was phenomenal.  I wondered how the musician had the strength to walk back to his position on the stage after that performance.  Then we heard Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in its entirety complete with bells. And it only got better from there, if that's possible.

     Walking into The Orpheum Theatre in Wichita is such a treat.  It's a lovely old theatre,  The neon sign out front is a wonderful welcome, along with the lobby and concession area, simply beautiful.  Once you enter the theatre it's clear this is a work in progress.  But what a great venue to see a class act like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in their vintage apparel rocking the stage. 


Monday, December 14, 2015

A Benefit for 1st Call For Help of Reno County

     Concert For The Cause held a benefit for 1st Call For Help of Reno County on Friday night at The Rusty Needle.  There was live music provided by Colton Gartleman, Sean Story and Morgan Wilk.  Throughout the night folks were encouraged to sign up for the many raffle items that were on display.

     Colton started out his set by singing a rousing rendition of Blue on Black.  This song got the crowds attention.  He followed up with Copperhead Road, Hurts So Good (which Gartleman put his own twist on both the lyrics and music, I loved it!), there was Old Time Rock and Roll, Keep On Rockin' In The Free World, and finally Last Dance with Mary Jane.  All in all Gartleman played an amazing set of 13 songs.  Incredible!

     Sean took to the stage next and started his set with Wonderwall, he also did his now infamous rendition of Creep as sung by Kermit The Frog (this was a requested song), and even managed to work in a Christmas song: Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Story sang en extensive set as well, of over 11 songs.

     Throughout the night the bucket was passed again and again for donations while the performers kept pumping up all the good the 1st Call does throughout the year for the Hutchinson community.  Folks continued buying chances to try and win a raffle item or two.  The crowd came and went all evening and the bar was nearly capacity all night.

    Morgan took to the stage and Sean accompanied her during her set on either mandolin or guitar.  Wilk sang some original songs as well as cover tunes.  She sang her original songs: Good Memories, My Own Pair of Wings, The Sunnyside (always a crowd favorite), and Kinda Like Mine (about a favorite nephew).  Then there were the cover tunes: Hard Candy Christman, Purple Rain, and Freedom Isn't Free.

      As the evening drew to a close, the bucket was passed one last time and then it was time to draw the names of the raffle winners.  Many merchants donated to the event to make the raffle possible.  Thank you's go out to Longs (sweat shirts), Stutzman's (poinsettias), Roy's Pit Barbecue (gift certificates), Sumo Creations (pen made out of beautiful stone), Hastings (gift certificates), Bornholdt Plant Land (hummingbird feeder and a planting kneeler), Outdoor Decor (pottery and yard art) and of course, the shining star of the evening, Westfahl Jewelers who donated a ruby bracelet.  Cindy M. won three times and took home that beautiful bracelet. 

      1st Call for Help of Reno County raised some much needed funds to finish out their year.  This show was the final show for the 2015 season for Concert For The Cause.  But CFTC will return next year with more concerts benefiting great Hutchinson charities.

Friday, December 11, 2015

CFTC-1st Call For Help

      This Friday, December 11, 7:00 to 11:00 pm, Concert For The Cause will host a benefit for 1st Call For Help at The Rusty Needle.  There will be performances by Morgan Wilk, Sean Story and Colton Gartleman, among others.  Also register for a chance to win a  variety of prizes which have been provided by Roy's Pit Barbecue, Bornholdt Plant Land, Longs, Westfahl Jewelers, Mikes, and Outdoor Decor.  What could be better than a night of great music and a chance to win terrific prizes, all while helping a local organization.

     1st Call For Help is a local organization that operates primarily on donations from the community, although they do receive a small amount of money from Reno County mill levy funds.  Right now the need is huge for this organization, a $19,000. grant that generally pays most of the operating capital and provides for the needs of those that the organization serves was not available this year.  So, it is more important than ever to raise money to keep the operation going in the year 2016.

