Staying Alive: Melanie at Green Wood Coffee House


Melanie wowed audiences at Woodstock back in the summer of ’69 with her hit "Beautiful People." On that rainy night, spectators lit the night with candles, inspiring her song "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," which sold more than a million copies in 1970. Billboard, Cashbox, Melody Maker, Record World, and Bravo responded by naming Melanie female vocalist of the year.

Her single "Brand New Key," an almost-innocent sexy delight, topped the charts in '71. She appeared on Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and Dick Cavett. She played the Royal Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Cher and Dolly Parton are among those who covered her songs.

To those who enjoyed folk music, and even some who didn't, Melanie was a household name.

Now, at 70, she tours and tries to stay afloat, which includes a sold-out show at Green Wood Coffee House in Ann Arbor on Friday, Nov. 10.

Still, she says, “I’ve been carefully airbrushed out of history."

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In Their Own Voices: Michelle Held & Frank Allison at Crazy Wisdom


Frank Allison & Michelle Held

Frank Allison and Michelle Held have found their voices through song. Allison photo by Doug Coombe.

Detroit-based Michelle Held was a professional actress, appearing at the best theaters in Michigan, including the Purple Rose, where she trained, and the Williamston Theatre near Lansing. Her then-boyfriend gave her a guitar, but Held hardly touched it because she was busy with day jobs and rehearsals. And when she did try to play it, it didn't go well. “I would pick it up and get frustrated,” Held says.

When she took a full-time job at a production house, Held took her guitar to work but had too little time to do more than tinker with it. It wasn't until she was laid off from that job in 2009 that Held could work on her guitar skills and, finally, she says “began to get the hang of it.” In 2011, she wrote her first song.

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Simultaneous Strings: Emerson and Calidore team up at Rackham


Calidore String Quartet

The Calidore String Quartet met the Emerson String Quartet by going backstage and asking the legendary group to give the young ensemble a listen.

When Jeffrey Myers, first violinist for the Calidore String Quartet, grew up watching the Emerson String Quartet, he didn’t imagine members of the world-acclaimed quartet would mentor him -- or that he would share the stage with them.

After all, the Emerson, named for Ralph Waldo Emerson, has accepted nine Grammys for its 30-plus recordings and performed all over the world since being established in 1976. Its members, violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton, and cellist Paul Watkins, have notable careers individually, too.

Yet, when the Emerson performs in Ann Arbor on October 5 at Rackham Auditorium, it will perform with the Calidore, which Myers and three friends -- second violinist Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry and cellist Estelle Choi -- formed when they were students at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles.

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Kickshaw mounts a first-rate production of "Really"


Really, Kickshaw Theatre

Girlfriend (Shaunie Lewis) helps Mother (Pamela Bierly Jusino) try to capture the moment in Kickshaw's staging of Really.

There's a standard announcement before Kickshaw Theatre’s production of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Really: Director Lynn Lammers reminds spectators to turn off phones and that “the taking of photographs is strictly forbidden” by the actor’s union. Before she can finish, a young photographer appears, camera in hand. Click.

But no rules have been broken. The photo won’t be developed. Calvin, the photographer, is dead.

That doesn’t mean he’s out of the picture. Calvin is at the center, the only character who has a name. Mother and Girlfriend may have outlived him, but they are defined by their relationships to him. Mother is visiting Girlfriend, a photographer who has invited her for a photo shoot.

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"Right to Carry, Right to Live": Exploring the Second Amendment in songs and scenes

Right to Carry, Right to Live

Mason Van Gieson (left) and Right to Carry, Right to Live creator Julia Glander go for "go for potent, not preachy" in their exploration of the Second Amendment. Van Gieson photo by Richard Rupp Photography.

One woman lost her father, who shot himself. Another can’t get a 30-year-old school killing out of her mind.

Many have never experienced gun violence directly, but in the wake of so much of it, some families worry just a little when they send their kids off to school or take a walk at night.

Right to Carry, Right to Live, an evening conceived and produced by actor/director/educator Julia Glander, offers a variety of responses in different genres to the right to bear arms. Some will tell their own stories. Others will perform songs, scenes, or poems, each no longer than five minutes. There’s also an art installation. After the performances, which should total about an hour, there will be time for discussion. Seating is limited for the free event at Zingerman’s new Greyline space, where the bus station once was on Huron.

Glander decided to “go for potent, not preachy.” She organized the evening into three parts, dealing with the gun culture in America, actual incidents of gun violence, and finally, the aftermath. “Survivors of gun violence are among us,” she says.

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Taking Comfort in Beethoven: The Takács Quartet at Rackham


The Takács Quartet

The Takács Quartet. Photo credit by Keith Saunders.

“The times are a little tricky right now,” said Geraldine Walther, violist for The Takács Quartet. “In Beethoven’s day, as Napoleon’s army marched through Vienna, times were a little tricky, too. People are thirsty for something to hang on to.”

And that means there’s a real need for Beethoven’s string quartets.

“It’s very troubled music and very tragic, and somehow Beethoven makes a transformation and comes out of the darkness into the light, and we all go there with him and come out again,” said Walther.

“I feel we can center ourselves in art, and especially in this very profound music of another world,” she added. “There’s something about Beethoven. He’s able to convey what it means to be a human being in an all-embracing way everyone can identify with. And we as performers get to experience that first-hand with the audiences. It’s really been a great experience to play the quartets, and to play them now. Everywhere we’ve gone -- London or Berkley, Princeton or Ann Arbor, everyone is thirsty for this.”

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Swing Easy: Tenor Saxophonist Harry Allen at Kerrytown Concert House


Harry Allen

For Harry Allen, it don't mean a thing if you can't look out a window and dream about swing.

When Harry Allen was a sideman for drummer Oliver Jackson on long European tours, Jackson introduced the up-and-coming tenor saxophonist to the local promoter in every city they played. “He would say, ‘Remember this name, you’re going to want him,’” Allen recalls. Thirty years later, some of the same people book Allen regularly.

Now an internationally acclaimed jazz artist, Harry Allen swings into town with his quartet to play the Kerrytown Concert House on Wednesday, March 1. They will perform audience favorites from the Great American Songbook as well as a few new songs Allen recently wrote. Joining him on this date are Chicago-based guitarist Andy Brown and Ann Arbor veterans Paul Keller, bass, and Pete Siers, drums.

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