“A Celebration Of Timeless Music”
By Taki S. Raton
The renowned Ko-Thi Dance Company will host its 45th Year Fundraiser Thursday, January 30, 2014 in the Empire Ballroom of the Hilton Milwaukee City Center. Featuring the Adekola Adedapo Ensemble, a 5:30 reception will be held in the Monarch Lounge with Hors D ‘Oeuvres Buffett served at 6:30. A performance by Ton Ko-Thi will be highlighted as the evening’s entertainment.
The anniversary agenda will additionally include a 25 minute video of “Reflections Throughout the Years” as well as a published article display on Ko-Thi. “As we turn into our 45th year, I am amazed by the current members of the company who have stepped up to the plate,” says Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker Bronson, Founder and Artistic Director of Ko-Thi Dance Company and Department Head of the Performance & Choreography – African Diaspora Track at UWM. She adds that dance ensemble members, “are working fervently to help secure Ko-Thi in a new era. They respect the past while understanding the future vision. They inspire me!” Translated as “Little Ko-Thi,” Ton Ko-Thi is the vanguard of Ko-Thi’s Dance Company’s education outreach designed to identify, nurture and develop young artistic talent as they explore African based dance and music idioms. Ranging in ages from 6 to 18 years-old, these member youth performers are selected by yearly auditions or chosen directly from ensemble conducted studio classes.
The mission of Ton Ko-Thi is the development of talented children, the exposure of youth to traditional African performing arts, the stimulation of increased academic performance, the cultivation of normative social skills, and nurturing a cadre of new audiences and ensemble supporters. Founded in 1969, Ko-Thi Dance Company is both a nationally and internationally acclaimed company of artists trained in the history, methodology and techniques of dance and musical art forms from within the African Diaspora. Dedicated to the preservation and performance of traditional African American and Caribbean dance and drumming, Ko-Thi offers audiences what the founder terms as a “touring gem” of research, training and expertise. A native of Sierra Leone, West Africa, Bronson founded Ko-Thi upon her return from a research trip where she studied with the National Dance Company of Ghana at the University of Ghana in Legon. She served as a Full Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the Department of Dance where she had been teaching since 1971.
Reflecting on this experience, the Ko-Thi artistic director recalls that, “In 1969, standing at the door of no return in Ghana, West Africa’s Elmina Castle, I had no idea that the ancestors would lead me on a journey that would last 45 years. Questioning what I wanted to do as a dancer, I was frustrated with dance training that did not embrace my history, my genetic pool, or my aesthetic choices.” She adds that upon returning from that trip, she was, “determined to elevate African dance to the level that I saw reflected in other cultures. The concept of personal and institutional pride. The concept of preservation. The concept of protection. I returned with a deep respect for the form; for telling the story of the African’s kidnapped journey through the Middle Passage and the peculiar experiences in the New World. This has been my whole life; to celebrate our culture and share it with all people. Our performing arts deserve no less!”
Bronson with this vision would created for her department the university’s first dance track on the techniques and history of African, African American and Caribbean dance. In 1995, she was awarded a Fullbright Research Fellowship allowing her to spend 3 months in Tanzania, East African where she taught at the University of Dar es Salaam. In 2001, Milwaukee’s Professional Dimensions honored her with their prestigious Sacagawea Award given annually to two outstanding women of achievement. Bronson has participated on numerous panels to include the 1999-2000 State Superintendent’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts in Education and the Arts 2000 Dance Panel and has served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Arts Board. Regarding future initiatives, the published article display will evolve into an exhibit on Ko-Thi that will be available during Black History Month and presented with a talk on the importance of preserving Black institutions and cultivating historical legacies. Bronson says that the company plans on holding scheduled “VIP Open Rehearsals” during this 45th year so that, she adds, “funders and donors can see what we are doing as we prepare for concerts during this 2014-2015 performance season.”
For Ko-Thi Dance Company 45th Year Fundraiser ticket and cooperate table information, please call (414) 273-0676 or on their web site at www.ko-thi.org.
(Caption information: Photo GGB1813 and Photo GGB1823--Two Ko-Thi dancers, Naima and Tahirah, performing. IMG 0121--An early photo of Ko-Thi Founder and Artistic Director Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker Bronson performing.)