     Over 450 families with emergency needs were helped this past year but with the tremendous cut in funding it is unclear how 1st Call will be able to continue to help the poorest of the poor in Reno County.  Over 175 elderly folks were helped this year with simple basic needs, such as soap, shampoo, personal care items, laundry detergent, etc.  These small things made a tremendous difference in their lives as they were unable to afford these basic healthcare items.  The back to school book bag program provided 1800 school bags for children attending school who could not afford to purchase school supplies.  1st Call also provides diapers, wipes, blankets, formula, and baby food for babies.  During the Christmas season the organization also provides gifts for Teen Christmas.

     The need has never been greater for babies, children, teens, families, the disabled, and the elderly.  Please join Concert For The Cause on Friday night at The Rusty Needle and help 1st Call For Help continue to help those in need by making a donation, enjoying some terrific live music, and registering for a chance to win great prizes.    

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Book Review-Larry Saves The Prairie

     At first glance, this appears to be a book for children.  I have always found though that if you make the book something that appeals to adults as well as kids, you've hit your target audience, which is well, everyone.  This book will appeal to readers of all ages.

     I love the way this book lays out its concepts.  It is straight forward, informative, it doesn't talk down to the reader or over explain.  It meets the reader at whatever level they are at and assumes that information and a good story is what the reader is looking for when they pick up a book.

    The concepts explained were keystone species (a term I'd never heard before, but found fascinating), the health of the prairie and how we keep it that way, it discussed other animals and how all species depend on one another to sustain their communities, it discussed myths that are prevalent regarding the prairie dog, and I found it interesting to learn that in order to "fence" in a prairie dog community you simply grow tall grass around the community and the prairie dogs will not venture into that area or beyond because they can't see over the grass to locate predators. Ultimately, the book is about Larry Haverfield's fight to save his beloved prairie.

     I showed this book to some neighborhood children and adults to get their reactions.  The coloring pages at the back were a big hit, of course.  Kids like books they can do a variety of things with, so reading and coloring go hand in hand.  One of the older children liked the "how you can help" section and wanted to see how they could help out in their community with this project.  The adults liked this feature too.  Prairie Dogs are a popular item here in Hutchinson and folks want to get involved.

     If you have a child or an adult that is hard to buy for, I'd recommend this book.  It's a great gift for all ages.  To find out more about the book or to contact the author, check out this link:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Preview-Big Bad Voodoo Daddy

     On December 15, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be appearing in Wichita at The Orpheum Theatre.   I had a chance to talk to the groups co-founder and lead singer, Scotty Morris.  If you're planning on attending this show, here is the inside scoop and what you need to know before heading out to the show.

     Christmas is right around the corner and what better way to usher in the season than with some West Coast Swing.  BBVD has two Christmas albums, 2003's release of  Everything You Want For Christmas and a 2013 release of It Feels Like Christmas Time.  The show will primarily draw from these two albums, but of course, there's always room for a few other tunes along the way that aren't specifically Christmas related.

     The band got its name when Scotty Morris attended an Albert Collins concert.  He describes it as the best night of his life.  Collins, a Blues legend, autographed a poster from the show and wrote on it: To Scotty, The Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.  Thus an idea for a band began to take shape. Unfortunately, Morris never got to tell Collins this story but he did share it on The Tonight Show and Collins' family heard about it and were thrilled.  

     The outfits the group wears on stage are authentic vintage clothing store finds.  They represent years of trial and error in which the band has amassed a nice collection of quality suits and ties that represent the overall stage presence that gives the band it's unique style. No stylist's for this band.  Down to the smallest detail, everyone in the band is constantly working on their look.

     BBVD started out as a punk and alternative rock band, no lie.  But it was a life long love of swing and early jazz music that finally provided the base for the band.  Punk music is full of wild and unpredictable energy as is early jazz music.  Both share an energy and an emotional element that just naturally flows into a swing based beat.

