Thursday, December 31, 2015

“The Man Who Would be King” Could Have Been a 50s’ Classic

It is surprising how many times “The Man Who Would Be King”, a 1975 movie classic, “almost” did NOT get made. It is a late career classic for director, John Huston, who had been trying since the 50s' to get it done, but things like his hand picked stars, Bogart and Gable, dying before the project could get going. Then other complications including the challenge of financing kept it on the shelf.  It is fortunate for moviegoers that he persisted, because it is a great movie, with a strong story line and wonderful cast of actors. “The Man Who Would be King” will be Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on January 14th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

The movie, based on Rudyard Kipling's 1888 novella, is about two adventurous British soldiers who left military service to find adventure, and eventually ended up in Kafiristan a remote part Afghanistan. For John Houston to work so many years to get this film done, it must have been very special to him. He knew a good story and this is exactly what the movie gives you. It is a "rip roaring" adventure in a part of the world, at that time, never having seen a white man since Alexander the Great. Starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Saeed Jaffrey, and Christopher Plummer who acts as Kipling the anonymous narrator of the movie. The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards, won a Golden Globe for best original score, and a BAFTA Award. Reference:

Born John Marcellus Huston (1906 – 1987) John was an actor and screen writer. Huston, however, is best known as a film director. He actually wrote the screenplays for some 37 films and many are considered as classics. With an artist’s touch and sense of beauty based on his early work as a painter, he was able to “sense” the greatness of a film before it was made. He had a 46-year career during which he received 15 Oscar nominations winning twice. Often his movies depicted the hero on a quest towards greatness, and often those stories came from classic literature. Reference: 

Sir Thomas Sean Connery  (August 1930) will forever be known for his James Bond Roles, but he did many other wonderful works that will remain an important part of film history. His part in “The Man Who Would Be King” is the primary starring role. Both he and Caine may be English Knights, but in this movie, Connery takes the lead. During Sean’s career he won an academy award, two BAFTA Awards and three Golden Globe Awards. He was Knighted by Elizabeth II in 2000 and received the Kennedy Center Honors in the US. None of this has anything to do with this film, but you need to keep mind the quality of this actor’s work and professional reputation as background. Sean has played so many epic characters and made so many common ones look epic it is hard to find ones in between. Reference:

After some time shooting this movie, both Micheal and Sean were concerned that there was no feedback from Houston about their performance, so “…Caine approached Huston and asked if anything was wrong and if he was happy with their performances? Huston replied: " You're getting paid a lot of money to do this Micheal, I think you should do it by yourself". Reference:

Sir Michael Caine, born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite; (March 1933), is the other Knighted actor in this movie. He is a British film superstar with a pronounced English accent. He has appeared in over 115 films. Like Connery, you can list the dozens of great movies films that Caine has been in. So why this movie? I think he got the role because of his credentials and English accent. The two actors played their parts wonderfully. There were other actors considered for the role, of course, but the team of Connery and Caine really fit well with the story. In his career, he was nominated for six Oscars and won two (not for this movie). He earned two BAFTA awards and a Golden Globe Award for best actor in his career. Caine is one of only two actors nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s to 2000s. His Knighthood came in 2000 from Elizabeth II.

One character in the movie was his first ever acting role. It was Karroom Ben Bouih, who played the high priest Kafu-Selim. He was 103 years old. It is said that when he saw some of the footage, he declared that now he would live on forever. Housten found hm guarding an Olive grove at night one evening and thought he would be perfect for the part. After a few days of work, Houston noticed that Karroom was falling asleep during work. It turned out Karrom was still working the night job. Houston told him he no longer needed a second job and his pay would be enough for his needs. Reference:

Rotten Tomatoes gives this movie a very high rating of 96%. A review of the movie in the New York York Times by Vincent Canby says…"The Man Who Would Be King" manages to be great fun in itself while being most faithful to Kipling, whose story, written in the 1890's, is a kind of raffish metaphor for the British colonial experience that did not end for another half century.” Reference: and

Come and see what this reviewer is praising so highly on the “Big Screen ” of the Edge Center in Bigfork. You can see this movie free of charge.  Some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday January 14th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going out in the cold to a nice warm theater.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

“You Served US…Let Us Serve You” GRAMC Concert at the Edge

A Grand Rapids Area Male Chorus (GRAMC) holiday concert at the Edge center in Bigfork December 20 is the last event of the Edge’s 10th anniversary year celebration. It is also a special thanks to volunteers of the Edge going all the way back to before the building even existed, and it will be the 6th appearance for the GRAMC on the Edge stage. Current and former Edge Board of Director members will serve up coffee, treats, and thank you wishes for the concert guests. Please come and enjoy the concert and reception on Sunday December 20th at 3 PM. Admission is simply a “Good Will Donation.”

