FUN, Bizou, a hike, Mas and Foxfield- I am ready for a vacation

This week was very Charlottesville in which I enjoyed a concert, a hike, two of my favorite C-ville eateries and a steeple chase race.

Yes, you read it correctly in the title, I attended the FUN concert on Thursday night at the NTellos Wireless Pavilion in downtown Charlottesville with my 13 year old daughter.  It was a typical big concert, loud, crowded and not really my thing but my daughter enjoyed it so it was worth any inconvenience on my part.

Friday night was a blast.  My daughter’s school had a dance which she attended and her guy friend came from Richmond to join her.  His mother and I are friends so while the kids were enjoying the dance we went out for an al fresco dinning experience at Bizou, a Charlottesville standard with great food and a relaxed atmosphere (especially outside).  I had the Quinoa stuffed squash which was fabulous!

Saturday was so lovely I hit the Monticello trail for an easy hike with a friend.  This trail that winds up the side of Carter Mountain and leads to the Monticello Visitor’s Center, is beautiful and convenient.  It is a great hike if you want to get outside and do something but lack the time to drive very far from town. The leaves are just starting to turn here and people are coming in droves to pick apples and eat apple cider doughnuts at Carter Mountain Orchards so be careful crossing the Orchard Road on the trail.

In the afternoon I answered phones for the pledge drive at WNRN.  I met some great volunteers and enjoyed chatting with listeners who called in to make pledges.  I have adored WNRN since I discovered them four years ago while living in Richmond and feel honored to contribute my time and talents in the small ways that I do to keep it going.  If you love commercial free independent radio with a true community orientation, please consider supporting WNRN right now.  The station needs to make some serious upgrades to equipment in order to stay operational so here is your big chance to keep it going for the next 17 years and beyond. Click here to make a pledge or find out more about the station.

Later in the afternoon I lead a private  yoga session for a new client poolside.

Saturday night I had dinner with a friend from Staunton at my favorite restaurant in Charlottesville, Mas Tapas.  Again dining al fresco on Mas’s patio which affords an entertaining view of other Mas patrons and residents of hip Bellmont natives.  As usual it was fantastic.  I am recommending the smoked tomatoes for a special autumnal treat- they taste like the first fire burning in your fireplace on a crisp early autumn night.  YUM!

Sunday started with a Mudhouse cappacino and The Washington Post in bed then off to the VIRGINIA LIVING tent at the Foxfield Races.  It was a glorious day of seeing and being seen, chatting with other VL guests and watching the occasional clump of thoroughbreds gallop by.  I picked the winner in the 4th race making the day even more fun. Pimento catered so the food was good despite a general lack of sweets (a personal passion) or gluten free options (a personal necessity) but, hey, you can’t have everything.

My friend and guest, Nina and me at the VIRGINIA LIVING tent at Foxfield

My friend and guest, Nina and me at the VIRGINIA LIVING tent at Foxfield

WNRN Culture Connection for September 30th – October 5th

This week’s Culture Connection features dance, fine art and music for a well rounded arts experience in the WNRN listening area.

Tuesday, the nonprofit Richmond Ballet leaps into its 30th year with another world premier ballet choreographed by alum, Philip Neal and Caniparoli’s unconventional piece, Bow Out. It is often thought that men will dislike the ballet but I promise that once they go to a Sudio Series event at Richmond Ballet they will change their minds.  As one male patron said to me at a Studio Series intermission, “What guy doesn’t appreciate half naked, really hot women dancing in front of him?”

Then in Charlottesville on Friday, nonprofit Piedmont Council for the Arts presents the 2013 Rising Star Awards and Exhibition Opening, an elaborate awards presentation in which local high school juniors and seniors are recognized for their excellence in and commitment to the arts. There will be an art show and some performances to boot.

Saturday night, near-legendary Roanoke-based vocalist with a five octave range, Jane Powell, brings a mix of soul, jazz, reggae and blues to the Ellington in Lynchburg.

If you know of a great event happening in Central Virginia, let me know about it at and help me help you make a WNRN Culture Connection.

If you want to read about my cultural adventures from this past week check out my blog at

Have fun!


Dancers performing at the Richmond Ballet
Dancers performing at the Richmond Ballet

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Culture Maven last week recap: Forgiveness in Burundi and 2 plays


She Stoops To Conquer

She Stoops To Conquer

Some people fail to realize that though I spend quite a bit of time holed up in my apartment/writing cave for a good chunk of my life that I actually do get out and experience some of the things I write about for WNRN’s Culture Connection.  Last week, despite a full scale Mom duty,  I made it to Sunday night Salsa at R2 in Charlottesville, Bachata night (Wednesday) at club M&M (also in C-ville) to David Niyonzima’s Talk at Tandem and to two fantastic shows at The American Shakespeare Center and the season opener party.