     Then you take that swing style with a jazzy beat and put a symphony orchestra behind it and BBVD bridges two fan bases together for another exciting alternative in music.  For almost as long as BBVD has been a band they have been pushing the envelope to see just what appeals to music lovers and with their symphony project they found yet another way to reach true music lovers.  A stage full of people with one goal, memorable music.

     The band continues to dig further, to find new audiences for their music. BBVD performed a special tune called Mr Pinstripe Suit on Dancing With The Stars.  Apolo Anton Ohno's routine to that song helped him win Dancing With The Stars, Season 12.  This along with their work with Disney films has helped make Big Bad Voodoo Daddy a household name.

     So what's ahead for this unique band?  Watch for new CD's in 2016 and 2018.  They'll be more information on these the future.  Check out this link if you just can't wait:



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Nutcracker Ballet

     The Moscow Ballet from Russia did a superb performance on Wednesday, December 2nd, at The Stiefel Theatre in Salina, performing a play first seen in St. Petersburg, Russia at the end of the 19th century,with a musical score by Russian playwright, Tchaikovsky.  It was a ballet that was easily understood and easily accessible to the general public.  The costumes, the Russian Trioka sleigh, the Rousseau-inspired backdrops all brought a quiet elegance to the stage.

   Take a step back in time to Russia in the 1890's.  There is a girl there whose name is Masha and she is on her way to find her handsome prince who at the beginning of this ballet is disguised as a lowly wooden nutcracker.

     It's Christmas Eve and the family is opening up their gifts.  Among those gifts is a tiny man who is a wooden nutcracker.  Masha is enchanted with him.  So much so, that after the festivities have ended and the children are in bed, Masha sneaks back downstairs to check on her beloved nutcracker and interrupts a war which is taking place between the Gingerbread Men and the mice in the parlor. Masha aids the nutcracker in fighting off an attack from one of the mice, and the nutcracker is transformed in the process.

     Masha, along with her nutcracker prince is now off on a fairy-tale journey to the land of Peace and Harmony.  The pair are greeted by a giant dove and are ferried about by Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden.  The group travels to a variety of places in the Land of Peace and Harmony in a beautiful sleigh where they meet a variety of characters.  In the end, true love triumphs over all.

     Over 40 children from the Salina area also participated with The Moscow Dance Company in bringing this ballet to life.  They trained, practiced and prepared along with the dance company for the night's performance.

     The costumes were magnificent, the stage a delight for the eye with amazing backdrops, the music superb, the dancers were polished and their performance spot on, and the story, one for the ages.  The Stiefel Theatre, Jane Gates, and the sponsors for the night are to be commended for bringing this excellent stage production of The Nutcracker to Salina.  Bravo!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Late Night Catechism Las Vegas-Sister Rolls The Dice

     If you've never been to one of these Late Night Catechism shows, you've truly missed something special.  This past Saturday, Late Night Catechism arrived at The McPherson Opera House.  While not sold out, there is usually always a big crowd in attendance for one of these shows.

     To describe this show, think interactive comedy.  Sister, and there are several women who tour the country portraying sister in a variety of different shows, provides instruction regarding the Catholic Church and it's customs, but you don't have to be Catholic to get the jist of what Sister is talking about.  At one point in the evening she brought a late audience member down front, produced a ruler and asked Gwen to hold out her hand.  Gwen did and then shrank back as Sister slapped her on her wrist with a ruler bracelet.  Sister laughed and said, "Gwen, it's just a slap bracelet, I don't want you to get your lawyer down here and sue me".  The audience roared with laughter.

     The first part of these shows are usually more of a stand up routine and then after the intermission Sister gets the audience involved.  On this night, it was Las Vegas casino games.  She brought a woman up out of the audience and had her play the part of Vanna, a Vegas showgirl, complete with a sparkly orange headdress and a pink feather boa.  She encouraged her to bring the beer she was holding with her, and Vanna spent quite a bit of the time she was on stage drinking her beer which only added to the hilarity of the situation.  When it was time to play BlackJack, Sister, in full habit, donned a red eye-shade hat and became a Black Jack dealer.  It was funny to see a nun in full habit wearing a Black Jack dealer's hat.

