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Young soprano Emily Helenbrook plans Christmas recital


By Mary Kunz Goldman

Emily Helenbrook, the very talented young soprano who is currently a sophomore at the Eastman School of Music, is giving a Christmas recital at Blessed Sacrament Church.

The recital, which supports Veterans Voices, takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday. Emily, pictured above, will be joined by pianist Orlando Buenos Diaz in a range of Christmas selections. Tickets are available at the door for a $10 donation.

Miss Helenbook has been heard singing with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, with the Ars Nova Musicians at Buffalo's Viva Vivaldi Festival and on the radio show "From the Top." At 10, as the Gusto Blog has chronicled, she received encouragement from renowned diva Kathleen Battle. Sunday's recital offers a great chance to catch up with how her voice is evolving as well as take a breather from the holiday bustle.

Blessed Sacrament Church is at 1035 Delaware Ave.

A closer look: Laurie A. Tanner's 'Unravelment'

Hi res unravelment

Artist: Laruen A. Tanner // Title: "Unravelment" // Through March 1 // Pausa Art House

Music is the underlying factor in this mixed-media painting by Laruen A. Tanner, who, in the long tradition of visual artists inspired by music (two of many local examples include Charles Burchfield and Catherine Parker), has been hard at work transposing rhythms and melodies into brushstrokes and collage. For me, the composition above evokes the sound of sharp steel or of some distant, high crystalline melody caught in mid-crescendo on its way to an explosion of blaring brass -- maybe something by Respighi. Of course, that's probably reading too far into it, but such is the fun of these kinds of abstract pieces, which act as a screen for the viewer's imagination as much as the artist's intention.

Here's a bit from Tanner's statement: "I describe my artwork as possessing an ethereal and often visceral quality, which is partly inspired by the music I obsessively enjoy and employ as inspiration for my work," she writes. "When I am creating mixed media collage pieces I search for imagery in my environment that resonates the ethereal and feminine quality of nature. I typically involve language and lyrics in my mixed media collages to further express my deep connection with music and its influence on my creative work."

--Colin Dabkowski

Vincent Price wants you to join the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Mark Byrnes, an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities, just tweeted a link to this video from 1979, in which Vincent Price urges viewers to become members of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery as he strolls past famous paintings by Gauguin and Van Gogh. The video was tracked down and digitized by the site Retrontario, which, according to its website, "catalogues and converts retro analogue video recordings to digital formats for the world to share." Take a look:

--Colin Dabkowski

Poets Nura Yingling and Sherry Robbins read tonight at Brighton Place

The Brighton Place Reading Series--a welcome new addition to the Buffalo area literary scene organized this past year by writer and librarian Donna White--concludes its 2013 run of events this evening at 7 p.m. at the Brighton Place Library, 999 Brighton Road in Tonawanda, with a reading featuring poets Nura Yingling and Sherry Robbins.

Yingling is a Virginia-based writer and educator who attended the University at Buffalo, where she studied writing with Mac Hammond and Ray Federman, and won an undergraduate writing award judged by Carl Dennis, in the early 1970's.  Her first full-length collection of poems, "Holding Silence" has just been published by BlazeVOX Books.

Robbins is an award-winning Buffalo area based writer, educator, former small press editor/publisher, Just Buffalo Literary Legacy Award recipient in 2012, and the New York State Teaching Artist of the Year in 2005.  Her books of poetry include "Snapshots of Paradise" (1981) and "Or, the Whale" (BlazeVOX, 2010), a much-praised, woman-centered response to a close reading of the ideas and structure of Melville's "Moby Dick" that was hailed by at least one critic (yours truly) for its "umbilical poetics."

The event is free and open to the public.

--R.D. Pohl


DeBeer and Collins to speak at Burchfield Penney tonight

Ian DeBeer and Max Collins, two Buffalo street artists from disparate backgrounds who have found common ground in their shared desire to break into the mainstream art world, will give a moderated talk tonight in the Burchfield Penney Art Center. The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a screening of Nate Peracciny's half-hour documentary "Streets of Art" about the newly formed Allen Street Street Art Collective. They are seen above discussing their collaboration at Elmwood Avenue and Breckenridge Street earlier this year.

DeBeer, the partially redeemed graffiti artist whose tag "HERT" can be seen on structures across the northeast, is in the midst of meticulously crafting his new public image: that of a former outlaw making a tongue-in-cheek effort to establish himself in the lucrative fine art world. Collins, a gifted photographer known for hits commissioned wheatpastes, is a happily playing along. Expect their talk to be at least as preformative as it is informative.

Here's one of many Instagrams on DeBeer's account promoting the event, in which Collins poses with the event poster, created in the style of the artist Christopher Wool:

--Colin Dabkowski

Live chat at noon: Miers on Music

Ani DiFranco will come home to play her Babeville venue in May


Ani DiFranco will return to Buffalo to play "the house that Righteous Babe built" - the church at the corner of West Tupper and Delaware Ave. DiFranco refurbished and christened Babeville - on Friday, May 2nd, at 8 p.m.