Since Salsa and Bachata are weekly occurrences I will refrain from expanding upon how much fun Latin dance is, what a fantastic, fun, eclectic group of people go regularly to dance, what a wonderful, patient teacher Edwin Roa is or that lessons are from 8 – 9pm for both events with a dance party following and that it is only $5 for ladies and $8 for gents.  No, I shall go right into describing the other events…

David Niyonzima’s talk was powerfully moving.  He described some of the horrors he survived  during a massacre in 1993 in Burundi that was directed at him and a group of his Quaker students. The students were all brutally killed as was his brother.  This tragic incident began his incredible journey of advocating and working with forgiveness and reconciliation plus learning how to heal traumatized clients.  It was truly inspirational.   He is now the Director of  nonprofit THARS (Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services) in Bujumbura, Burundi, where he developed a wide range of services including Listening Rooms, Support Groups and Community Mediation. His story is one of hope for healing a divided country.  To learn more click here.

The weekend offered much lighter fare – it is after all important to have a little yin with your yang.  I forayed across Afton Mountain to Staunton ( one of my favorite places on earth due to its unbounded charm, great restaurants, local chocolate, Kazzie’s Granola  and the American Shakespeare Center).  The first show I caught was the matinee showing of RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET a rollicking mocking homage to 50’s and 60’s Rock music, science fiction and Shakespeare. Shakespearian Drama Rock Star Jim Warren’s talent for camp and comedy are displayed to their best advantage in this play which seriously benefits from a jolt of  energy  to the ASC regular cast of actors (Allison Glenzer, Tracie Thompson, Rene Thornton, Jr., Benjamin Curns, Gregory Jon Phelps, John Harrell, Chris Johnston)  brought by new-to-ASC- main stage talents (Tim Sailer, Dylan Paul, Josh Innerst, Lee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown).

“PLANET” is loosely based on THE TEMPEST but no less than 16 Shakespearian plays or sonnets are quoted or mock quoted in the script while Bob Carlton, who made the show a musical in 1985, adds great songs like, TEENAGER IN LOVE and GREAT BALLS OF FIRE.

The first act of this play is so funny and perfectly executed I laughed almost non-stop for an hour.  The casting is simply flawless.  Dylan Paul makes the quintessential Captain Tempest  with an Osmond worthy smile and Kirk-like swagger, a swoon-worthy love interest for Emily Brown’s, Miranda.  Brown obviously has a dance background and moves gracefully across the Blackfriars stage in all her numbers and is a skilled singer and actress – a joy to watch. Rene Thornton, Jr. surprises those of us who have seen him portray mostly serious rolls throughout the years as he loosens up to this version of  Dr. Prospero – who knew he could do a body wave? Gregory Joh Phelps is stupendously romantic as Cookie commanding “Awws” from the audience both purposefully and spontaneously.  But the best fun of all (and that is saying a lot due to the tough competition) was Lee Fitzpatrick’s Gloria, a wildly feminist Science Officer who now reigns as the Queen of the blues at ASC.

If you like science fiction, mid-20th Century Rock & Roll, Shakespeare or just plain old good fun you must go see RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET before it blasts off the ASC stage November 30th.

During the break between shows I went for some nibbles and a nip of bubbles at my dear friends’ M & J’s (no names mentioned to protect identities). They are the loveliest of hosts who always have great food, fabulous wine and interesting company to make my visits extra special.  (kisses to you guys!)

Then at 7:30pm Round II at ASC for the opening night performance of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER.  If laughter is therapy then go see this play for a good dose of mental health.  Benjamin Curns’ and Allison Glenzer’s performances alone are well worth the  tripple the ticket price or the average cost of one visit to a psychiatrist. Curns, who won my highest esteem as THE BEST Richard III I have yet to witness (and I have seen quite a few) has flawless comedic timing, line delivery and body language as the confounded Mr. Hardcastle.  Glenzer, as seen scores of times on the ASC stage, makes a formidable spousal foil as the long suffering, Mrs. Hardcastle.  They have the chemistry of long term marrieds and they instinctively know how to bring out the best in each other as actors. The other shining couple where Lee Fitzpatrick’s Kate Hardcastle and Gregory Jon Phelps’ Young Charles Marlow. The accents Fitzpatrick whips up in her disguise as a barmaid were as hilarious as they were mixed up.  Phelps demonstrates his shapeshifter versatility as Young Marlow pulls sort of a Raj (as in BIG BANG THEORY) where he becomes tongue tied with the ladies of his station yet is a smooth operator when it comes to ladies of a lower class.