Marilyn Douglas and Curt Winterfeldt, long-time event participants, have been named co-chairs of the 2013 Holiday Folk Fair International. Douglas has participated in the Folk Fair for the past 27 years and currently is the dance instructor at Teutonia-Greentree CLC, where she teaches African, hip-hop, line, and praise dance. She is also the Director of the Nefertari African Dance Company. Having loved dancing as a child, Douglas learned African dance while attending North Division High School with the Nefertari Dancers. Nefertari allowed her the opportunity to study abroad touring Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast in West Africa. She has performed in Ilan County, Taipei, and Taiwan, as well as at Epcot Center in Orlando, FL. As a member of the Turkish Folk Dance Group, Winterfeldt has participated in the Holiday Folk Fair International since 1977. In addition, he serves as Director of the Alexander Hamilton High School Horon Turkish Folk Dance Group in Milwaukee and the Math and Science Academy Horon Turkish Folk Dance Group in Chicago. He spends part of his summers in Turkey with his family, traveling to learn more folk dances. Previously, Winterfeldt taught folk dance at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Graduate Turkish Students Association. He has diverse experience in education, teaching students ranging from first grade through graduate school at Northern Illinois University, University of Toledo, and The Ohio State University. As a high school music teacher, he took the first high school band from the state of Wisconsin to play in a major bowl game, the 1969 Cotton Bowl. A program of the International Institute of Wisconsin, Holiday Folk Fair International celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. This year’s theme, “Celebrate the Culture of Community,” will allow Fair-goers the opportunity to learn the ways in which music, food, dance, and art bring together people from different backgrounds. Special attractions in 2013 include a 70th anniversary Holiday Folk Fair Retrospective featuring memorabilia from previous events, “The Power of Exchange” Sisters Cities international arts exhibit, the “Rights and Freedoms - There and Here” United Nations exhibit, the Wisconsin Woodturners, and a bonsai exhibit. The three-day event features the All Nations Theater with traditional music and dance, the World Café offering traditional dishes, the International Stage where young people perform their ethnic dances, the Music Pavilion with a variety of musical styles, Heritage Lane with unique traditions and customs through interactive exhibits, the International Bazaar where cultural artifacts create a unique shopping experience, and the Callen Construction Chef Demonstration Stage, presented by Edible Milwaukee, featuring local chefs preparing traditional cuisine. Holiday Folk Fair International will also host the “Around the World” 5K Run/Walk benefitting The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County on Sun., Nov. 24 at 9:00 a.m. Hours on Nov. 22 are 2 p.m. – 10 p.m.; 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Nov. 23; and 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Nov. 24. Admission at the gate will be $12 for adults; $8 for children ages 6 to 12; children under the age of five will be admitted at no charge. Those 62 and over will be admitted for $10, and all military personnel with a military ID card will be admitted free. Those that bring at least two non-perishable food items or a new and unwrapped toy valued at $5 for The Salvation Army of Milwaukee County will get a $2 discount per ticket on up to four regular adult admissions. For more information on the 2013 Holiday Folk Fair International, visit www.folkfair.org or call the International Institute of Wisconsin at 414-225-6220.
MILWAUKEE – In the 2010 Census, Wisconsin had the highest percentage of incarcerated black men in the nation. One of every eight black men of working age is behind bars. In Milwaukee County, more than half of African American men in their thirties have served time in prison.
WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee Public Radio and MPTV – Milwaukee Public Television are embarking on a collaboration to examine Wisconsin’s high rate of African American male incarceration. Over the course of six months, WUWM and MPTV will explore the issue, through expert analysis and personal stories of people involved in the criminal justice system. Initial reports will air during the week of November 11-15, 2013.
“WUWM is pleased to partner with MPTV,” said WUWM’s General Manager Dave Edwards. “Our participation in this collaboration allows us to expand our coverage of the issues and stories that affect our city, our state and our region. We are especially pleased about the broadened capability to investigate stories that have an impact on the future of our community.”
Said Ellis Bromberg, MPTV General Manager, “The stories we are working on as part of this special initiative are dramatic and often overlooked. Partnering with our colleagues at WUWM enables us to present these important issues to a wider audience through TV, radio and online.”