Tickets for DiFranco's show - which will take place in the Asbury Hall portion of the Babeville building - go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. They're priced $32.50 advance, $37 day-of-show, and will be available through and the Babeville box office. - Jeff Miers


From QRS to WNED: Piano roll expert gets a new gig


By Mary Kunz Goldman

Bob Berkman, known for his longtime association with QRS Piano Rolls, will be starting a new career in January, as afternoon program host on 94.5, WNED-FM.

Berkman will be on the air Monday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., as host of Afternoon Classics.

We trust his new employment will not in any way impede his continued exploration of piano rolls and the craft of producing them. Berkman is an internationally renowned authority on piano rolls. Above is a picture from his Facebook page, of him making a piano roll with a specially designed shoe. The picture was taken at Asbury Hall, at a recent event called "Becoming Hole -- a Celebration of Performation with Pianola Musings, Films and Readings."

As one Facebook friend of his commented: "Only in Buffalo."

As you await Berkman's voice on the radio, here is a short film that lets you watch him in action. 

News reviews of Golden Globe-nominated films

Nominations for the 71st Golden Globe Awards, scheduled for Jan. 12, in Beverly Hills, Calif., were announced this morning.

Arts Editor Jeff Simon breaks down what the nominations got right - and what they got wrong.

Here is a list of the nominees in the film categories. Click on the links for Buffalo News reviews:

Best motion picture, drama

12 Years a Slave

Captain Phillips




Best motion picture, musical or comedy

American Hustle


Inside Llewyn Davis


The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress in a motion picture, drama

Cate Blanchett — Blue Jasmine

Sandra Bullock — Gravity

Judi Dench — Philomena

Emma Thompson — Saving Mr. Banks

Kate Winslet — Labor Day

Best Actor in a motion picture, drama

Chiwetel Ejiofor — 12 Years a Slave

Idris Elba — Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Tom Hanks — Captain Phillips

Matthew McConaughey — Dallas Buyers Club

Robert Redford — All Is Lost

Best Actress in a motion picture, musical or comedy

Amy Adams — American Hustle

Julie Delpy — Before Midnight

Greta Gerwig — Frances Ha

Julia Louis-Dreyfus — Enough Said

Meryl Streep — August: Osage County

Best Actor in a motion picture, musical or comedy

Christian Bale — American Hustle

Bruce Dern — Nebraska

Leonardo DiCaprio — The Wolf Of Wall Street

Oscar Isaac — Inside Llewyn Davis

Joaquin Phoenix — Her

Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture

Sally Hawkins — Blue Jasmine

Jennifer Lawrence — American Hustle

Lupita Nyong’o — 12 Years a Slave

Julia Roberts — August: Osage County

June Squibb — Nebraska

Best Supporting Actor in a motion picture

Barkhad Abdi — Captain Phillips

Daniel Brühl — Rush

Bradley Cooper — American Hustle

Michael Fassbender — 12 Years a Slave

Jared Leto — Dallas Buyers Club

Best Director, motion picture

Alfonso Cuarón — Gravity

Paul Greengrass — Captain Phillips

Steve McQueen — 12 Years a Slave

Alexander Payne — Nebraska

David O. Russell — American Hustle

Best Screenplay, motion picture

Spike Jonze — Her

Bob Nelson — Nebraska

Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan — Philomena

John Ridley — 12 Years a Slave

Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell — American Hustle

Best Foreign Language film

Blue is the Warmest Color

The Great Beauty

The Hunt

The Past

The Wind Rises

Best Animated Feature film

The Croods

Despicable Me 2


Best Original Song, motion picture

"Atlas" — The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

"Let It Go" — Frozen

"Ordinary Love" — Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

"Please Mr. Kennedy" — Inside Llewyn Davis

"Sweeter Than Fiction" — One Chance

Best Original Score, motion picture

Alex Ebert — All is Lost

Alex Heffes — Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Steven Price — Gravity

John Williams — The Book Thief

Hans Zimmer — 12 Years a Slave


Psyching Hollywood Award Season, Part One

By Jeff Simon

Poor Bob. Redford, that is.

In defiance of all predictions, The Screen Actor's Guild didn't even nominate his solo tour-de-force in J. C. Chandor's extraordinary film  "All is Lost" as one of the best performances of a crowded year. And when your fellow actors don't even give you a nomination, that may yet turn out to be a dire augury for an Oscar nomination when those are announced. That's because actors are the largest single voting bloc of the Motion Picture Academy, which nominates and gives out the Oscars.