The music will include lots of old favorites and maybe a couple you have not heard recently. One of the newer selections for the chorus is the song "Hallelujah" written by Leonard Cohen. With its increased popularity from the movie “Shrek”, the song became more well known. It is said that it took the composer years struggling with the song to complete it. And that Cohen wrote as many as 80 verses before getting it “right” We hope you enjoy it and the rest of the program shown below:

 2015 Edge Concert Song List

"O Come Let Us sing"

"Come to the Stable"

"Here Comes the Light"


"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

"Sing We Now Of Christmas"

"White Christmas"

"Mr. Santa"

"The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

"Little St. Nick"

"Jingle Bells"

""We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

Director Eileen Grosland (above) from the GRAMC says of the Edge, “it brings a new audience to us that is always warm and appreciative. Plus the Edge provides a beautiful venue. The reception after the performance is also fun for the group, and we look forward to it.”

Artistic Director of the Edge Center, Patricia Feld (above), says, “I don’t know of any more fitting group than the GRAMC for this Thank You to our Edge volunteers.  We’re both community-based organizations composed primarily of volunteers without whose dedication none of these performances would be possible.”

GRAMC’s mission is to bring good music and joy to their audiences while providing a place for men to share their love of singing.  They practice weekly under the leadership of Eileen Grosland and are accompanied by Bonnie Kangas. They invite like-minded men to join with them in their two or three formal concerts a year and also for fundraisers, scholarship drives, church services, and seniors’ homes.(Above is the GRAMC appearing at the Forest History Center Grand Rapids). They enjoy support, through their performances for communities in several states in this country, and in several Canadian. provinces.

The chorus now has 42 singers. (Part of GRAMC shown in performance above at St.Andrews in Garnd Rapids.) Beginning in 1953, the chorus was formally organized in 1955. There were 13 original members under its first director, Betty Kauppi, and they were unofficially knows as Betty’s Boys. In 1956, officers were elected and they named themselves the Grand Rapids Male Chorus.

By 1957, there were 30 members. The chorus has had several names over the years. (Early chorus photo above) In additional to the original name, it has been called the Arion Male Chorus, and Blandin Male Chorus. Currently it is the Grand Rapids Area Male Chorus to reflect its membership coming from beyond the city of Grand Rapids. In 1959, the group joined the Associated Male Choruses of America (AMCA), and in November 1994, the chorus was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.

The GRAMC will formally celebrate its 60th birthday on May 1 of 2016. That is a lot of years and there are no signs of the group running out of steam yet. From the Grand Rapids Herald Review,  “There’s few like me, who’ve been in 30 years, in that bracket,” said GRAMC President Harry Smith, who has actually been with the chorus for 40 years. (Above the GRAMC at the Evergreen Senior Citizens Center)

“Some members have been singing consistently with the chorus for closer to 50 years, even though Smith said that most of the current membership has been with GRAMC for only about 10 to 15 years. When asked what begs such longevity out of the members, Smith said, ‘the biggest thing is just the love of singing’”. (GRAMC on retreat above)


Here is a chance to hear some great Holiday music, and meet some of the people who helped build the Edge organization. Since the volunteer-based GRAMC has been adding culture to their community for a long time, you might get a chance to meet some members who have been volunteering for the GRAMC for those 50 years or longer. It will be great music, great company and some fitting treats for the occasion. Date December 20th. Time 3PM. Place the Edge Center in Bigfork. Price: a free will donation. Thank you all for the support.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

“An American In Paris” a Movie That Will Make You Wish You Were There

This film can be the MGM tag for its 1950 musicals. It is the Maximum in elegance, one of its Greatest films and the Most celebrated of the company’s musicals. “An American In Paris” is loaded with talent from Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron providing the on-screen singing-dancing to music by George Gershwin with lyrics by his brother Ira. And yes, Ira stuck with the production to make sure they got it right. The dance numbers were choreographed by Gene Kelly that ended with a ballet number. The film is an “integrated musical”, that is, the music and dance form part of the plot. The film was rewarded with eight Oscar Nominations winning six of them. “An American In Paris” will be Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on December 10th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

