Home Arts-Entertainment Showcase SCENE & HERD – DEC. 17, 1999

SCENE & HERD – DEC. 17, 1999

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It's another modern Miracle: Tonight brings the biggest Christmas party of them all on St. Thomas — the annual "Miracle on Main Street" celebration brought to you by the Destination Downtown Committee of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce. Virtually every nook and cranny of central Charlotte Amalie will be aglow with holiday lights, awash with holiday music and, the business sector hopes, inundated with holiday shoppers.
This is the 25th Destination Downtown event, and, as is the wont of enduring social institutions, it's broadened its base over the years. In fact, "tonight" is not really the word to describe the "Miracle" of 1999, because it's grown into an all-day-into-evening affair. In a most sensible alliance with the Committee to Revive Our Culture, the celebration begins at 10 a.m. with the opening of a Virgin Islands Christmas Village in the festively festooned Emancipation Garden.
Instead of feeling guilty or depressed about not having found time to do all that Christmas baking, you can pick up some sweetbreads prepared by some of the islands' best-known local cooks — to enjoy yourself or give to others. There'll be local plants and crafts and dolls and perfumes and candles and doilies. And lunch munchies, if you work in town and need a "practical" incentive to stroll through the park. Mama's gonna be bakin' johnnycakes, and if you're an early bird you might even get some guavaberry liqueur — word has it 1999 was a berry good year.
At noon, there'll be Crucian entertainment in the bandstand — the Native Rhythms band and the St. Croix Heritage Dancers. The band will play on throughout the afternoon, too, as will the Northstar Steelband on Main Street.
The rest of downtown shifts into Miracle mode at 6 p.m. as the sun goes down and the holiday lights come on. Four strategically sited Christmas trees set the tone, backed ably by the steelpan music of the Bertha Boschulte Burning Blazers, the St. Thomas All-Stars and the V.I.Housing Authority steelband, in addition to the Northstar ensemble. There'll be caroling by the Caribbean Chorale and the Voices of Love, and high stepping by members of Mocko Jumbie Jamboree, Moko Jumbie Bacchanal, St. John's MortisonYouth Moko Jumbies and Mystical Moko Jumbies. And in street-level dancing by the Mungo Niles Cultural Dancers and the Mortison Dancers and more music by the Anacrusis Brass Quintet and DJ Juan Carlos, and don't be surprised if it all proves irresistibly enticing for even Saint Nick.
Plus, there'll be dancing to the sounds of Fusion at Rothschild Francis "Market" Square and Imaginations Brass at the waterfront end of Palm Passage.
The primary sponsor, Bellows International's "Best Beers of the World," will have its usual bar set up in front of the chamber offices, and numerous community groups will be vending holiday wares to raise some funds for their worthy causes. And of course the shops will be open — many of them offering specials just for the night. As we're still a week away from Christmas, this isn't exactly 11th-hour shopping, so take your time, enjoy the decorations and keep your spirits up.
After-Miracle music: "Miracle on Main Street" essentially shuts down around 9 p.m., but those in holiday spirits may not want to head for their cars quite that soon. Tahra Richardson and colleague Tom Hightree of the TNT band have put together an after-party concert at Beni Iguana's in the Grand Hotel courtyard that will be a benefit for Family Resource Center. Among the other island musicians they've signed on to perform are Joe Ramsay, Nicky Russell, Robert Leonard and The Pop Tarts.
Admission to the Toys For Kids concert, featuring what Richardson calls "music from the heart," as everybody's donating their time and talent, is either a new, unwrapped child's toy or a cash donation of $3 or more at the door. Todd Reinhard, owner of the Beni Iguana's sushi bar, said, "We're happy to be chosen to host this event. We want to make Christmas a little brighter for the children served by Family Resource Center."
The center, formerly known as Women's Resource Center, provides emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence and counseling for adults and children in individual, family and group settings. "For those unable to attend the concert, there's still a chance to make a donation," Richardson says. "Beni Iguana's, and XO and Dolphin Dreams in Red Hook are accepting toys." Her plan is to take "the child in me" and a couple of Santa's helpers on a giant Christmas shopping expedition early next week to spend the proceeds on presents for the youngsters served by the center.