     A truly unforgettable evening.  But these shows are fun with a purpose.  When the social security system was put into place, the Catholic Church opted out for Sisters.  So now that many nuns have become old enough to draw on social security and have some sort of retirement funds, these are not available to them.  At the end of these shows, the woman playing Sister always explains these facts to the audience and  passes the hat to collect funds for those sisters who have nothing to fall back on. Since these shows have begun,and they've been running for many years, over three million dollars has been collected for Sisters nationwide.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Midtown Men

     The 1960's were alive and well this past Thursday night when The Midtown Men made a stop at The Fox Theatre in Hutchinson.

     There was a lot of interest in this show from the time it was announced as part of the regular 2015/2016 season. This show did not disappoint.  Opening to a sold out audience, The Midtown Men wowed everyone with classic 1960's songs that appeared fresh and new, even though everyone in the audience knew all the words.  Singing along was expected and encouraged.

     I enjoyed the backdrops on the stage, the layout of the guitars, drums, brass instruments, and keyboard.  The outfits were vintage 1960's complete with skinny ties.  A class act through and through, as much fun to watch as to listen too.  A video screen at the back of the stage played a variety of vintage black and white video of various groups whose songs were being sung on stage as well as video of The Midtown Men at photo ops and on the streets of New York which lent an air of fantasy and a Broadway feel to the overall production.  Truly the audience was no longer in Kansas anymore.

     Hutch audiences have a history of leaving at intermission or a break in the action.  On this night, not a single person left the venue.  In fact, when the music started back up at the break, people left whatever line they were in, be it concessions or bathrooms, to return to the auditorium and their seats.  No one wanted to miss a single note that was played or sang on the stage.  The Midtown Men had captivated the crowd!

     At the end of the evening, The Midtown Men exited to the lobby to sign autographs, meet and greet the patrons, and take photos with anyone who requested one.  Even with an early departure time the following day, the group stayed until the last person left the lobby.  

     The Midtown Men have several private performances lined up after their show at The Historic Fox Theatre.  The next performance that they have planned for general audiences will by December 15 in Avon Park, Florida.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Preview-The Nutcracker Ballet

      On December 2nd The Moscow Ballet will bring The Nutcracker to life on the stage at The Stiefel Theatre in Salina.  Before the show premieres. I got a chance to step behind the scenes to learn insider secrets about the ballet.

     The Moscow Ballet version is unique, not only in the name change of the main character from Maria/Clara to Masha, but in Act II, which usually finds the main character in the traditional Land of Sweets, Masha will arrive in the land of Peace and Harmony.  A large dove will greet Masha and the Nutcracker Prince; this dove will consist of two dancers each carrying 20 foot feathered wings.  Masha and the Nutcracker Prince will also by escorted through the land of Peace and Harmony by Father Christmas and the Snow Maiden in a Russian Trioka Sleigh.  Truly a feast for the eyes.

     A full company of dancers, 36 in all, will grace the stage several times during the performance.  I've been assured that the choreography is such that the audience won't be overwhelmed with the amount of dancers or action on the stage.  This ballet should be quite easy to follow along with the story line and keep all the parts in perspective.    

     Costumes were designed by Arthur Oliver, an American designer, who traveled to St. Petersburg to oversee the creation of the costumes.  They'll be a lot of flash, decoration, and detail.  There are even Swarovski crystals on Masha's tutu.  I can't wait to see that outfit.

     The backdrops will be Rousseau-inspired scenes, especially for the second act.  They'll be fanciful Russian animals and birds, as well as a rainbow and angels.  All of this set to Tchiakovsy's original musical score. 

     It's taken lots of hard work to bring this ballet to life.  The dance company will be recruiting and training 40 children from the Salina area to perform with the company on stage.  Rehearsals begin usually a week or more in advance.  The Moscow Ballet will be on tour throughout the United States bringing The Nutcracker Ballet to life for two months, and the run began this month of November.

