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Last October, Keith and I were invited by our friends Sara and Erik for a night of jazz (Roots of Ragtime) and Brazilian dinner at the Wyoming Valley School in Spring Green.  It was the first of the monthly winter series of Live from Lincoln Center.  On our drive home, I exclaimed “What is New York doing in the countryside?  I love it!”.  Keith and I have been to three of the five events so far and we have definitely enjoyed ourselves.  A couple of weeks ago, we viewed the New Orleans Songbook concert.  We had jambalaya, red beans and rice with andouille sausage, corn maque choux, greens, and king cake prepared and served by Jacki Singleton.  I’m not ashamed to admit that we had a second helping of the delicious king cake while tapping our feet to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.  There are two events left in the season.  Go check it out!

Here’s a little Q & A with the host, Erik Flesch.

How did you come up with the idea of livestreaming jazz plus dinner series?

Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center was contacted in autumn 2014 by Jazz at Lincoln Center, a nonprofit with a mission to entertain, enrich and expand a global community for jazz through performance, education and advocacy.  We on the WVS board of directors immediately recognized a synergy between the outreach mission of the two organizations — and we saw that the dynamic organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s design would be perfectly suited to host a series of exciting evening concert events during the winter season, when the local entertainment scene usually mellows out.

We installed a satellite dish and high-speed internet service to handle the digital streaming. The first couple of months, we used a great screen and sound system rented from the Spring Green Film Club, but we rapidly upgraded the sound and optical equipment.  Seth Alt and Dylan Oliver of Sweeping Design generously offered to donate for the season the amps and speakers that power the Sh*tty Barn in the summer months.  Then a prominent area resident and media aficionado donated a new 10′-4″ screen and seasonal use of a high-quality digital projector.  Guests now experience a concert that is truly intense: Virtuoso performances with a sound clarity and visual power that transports the audience to deep concert experience space.

How did you end up being the host?

To me, the idea of getting out into the country for cultural enrichment is totally romantic — so I knew the concept of pairing locally sourced cuisine with world-class international jazz once a month in an architectural jewel box like Wyoming Valley School would be something I would personally enjoy being part of with my wife, Sara. Several other members of the board, particularly Mary Ann and John McKenna, worked hard to bring the event to fruition. The rest has evolved naturally.

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Who comes up with the dinner ideas?  Do you have different chefs for each event?

Chef Jerry Kohls, himself a jazz man who toured with many of the greats in the industry back in the day, develops the dinner ideas together with Riverview Terrace Cafe business partner Eric Ferguson and myself. Sometimes we have a guest chef, which is marvelous. For example, Jacki Singleton of Arcadia Books prepared a magnificent New Orleans dinner last month complete with a fresh, yeasty and delicious king cake for dessert.

On average, how many people show up for this once a month gathering?  What is the cost?

We have been averaging 50 to 60 guests in recent months who turn out to enjoy the $12 BYOB dinner and free concert. A $5 donation to our nonprofit is recommended to help support ongoing programming. Some of these wonderful people have attended each and every event. It seems that new people discover the concert every month and make it as their schedule allows.

When is the next one?  Who’s playing and what’s for dinner?

The end of the season is fast approaching, but there are two concerts left for the Winter 2015 season!

Saturday, March 7: 8 PM Concert / Doors open at 7

“A Salute to Betty Carter.” This month, Jerry features produce of our Driftless Area terroir, including roasted tenderloin of pork, and Taliesin-raised carrots (braised and glazed) and potatoes (smashed) and a surprise assortment of lovingly conceived jazz snacks.

Saturday, April 11: 7 PM and 8:30 PM Concerts / Doors open at 6:30

“Celebrating Lady Day” is the 7 PM season-concluding program. At the centennial of Billie Holiday’s birth, we celebrate a jazz singer of supreme innovation. A diverse cast of vocalists — Andy Bey, Molly Johnson, and Sarah Elizabeth Charles — interpret such personalized repertoire as “Don’t Explain,” “You Go to My Head,” and “Strange Fruit.”

“Cecile McLorin Salvant Sings Billie Holiday” is at 8:30. Rising star vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant delves further into her predecessor’s vast catalogue, with a performance that will surely ignite a renewed appreciation for “Lady Day” while highlighting Salvant’s magnetic artistry.

The dinner pairing for this concert is a surprise that is too awesome to be spoiled by giving it away too soon!

For more information contact  wyomingvalleyschool@gmail.com or check the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Arts Center Facebook page.

 

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