Holiday panoply: If there's one Christmas tradition on St. Thomas that is like nothing else on Earth, it's the annual Territorial Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra holiday concert at the Reichhold Center for the Arts. For someone who's never been to one of these events, it's impossible to describe adequately the sonorous resonance of a hundred-plus steelpans and drums in the ideal setting of the Reichhold amphitheater. The orchestra consists of junior and senior high school students who spend a lot more time practicing at the Long Bay pan yard than they do hanging on street corners — which is why Territorial Court Judge Verne Hodge started the band in the first place.
There'll be the usual carols, classics, guest appearances by junior and alumni Rising Stars pannists, co-hosting by Leona Bryant and Addie Ottley and candy distribution by Santa Brownie. This performance promises to be an especially emotional one, as Hodge has just retired from the bench and the concert is dedicated to him. Saturday's the night and 7 p.m. is the time. Tickets are $10 covered, $5 open-air; they'll be sold at the box office, but turn-out is traditionally strong, so get their early to be assured of a seat. (There are no "bad" seats for a Rising Stars concert in terms of sound; for guaranteed close-up looks, take along your binoculars.) Call 693-1559 to purchase tickets by charge card.
P.S. — You'll get another opportunity to hear the pannists perform, in a winter wonderland setting amid the twinkling lights of Roosevelt Park, when they give a concert on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. As the park has only a few benches, it might make sense to go with folding chairs or a blanket to sit on.
Good mornin' fo' true: If there are two Christmas traditions on St. Thomas that are like no others on Earth, one is the Rising Stars concert and the other is the Challenge of the Carols. This is the annual island practice of assorted choral groups of spending New Year's Eve — all night — making the rounds of inviting homes to carol and be rewarded with a taste of guavaberry, sweetbreads and other holiday goodies. Around 5 a.m. Christmas Day, they all head toward downtown, processing individually into Emancipation Garden before daybreak.
If all goes according to tradition, there's an echo effect as the arriving choirs call and those still on the way respond. And as the first rays of the new day appear overhead, soon to be reflected on the St. Thomas harbor horizon, the choirs begin to take turns presenting a couple of numbers — some joyous, some jolly — in the gazebo. Finally, everyone gets together for several massed carols, and then they all stumble home to have a nap before Christmas dinner.
These days, there are more carolers than audience members, but those who go invariably have a memorable time. Admission is free.
Big Apple beat: If it's New York style rap and dancehall partying you're in the mood for, Insomnia is the place to be tonight. The Four Winds club is presenting a 515 Promotions show featuring, straight from The City, Afrique Sound Station with Claude, Crazy Richie, Crew and Jagga B, plus Biya Steelz, Clic, Heartless and Hit
List, with local talent DJs Poppy Pops and Star. For more information, call 775-5807.
Amalie music: If you believe that saying about saving the best for last, expect a superior Christmas concert on Sunday, Dec. 19, by the music groups at the Charlotte Amalie High School.
The CAHS Music Department is the last among the island's large upper schools to present its holiday music program, which will take place in the CAHS auditorium at 7 p.m. The school's concert choir, concert band and other music ensembles will take part. Admission is $7, payable at the door.
Green scene: Live Irish music is back on the menu at Frank Brittingham's place. In former years that would have been Finn McCool's in Compass Point. Now, though, he's doing business at Molly Molone's in American Yacht Harbor. And that's where The New Barleycorn, a guitar/vocals duo whose repertoire is straight from the Old Sod and guaranteed to generate foot stomping and hand clapping, will be performing Monday, Dec. 20, through Wednesday, Dec. 29. For details, call 775-1270.
Arty facts: Tonight you can — probably — see for the first time, or perhaps revisit, a dozen large collage portraits by photographer Constance Wallace of Cruz Bay's anything-but- camera-shy men. The photos, first exhibited six years ago, will be featured tonight at the Friends of the Library annual meeting at the Elaine I. Sprauve Library and Museum in Cruz Bay — unless Division of Libraries Archives and Museums authorities decide to take them down.
This morning (Friday, Dec. 17), after a library worker complained that some of the people depicted have less than sterling reputations in the community, Wallace had a telephone conversation with Simon Caines, coordinator of library and cultural services and the boss of St. John librarian Carol McGinnis. Caines told Wallace pictures of anyone convicted of a felony would have to come down. "To my knowledge, none of the people have been convicted," Wallace told The Source.