     The Nutcracker has survived down through the ages as one of the happiest of all ballets and Tchiakovsky's music only adds to this delightful ballet.  There are a variety of endings to this ballet.  Spoiler alert, although I'm sure it's not that much of a surprise, but the ending will  be a happy one, as the boy and girl fall in love in the end.  What better way to end the ballet and especially at Christmas time.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Wrinkle Neck Mules

     Back Porch Buddha, Bryan Master and Dennis Harden, kicked off the evening with original tunes that had the audience fired up from the first chord stroke of the guitar. Each and every song was memorable and fun.  However, the song that stole the show was the final one of their set, Mona Rigby's Houseboat.  Truly hilarious.  We've all done crazy things, drunk or not, and those barely remembered times are so funny when you recall bits and pieces, then try to piece together the rest of the story.  This song had all those elements and more.  The audience was laughing so hard that many were in tears.  Plus the fact that the beer and wine was flowing freely and many in the audience already had a good buzz going, didn't hurt a bit either. 

     As soon as Back Porch Buddha finished their set they were off to another gig in Wichita.  These guys had a busy Saturday night ahead of them, but the audience at The McPherson Opera House thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the time they took to be there.  Check out their website for upcoming performances at:

     Then it was time for the nights headliner, The Wrinkle Neck Mules.  Yes, there is a story behind their name or maybe not, the group was mum on whether there was a story or not.  In fact, during the evening's interview, when the question was asked, they looked uncomfortable and changed the subject, make of it what you will.

     Yes, that is the black cat firework symbol on the wall at the back of the stage.  The first song they sang was Firework Stand which paid homage to that staple of every childhood 4th of July, Black Cat Firecrackers.  This group was more than enthusiastic while they played and sang their songs.  I don't know if they were standing to close to the mics or just weren't enunciating their words or what was going on on this night, but I could not understand a single lyric they sang.  I wasn't alone.  I polled those around me and they also said that they couldn't understand what they were saying.  Even without the lyrics, the music was great and the fellas played with gusto, as these fans can attest too.

     The band joked during the interview that one of their favorite songs that they were going to play on this evening was I Never Thought It Would Go This Far. The entire band cracked up when this song was mentioned during the interview before the show.   
     Wrinkle Neck Mules were headed home after this show and don't have any upcoming dates in the near future.  Concert season is winding down at this time of the year.  If you can't get enough of the Wrinkle Neck Mules, check out their website here: 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Mike Steinel Quintet

     The McPherson Opera House played host to two different acts this past weekend.  On Friday, there was The Mike Steinel Jazz Quintet and on Saturday, the featured act was The Wrinkle Neck Mules. 

     Friday night began with a performance by The McPherson College Jazz Ensemble.  The opener continued with a performance by The Smoky Valley High School Jazz Band.  Then it was time for The Mike Steinel Jazz Quintet.

     The quintet performed about nine different pieces.  Many of the song were originals compositions written by the band members.  There was Broadway, followed by Beto Junction (an original tune), We Will Meet Again, and a favorite of the evening, an original tune entitled Mr. Hooper's Find It In A Minute Book, written by Rosana Eckert, who provided vocals throughout the show.  Another stand out, and a song that has always been a favorite of mine, The Windmills of Your Mind.  Rosana did a terrific job singing this song.  I believe she did a better job than Dusty Springfield who made this song famous.  Rosana's voice is so rich and warm, the audience could just sink into the song, and wrap up in it like a warm blanket.

     This show had it all; the fast flying fingers of Pat Coil on the piano, the cool laid back groove of bass player Jeff Eckels, a jazzy beat provided by Steve Barnes on the drums, Rosana Eckert's smooth vocals, and last but not least, that groovy brass trumpet sound provided by Mike Steinel to round out the group.

     On Saturday, the quintet traveled to Wichita to play at The Roxy and then it was off to Oklahoma for a show in a restored train station.

