June 16th, 2003

Western Days Parade, 05-12-03

On Thursday 12th, I walked in the West Allis Western Days Parade as part of the West Allis Players, promoting our upcoming show, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Our Romanesque outfits were of course wildly incongruous in the otherwise cowboy-themed parade, but of course we wanted to be noticed. Wearing a tunic, draped-sheet toga, and crown of vine leaves, I was variously identified by spectators as "Ceasar" or "Zeus," but I was surprisingly touched by the little boy who addressed me as "Hello, Jesus!" I'm glad I had the presence of mind to smile and return his greeting.

Asian Moon Festival

The season of Milwaukee Ethnic festivals kicked off June 13 with Asian Moon Festival, and we went down to the lakefront on Saturday the 14th. We got there before the grounds opened as we particularly like the Asian Fashion show, which was to start at noon. Asian Moon Festival is a pan-Asian event that brings together the Milwaukee area's Asian ethnicities and interest groups from Turkey to Japan. it has consistently been the smallest of the fests, and this year had a smaller portion of the grounds than past years, with only three event stages, plus the obligatory martial arts and cooking demonstration areas. Turnout unfortunately seemed low also, which was a pity since the weather was both warmer and drier than years past.

The Asian fashion show is a parade of ethnic garb, including Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian and Thai this year. As usual, the Thai women, who exhibit a variety of formal and court attire representing several dynasties of Thai royalty, were most beautiful and elegant, although all were interesting.

As for performances, we made it a point to take in Kerry Leung, who demonstrated Traditional Chinese Musical Instruments, The Chicago Matsui Daiko group, who performed Japanese dance, songs, and music, and the very interesting Tuvan throat singing, a Central Asian style in which the singer is actually to produce two tones simultaneously, a bagpipe-like drone low in the throat, (hence the name) and a higher mouth-voice. The effect is very singular and hard to describe. The performers were Americans from Chicago who had taught themselves the technique from studing native recordings, but who are going to Central Asia for study on site later this year. We also caught part of a performance by a Siberian woman, which had striking parallels to native american styles in tonality, drumming, and her feathered headdress.

Dealers and food were another major attraction: there were tons of silver jewelry, jade, statuary, Hmong needlework, and facinating books to catch the eye. We enjoyed Vietnamese spring rolls, Chinese lemon chicken, pork buns, and Hmong barbecued duck with fried rice--all very good.

We had a good time as we usually do, but we are concerned about the future of the festival, since it seems to be struggling.

Cream City Chorus Concert

On Sunday afternoon, June 15, we went to the Concert given by the Cream City Chorus at the Wauwautosa Presbyterian Church. The chorus has included many local fans, including present members Emory Churness, Megan Schaffer, Hillary Giffen, and Tori Campenni. This concert, entitled "Life Signs--Interpretations of the Heart," was mainly composed of sentimental songs of one sort or another. The church proved a good venue, with acoustics augmented electronically but seamlessly. This concert was accompanied by two signers for the deaf, which we always find adds interest. One, a woman, signed with an exacting style. The other, a man, teneded to have a more expressive, mime-like style. Both were interesting to watch. The Chorus gave very nice renditions of "Sing, Sing, Sing" (more familiar as the Benny Goodman instrumental version), and "Corner of the Sky." Megan schaffer had a very moving solo on a song called "Yearnings," which was new to us. Milwaukee filkers Barb Riedel and Carol Roper provided an orginal arrangement of the Stan Rogers ballad "Lies," which worked out very well. My one criticism of the concert would be that the first half became all slow songs after the first couple, and needed an additional up-tempo piece or two. In the second half, I was pleased to hear "Eres Tu," which I haven't heard in a long time, but disappointed that the Chorus chose to sing the rather lame English translation rather than even one verse in the orginal Spanish, which is much prettier to listen to, even if you don't understand it. "One Tin Soldier" had a very poiniant timeliness again, and it was good to hear "Amazing Grace" taken up close to the good-old revival meeting tempo, rather than the dirge-like speed it tends to be played at. There were many other good pieces in the show, and we enjoyed it all. The Chorus' next show will be its Christmas concert.

Mystery Men, 05-15-03

The next installment of the Mystery men game convenened Sunday night the 15th. The characters took action, rather than reaction this time, with Winter leading another sucessful data raid that this time penetrated Dr. Nova's secret lab, and unveiled the workings of his nefarious mind-control device, as well as the immenent plans to discredit The Bodybuilder, Mill City's lone remaining sanctioned super-hero. The players spent much of the evening laying plans and preparing to defeat the villains, with the major confrontation coming next session.