Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009 A Day in Charleston (5/30/09)

May 30, 2009
We had front row seats in the Cistern at the College of Charleston for the Jake Shimabukuro concert, part of the Wachovia Jazz Series of the Spoleto Festival. It may sound like we were all wet, but the Cistern [Yard] is a lovely tree-filled walled-in square between the main building and the gate lodge of the college. The outdoor concert began at 9:00 PM and Jake and his ukelele jumped right in with a flamenco tune - "Let's Dance." As the Spoleto flyer states, Jake is "renowned for lightning-fast fingers and revolutionary playing techniques... which has transformed the ukulele from a traditional Hawaiian instrument into a source of unlimited musical possibilities."
Photo from the Spoleto flyer
Jake continued with a few of his own compositions, "Dragon" inspired by Bruce Lee movies and the fret-work of Eddie Van Halen, and "Blue Roses Falling" inspired by a friend's grandmother describing hallucinations while on medications in the hospital. Next was "Me and Shirley T" invoking what happens when you have one too many Shirley Temples...?
Jake then did his best to imitate the 13-string Japanese instrument, the "koto", with his 4-string ukelele, playing the Japanese folk song "Sakura, Sakura" ("Cherry Blossoms, Cherry Blossoms"). Next he imitated a guitar for The Beatles' song "In My Life".
Jake learned how to play an Egyptian rhythm from Ralph MacDonald of the Jimmy Buffet Band, and with it composed "Trapped." "Five Dollars, Unleaded" was a fun song describing a peppy vehicle which then runs out of gas, but with $5 unleaded (his dad always said this phrase to the gas station attendant), it becomes peppy again. After yet another session in his room behind a locked door, Jake composed "Piano Forte" where his two octave ukelele limits the range he can imitate on a piano. Another of his original songs that he played was "Orange World" inspired by bluegrass and the musicians he met while on tour with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.
Jake continued with "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by George Harrison, his rendition of the ballad, that was put on YouTube and launched his career. Jake finished with "3rd Stream," but of course Charleston Spoleto audiences always stand and applaud for an encore, and Jake provided one with the Hawaiian melody "Crazy G."
An hour and 20 minutes of a wide variety of music with a variety of techniques (how does he make the ukelele thump instead of twang?). See what the local critic said.
We actually started our day at the Piccolo Spoleto Craft Fair, and found one new unusual artist who put toy figures in real scenes for some fun photos. Some of our favorites were "Martini Family Reunion," "Time to Glaze the Donuts," "Minor Adjustments," and "Lily." To view them, see the photos by Lorri Honeycutt.
A couple other notable artists: Marie-Helene Grabman and her daughter who do "Scherenschnitte" or scissor-cutting; papercutting with incredible detail. There is no way you can appreciate the detail from these photos, even on the website.
Detail from MH Grabman website

One more artist! Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens, of Ignatius Hats, made whimsical hats, mostly from straw.
Ignatius Hat
We met Marsha and Jim for lunch at their church's Tea Room which always opens for the Spoleto Festival. Grace Episcopal Church puts on quite the spread with homemade local dishes. We started with a very thick and crabby Crab Soup, made fresh that day and served with a decanter of sherry to allow you to add as much as you need! We shared two entrees, a tasty buttery Ham Biscuit (black oak ham with a dijon butter poppy seed spread on a buttermilk biscuit) and wonderful Shrimp Remoulade (boiled shrimp in a mustard-mayonnaise dressing, served on lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers)! Next came the dessert tray; each slice was beautifully decorated with a mound of whipped cream and a pansy or nasturtium flower. We shared a slice of gooey German chocolate cake and of Huguenot Torte. This torte of pecans and apples has a crispy meringue crust and is sweet as sweet can be! Now that was heavenly!
Grace Church dessert with
fresh whipped cream and a flower
We accompanied Marsha and Jim to a Piccolo Spoleto event at Theatre 99 to see "The Complete History of Charleston for Morons." Now, who would buy tickets for this show? Morons? Three funny and not local guys whizzed through 300 years of history in such a manner that true morons would have been lost!
After leaving Marsha and Jim, we drove up and down the streets of Charleston, ending up at Jestine's Kitchen, an old favorite for southern home cooking. Meatloaf and a shrimp po'boy, and okra gumbo, yum! We had a couple hours to walk off all of the day's calories before the Shimabukuro concert.