Reports will explore why the rate of black male incarceration is so high. Conversations will focus on how imprisonment affects not only the men and their futures, but also their families, neighborhoods and the region’s economy. The series also will investigate recommended solutions, including changes in sentencing law and programs offering alternatives to prison.
MPTV will broadcast reports and discussions on the following programs:
¡Adelante!: Tues., Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. on MPTV 10.1 HD and 36.2
Black Nouveau: Wed., Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. on MPTV 10.1 HD and 36.2
4th Street Forum: Fri., Nov. 15 at 9 p.m. on MPTV 36.1 HD
WUWM will feature Project Milwaukee reports and conversations during these programs:
Morning Edition: Mon. Nov. 11, Wed., Nov. 13 and Fri., Nov. 15 at 6 and 7:30 a.m.
Lake Effect: Mon. Nov. 11, Wed., Nov. 13 and Fri., Nov. 15 at 10 a.m.
By Richard G. Carter
“In my bed each night I get dreaming, that you were here by my side. And lately I haven’t been sleeping, I just lay there in sorrow and cry. Oh, oh darling dear…” The Counts, “Darling Dear” (Dot Records-1956)
Back in my Milwaukee teens, I was a champion party-goer and party-thrower. As a matter of fact, Ben and Marlene Johnson -- noted former local politicians -- met at one of my house parties when we were all in high school in the mid-1950s. For Black teenagers, our music was original Black rhythm and blues — a.k.a, doo-wop — the real thing. We grooved to it at Saturday night parties and sung along and danced to it on Friday “Canteen Nights” at the Northside YMCA at N. Sixth St. and W. North Ave.
In those days, we were a passel of people constituting a dynamic, youthful Black social structure. There was Alvin Russell, Pat Flowers, James Reed, Evelyn Bailey, Billy Reed, Loretta Walker, Bobby Thomas, James (Chief) Juniel, Beverly Pitts, William Wade, Gloria Harpole, Willie Buford, Julia Tarver and Jack Byrd, among many others. Our music, especially the records and artists we knew and loved, was the greatest. And so was how we closely embraced all that good stuff — and each other — at the “Y” under the watchful eyes of the respected Ralph Jefferson and the great Bob Starms.
The lights were down low, but not too low, when Ruth Brown’s “Daddy, Daddy” and the Drifters’ “Whatcha’ Gonna’ Do” got us going. By the time the Counts’ “Darling Dear;” Johnny Ace’s ”Pledging My Love;” the Moonglows’ “Most of All,” and the Clovers’ “Comin’ On’” (“I’m the latest edition of the Woman’s Home Companion…”) were played, we were warmed up and more than ready to slow down and grind. The likes of Loretta Juniel, Erna Hampton, Chuck (Smalltime) Johnson, Howard Fuller, Odell Christon, Middleton (Bart) Wilson, Annette Benson, Richard Huff, Charles (Dapp) Wilson, Joe Butts, Cornelius (Peter) Shedd and Mardree (Jim) Harpole got down with “Have a Good Time” by Ruth Brown; ”The Wind” by the Diablos”; “Cherry Pie” by Marvin and Johnny, and “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight” by Pookie Hudson and the legendary Spaniels -- the iconic 1954 tune that introduced Black R&B to white America.
By mid-evening, the cramped dance floor was filling with fine folks such as Loretta Jones, Beverly Beckley, Joanne Witherspoon, Jesse Nixon, Barbara DeWalt, Wellington (WW) Warren, Fostina Pinnix, John Givens and Barbara Cochran. Everyone swayed to “Chop Chop Boom” by the Danderliers; “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Roy Hamilton; “My True Story” by the Jive Five, and “I’ll Be Forever Loving You” by the El Dorados. Things got even better as more Lincoln and North Division peers arrived, as well as Edison Scott, of West Division. But wherever we partied -- from my pal Sam Johnson’s house, to mine to the fabled Northside “Y” -- original Black R&B was right there with us. Tunes such as “You’re Still My Baby” by Chuck Willis; “Come Go With Me” by the Del-Vikings; “I’ll Be True” by Faye Adams; “Sexy Ways” by the Midnighters; “Show Me the Way” by the Five Notes; “Maybe” by the Chantels, and “Please, “Please, Please” by James Brown and his Famous Flames, made us know we were home.