"So many people have asked me about these pieces since they were first shown that I decided to remake them and exhibit them again," Wallace, owner of The Clothing Studio, a shop featuring hand-painted clothing, says. "I love clothes and am always looking at how people present themselves." What especially caught her eye — and inspired the project — were "the colorful, imaginative outfits I see on some local men."
We're talking about the down-to-earth, outdoors kinds of guys, not bank tellers and clerks in suits and ties. Her subjects include a filling station attendant, a resort groundskeeper, a street musician and the proud owner of a custom pick-up truck. Her technique is to assembly a series of 5 x 7 color photographs with tonal differences into full-length portraits. The meeting and opening reception are from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The show is scheduled to hang at the library through January. To see samples of Wallace's photographic artistry, check out her web site at www.originalphoto.com/photosho.htm.
More arty facts: Part and parcel of the "Miracle on Main Street" festivities tonight is the opening of a new show of paintings by Aphrodite Johnson at Tropical Memories in Royal Dane Mall. The reception is from 5 to 9 p.m. and the artist will be there to talk about her work.
Aphrodite has christened the new oils and watercolors, most of them large, her Caribbean Collection 2000. Her subjects include Jost Van Dyke's enduring Foxy Callwood, the Whim Plantation Museum and many familiar island scenes. Her expectation is for viewers to feel as if they are "in the scene, as, indeed, most of us have been at one time or another." Prints of several of the originals will also be available.
And still more arty facts: The opening of Corinne Van Rensselaer's new exhibition of watercolors at her Color of Joy gallery and gift shop brought out an enthusiastic crowd, including a passel of traditional instrument percussionists who cozied up with keyboardist Sally Smith for some impromptu jamming that had everyone on the American Yacht Harbor deck in motion.
The artist's new works, while only nine in number, reflect a broadening and deepening of her palette. There are three hibiscus blossom "portraits," four underwater scenes and four pieces featuring harlequin geometrics. You'll notice that adds up to 11. There are two reasons for this: First, there are actually 10 pieces on exhibit; and second, one of the underwater pictures falls into two categories, as it has a hot-colorful geometric backdrop, rather than the usual cool blue sea. Van Rensselaer decided at the last moment to hang the 10th piece — an earlier underwater painting — in the show. Although the work had been on display in the shop for two years, it was the first to sell Thursday night. "I guess it was the showcasing," the artist said.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the new works is the utilization of non-color for effect. The other two underwater pictures have unpainted paper as their sea, the effect being a serene uncluttered-ness that allows the eye to focus on the detailing of the fish in their coral ambience. The two predominantly geometric paintings, the imagery clearly of boats approaching with spinnakers flying, have flecks of white seafoam on the sails and beneath the bows. To achieve the effect, Van Rensselaer used the wax-resist technique employed by batik artists.
Perhaps the most ambitious work is "Sunrise," which blends the artist's delicate pastel- toned palm fronds (as seen in "A New Beginning," the piece depicting a young palm shoot that she created in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo) with a bright geometric sea in which assorted far- off islands float, a Sunkist solar orb above. The show will hang into the new year.
An after-hours World Coral World is keeping its doors open on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Dec. 22 and 23, to celebrate the holidays. Adorned with thousands of Christmas lights, the 4.5-acre marine park has a Tivoli Gardens look at this time of year once darkness descends. In the center courtyard from 5:30 to 9 p.m. both days, there will be caroling by the Bethel Baptist Church Choir, steelpan music and quadrille dancing by students from Lockhart Elementary School.
Plus, for the reduced $5 adult and $3 child (age 3-12) price of admission, you get to enjoy all the usual Coral World marine attractions. "At night," says curator Donna Nemeth, "you'll have the chance to see nocturnal animals that don't even come out in the day." For more information, call 775-1555.
Singers head east If you missed the St. John Singers' Christmas concert at Nazareth Lutheran Church on Thursday evening, you get another chance. The group performs the same program for its "East End" concert Monday at Emmaus Moravian Church in Coral Bay. The program — featuring as guest artists flutist Nancy Ruffer, organ and keyboard accompanist Albert Lynch and local folk musician-arranger Glenn "Kwabena" Davis — begins at 7:30 p.m. Visitors from St. Thomas can get there by Vitran bus from Cruz Bay, but allow an extra hour to do it. Tickets are $10; they're available from choir members and will be sold at the door. To learn more, call 776-6691.