Sure, sure, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was kind enough today to nominate Redford in a drama for "All is Lost" but if you think they were going to give any love to "All is Lost" itself or its director/writer J.C. Chandor, forget it. Both were excluded from "Golden Globe" nominations.

But then, the marketing of Redford's performance and the amazing movie that houses it has been botched from the very first. No one at Lionsgate or Roadside Attractions thought to make a push to enter their film into the Toronto Film Festival, the greatest film showcase on the North American continent. They either didn't have the money to spend it promotionally on the film or the inclination to do so. Or both.

If that was Redford's own way of declaring himself above the vulgar awards season fray, it would be entirely in character. But it would also help explain the reason why his fellow actors couldn't be bothered to give him a SAG nomination for best actor. Add to that his unusual industrial power as the founder and majordomo of the crucial Sundance Film Festival and you've got more than enough reason for actors to ignore him. Even more important, I think, though was the simple fact that actors, by training, aren't taught to recognize what Redford does in "All is Lost" as Major League ACTING (thank you, Master Thespian.)

Acting, to them, is creating a character. Dealing effectively with language, including wit. Presenting emotions. Conveying verbal music. Eliciting laughs or tears. Inventing fictional human beings in front of us.

What Redford is doing in the wordless "All is Lost" is more likely to be appreciated by film producers and directors - and especially film critics - than fellow actors. It's too much of a challenge to actors to recognize the physical virtuosity of a 77-year old man not only doing what a strenuous role required but conveying, without words, the terrors and horrors of a disciplined man trying to survive in the most hostile possible universe.

That's film acting as Lillian Gish might have understood it when D. W. Griffith put her on an ice floe. Or as Buster Keaton might have understood it as his body performed miracles while his face remained made of stone.

Would Redford, Chandor and their film have been buried in nominations if, say, master award manipulator Harvey Weinstein had been in charge? You can get your lunch money on it.

As it is, Redford's hopeless idealism and loftiness will make him and his incredible film among the season's most significant award show orphans.

Who else? The actors in SAG were happy to nominate Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and, in fact, the entire ensemble for "Lee Daniels' 'The Butler'" but the Hollywood Foreign Press Association?

Fat chance. But then they're foreign, you know.

It wouldn't be a Golden Globe nomination slate if there weren't at least one absolute howler among them. (In memory of fabled GG winner Pia Zadora, whose boyfriend threw her the right party at the right time.) Would you believe Ron Howard's "Rush" over "All is Lost" or "Lee Daniels' 'The Butler'" for Best Drama? No? Me neither.

Yes, we know that "Rush" was a significantly international film made all over the world but anyone who simply doesn't understand how absurd and even corrupt award season can be simply  needs to contemplate how "Rush" did this season compared to vastly better and more powerful films in a great movie year. (Even the actors in SAG gave "Rush's" Daniel Bruhl a supporting actor nomination over Bradley Cooper who's terrific in "American Hustle," the kind of film that makes award season credible. To the SAG actors' credit, though, they did give James Gandolfini a posthumous nomination for supporting actor in "Enough Said," something the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was too foreign to do in their Golden Globe nominee slate.)

Some other significant winners and losers--

Everyone, thus far, nominated Tom Hanks for the right performance in 2013: playing "Captain Phiillips" and not Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks," a film whose major nominations, rightly, encompass Emma Thompson and that's all.

Other shoo-ins were shooed-in to nomination slates: Judi Dench in "Philomena," Bruce Dern in "Nebraska," Meryl Streep in "August: Osage County," Sandra Bullock in "Gravity," Chiwitel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave." I'd personally have preferred that the Golden Globes gave a nod to Forest Whitaker rather than Idris Elba playing Nelson Mandela but then, they're foreign, you know. (Have I mentioned that before?)

Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street" - set to open Chriistmas Day - got its love from the Hollywood Foreign Press, not the actors in SAG. They were resolutely unimpressed for any of the big prizes.

And before anyone involved with "Wolf" gets too festive, the Hollywood Foreign Press was as disinclined to nominate Scorsese as Best Director as they were to nominate J. C. Chandor for that scruffy little masterpiece "All is Lost."

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto got all the right recognition for "The Dallas Buyer's Club" - so much so that they pulled in some stray extra attention with them.

All the TV nominations have proceeded predictably so far. (The Emmys, after all, were already dispersed.) The relative lack of affection for previous darling "Homeland" is nothing if not significant this year. (See my column, coming Sunday, for my consideration of that little wrinkle in the year's TV.)

In this preliminary report on award nomination season, let's just put it this way: the astonishing plenitude of excellence in 2013 moviehouses has made for an awards season, thus far, that is more than a bit of a mess.

Even more than usual.

Me, I hope Bob has to get his tux cleaned for Oscar night but as it stands now, there's a very good chance he won't need to. He can watch the show at home in his P.J.'s, just like the rest of America.


--Jeff Simon




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