December 5, 2009
Even with the recent commotion in the executive offices of the Aspen Music Festival, it was clear that there would always be a festival. Not so with the Aspen Choral Society, or its annual performances of Handel’s “Messiah.” It’s impossible to envision the Choral Society without director, conductor and driving force Ray Adams, who has led the group for three-plus decades. Each year Adams faces more challenges – health, finances, support, etc. – in staging his events. So those who attend this year’s performances should not only listen to the “Hallelujah” chorus – but say hallelujah for the selfless Adams. The “Messiah” is at the Glenwood Methodist Church Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 8-9, and at St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11-12.
In suburban Minnesota, at the height of the ’60s, the nebbishy professor Larry Gopnik helplessly watches as his life spins downward. For spiritual aid, he turns to a series of rabbis, who turn out to be unavailable or less than helpful. God doesn’t seem to be listening; He may be more tuned in to the musical happening going down in San Francisco, especially psychedelic rock band the Jefferson Airplane and their hit, “Somebody to Love.” As a further symbol of Gopnik’s alienation from his faith, his son is about to be a bar mitzvah – yet the young man is more interested in pot and TV. Does this hold any interest for someone who hasn’t spent way too many years in Hebrew school? Perhaps not. “A Serious Man” is a masterstroke from Joel and Ethan Coen, who are on the same comic-existential ground they explored in “Fargo.” The film shows at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale.
Robert Randolph & the Family Band recently picked up a Grammy nomination – in an R&B category, for their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” recorded with the Clark Sisters. Which means Randolph, a New Jersey-based steel guitarist, now spans the worlds of jam-band, gospel and rhythm-and-blues. In other news, Randolph is about to hook up with jazz keyboardist John Medeski and blues-rockers the North Mississippi Allstars to reconvene their gospel-jam project, The Word, for a few New Year’s dates; and the band is in the studio with producer T-Bone Burnett recording their first album since 2006’s “Colorblind.” They play Belly Up Aspen on Saturday, Dec. 12.