Two art forms — rock and roll and Broadway musicals — live on today in various degrees. Three area artists — Mike Gagliardo, Kim Dobbs and Ramsey Whitney — bring us face to face with events that feature these forms in the coming weeks.
‘Poets of Rock & Roll’
It’s hard to remember rock and roll music without remembering the lyrics. The wordsmiths had to make the songs completely catchy. To learn more about how the words were selected, come to Mike Gagliardo’s program “The Poets of Rock & Roll” on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County. It is a free event.
When it emerged in the 1950s, this genre was a statement of the times. “I think that rock and roll became popular because of a ‘revolutionary’ desire by young people to listen to something that they could better connect with in the 1950s,” Gagliardo said. “It was a reproach, if you will, of their parents’ music, which they felt they could not connect to because it didn’t address things specific to them.
“I think it remained popular because it continued, and continues, to evolve to the tastes of the current listeners, and because there is so much variety in popular music that everyone now has something they can latch on to.
“This style does have musicality, and as the genre evolved, it became even more musical,” he continued. “While a lot of pop music today sticks very closely to the simple formulas that made the music a breakthrough success in the 1950s (and harkens back to its origins in the blues), there are many different styles of popular music that draw from jazz and even classical or symphonic music.”
Gagliardo, who is director of the Etowah Youth Orchestras, will be talking about four artists: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon and Bernie Taupin.
“Of course, Dylan, Cohen and Simon are/were all great singer/songwriters. Taupin is Elton John’s lyricist,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the significance of the words in songwriting — the importance of the messages being delivered by the music.”
• Bob Dylan is described in the Encyclopedia of American Musicians as a writer of folk ballads and protest songs for which he wrote both words and music. One of his best known recordings was “Blowin’ in the Wind.” This award-winning composer and guitarist, who has become a legend in his lifetime, made best-selling albums well into the 1970s. In his music, he spoke out against poverty, social injustice, racial discrimination and war. When not writing music today, he creates visual art, which he exhibits nationally.
• Leonard Cohen is a Canadian songwriter and folk singer who set his poems to music. His poetry, sometimes with a vision of imaginary scenes, is romantic but often combined with cynicism and irony.
• Paul Simon, of Simon & Garfunkel, is singer and songwriter who wrote nearly all of the pair’s songs. He has earned 16 Grammys for his solo and collaborative work. He is known for “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “Mrs. Robinson.”
• Bernie Taupin is an English lyricist and songwriter who has been Elton John’s collaborator for more than 50 years. “First, the music, always the music” has been his guideline for writing words to music.
In other rock and roll news: The Etowah Youth Orchestras present its annual Christmas Rock and Roll concert later this year, and “50 Years of Rock & Roll” will be presented at the Oxford Performing Arts Center this coming season (date TBA).
Musicals, from lessons to stage
Both teacher and student have made the grade. Kim Dobbs, owner of Kimberlite Productions, will be directing “The Sound of Music Jr.” in the Fairhope area Nov. 16-18, while her long-time student, Ramsey Whitney, has captured the role of Pepper in Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s “Annie,” which opens July 4. Whitney is also understudy to the principal role of Annie.
“The Sound of Music Jr.” is an adaptation for schools of the well-known musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It will be produced by Robert Harris of Center Stage Performance, a youth company in Fairhope, and presented at Daphne Civic Center in Daphne. Dobbs will also be teaching theater camp July 23-27 with Center Stage Performance.
“I saw considerable talent on stage there two months ago in ‘Cinderella,’” Dobbs said. “I am looking forward to teaching and directing in a community new to me.” She is expanding her Kimberlite Productions base to Mobile. Especially exciting to her is the size of the Daphne Civic Center — 1,700 seats — “which is the largest house I’ve directed in since coming to Anniston.”
Speaking of Anniston, her hometown, Dobbs will be returning periodically to continue teaching theater classes for Cheaha Creative Arts and for “An Evening with Kim Stars,” in which she and Brooke Hunter will act portions of the drama “Parallel Lives” at Catalyst in downtown Anniston (date TBA).
Local girl in ‘Annie’ in Montgomery
Ramsey Whitney will be portraying Pepper, a bully and bossy orphan girl, in “Annie” in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival July 4-Aug. 5. She is also understudy to the lead role of Annie, played by Vivian Poe of Washington, D.C.
The work has been reviewed as “one of the best family musicals ever penned.”
There are two different casts. Therefore, take note of Whitney’s performance dates:
• July 4, 2 p.m.
• July 6, 7:30 p.m.
• July 8, 2 p.m
• July 11, 2 p.m.
• July 12 7:30 p.m.
• July 14, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
• July 17, 7:30 p.m.
• July 19, 2 p.m.
• July 20, 7:30 p.m.
• July 22, 2 p.m.
• July 25, 2 p.m.
• July 26, 7:30 p.m.
• July 28, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
• July 31, 7:30 p.m.
• Aug. 2, 2 p.m.
• Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m.
• Aug 4, 7:30 p.m.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.