Charlotte’s Web presents…Erica Mather Trio & The Grapes of Wrath

Charlotte’s Web offers treats for a variety of tastes this weekend at the Mendelssohn Club, 415 N. Church St.

Erica Mather Trio

At 8 p.m., Friday, March 14, catch the Erica Mather Trio. Hip-hop, free jazz, Latin, Celtic, swing, funk, and chamber music converge in the classic piano trio format. This high-energy trio from Madison, Wis., will knock you out with their lush harmonic landscapes and melodic elegance. Mather is the pianist; her partners are drummer Michael Brenneis and bassist Todd Hill, with guests reedman Les Thimmig and percussionist Jamie Ryan on their 2002 release. Voted “Hippest band on the bill this weekend” at their Isthmus Jazz Festival appearance, their most recent CD, The Millennium Song Cycle, “provides a shifting sense of time, after a debut CD, Borderlands, focused on sense of place,” wrote Kevin Lynch in The Capital Times Wisconsin State Journal.

Lee Prosser in said, “Erica Mather is a new jazz pianist, one that has a gift for finding the right note every time to express a universal sound feeling… on top of all that, she has a unique piano sound that sets her apart from her contemporaries. Erica Mather shows promise as having the potential to become one of the great pianists of this century.”

Tom Laskin, in The Isthmus, Madison, observed, “Erica Mather [is] a swinging player with a modern, angular style who relies on block chords and Latin-inflected progressions for much of her sonic oomph.”

Her seasonal journeys in the latest CD take us through the months of the year in an atypical way, offering her own unique perspective, incorporating her own experiences, jazz themes and new interpretations of bebop. Mather is touted by The Isthmus as one of Madison’s finest composers.

Come and hear for yourself. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

The Grapes of Wrath: A Folk Opera

At 8 p.m. Saturday, March 15, see an old classic in a new play. Eight years in the making, this “roots musical” adaptation of the Steinbeck epic features songs and music by the legendary Michael Smith (additional material and arrangements by Barbara Barrow and Linda M. Smith). Barbara Barrow performs on vocals and guitar, Linda M. Smith on vocals and piano. Chris Walz performs on guitar, dobro, banjo and vocals, while Colby Maddox is on fiddle and mandolin, and Al Ehrich on bass.

In 1990, Michael Smith was asked by Frank Galati to score Steppenwolf Theatre’s The Grapes of Wrath, Galati’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning novel. Galati had a bold new idea: to add some original musical pieces to be performed by an on-stage string band, sort of a rural American Greek chorus. The Grapes of Wrath opened at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre and went on to Broadway, where it won Tonys for Best Play and Best Director.

This was an extraordinarily powerful work, but the most powerful moments, for Barrow, were the musical ones. The Grapes of Wrath is set in one of our country’s most dramatic and challenging times. The Great Depression held this nation in a near-death grip from 1929 until 1940, and in the Midwest, the people bore the added burden of devastating drought and raging dust storms. America’s Bread Basket had now become the Dust Bowl. Hundreds of thousands of American farm families lost their land and set off, by whatever means they could find, for the fertile fields and orchards of California, hoping for a better life with plenty of work and good wages.

The plight of these American immigrants is told through the adventures of the Joad family and their traveling companion, the Rev. Jim Casey—13 souls piled into an old Hudson truck, heading West.

Studs Terkel called The Grapes of Wrath an anthem in praise of human community and thus survival.

Come and share in the human drama of one of the most important times in our nation’s history. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Tickets are available at Rockford Area Arts Council, 713 E. State St., 963-6765; The Postal Shoppe, Edgebrook Center, 397-7301; and Tin Whistle, N. Main & Auburn, 963-0270; or by mail with check and SASE, 10928 N. Main, Rockton, IL 61072. For Web information, call 964-2238.

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