Oceanaires XV: The Crystal
Plays at Cherry Grove
Yes, it is the 15th season for this classical concert
organized by Isaac Steven Vaughan and presented at the Community House to
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”.
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
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
Denise Dell Harbin, Publisher