Michael Mayes on Dead Man Walking, Cut and Shoot, Texas, and social-justice opera

Courtesy of Michael Mayes
Michael Mayes plays Joseph de Rocher in Central City Opera's production of Dead Man Walking.
Growing up in an East Texas trailer park gave Michael Mayes an edge on the other singers trying out for the role of Joseph De Rocher, the convicted murderer and rapist in Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie's opera Dead Man Walking. It's a part Mayes knows well; he grew up with guys like De Rocher, in a town called Cut and Shoot, Texas.

In advance of Central City Opera's production of Dead Man Walking, Westword spoke with Mayes about his role and the social justice work he does through opera.

See also: Sister Helen Prejean fights the death penalty with opera

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Broadway composer Andrew Lippa on I am Harvey Milk

Courtesy of Denver Gay Men's Chorus
Denver Gay Men's Chorus rehearses for Andrew Lippa's I Am Harvey Milk.
California's first openly gay elected politician, Harvey Milk, was a feisty camera-shop owner turned political activist. He fought homophobia, commanded LGBTQ people to "come out," and struggled to build coalitions between oppressed communities. When fellow San Francisco city supervisor Dan White gunned him down in 1978, Milk became a martyr for the gay-rights movement. In advance of the Denver Gay Men's Chorus' performance of I Am Harvey Milk on June 8 in Fort Collins and June 12 in Denver, Westword spoke with critically acclaimed composer Andrew Lippa about the piece.

See also: Mike McNamara on quilting, AIDS and imperfection

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Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Eve Orenstein

Eve Orenstein in Cinderella, performing with the Opera Colorado Outreach Ensemble.
#99: Eve Orenstein

New Jersey-born mezzo soprano Eve Orenstein was born into alternative culture: Her mother is a composer and her father an artist and designer who's known for creating the first inflatable furniture back in the '60s. But her own cultural love in life turned out to be opera, a classical genre she champions as a living art that's still growing and changing in the 21st century. To that end, she spearheaded Colorado's chapter of Opera on Tap, wherein opera singers let loose monthly for casual audiences in bars, breweries and other beer-friendly performance spaces, but she still also performs in the real thing, both here and back on the East Coast.

In her spare time? Orenstein addresses her other love -- local foodie culture -- through her other project, the food-swap club Mile High Swappers. We're amazed that a woman this busy even had time to sit down with the 100CC questionnaire, but she did, and her insights follow, with gusto.

See also: Another 100 Colorado Creatives: Chris Coleman

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Photos: A suite of artworks will accompany the Playground Ensemble's performance at Dazzle

Tia Christine: #2, "Columbine."
Conrad Kehn's Playground Ensemble, known for sharing difficult music from a modern age, is reaching back into the twentieth century canon of contemporary music to present twelve-tone composer Arnold Shoenberg's dark yet whimsical song cycle Pierrot Lunaire for tomorrow's Classical Night at Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge. But Playground will further shine its spotlight on Shoenberg's poetic cycle with a suite of Pierrot-themed artworks by local artists. Each of the seven artists -- Tony Achilles, Kalin Baker, Tia Christine, James Herbert, Eric Matelski, Henry Sanger and Peter Strange Yumi -- contributed three works, all of which will be on display at Dazzle, while some images will also be projected as the concert unfolds. The music starts at 7 p.m. March 4 and tickets are $12. Visit Mod Tickets online for reservations. Following is a sampler of Playground's artwork pastiche, noting which song each work represents.

See also: 100 Colorado Creatives: Conrad Kehn

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Andrew Litton joins Colorado Symphony Orchestra as music director

Categories: Classical Music

Andrew Litton.
From the dark days of two years ago, when the Colorado Symphony Orchestra was facing big losses and worse morale, the situation keeps getting brighter, with innovative programming attracting more support -- and expanded audiences. And this morning the spotlight will shine on the CSO's new music director: conductor Andrew Litton.

He's a familiar face at the symphony: Last September 1 the musical superstar came on as artistic director. "Though I was not looking for a formal relationship with another orchestra," he said at the time, "my decision to assume the role of artistic advisor of the Colorado Symphony was made simple for me. It's all about the relationship with the musicians. This is a very special group of players with an exceptional level of positive energy, dedication, and an intensity that I treasure. We enjoy a great relationship and a vital common vision to make the best possible music for the people of Denver and Colorado. While I can't fulfill the obligations of another music directorship right now, the perfect compromise is to assume the role of artistic advisor and is my dream come true."

See also:

- Colorado Symphony Orchestra welcomes Andrew Litton into the fold
- Photos: Colorado Symphony and Nathaniel Rateliff working on Beck's Song Reader
- The Colorado Symphony Orchestra struggles on

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100 Colorado Creatives: Conrad Kehn

#75: Conrad Kehn

The opening sentence of Conrad Kehn's professional bio kind of says it all: "Conrad Kehn is a composer, improviser, performer, educator, writer and artist." But that's the glib definition of a guy who, under the skin of his basic vita, is hellbent on spreading the joy of making and sharing and being a part of music that is sometimes difficult, all while never assuming that any audience is too dumb -- or immature -- to appreciate it.

See also:
- Soundpaint with Walter Thompson and the Playground tonight at the Auraria campus
- With its Mile High Voltage Festival, the Newman Center makes classical music more accessible to the masses
- 100 Colorado Creatives: Mark McCoin

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The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will tear up the Newman Center on Thursday. Really!


The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain doesn't have a flashy name or even a flashy look. But don't let that fool you. While the ensemble takes its collective picking skills quite seriously and its vocals are better than average, its real strength is in doing exactly what the audience doesn't expect.

See also:
- Ukulele player Aldrine Guerrero performs "Schizophrenic Snowflake" for us at Ukefest
- The Denver UkeFest: Pluck You!
- The Colorado Ukulele Festival: Ukes and You

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Fifty Shades of Grey CD? Here are five better tunes for kinky inspiration

Oh, goody! More Fifty Shades stuff!
Ever since E.L. James' first rectal-extraction, the book Fifty Shades of Grey, hit the market like a drunken Rip Torn ramming his car into a tractor-trailer, the merchandise spin-off has been explosive -- or catastrophic, depending on your point of view. Stockings, garters, underwear, pajamas, robes, kitchen and bath d├ęcor: all offshoots of the book's mild BDSM themes.

And now a collection of fifteen classical music pieces that the author swears she was "inspired by" while she wrote the Fifty Shades trilogy will hit stores tomorrow, September 11.

See also:
- I was a human dessert tray and it was BDSM-delicious

- Fifty Shades of Grey means business for Fascinations chain
- Kink of the Jungle: A Field Guide to Denver's wild side

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The Colorado Symphony Orchestra welcomes Andrew Litton into the fold

Categories: Classical Music

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra was clearly looking for a high-profile name, and it got one: This morning the CSO announced the appointment of Andrew Litton as its Artistic Advisor, bringing the superstar in as something less than a full music director, but more than a guest in the ranks.

Litton will officially come on board as bench coach for at least three years on September 1, just in time to help the CSO navigate its way through a new season at Boettcher Concert Hall.

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Photos: More merriment from last week's Make Music Denver

Natalie Gonzalez
Whirl of Woodwinds in Skyline Park.

The 16th Street Mall was buzzing with music last week as artists of all shapes and sizes filled the air with their collective auditory gifts for Make Music Denver. This was the first time that Denver participated in World Music Day; it joined 450 other cities thanks to the efforts of the Downtown Denver Partnership.

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