by Michael Caruso
Aaron & the Spell brought the 2014 Pastorius Park summer concert season to a close Wednesday, July 30, in a season that was more assaulted by the weather than any other I can remember in all the years I’ve written for the Local since 1986. It was a pleasure to hear the concert outdoors and see it attended by hundreds of local music lovers.
Aaron & the Spell are headed by Philadelphia-based Aaron Brown. The band performed during last year’s Pastorius Park season but indoors at the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s auditorium on Cherokee Avenue. Brown spoke at the start of the concert about his pleasure at being able to let loose rather than hold back, as is always wise whenever a band moves inside.
Brown started most of his songs quietly, almost lazily. It was a wise choice because it enabled the audience to hear and appreciate what an excellent singer he is. His voice is gentle and flexible, always perfectly in tune yet sliding in between notes, turning major harmonies into minor chords with effortless technical control.
Every arrangement was characterized by sophisticated chord progressions and exquisitely voiced harmonies. Songs such as “Stay Away” and “Believe” developed organically with a convincing sense of inevitability, hinting at predecessors, such as the middle-period Beatles in “Rubber Soul” yet never sounding derivative. It made for a memorable concert to conclude an ultimately successful season.
‘CARMEN’ IS COMING
Delaware Valley Opera Company will bring its 2014 summer festival season to a close with one of the most popular operas in the standard repertoire. George Bizet’s “Carmen” will be performed August 9, 13 and 16 at 8 p.m.
The music director and accompanying pianist for this production will be Marja Kaisla of West Mt. Airy. The Finnish-born Kaisla has worked previously with DVOC in three operas, but Kaisla’s coming to “Carmen” is actually her first experience with a “live” performance of the opera. “I have not seen ‘Carmen’ before,” she said, “but I fell in love with the music when I used to perform a fabulous transcription of it probably a hundred times with a four-piano musical ensemble I was a part of for several years.
“Most of the tunes are very famous and well known even for those not all that familiar with opera, and for good reason. They’re easily accessible, exciting and beautiful. They have a popular flair to them. And since DVOC is not hiring an orchestra for these performances, I get to play at the piano all 391 pages of this gorgeous music with the soloists and chorus in a fully staged production.”
Kaisla expressed the opinion that “Carmen” has no weaknesses. “However,” she added, “I was hoping to do the opera using the original spoken (French) dialogue in lieu of sung recitatives, but since the singers are not trained actors, it might have become a bit more complicated to produce.”
Kaisla pointed out that the soloists and chorus members are all local residents, although this will be her first time working with them. Since the opera is so large and complex, she and the singers have been rehearsing onstage three times a week since the beginning of July following several purely musical rehearsals in June.
All DVOC performances take place in the Stage One Performing Arts Complex of Delaware County at 101 Plush Mill Rd. in Wallingford. For more information, visit www.dvopera.org.