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Wednesday, March 25,2015

Barge of slow ravishment

'Xerxes' brings delicate Baroque opera to MSU

by Lawrence Cosentino
It´s a heady week for music winos. For the first time in MSU Opera Theatre´s history, director Melanie Helton is going all the way to the back of the cellar and uncorking the really good stuff — from 1738. Baroque opera is about 30 years into a worldwide resurgence at places like Cooperstown´s Glimmerglass Festival. Finally, the barge of slow ravishment is penetrating the wilds of the Red Cedar River in the form of George Frederic Handel´s “Xerxes,” the “Messiah” composer´s last operatic masterpiece.
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Wednesday, March 11,2015

Turning the soil

Sustainable farming conference sows the seeds of a new food system

by Lawrence Cosentino
As a panel of experts chewed over the obstacles facing the nation´s small farmers at MSU´s Kellogg Center Monday, a craggyfaced man in the back of the room rose to ask a question. "I invite you to spend two nights in migrant worker housing in Kent County," the man said. "Will you come?" The panelists agreed the housing must be terrible. The whole point of the "Less = More" conference was to call out the hidden costs of industrialized farming, from the runoff that turned Lake Erie into green poison last year to crates of immobilized sows to the neardemise of the small family farm.
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Wednesday, March 11,2015

Delicate work

Lansing Symphony and Richard Sherman bring ethereal new epic to life

by Lawrence Cosentino
Something out of the ordinary happened about halfway through “Seven Ascents for Flute and Orchestra,” one of two major works the Lansing Symphony Orchestra played Saturday night. An invisible, wet finger descended from the skies, poked through the brick walls of the Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall and gently stroked the rim of the orchestra, as if it were a giant wine glass.
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Wednesday, March 4,2015

Offense and defense

Sharpton challenges Wharton Center crowd to make more black history

by Lawrence Cosentino
As about 600 people assembled to hear a speech by the Rev. Al Sharpton at Michigan State University´s Wharton Center Feb. 26, several attendees noted, with a touch of regret, that they were missing the MSU- Minnesota basketball game. Sharpton gave them reason to be happy with their choice, and not just because the Spartans lost that night. No Big 10 squad mixes defense with offense as deftly as Sharpton does all by himself.
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Wednesday, March 4,2015

Props and preps

Broad museum team creates magic behind the masterpieces

by Lawrence Cosentino
Artists get big ideas when they see the stark angles and converging lines of MSU´s Broad Art Museum. Like a stiff shot of architectural absinthe, the building makes strange sugarplums dance in artists´ heads: a mountain of 20,000 pieces of crumpled paper, a jawlike extrusion of pink ooze and false teeth 83 feet long, a one-ton steel cube, a roomful of perpetually bouncing racquetballs, a three-ton boat made of salt.
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Wednesday, March 4,2015

Mysterious mountain

LANSING SYMPHONY HIKES INTO UNCHARTED TERRAIN WITH NEW MUSIC BY LOCAL COMPOSER

by Lawrence Cosentino
A vision of a man walking up a mountain, and a collaboration that got gloriously out of hand, promise to push Saturday´s Lansing Symphony concert into exciting new territory. Well-known music by Elgar and Mozart is on the docket, but the night´s most striking feature is a large-scaled, luminous new work with deep local roots: “Seven Ascents for Flute and Orchestra,” by MSU-based composer Marjan Helms with LSO principal flutist Richard Sherman as soloist.
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Wednesday, February 18,2015

No chair throwing

Top state jazzmen Tim Froncek, Vincent Bowens spend a swinging week at MSU

by Lawrence Cosentino
A lot of people have gotten their idea of what goes on in a jazz class from that chair-throwing jerk of an instructor, Terry Fletcher, in the Oscar-nominated film "Whiplash." The two latest guest artists at MSU´s Jazz Studies program, drummer Tim Froncek and saxophonist Vincent Bowens, are cut from finer cloth.
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Wednesday, February 18,2015

´Now we´re about nothing´

Harry Belafonte brings down the hammer in passionate MSU lecture

by Lawrence Cosentino
Harry Belafonte is a tall tree with deep roots in music, movies and civil rights activism, but he didn´t come to Michigan State University last week to cast a kindly shadow. At 88, he was desperately planting seeds. Addressing a packed conference room at the Kellogg Center Thursday afternoon, the actor-singer-activist slammed the American culture of greed and accused colleges and universities of turning their backs on the humanities.
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Wednesday, February 4,2015

In a mellow tone

Betty Joplin puts life into every syllable

by Lawrence Cosentino
To grasp the vocal genius of Betty Joplin, start with the smallest word you can find. Joplin´s indigo-sky voice, with dusky vibrato at the edges, is too generous to take in all at once. When she sings the word "is" in "You Don´t Know What Love Is," the "i" gutters like a candle, for two or three warm seconds, until the "s" softly pinches it cold. It´s a life lesson — a love affair, a breakup and burned fingers — in one syllable. "I prefer singing songs I can identify with in real life," Joplin said. "Otherwise, you don´t really have it down on the inside of you."
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Wednesday, January 28,2015

Time to talk to George

When a big fish is canned, attorney George Brookover is on the case

by Lawrence Cosentino
In January 1954, George Brookover was perched on his dad´s shoulders, watching the big political fish go by on their way to the second-term inauguration of Michigan Gov. G. Mennen "Soapy" Williams. "Hiya, Soapy!" 4-year-old George shouted to the governor. Williams walked over and patted him on the shoulder. "Hiya, feller."
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