“An American In Paris” was only the third musical to win best movie Academy Award. It was inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin. Besides Gene and Lesilie, the cast included Oscar Levant, Georges Gu├ętary, and Nina Foch.  An American in Paris is a 1951 American musical with songs that will stick with you long after the movie is over.  Songs such as… "I Got Rhythm", "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise", "'S Wonderful", and "Our Love is Here to Stay" should be seen on the big screen to get the maximum impact. And the ballet climax of the film was one of it kind for that era costing $500,000 to make, which by-the-way was a lot of money for one song and dance number back then.  The expensive ballet number ending the music is the way most musical romances should end…maybe. Come and see it and you will find out:

Gene Kelly wanted this film to be made in Paris, but then sounder financial minds prevailed and it was made in Hollywood on very expensive and large movie sets.  Maybe it might have been less expensive to do the film in Paris after all.

Born Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (1912-1996), he was such an influence in the movie industry that he is credited with making the ballet form commercially acceptable in film. His often fast paced and energetic style of dance has often been imitated but never duplicated. He will always be known as the handsome and likable characters he most often portrayed in his films.  Born in Pittsburgh, he developed his family’s dance studio and then tried to get into the theater business in New York with little success. He had to go back to Pittsburgh and found a job as a choreographer. He was a natural at teaching as well as dancing. Gene’s movie career speaks for itself and time has proven his talents.

Here is a quote that sums up Gene Kelly by Johnny Green, head of MGM music at one time: "Gene is easygoing as long as you know exactly what you are doing when you're working with him. He's a hard taskmaster and he loves hard work…. He isn't cruel but he is tough, and if Gene believed in something he didn't care who he was talking to, whether it was Louis B. Mayer or the gatekeeper. He wasn't awed by anybody, and he had a good record of getting what he wanted”

The recipient of a 1952  Academy Honorary Award in for his career achievements, he also received a lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors in 1982 and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute. He is 15th on the American Film Institute Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood cinema list.

The co-star of this movie is Leslie Caron and would not have even been in this film except for the fact that the planned star, Cyd Charisse, discovered that she was pregnant during pre-production and was replaced by Leslie.

Born Claire Margaret Caron (1931) she appeared in 45 films between 1951 and 2003. She was “discovered” by Gene while he was on vacation and she was in a ballet. Gene wanted a French actress for his co-star and Leslie got the part. She was so malnourished during WWII that she could not handle the pace of a movie production and could only work every other day. Her autobiography, "Thank Heaven", was published in 2010 in the UK and US, and in 2011 in a French version. She is one of the few dancers or actresses who have danced with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Rudolf Nureyev. In her autobiography, “Thank Heaven”, she states that she became an American citizen—evidently based on her mother having been born in the United States. She received two Academy Award nominations for Best Actress. In 2006, her performance in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit won her an Emmy for guest actress in a drama series. References:  and

Hollywood film producer Arthur Freed originally just wanted to buy just the rights to the George Gershwin number "American in Paris," but Ira Gershwin (George’s brother) required the conditions be that the Gershwin song would only be sold if it was in a musical and that musical would only use other Gershwin works.

The American George Gershwin (1898 – 1937) is known for both his classical and popular works. He often worked in collaboration with his brother Ira. Although “An American In Paris” is a well known work, his opera, “Porgy and Bess”, is the “jewel” of his work and is commonly recognized as the most important American opera of the 20th century. He worked with Broadway productions before moving to Hollywood to work with film productions. “An American in Paris” was started while he was in Paris studying under a famous composer, Nadia Boulanger, but was shelved for a time when he returned to Broadway where he wrote “Porgy and Bess.” He then returned to “An American in Paris” to finish it.  Turns out that “Porgy and Bess” was a commercial failure and “An American In Paris” was the huge success. The overall commercial success of this prolific composer is hard to measure because so many of his compositions were adapted for films and television use, so many became jazz standards that were recorded in variations, and so very many singers and musicians used his works extensively.  References and

So here is a film that will make you smile and leave you with a good feeling about Paris, love, dancing and music in general. It shows the extreme talents of Gene Kelly who even directed the sequence around the song “Embraceable You”. You get to hear some of the Gershwin brothers best work.  It shows a very talented 19 year old Leslie Caron making her film debut. And the “star” of it all is Paris in the optimistic pre-war days. What great reasons to come out and see a good movie on the “Big Screen ” of the Edge Center in Bigfork.