Winter wonderlands: Even though Government House is conspicuously unplugged this holiday season (and rightfully so, given the government's financial straits), other areas of downtown traditionally decked out for Christmas are as lightful as usual. Emancipation Garden and the Farrelly Criminal Justice Center are attractive evening drive-bys. But it's Roosevelt Park that's worth a second look. Thank the We From Upstreet community group for designing and hanging the thousands of white lights throughout the park, embracing everything from the ancient baobob trees to the contemporary jungle jim. The effect is magic after dark in the midst of urban barrenness.
Pageant finale: Pistarckle Theater's holiday production, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," finishes its run tonight, Saturday and Sunday in the amphitheater at Coral World. The play, featuring a large cast, mostly of young people, is about what happens when some less-than- angelic youths crash a rehearsal of a Christmas play and decide to do things their way.
Shows are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for children under 12 and $22 for everyone else. They're being sold at Bumpa's, East End Secretarial Services, Marina Market and West Indies Coffee Co., plus at the door or via charge card by calling 775-7877.
Seals of approval: Since last week's Scene, several more distribution points for this year's Children's Seals have been added on St. John. They're now at Connections, Pine Peace School, Frames of Mind, Pink Papaya and Wicker Wood and Shells. The 1999 edition features five "portal" paintings by sometimes St. Croix artist Don Dahlke. The 15-seal sheets are $3 loose for putting onto the backs of holiday cards, $5 shrink-wrapped for gift giving and $20 framed in wood for hanging. Proceeds will benefit the territory's 4-H Clubs and other youth organizations.
On St. Thomas, the're being sold at Dockside Bookshop, Color of Joy, Montessori School, The Pampered Pirate and Red Hook Mail Services.
Take your pick Nobody likes hard choices, but at the moment we're looking at one on Wednesday, Dec. 29. That's when music lovers have to decide between the classical and flamenco guitar music of Dennis Koster at the Classics in the Garden concert and the jazz with Caribbean influence of 21st Century, the band put together in New York two years ago by a couple of St. Thomas sons, drummer Dion Parson and saxophonist Ron Blake. The jazz group offers the added attractions of St.Thomian Reuben Rogers on bass, Cynthia Saunders as guest vocalist and an appearance by the Caribbean Chorale Youth Choir.
Neither the classical nor the jazz audience on St. Thomas and St. John is huge, but within their loyal ranks is a lot of overlap. For those with season tickets at Tillett Gardens, the decision is pretty much made, which is the Reichhold Center's loss. Koster's concert was announced last summer, and Classics concerts are always on Wednesdays. The 21st Century program was a late fall addition after the Reichhold season lineup had already been announced. According to Reichhold staff members, there was no choice in the booking date for the band, which is performing on St. Croix on Dec. 28 and reportedly had another gig the 30th. As it turns out, the 30th may be an unbooked night, as what the group is doing after appearing on St. Thomas is returning to St. Croix to perform on the 31st at communications magnate Jeffrey Prosser's private New Year's Eve party.
Christmas as a local holiday: On Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 25 and 26, the Reichhold Center presents the second annual production of its own in-house, home-grown holiday musical, "A Caribbean Christmas." Directed again by the Reichhold's own director, David Edgecombe, with Josephine Thomas-Lewis as musical director, the program will include performances by the 50-voice Caribbean Flava choir, the Cleomes dancers, the Lansiquot Sisters gospel trio from St. Croix, the Friends gospel group, the God's Chosen Vessels and Purpose pantomime groups, Simon Sez as backing band, and soloists Lorna Freeman, Ron Nimmo, and calypsonians Nikki Brooks, Louis Ible Jr., Ras Regg and reigning V.I. monarch Whadablee. Tickets are $15, $12 and $8 both nights; for outlets or charge-card purchases, call 693-1559.
To be scene: Scene & Herd previews arts and entertainment events open to the public on St. Thomas and St. John. To have material considered for inclusion, submit it by Wednesday of each week for the following Friday's column by faxing to 776-4812, e-mailing to [email protected] or calling 776-4812 and leaving a message for a call-back.

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