     Mike Steinel, is originally from Marion, Kansas, is now an educator at the University of North Texas.  He brought his jazz quintet to McPherson to participate in the second annual Jazz Festival at McPherson College.  The festival featured 22 different high school bands as well as The McPherson College Jazz Ensemble.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Tale of Two Elvii

     Saturday night at The McPherson Opera House and there were not one, but two Elvis impersonator's on stage.  The only place that you can see multiple Elvis performances in one night is Las Vegas, so McPherson hit the big time Saturday night.

     Up first was Brian Lee Dunning who kicked off the evenings festivities with Elvis from the 50's.  He had the look, the sound, and the moves.  He appeared to be made of Jello as he gyrated around the stage.  Dunning had more moves than the real Elvis.  I have seen quite a few Elvis impersonators but I've never seen any of them dance like Dunning did Saturday night.  He threw himself, quite literally, into his performance.  And that guy can move!  Maybe he's double jointed.  I don't know but it was an experience to watch him dance.  He can sing too.  He sounded so much like Elvis that if you closed your eyes you'd swear the real Elvis was in the house.  Of course, then you missed the dancing which would be a shame.  Dunning is sure to make a name for his self in the Elvis business.

     Time for the main event and Marshall Matthews as Elvis from the 70's.  Matthew's came out attired in the classic white jump suit that Elvis is known for with all the sparkles.  He sang a wide range of Elvis songs from the various eras; 50', 60's and 70's.  He sang my two favorite Elvis song's: Kentucky Rain and Suspicious Minds.  He also sang a few covers that Elvis sang during his Las Vegas shows; Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers) and Proud Many (Credence Clearwater Revival and Tina Turner).  He sang a lovely rendition of Are You Lonesome Tonight, a 1926 Al Jolson hit. One of the best performances of the evening was when Matthews sang It's Now or Never.

     During the intermission, Brian Lee Dunning returned to the stage in a different outfit but still in character as a Rockabilly Elvis.  I'm not sure what songs' he sang, I remember singing along, (in my mind), he's just so much fun to watch!  Dunning has so much energy and he is in character the entire time he is on stage.  Such fun.  I think it's safe to say that if he were to appear on Ed Sullivan with those moves back in the 50's, he would have gotten in as much or more trouble as the real Elvis did back in the 50's.

     Matthews returned to the stage after intermission and continued with his spot on performance, now dressed in a black jumpsuit full of sparkles. Throughout the evening Matthews was accompanied by a full band, The Memphis Kings, which is comprised of music teachers and others from around the state, including Denny Brunk, from McPherson, who was on hand to help out with trombone and back-up vocals. Elvis with a full band and back-up vocals was impressive.  In fact, Matthews and Dunning even did a song together on stage.

     An evening of music, feel good songs, incredible dancing, and Elvis.  Matthews has two upcoming dates in Oklahoma in November.  I'll leave you with an Elvis fun fact, I was told that if there are two or more Elvis impersonators on a show together, they are called Elvii which is considered the plural for multiple Elvis.

     Coming up in November at The McPherson Opera House, on November 6 The Mike Steinel Lone Star Jazz Quintet will perform and then the following night on November 7 The Wrinkle Neck Mules will perform.  Jazz on the 6th and something called, heavy folk metal, among other things, on the 7th.  I can't wait.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Author Talk

     I had a chance to hear two different authors discuss their work this past week.  The first one a self-published author with her first book, E.J. Willis and the second one a well-known mainstream author with over 16 books to her credit, Anne Lamott.

     Last Monday night at the Hutchinson Public Library, E.J. Willis introduced a small but enthusiastic crowd to her first book, Battle For The Throne.  The story is set in medieval times and it the first of a series. It is geared towards the young adult audience, but Willis acknowledged that more adults are reading it than her target group.  It says a lot about a work of art when it appeals to a wider audience.  J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame didn't write the Harry Potter books for adults. 