Both of these plays move at a fast clip, are light fare yet highly satisfactory.  And the costumes were FABULOUS thanks to the magic of Jenny McNee (STOOPS) and Erin M. West (PLANET).

Following the show, I headed to Redbeard Brewing Company to hobnob with the actors and other ASC celebs and taste the special beer Redbeard has created in honor of ASC’s 25th anniversary.  Cheers to a fantastic fall season, ASC.  And many more to come!

Return to the Forbidden Planet

Return to the Forbidden Planet

WNRN Culture Connection Sept 23 – Oct 5

Fall has officially started and as the natives know Central Virginia kicks into high gear with more interesting things to do than any other time of year.  This week finds festivals popping up all over the WNRN listening area so here are a sampling of three to get you started…

It seems that last spring’s Tom Tom Festival just wasn’t enough for Charlottesvillians as nonprofit Tomtoberfest takes the town by storm starting Wednesday boasting innovative business incubation events, a founder’s fair and a block party at the McGuffy Arts Center.

Then on Friday head to Greenwood, Virgnia for the  3rd Annual Misty Mountain Music Festival showcasing original bands alongside local businesses and artisans. This family friendly camping event features  the The Hackensaw Boys, Sundried Opossum and more.

Once you are TomTomed and Misty Mountained out you can help save the world at the nonprofit  RVA Peace Festival on Saturday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. This multi-cultural, interfaith celebration features entertainment, arts and crafts, food, exhibits, and special activities for kids.

If you know of a cool event coming up, share the love at and make a wnrn Culture Connection.

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Brooklyn Rider and Friends at the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival

Luckily for those of us who live in Charlottesville, there is always a plethora of interesting things to do.  In fact there is an exceptional amount of really cool things to do considering the size of the town, a population of roughly 43,000.  This weekend alone I attended three fantastic events (plus hiked, ice-skated and salsa danced but missed what I heard was a fantastic party- I was too tired to go, go figure).  The Youth Film Festival on Friday night, put on by Light House Studio, featured several great films made by local kids including my own little darling. We are so lucky to have such a program here and the films were actually quite impressive.

Saturday and Sunday I attended two concerts as part of the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival.  The first, was an avant guard type of music concert called Music  Fresh Squeezed.  I would love to wax poetic about all the wild music performed but of course, I fail to locate my f…ing program and my memory is simply wretched.  Suffice is to say that I didn’t know most of those instruments could make sounds like that.  It was mesmerizing.  Brooklyn Rider (Nick Cords, Jonathan Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen and Eric Jacobsen) performed along with Grammy award winning violinist, James Ehnes, percussionist, Matthew Gold, clarinetist, Carol McGonnell and violinist, Timothy Summers.  I brought Sam, my thirteen year old daughter with me much to her upset because Taylor Swift was also performing that night and many of her friends were going to that concert.  During intermission she got to chat with Nick Cords who, along with several other of the performing musicians, came out to mingle with the audience members.  After the concert Sam thanked me for insisting that she come to this concert instead of Taylor Swift because it was so much cooler.  Now that IS an endorsement of cool.

Sunday afternoon, Brooklyn Rider exquisitely performed the Quartet in D minor, K.421 by Mozart and String Quartet No. 2 by Bartok then were joined by Ehnes, violin, Aki Saulière, violin, Timothy Summers, viola (Artistic Co-Director of CCMF) and Raphael Bell, cello (Artistic Co-Director of CCMF), for the Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 by Mendellsohn.  One word: Rapture. Listening to them play, I felt as if I would riding bareback on a horse galloping through a snowy field.

I hope BR and friends will come back next year, or better yet, relocate to Charlottesville so we might enjoy their talents and benefit from their knack for collaboration more often.

Enjoy the following bit I wrote for this quarter’s edition of ART TIMES JOURNAL: (yeah, I think I am forming a crush.)

