published Monday, April 21st, 2014

Get Off The Couch: For opera singers, time to play ball

LISA DENTON: Barry, you know those comedy skits where serious actors recite song lyrics? Like Christopher Walken reading Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”: P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face. Mum mum mum mah.

Pop songs always sound so weird when they’re read instead of sung. The Chattanooga Public Library is doing a Lunch Break program like that Wednesday called “Poem Song/Song Poem.” But they’re playing it straight (good luck with that) and not for laughs, I think.

On their playlist are lyrics by Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Tupac Shukar, singers known for their songwriting talents.

BARRY COURTER: Old-timers will remember Steve Allen doing that on the original “The Tonight Show.” I think his recitation of “Be-Bop-A-Lula” is television history.

And, speaking of history, all kinds of it will be made on Thursday and Saturday. A group of opera enthusiasts calling themselves the Artisti Affamati, which is a fancy way of saying “starving artists” or, coincidentally, “opera enthusiasts,” will be presenting a fully staged opera at Historic Engel Stadium.

The full cast and crew will number about 50. They will be doing “The Mighty Casey,” which is an actual baseball opera. Buddy Shirk will be on hand to play the organ, and some members of Ensemble Theatre will present Abbott & Costello’s classic “Who’s on First” routine.

And there will be concessions, so it will be a full night of arias and baseball.

LISA: I’m always disappointed that there aren’t more karaoke arias. I think I could totally rock “O Sole Mio.”

BARRY: Yeah, that’s the reason I don’t sing karaoke. No arias.

LISA: The poem that “Mighty Casey” is based on, Ernest L. Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat,” is quite the drama in itself, the way it builds suspense: “That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the umpire said. An operatic treatment should be fun to watch.

BARRY: We’ve had some busy weeks before, but this one is jam-packed. Just tonight alone Nickel Creek is back together and will do a sold-out show at Track 29. Around the corner and up the road, Wishbone Ash, pioneers of the dueling lead guitar attack, is at Rhythm & Brews. Over on M.L. King Boulevard, the Jazzanooga series continues with a neighborhood concert at Whiteside Park in front of Whiteside Manor.

All that on a Monday.

LISA: That’s a lot for a Monday. Speaking of Nickel Creek, I don’t think I realized, until I read your ChattanoogaNow story on the band, that Chris Thile and siblings Sean and Sara Watkins have been performing together for 25 years. That’s an amazing feat considering they’re only 33, 37 and 32 now.

BARRY: Surprised me too, but Thile and Sara were 8 when the band started. Sean is four years older than his sister.

LISA: Don’t forget that the Ramp Tramp in Polk County and the National Cornbread Festival in Marion County are this weekend. Those are always fun.

And I know you’re going to the Times Free Press Kidz Expo on Sunday at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Debby Ryan of the Disney show “Jessie” is the big draw, but I want to get my picture made with two others who’ll be there. One is WordGirl, the PBS character who fights crime with, I quote, “superhero strength and her colossal vocabulary.” The other is beauty queen Miss Country Sunshine. I wish I had that on my resumé.

BARRY: Well, you brag on your “Miss Soddy Karate” title.

LISA: Yeah, but that’s a black belt, not a sash.

Get event details every Thursday in ChattanoogaNow or online anytime at www.ChattanoogaNow.com.

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281. Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

about Lisa Denton...

Lisa Denton is deputy features editor and content editor of Current. She previously was a lifestyle, entertainment and region reporter/pod leader for The Chattanooga Times, which she joined in 1983. Lisa is from Sale Creek and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from Chattanooga State Community College. Contact Lisa at 423-757-6281 or ldenton@timesfreepress.com.

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