     Willis prepared a powerpoint presentation which covered her journey through writing, revision, and self- publishing.  She shared some of the pitfalls she faced, as well as her success's.  She provided valuable information on how to obtain reviews for your book, how to go about finding illustrators for cover art, and information on self-publishing.  Primarily her message was, if you have a dream, follow it, you never know where it might lead and who you might meet along the way that God has placed there to help move you along.  She stayed on point with her discussion and even provided a variety of ways to contact her if anyone in the audience needed additional information. 

     Last Thursday night at The Stiefel Theatre in Salina I had the chance to hear Anne Lamott speak about her journey.  I'm a bit confused by it.  I spoke to some other folks that were at this event and they had the same reaction.  Lamott was all over the place.  I had hoped to hear about her writing and get some tips, pointers, inspiration.  She acknowledged at the beginning of her talk that she had planned to discuss writing and that was what she was there to do, but then she got lost.

     I'm not sure what happened.  She spoke about a lot of different topics and just kept getting lost.  It was interesting, but not worth the price of admission.  I don't know if she was having a bad night, or what was going on.  She said that she had just returned to the U.S. from a trip to Greece, so maybe she was tired and jet lagged.  I don't know.  The one thing that stood out for me was a quote by E.L. Doctorow, she mentioned several times: "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night.  You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."  Perhaps that was simply why I was there, to hear that quote.  It seems to be my only take away from the evening.  Lamott signed books at the end of the night, and I was first in line, and she signed my copy of Bird By Bird.

     Interesting week, filled with two different authors at opposite ends of the publishing scale.  If you are interested in a copy of Willis' book, she works in circulation at the Hutchinson Public Library and would be happy to sell you a copy of her book and personally autograph it for you.  It's also available on Amazon if you'd prefer to purchase it there.  Lamott's books are available at Hastings Books and Music, if you'd like to purchase them locally, and they are also available on Amazon.  The Hutchinson Public Library also has these books in their collection for checkout.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Count Basie Orchestra

     Friday night was a great night for a concert and it just so happens that it was also the season opener for The Fox Theatre.  This year's season opened with The Count Basie Orchestra.

      This is a one of a kind jazz orchestra.  Lead by Scotty Barnhart, this outstanding group of musicians played some swinging tunes.  There were seventeen instruments, eighteen if you count the conductor.  Barnhart guided the musicians through a variety of difficult songs with a wide variety of tempos.  He dialed up the sound as well as dialing it down.  Truly Barnhart's conducting skills count as an instrument of sorts.

     Throughout each song, various musicians would take a turn as soloist on the stage and do some improvisation.  Sometimes two instruments would stand out from the group as dual soloists.  It's because of these amazing solo improvisation's that a Count Basie Orchestra show is always one of a kind.

      One of my favorite parts of the evening was when soloist, Carmen Bradford, took to the stage.  She had such a presence as she walked onto the stage in this gorgeous black ensemble.  The power in her voice was incredible.  As Barnhart brought the orchestra up as loud as he could, which was loud, we're talking trumpets, saxophones, trombones, drums, a guitar, a bass, and a piano; seventeen instruments in all.  Bradford's voice rose over and above the orchestra and you could hear every note, every word of the song as clear as if there were no orchestra there at all.  She gave it all she had and it gave me chills.  Bradford took a bit of a breather afterward, to gather herself, but then launched into the next song.  Carmen Bradford is truly a gifted, talented vocalist. 

     Also along for this show, was Brandon Robertson on bass, who was filling in for the regular bass player.  Robertson is one of Barnhart's students at Florida State.  He's a master student there and Barnhart brought him along to give him a taste of performing live for the public in something other than an academic setting.  Robertson slipped into his role as band member effortlessly.

     If you had the chance to catch the show and want to keep the magic going, or if you didn't go but wish you had, The Count Basie Orchestra has put together a Christmas album, the first complete Christmas CD they've ever done.  It is available for pre-sale on Amazon and should be available in November.

