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A Singer’s Notes 135: Moonlight and Magnolias at Oldcastle Theatre and the Chiara String Quartet at Mohawk Trail Concerts

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Paul Romeo and Nathan Stith in Oldcastle Theatre Company's production of " Moonlight and Magnolias,

Paul Romeo and Nathan Stith in Oldcastle Theatre Company’s production of ” Moonlight and Magnolias,

Moonlight and Magnolias at Oldcastle Theatre

In a play that basically pursues one action only, that of completing a script for the film of Gone With the Wind, four excellent actors kept us laughing. There was certainly excess in virtually every aspect of the performance, but it was funny excess. It was repetitive, but the repetitions were funny. It is kind of a “Johnny-one-note” script, but these several actors made us join the laughter. Moonlight and Magnolias can seem long, in fact it did in some places, but there was great skill in how the actors handled this. Oldcastle’s production was well-cast physically. Actor Eli Ganias’s David O. Selznick, already a rich producer, was the badgerer-in-chief, and he did not relent. Nathan Stith, Paul Romero, and Natalie Wilder held up their various functions with desperation being the prime motivator. All in all, this play was fun. It was jolly. It gave you enough information to predict the next absurd event, and we took great joy in laughing at their torments. A lively crowd added to the fun.

The Chiara String Quartet at Mohawk Trail Concerts

Just an amazing concert last night in Charlemont. The Chiara Quartet played to perfection, Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimenti, and Johannes Brahms’ String Quartet no. 1, both from memory. I remember the pioneering recordings of this method from old CD’s by the Quartetto Italiano. It made all the difference to see this being done, the kind of dependence and speakingness were striking. This was in no way a gimmick. Hats off to them for showing us the value of this. Aaron Jay Kernis’s monumental String Quartet no . 1 “Musica Celestis” was riveting, particularly the second “harmony of the spheres” movement. I have heard this movement played orchestrally a couple of times, but this performance made me realize that the sliding tones, for example, at the beginning of the second movement, were so much more real and ethereal. This movement has great power to engage our aural imagination, and in this performance it did that superbly. The last movement of the Brahms quartet, again played from memory, was hair-raising in its ensemble and energy. The Chiara String Quartet is one of the best string quartets I have heard in a long while. The venue itself has a sweetness and an utter lack of pretension. Charlemont is only a half hour away from Williamstown—well worth the journey, which itself is a thing of beauty.

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