Despite ominous forecasts, a sizeable crowd trickled down to the quarry on Sunday for Stone and Sky’s sixth show of the season. After the Greek Revival Theatre Festival the weekend before, Stone and Sky was back to its regular three-medium presentation of live visual art, a literary reading, and a musical performance.
Preceding the show, patrons dined on jalapeno tostadas and mojito-kombucha, letting the spice of the meal take off the heat of the day. At 6:00, the crowd dispersed across the stone seating to bear witness to the lyrical words of local poet, D.A. Lockhart.
In this premiere act, the well-traveled wordsmith evoked stories and images from across midwest U.S.A. to our own Pelee Island, where he has settled down with his young family. His phrases captured both the grimy urban grit of Detroit and Chicago, as well as the dusty rural grit of Indiana reserves and the Montana prairies. Lockhart showed a special talent for capturing the auditory quality of his surroundings. His work is saturated with voices- the voice of the prairie winds, the hissing radios, and old-timey autumn fair story-tellers- all which hum with a quality of resilience and tenacious hope.
As Lockhart spoke, prolific painter Tina Newlove stood upstage with her easel, splashing paint on her canvas voraciously in purples and blues which matched the looming clouds above the quarry. She began with broad heavy strokes inspired by the atmosphere and the texture of Lockhart’s words, letting the excess paint to drip in vertical lines on the canvas. Halfway through the poetry set, she switched to darker shades and a smaller brush, allowing her to transform the abstract shapes on the page into the discernable figures. Soon faces, bodies, roofs, and walls emerged on the canvas, in a style reminiscent of Chagall or Klimt. By the time Lockhart uttered the final words of his set, she had completed the piece. Incredible speed and imagination!
Following Lockhart, a trio of Jazz masters took the stage. The trio consisted of Mike Karloff on keys, Mike Palazzolo on upright bass, and Ray Mazerolle on sax. Just as these accomplished musicians sat down, a few drops of rain were released from the swirling sky. For a moment it appeared that the band was going to have to play in the rain for a third year in a row! Fortunately, the skies were just teasing and the storm held off through their entire set, only to finally break in the late evening. A true ampha-theatre miracle!
The trio began with an inventive rendition of “On the Sunny Side of the Street”(as if to coax the sun out from behind the clouds) and proceeded to such classics as “I’ll Be Seeing You”. It was a pleasure to listen as the composition was decomposed, and build back up, giving each performer a chance to show off his skills both as a soloist and an ensemble member. As the band took up a lighter tone, Newlove switched to a fresh canvas on which she swung stroked of bright yellow, in time to the music.
As Mazerolle stated part way through the set, “Jazz is exciting because anything can happen”. This was especially true for Sunday night’s performance. Not only did the band deftly navigate the ups and downs in their musical improvisation, this spirit of play was felt across all mediums of expression. Lockhart’s words set the tone for the musicians, and Newlove used both poetry and melodies as inspiration for her visual pieces. Even Lockhart’s young daughter came up to dance during the latter set, giving the musicians a good laugh and surge of joyful energy to riff off of. In all, this night’s performance reminded me of what a treat it is to take part in a live event, in which the art unfolds before your very eyes.