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Oceanaires 13




Oceanaires XV: The Crystal Anniversary

Plays at Cherry Grove Community House


Yes, it is the 15th season for this classical concert organized by Isaac Steven Vaughan and presented at the Community House to benefit APCG.


This year was very special! Not only was it the first show following the designation of the Community House as a Landmark by the NY Parks and Recreation, but it featured the World debut of 2 pieces: an arrangement of Ava Maria by baritone David Auxier, who sang this beautiful work accompanied by Isaac Steven Vaughan, and then the debut of We Built This House, composed by Seth Bedford, and performed under conductor Nolan Dresden of the Queer Urban Orchestra and accompanied by Isaac on piano and the “Voices of Cherry Grove”, and eclectic mix of our local singers.


The evening followed the usual format of amazing musicians performing with all the pieces woven together by the very witty descriptions by emcee Philomena. Just returned to Cherry Grove following hip replacement surgery, we are happy to report that Philomena can still walk, or is that sashay, in high heels and they did not nick her funnybone! Isaac writes the “serious” script describing the musical selections and Philomena embellishes. You never knew there were so many double entrendres about crystal and balls!


The performances at the Community House traditionally begin with a salute to the Homecoming Queen. This evening began with a performance of God Save the Queen by soprano Shirley Ritenour, accompanied by Nunzio Sisto on violin, Michael Vannoni on viola and Bjorn Berkhout on cello in salute to Shirley Shapiro, Homecoming Queen, who walked down the center aisle still dressed in her flapper outfit from The Gatsby Party. Did we mention it was a very busy weekend?


The program began with Mozart’s Flute Concerto in G Major and Bassoon Concerto in Bb Major, both played by Nunzio Sisto with some fast and fancy reed changes, accompanied by Isaac Stephen Vaughan on piano. Very well played, and to those who know the very manly Nunzio, very funny in his sparkly dress and long blond hair. I noted to him afterwards that he had not shaved his chest for his drag debut and he answered “I’m Italian”. Indeed!


Next came Clarence Perry on piano playing Villa Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4, Danza (Mindinho). Mr. Perry has long participated in Oceanaires, and he is an exceptional pianist.


Then David Auxier performed a piece he also composed, Ave Maria. This was the world premiere and Mr. Auxier sang in his baritone, that I describe as the voice of an angel, accompanied by Isaac Steven Vaughan on piano. Mr. Auxier is well known to Cherry Grove as a dancer and choreographer as well as a singer. He reminds me that though he may have the voice of an angel, well…you know the rest!


Following a brief intermission, we were treated to a Duet with Two Obbligato Eyeglasses by Beethoven. With Michael Vannoni on viola and Bjorn Berkhout on cello, the Allegro piece did sound like two men in eyeglasses meeting and having a very fast conversation. Again, do you think of Beethoven as amusing? Well, he was!


Next came George Bizet’s Toreador Song from Carmen. A piece many of us can hum along to! And indeed the audience did as Lee Sharmat, Cherry Grove’s own historian, played the number on the tuba, with Gene Rohrer accompanying on piano. Very uplifting!


Then Soprano Shirley Ritenour was to perform a number from Wagner’s Tristan an Isolde. But there was some problem with the accompaniment, so Eric Martin filled in with the Ritual Firedance by Manuel DeFalla. Wow! Fast and furious, fingers flying. When I spoke to him after the performance, he said he had just learned it the day before. Wow! Talented people are…well…genius!


The evening concluded with the World Premiere of composer Seth Bedford’s We Built This House (on Shining Sand). It was a tribute commissioned for our very own Community House! Nolan Dresden, music director of the Queer Urban Orchestra in Manhattan, conducted a group of “Cherry Grove singers” with included the Ruth and Susan Freedner, Lee Sharmat, James Lyons, Bruce-Michael Gelbert, Wendy Lewis, Laura Ann Giusto and others, accompanied by Isaac on piano.


It was a wonderful evening, to culminate the day of acknowledgment of the Community House receiving Landmark status from the state of New York, delivered that morning in an address by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.


The old girl most have been glowing with pride! There was a beautiful set by William George McGarvey, and a full house of admiring Grovites. Thank you Isaac and the Arts Project for 15 years of this amazing music!


Denise Dell Harbin, Publisher