Over the years, I’ve been asked by old friends to list my choices as the best original Black R&B sounds -- owing in part to the hundreds of 45s I’d accumulated since my introduction to the music in 1953. I started to think more about this in the summer of 1991 during extensive interviews in Gary, Indiana for my authorized biography “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight: The Story of the Spaniels” (August Press-1995). So here goes, my fantastic 15. And with so many greats, it was a very difficult task: 1- “Baby, It’s You” (Spaniels); 2 - “Baby, I Need You” El Dorados; 3 - “I Only Have Eyes For You” (Flamingos); 4 - “When I’m With You” (Moonglows); 5 - “You Gave Me Peace of Mind” (Spaniels); 6 - “White Christmas” (Drifters) 7 - “Good Lovin’” (Clovers) 8 - “Night Train” (Jimmy Forrest); 9 - “Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight” (Spaniels); 10- “Blue Moon” (Marcels); 11 - “Goin’ Out of My Head” (Imperials); 12 - “Duke of Earl” (Gene Chandler); 13 - “Sincerely” (Moonglows); 14 - “Since I Fell For You” (Harptones), and 15 - “For Your Precious Love” (Impressions).
Many of these songs and recording artists were, and still are, unfamiliar to white people who think it all started with Elvis Presley and the Beatles. No way. We all know it was original Black R&B from the golden era of 1953-63. And we lived it at 6th and North. People like Ben and Marlene, Tonish Jones, Annette (Polly) Williams, Tommie Gee, Eleanor Wilson, Betty Bynum, Geraldine Matthews, Maurice Beckley, Ann Miller, Eula Newsome, O.C. Murray, Richard Wiley, George Earl (Mickey) Mitchell, Jeanne Levy, Bert Revels, Floree Junior, Wilbur Dixon, George Lott, Stella Wilson, Lester Baldwin, Rita Rembert, Mylum (Bubbles) Kelly, Mildred Nelson and Carl Ray Witherspoon. During our Friday night “Y” days, the popular Chuck Dunaway -- a young, local white disk jockey -- knowingly played original Black R&B on WMIL’s “Rockaway With Dunaway.” He knew the score, was honest about it and attracted droves of listeners. But the soulful voice of Black piano man Dooley Wilson had presaged our notable times-to-come in 1942’s classic “Casablanca.” To wit: “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by…”
Milwaukee native Richard G. Carter is a freelance columnist
Chicago-based fine arts photographer Marvin Wells will be the featured artist on Gallery Night and Day, this Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19, at Ayzha Fine Arts Gallery & Boutique in The Shops of Grand Avenue, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. The weekend marks the gallery’s one-year anniversary, which will be celebrated with punch and cookies for visitors.
Wells’ provocative photography plays with the border between the real and the surreal, the concrete and the abstract. His works are somber and arresting. He is fond of black and white photography — which is what will be on display. The exhibit is titled “Transformations: Cause and Effect.”
Ayzha Fine Arts will host Gallery Night from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Gallery Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Wells will talk about his art at 7 p.m. Friday. Art patrons hop from gallery to gallery in Milwaukee on Gallery Night & Day.
Ayzha Fine Arts will also feature 15 paintings by young Latinos in “History of Latinos in Waukesha” art project directed by Milwaukee muralist Reynaldo Hernandez, who will also unveil his own new works.
Also on display will be the 2014 version of the Calendar of Numbers by Milwaukee photographer Al Brown, who scours America for intriguing typefaces of numbers, such as on a fire truck, a street sign or a picket sign, and uses those numbers as dates on his calendar.
Finally, Milwaukee artist Ras Ammar Nsoroma will be on hand to sketch portraits on both Friday and Saturday.
Nothing in the nature of musical theater demands that it be superficial. Civilization’s first plays, the soul-expanding Greek tragedies, were musicals about nature, society and individual responsibility.
Despite its commercialization, the modern musical remains our nation’s great contribution to world theater. So it’s not surprising that when British director Mark Clements took over leadership of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in 2010, he found it incongruous that the Rep, a major American theater, didn’t do them.