Hip Strings: Brooklyn Rider bridges the gap between classical and cool

By Mary Burruss
ART TIMES Fall 2013

Brooklyn Rider
Johnny Gandelsman, cellist Eric Jacobsen, Colin Jacobsen and Nicholas Cords
(Photo credit: Sarah Small)

Though it is difficult to choose one style of music that defines current Western culture, most people would not choose the string quartet.  But most people are not members of Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet that understands that interaction is the key to survival and influence in the 21st Century. Even their name suggests a melting pot of ideas and disciplines. “Brooklyn refers to the kaleidoscope of culture and creative expressiveness that is making Brooklyn, New York synonymous with art Mecca. Think Paris in the 1920’s.  Rider is derived from a Munich-based artist consortium (including Vassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Arnold Schoenberg, and Alexander Scriabin) from the early 1900’s,  Der Blau Reiter (The Blue Rider).  Brooklyn Rider is essentially a catalyst, as were Der Blau Reiter, for collaborative creative expression in the global village as represented by the population of their hometown.
The band, consisting of violinists Johnny Gandelsman, Colin Jacobsen and Nicholas Cords and cellist Eric Jacobsen is known for engaging with other artists, artistic mediums, and fans while presenting new and standard quartet fare via both projects produced by others and self-directed projects. Said Gandelsman in a 2011 plea on Kickstarter, “It is fun to think of the string quartet in the eighteenth century—the era of its genesis—as the ideal band of the era: democratic, relevant to its time, and a powerful creative crucible. We formed Brooklyn Rider because we believe that the string quartet can be an equally viable and potent force in the twenty-first century.”
Though these boys from Brooklyn are experts at playing the classics like Beethoven’s String Quartet no.14 in C# minor, op.131, which is featured on their 2012 release, Seven Steps NPR’s listener’s choice best of 2012 list), contemporary compositions and creative collaborations are the group’s bailiwick. As proof of their genre crossover success they were included on the roster of the 2010 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas a hallmark event for upcoming international indie talent. How did this band of classically trained musicians go from 18th century classics to indie idols?  They took the Silk Road — as members of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Gandelsman, Jacobsen, Jacobsen and Cords were influenced by Ma’s desire to explore the possibilities of string quartet music as a catalyst for universal connection transcending time and place. “Traveling with the Ensemble opened our eyes and ears to traditional music from all over the world,” said Cords in a recent interview. “It expanded our view of the western musical tradition.  Making us less interpretive musicians and encouraging us to collaborate creatively with other musicians.” Brooklyn Rider has transformed those expanded values and given them a home in the traditional string quartet adapting it to the 21st century.
Their subsequent collaborations read like a Who’s Who in contemporary composition with names like Derek Bermel, Lisa Bielawa, Ljova,  Osvaldo Golijov, Jenny Scheinman and Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky.  In 2011, Philip Glass enlisted the group to record a complete analog of his string quartets, a collection that boasts the world premiere recording of the suite from the film Bent.
The group has also partnered with musical artists outside of the “classical” world like a 2008 collaboration, Silent City (selected by as one of World Music’s Best Albums of the Decade), with kamancheh artists, Kayhan Kalhor.  Other musicians in the Brooklyn Rider playpen include; Wu Man the Chinese pipa virtuoso,  traditional and technology-based Japanese shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, the 2 Foot Yard trio, and Irish fiddle player Martin Hayes.  Recently, the group recorded an original quintet piece with legendary banjo player, Bela Fleck and will tour with him throughout the year. They are featured on several tracks on Christina Courtin’s debut album, Nonesuch and worked on Vega’s Close Up 2: People & Places with eclectic folk singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega. Brooklyn Rider has also sought out other artists to create new work. “We collaborate with dancers and other artists and nurture these relationships,” Cords said, like Syrian/Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad.
The preferred way for Brooklyn Rider to perform speaks to their desire to honor all possible expression through the string quartet medium. By mixing things up they allow the individual audience member to experience the genre that attracted  them to the concert (classical or experimental)  then expose that person to something new.  An example is Brooklyn Rider’s planned program for the 2013 Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival in Virginia.  On Saturday September 14th they will play at Live Arts, a cement and glass building that serves as a less traditional venue for chamber music. For the first half of the concert, the group will perform as a quartet, showcasing recently composed pieces including some from their new album, A Walking Fire. The second half will be a no-holds barred jam session with other musicians and Grammy winning violinist, James Ehnes. The following afternoon they will perform traditional classical music in a classic concert hall venue, first as a quartet then along with additional musicians.
As if these aforementioned collaborations weren’t enough, the band members have other impressive projects that further illustrate their commitment to making string quartets a more vital artistic expression for contemporary art.  Gandelson created a medium to “explore the connection between music and the visual arts” called In a Circle which morphed into the quartet’s own recording label.  The Jacobsen brothers started The Knights, an orchestra that includes all the group’s members and other talented musicians. Eight years ago Brooklyn Rider members collectively started the Stillwater Music Festival in Stillwater, Minnesota as a springboard for debuting new work and partnerships. The Jacobsens started a performance troupe called Cirene, “a group dedicated to re-imagining timeless tales from all around the world and presenting them to children (and adults with active imaginations) through the combined mediums of dance, music and live painting/animation.” Cords particularly enjoys the connections he makes while working on these smaller locally oriented projects. “We are able to respond in a very quick and organic way in our community,” he said. “Every time you invite other artists under the tent it is cultural entrepreneurship.  You are creating great artistic value for your audience and creating another economic engine for your community.”
The payoff for all of these collaborations and cross-medium projects seems to be a strong fan base that is interested in supporting Brooklyn Rider’s development.  Perhaps the ultimate proof of that support was the response to their 2011-2012 Kickstarter campaign where the group made an appeal on the independent funding website to help offset costs of producing their 2012 album, Seven Steps.  “When you look at the costs of producing a recording as a complex number, artists definitely need help,” said Cords. The band made an appeal for $30,000.00. Between Christmas Eve 2011 and Valentine’s Day 2012, supporters donated $50,565.00.  “That was an amazing moment to connect with our fans,” Cords declared. When asked to explain the outpouring, Cords suggested that fans enjoy claiming some ownership, “They were an integral part of the creation of that project.” Part of the success may be the quartet’s global presence.  They spend more than 200 days a year on the road and spend several of those non-performing hours communicating with collaborators and fans online. “The joy of doing what we do allows us to connect with people in person and in a virtual world,” says Cords.
What is the future for Brooklyn Rider and their mission?   Next season they  are planning some concerts with one of the greatest sopranos of our time, Dawn Upshaw,  continue a promotional tour for A Walking Fire and produce the Brooklyn Rider Almanac which will be new music written for the quartet by artists from the jazz and rock world.  “Our goal is to instigate different conversations across artistic mediums,” said Cords. Regardless of what conversations they start, it is clear that they are changing the perception of string quartet music with a little help from a lot  of friends.