     Coming up next at The Fox Theatre, on Friday, October 2, Suzy Bogguss will be performing live.  Tickets are still available.

Monday, August 31, 2015


      Concerts For The Cause ended its 2015 Summer Season in Avenue A Park this past Saturday with a benefit for Reno County Head Start.  The event packed the park with families and children numbering in the hundreds, as all of the school districts in Reno County showed up to represent their schools.

      The lines formed early for hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks.  There were tables set up for face painting, arts and crafts where you could make paper instruments from paper plates; chalk drawings graced the stage, the overflow ramp and the sidewalk surrounding the river, bubbles flew about in the air, the Hutchinson High School cheer squad was everywhere interacting with the kids and helping out with various activities. The cheer squad even lead the various area schools Head Start programs in a cheer, individually and together as a group.  There was even a roving Minion circulating throughout the crowd.


     And there was music.  Stevie Warren of Road 23 started off the evening with The Star Spangled Banner and she was spot on.  This is an incredibly hard song to sing and very few people can sing it well.  There was no hesitation in her voice and she hit every chord of the song.  It was amazing and the crowd chatter over across the river from the stage was all about how she had made everyone one so proud with her rendition of the song.  A lot of hooting and hollering after the song should have also showed her how much the crowd enjoyed her efforts.

     Up first was Hutchinson's own, Brody Baker.  Baker is one of the most requested performers from this season, and even though he was a bit congested, he was in fine voice.  He did a variety of covers, including one that has become a crowd favorite, his version of I'm Yours by Jason Mraz.  The song has a calypso beat to it which was perfect for a summer evening.  He finished up his set with an original song, Man Of The Hour.  Baker, unfortunately, doesn't have any other upcoming shows scheduled in the near future.  But I'm sure we haven't heard the last of him.  Many performers are winding down their schedules now as concert season is drawing to a close. 

     For the past couple of years, Concerts For The Cause has had a very dedicated volunteer who has shown up at every show to help set up before the show and tear down after the show.  His name is Charles and he plays guitar and sings.  He's been asked on more than one occasion to perform for the CFTC audience and finally, this past Saturday, Charles performed live on stage.  He did a couple of cover tunes, including Buy Me A Mercury by Alan Jackson which had the crowd singing along with the words.  Charles can be seen performing outside various business's on Third Thursday.

     Cosmo, the spray-paint artist who had the crowd entranced at last year's Kansas State Fair, and then returned to Hutchinson for The Comic Con and Smallville Festival this year, painted a large painting featuring a small boy and Superman symbol on it.  He donated that painting to Concerts For The Cause with the proceeds to be donated to a worthy organization. CFTC chose to donate that painting and its proceeds to Reno County Head Start who held a drawing to give it away during the concert.  And one lucky person in the audience won the painting.

     Finally it was time for Road 23.  This group performed on live TV on The Brett and Sierra Show the Thursday before the party in the park.  They quickly became the most shared video performance that The Brett and Sierra Show has ever had in its history.

     Stevie Warren is the lead singer for this group and she started off strong.  The evening was winding down, twilight was creeping in, everyone had eaten and participated in activities, and it was time to sit back, relax and just let the music wash over the gathered crowd.  In fact, more people joined the group in the park which was nearly bursting with folks at this point, to hear Road 23 perform.  They did an amazing job with favorite covers which covered the genre's of rock, folk, country and my favorite, music from The Eagles.  There was even a Sinatra tune in the mix called Fly Me To The Moon.  Road 23 performed on Sunday at The Block Party at Cornerstone in Winfield and they'll be at the Nehemiah Festival in Smithville, Missouri in September.

     All in all a perfect evening with a cool breeze, autumn like temperatures, food, folks, and fun.  Hutchinson really turned out for the final show of the Concerts For The Cause 2015 season.  An amazing time was had by all and even better, the community has gotten the word out about the Head Start program, what the program is all about, hopefully reaching even more potential students who could make use of Head Start's services.