Clements’ production of the musical Ragtime begins a six-week run on Sept. 17 in the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. It’s his fourth musical since he introduced himself as artistic director by staging Cabaret. The decision to produce that show was a bold step for the Rep and not without controversy. Some feared a musical—any musical—would damage the company’s status as a serious institution; others, that it was wrong to compete with the Skylight Music Theatre, Milwaukee Theatre and Marcus Center. Some felt, too, that the decision was foolish since the Powerhouse has a thrust stage and no orchestra pit (meaning there is nowhere to put musicians) and, more seriously, the Rep’s resident acting company was not formed with musicals in mind.
Creativity solved the band issue but, as Clements says, “The score determines what you need from actors. If there’s a high A, either you can sing it or you can’t.” He’s replaced the resident acting company with a large group of associate artists including designers, directors, writers and musicians, as well as many actors from the former company. He consults them on programming and hires them regularly. Anyone who’s seen the first-rate work of the past three seasons has watched him beautifully balance loyalty with the demands of excellence.
Cabaret and Next To Normal, his second Rep musical, were huge hits. His brilliant staging of Sondheim’s Assassins last season inspired some walkouts. Clements stresses the intelligence of all three shows and their ability to resonate in different ways within the community. “I’m not trying to make people angry,” he says, “but it’s important to be brave.”
With period-inspired music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Ragtime was adapted by playwright Terrence McNally from E. L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel, a hallucinatory dissection of the nation at the start of the 20th century that mixes historical figures with fictional archetypes and rings true. According to Clements, “Race is a subject. Whose America is it? Another subject is the American Dream and how different it is for each person.”
Three groups of characters find themselves accidentally intertwined: affluent WASP suburbanites represented by a family from New Rochelle, N.Y.; African Americans represented by a Harlem jazz musician; and Eastern European immigrants represented by a newly arrived Latvian Jew and his daughter.
With 35 actors and 10 musicians, Ragtime is the biggest show the Rep has ever staged. It’s also the latest to present multiple cultures and ethnicities. “There’s no point in saying we want to be relevant to a diverse audience if that isn’t represented in the programming and casting,” says Clements.
Ragtime opened on Broadway in 2000 to mixed reviews and ran for two years on the strength of a celebrated cast featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald. A superior revival in 2009 was hailed by critics but proved commercially unsustainable.
Clements saw that revival right after he’d received his Rep appointment. A friend in the Broadway cast had invited him. Clements’ mom was visiting from England. He took her to the show. “It was a rare experience for me,” he says. “Because I’ve done so many plays, it’s hard for me to be completely taken over by a show. I’m of a generation of British men—it was instilled in us that you were weak if you cried. I still feel a sense of shame when I cry. But within ten minutes, there I was, tears rolling down my cheeks. Ragtime is a story of being an immigrant, leaving your family for a whole new life. Of course, my experience was much more privileged than the characters’. But having my mom there and being in my new life! It was a brilliant production, pared down but fluid, exactly my taste. Experiencing it, I thought, yeah, this is why I do what I do. And I thought, we have to do this at the Rep.”
Ragtime runs Sept. 17-Oct. 27 at the Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex, 108 E. Wells St. Call 414-224-9490 or visit milwaukerep.com.
From 1929 to 1932 Grafton was the site of a Paramount recording studio that recorded blues musicians sent up from Chicago, including Son House, Charley Patton and Henry Townsend. Townsend, the last known living bluesman to have recorded at the studio, returned to Grafton in 2006 after 76 years for the first festival celebrating Grafton’s blues history.
Now, the event is in its eighth year. Bring your own blanket or chair to this open-air event and get your blues on under the sun and stars in Grafton’s Lime Kiln Park.
Where: Lime Kiln Park, Grafton.
Hours: Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Friday (music starts at 5), festival opens at 11 a.m. (music at noon) Saturday.
Admission: Tickets are $15 for the weekend, $5 for just Friday. There is also a limited supply of $90 VIP tickets, which include one ticket for both days, tented VIP seating, a catered meal each day, backstage access, one meal ticket each day and unlimited beverages.
: Charles Walker Band headlines a Friday lineup that also includes Donnie Pick & the Road Band, Blind Dog Hopkins and Jonny Tbird & the Mps. The music starts Saturday with The Co-Dependents, followed by The Blues Disciples, Kevin Purcell & the Nightburners, Leroy Airmaster, Rev. Raven & the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys, Jim Liban Band, Janiva Magness and headliner John Nemeth, slated to hit the stage at 8 p.m.