From wnrn Culture Connection Sept 16 – 22

It is important to take time to fill your spirit during the busy fall season and this week I have found some cool ways to do just that with some yoga, a lecture and a trip to a forbidden planet.

Get your OM on during a 36 hour Yogathon at nonprofit Project Yoga in Richmond starting at 6 am Wednesday through 6 pm on Thursday. This consciousness raiser features 24 class segments, 2 DJ’s and a class or two taught by local yoga rock star J. Miles. (I took a class with J. Miles at Floyd Yoga Jam a few weeks ago and let me tell you, it was totally fun.  He really knows how to combine his love for music and yoga into a true mind/body experience.)

Then dash to the Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville on Thursday night for    From Burundi with Love    a talk on forgiveness and reconciliation, by Burundi native and author, David Niyonzima. Sponsored by nonprofit African Peace Partners this event is free.

Now that your are full of peace love and understanding head to Staunton on SATURDAY  AFTERNOON (This is a correction from the actual spot broadcast on the radio. Check the ASC schedule to see what is actually playing Friday night. Apologies for any inconvenience.) to enjoy an evening of truly entertaining theatre at nonprofit American Shakespeare Center’s production of Return To the Forbidden Planet, a B-movie style Sci-fi musical loosely based on William Shakespeare’s The Tempest featuring rock-and-roll hits from the 50’s and 60’s.

If you have a cool event coming up shoot me an email at .

See you out and about!


The Culture Maven

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Survivor of Violence speaks about Forgiveness

From Burundi with Love

– a seminar on trauma healing and forgiveness

David Niyonzima survived a massacre in 1993 in Burundi that was directed at him and a group of his Quaker students. This began David’s incredible journey of advocating and working with forgiveness and reconciliation plus learning how to heal traumatized clients.

Two events planned in Charlottesville:

* From Burundi with Love – a seminar on trauma healing and

forgiveness, Sept 19, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
To register: make $50 check payable to THARS Intl, and mail to Jim Mustin, 2706 Eton Road, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

Scholarships available for those in financial need. Contact Jim Mustin at 434-906-4239 or

* Free presentation on September 19, 7:30 pm

at Tandem Friends School, registration not required.

David is a Quaker Minister. He has a master’s degree in counseling and a doctoral degree in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox University which also gave him its John Woolman Peacemaking Award in 2000. He is the Director of THARS (Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services) in Bujumbura, Burundi where he developed a wide range of services including Listening Rooms, Support Groups and Community Mediation. He was a Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He is the author (with Lon Fendall) of Unlocking Horns – Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Burundi.

Questions, contact:

Jim Mustin – African Peace Partners
2706 Eton Road – Charlottesville, VA 22903 434/906-4239 –

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