                                                      Photo credit John Alton

You can see this movie free of charge and some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday December 10th  at 6:30PM. It will be worth it.

Friday, November 6, 2015

O’s Perspectives Provides Variety and Talent

What is Owen’s Perspectives? A small part of it is in the Edge Center Gallery as this November's art Exhibit. Color and variety is everywhere. The exhibit is called, “O’s Perspectives.” That is a very simple statement intended to describe a very elaborate view of the world from fire at a volcano to a “Vallkommen” Troll carving greeting gallery visitors. And what you see in between is incredible. This is the artist’s viewpoint of the world. That viewpoint is often original, unexpected, humorous or imaginative.

From Owen, “This interest in artistic expression has followed me throughout my entire life and although my choice to become a professional educator did not lead to art, it was always there.  At college I earned a minor in art, and at the Doctoral level, at Columbia University, I had the opportunity to take a course in Artistic Expression, which provided me with meaningful encouragement to incorporate art in my daily work and life.  Living in New York I had the opportunity to explore the art galleries in addition to my international experiences in Europe and Asia.”

Hagen is a photographer, wood sculptor, painter, and collage artist.   Because Hagen is attuned to the world around him, he is ready to capture fantastic sunsets, trees, water images, and other natural scenes, especially around his home on Turtle Lake.  However, he is just as likely to see figures in pieces of wood. What others would see as scraps of lumber, Hagen has assembled into striking wood collages.

He credits some of this imaginative expression to a course in Artistic Expression at Columbia University where he was encouraged “to incorporate art in my daily work and life.

From Owen, “I have learned over time that artistic expression and images come from a variety of sources and perceptions.  As a young boy I grew up in a small three room flat, living with my mother and sister.  They both worked, so I spent a lot of my time entertaining myself with the images of the outdoors, trees, birds, rocks, animals and sunsets…. Which provided me with the opportunity to use my box of crayons and scraps of paper to make pictures.”

From childhood in Fertile, Minnesota, Hagen entertained himself with drawing and exploring the outdoors. Both passions have continued, and expanded during his retirement from teaching Education at St Cloud University. He used living in New York City and travel in Europe and Asia to expand his awareness of art throughout history and cultures, applying this to his own work.

From Owen, “Art is an enthusiastically pleasing and meaningful arrangement of elements that exist in the mind and expressions of the beholder.  To me this is an exciting aspect of day-to-day appreciation of life and nature, which leads me to the creation of numerous artistic elements in my perceptual world of awareness.”

From Owen, “Art is the expression of creative skills and imagination in producing works to be appreciated for beauty and emotional power.  Today I see the potential for artistic creative expression everywhere.  I see it looking up in the sky…  I see it looking at the ground...I see it in trees, flowers, water, crushed objects on the is everywhere...and this imagination makes life more memorable and enjoyable.”

See how Owen Hagen perceives the world around him. This exhibit is how a very creative and talented artist can show you what he often sees in things most other take for granted. “O’s Perspectives is in the is in the Edge Center Gallery from November 5 until November 28.  You can meet Owen and get him to tell you his funny stories at the Free Opening Reception, November 6 from 5:00 to 7:00. Edge Center Gallery is next to the Bigfork School and is open from 10:00 to 4:00 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. For more information and updates, see

Friday, October 30, 2015

"Cowboy Overture" and Much More by the ISO on Stage in Bigfork

The “Cowboy Overture” by John Williams is one of a wide range of selections planned by the Itasca Symphony Orchestra (ISO) during their November visit to the Edge Center. The ISO concert in Bigfork will be under the direction of Keith Swanson. Besides the “Cowboy Overture,” there will be Schumann’s Concerto for Four Horns, the Hindemith March from Symphonic Metamorphosis, and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins. This music has been chosen to include something for frequent concert goers and provide an introduction to those “trying out” a different side of music. The performance will be November 15 at 3PM.  Ticket prices are $10 for adults $5 for children.

Shown above at the Edge in 2012, the ISO was established in 1981 as the Itasca Orchestral Society by a group of teachers, musicians, and music lovers. It is presently part of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program (IOSP). Besides its symphony orchestra, IOSP enrolls students for lessons in violin, viola, cello and string bass. From the beginning, IOSP has staged three to four symphony concerts per year collaborating with guest and local artists. For the Edge Center concert the Itasca Symphony Orchestra will be comprised of musicians from Itasca County and others mostly from the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Keith Swanson has stood on the podium of the Itasca Symphony Orchestra since 1992. He received his under graduate degree from the University of Minnesota and his Master’s Degree in Educational Instruction from the University of Wisconsin Superior. He is currently Director of Music at Hermantown High School.  He also has conducted the UMD Symphony Orchestra and orchestras for the Northland Opera Theater Experience and Colder by the Lake. As Music Director of Duluth’s Lyric Opera of the North (LOON), he has conducted many of their productions and, once each summer you may also catch him playing French Horn in the Coleraine City Band under the direction of ISO’s trombone player, Tom Patnaude.

Concertmaster Mary LaPlant has been with the Itasca Symphony Orchestra since 1988. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a major in forestry and minor in music, she has combined her classical training with a love of fiddling. She is the three-time state fiddle champion. She was last on the Edge stage this summer as part of the Pat Surface concert.


Some of the following will be in the program concert notes, some from internet sources. The order shown here is not necessarily the order of performance.

Schumann Concerto for four horns. By German composer Robert Schumann (above) is in three movements and often noted for its expressive, lyrical quality and harmonic innovation. The work is a rare showpiece for the French horn, which requires not one soloist but four skilled players, and for this reason, this is a rarely performed work. The first movement is lively and energetic and introduces the horn quartet. The oboe, cello and viola open the second movement with a breath taking theme which is taken up by the horns. The second and third movements are linked together without pause and the work closes with the vibrant energy of the first movement. References: concert notes and

The four featured horn players for the Schumann Concerto are: Michael Alexander, Alison Akins, Deb Rausch and Deena Skaja. Alexander currently performs with the Minnesota Opera and the Minnesota Orchestra; Akins performs with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (New York); Rausch teaches horn at the University of Wisconsin Superior; and Skaja has played as the featured soloist with the ISO many times since moving to Grand Rapids in 1995.

Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins. The virtuoso violinist composer (above) wrote this work early in his career and it contributed to his international reputation.  Of Vivaldi’s concertos there were relatively few for four violin soloists. This concerto captures the listener’s attention with the opening dialogue among the soloists. The piece has a rhythmic intensity with beautifully expressive lyrical moments. This music will showcase the ISO’s Strings Program instructors Sahara Kowitz and Debbie Losik, along with Mary LaPlant and Kristine Arntson. Sarah is the Director of String Instruction, and Debbie Losik is the Instructor who heads up the strings program in Bigfork, which has 10 students this year. Mary LaPlant is Concertmaster and Kristine Arntson has played in the ISO and not missed a concert since moving to Grand Rapids in 1998. Reference concert notes and

John Williams’ Cowboy Overture. This is light music for just the fun of listening by one of this century’s premiere composers. For a career that spanned five decades, it is a shame that John Williams (above) worked on only five westerns. It is remarkable how this music can make “seeing” huge sweeping plains with rolling hills, horses, cowboys, and a light-gentle-tenderness mixed with action...and everything else a John Wayne Western often includes. For this music, close your eyes and find out if the score indeed meets the challenge. Reference  http: //

Paul Hindemith (above) was a rare musician known not only for his talent as a composer, but for his work as a professional violinist and violist, a pianist, conductor, and teacher. He could play virtually every instrument in the orchestra; if he was unfamiliar with one, he would take a week or so to master it. Hindemith collaborated with choreographer Leonid Massine on a ballet utilizing music of Carl Maria von Weber. The project was eventually scrapped due to artistic differences between the parties. Hindemith felt he was just being used as an arranger, while Massine found the music too complex for a choreographed dance. The musical ideas were salvaged, three years later, when Hindemith completed the work to which you are listening this evening, his Symphonic Metamorphosis (1943).  Reference concert notes.

                               Above is the ISO at the Edge in 2012.

The music is selected so that it can be appreciated the first time you hear it. And with this selection the audience will have a different experience with each piece. Come and see what we mean at the Edge Center in Bigfork on Sunday, November 15th at 3PM.