Saturday, March 26, 2011

History of Church Resonates through Bells

Photo by Joe McGarity


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The Carillons Handbell Choir, a member of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, rehearses on Tuesday and Thursday nights at St. James Lutheran Church in Redding.  Nancy Schmitt, Director of the Choir and a Regional Coordinator for the Guild, sat down with the Fantom Penguin as the church’s organist practiced behind her.

“The Carillons Handbell Choir is sponsored by two churches, St. James Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church of Redding.  We started in 1991 with two octaves and eight ringers and now we have four octaves and three and half octaves of hand chimes and sixteen ringers.”

“So many people think of bells from the Salvation Army and Christmas time where they’re ringing bells towards the ground in front of stores.  These are actually handbells that you hold in your hand and ring out and up.  They have beautiful sound.  You can ring them.  You can thumb-damp them.  You can use mallets to play on them.  They’re a percussive instrument.”

The group’s name refers to a slightly different kind of bell choir.

“It actually is from, I’d say, back to the Sixteenth Century in Europe.  The big huge tower bells in those cathedrals were carillon bells.  And ropes hang down from them and people would ring the bells by pulling the ropes and that would ring the bells.  And that’s where the word ‘carillon’ would come from.”

“We play at both churches on the first Sunday of each month and other times, Christmas, Easter.  We go out into the community and play at retirement homes.  We also play for weddings and funerals and community events.  Our next big adventure is going to Wittenberg, Germany in the summer to help Castle Church start a bell choir.  The significance of that is the Lutheran Reformation.  Castle Church is where Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door.  He preached there and he is buried there.  So, we’re quite excited to be able to go back into that Lutheran history and help this church start a bell choir.”

“We are in communication with Sarah and Thomas Herzer, who are the co-music directors of the church.  Sarah is actually the American.  She went to Gustavus Adolphus where she played handbells and it’s her dream to start a bell choir.  And Thomas is German and he’s also excited about starting a bell choir there.”

“You can come to our concert on April 10 and we’re taking a free-will offering.  That would be a good time, if you wanted to donate by writing out a check to Carillons Handbell Choir.”

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Television Production Classes Provide Community Access


Photo by Joe McGarity


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The Fantom Penguin reported on Redding Community Access Corporation’s new television studio back in January.  Now Beginning Television Production Classes are underway.  The Fantom Penguin once again spoke with Board of Directors Chairman, Ed Ballantine.

“We finally got our new production classes kicked off here at our new location at 137 Locust here in Redding, California and we’re excited about that.  We’re six weeks now into our first class.  The class is having a wonderful time and they’re getting ready to actually do their first production out of here now.  These folks, most of them, came in here with no experience whatsoever except that they wanted to do television shows and that’s one of the things that we teach you how to do here at RCAC TV.”

“You’re learning camera.  You’re learning audio.   You’re learning a little bit of editing.  You’re learning a little bit about everything, camera control, direction, technical direction, floor direction, how to do interviews and so on, and so forth, scripting/how to write scripts.  I mean it’s just a whole bunch of information that we try to give you in just six to eight weeks.”

If you missed out on the first class, don’t fret; they’ll be offered periodically for the foreseeable future.

“We want to be able to have the classes continue on,” said Ballantine.  “Every six to seven/eight weeks we’ll start a new class . . . new class . . . new class.  I also want to see a situation potentially of having maybe even something on a weekend where people come out and do advanced television production.”

Ballantine told the Penguin that it’s not easy to break into local television without some kind of prior training.

“You really can’t anymore.  It’s very, very, very hard to walk up to a local television station and say, ‘Hey, I want to learn how to operate a camera;’ you should already know how to operate a camera if you’re knocking on their door, or ‘I want to do audio’ or ‘I want to do . . .‘ you know, whatever, ‘lighting’ or ‘directing’ or what have you, but here you can.  You can actually, to use the old term, ‘get your feet wet’ here so that you can actually move on into the professional areas of television or you may not want to do that; you may want to just do something where you can learn how to do your own productions.  A lot of people do that.”

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shasta College Theater Chair Comfortable

Photo by Joe McGarity


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Spring was in the air at Shasta College and the trees were in bloom in the South Parking Lot near the Shasta College Theater.  The Fantom Penguin caught up with Robert Soffian, Chair of the Shasta College Theater Department and asked him how long he’d been in his job.

“I think it’s twenty-five years, Joe.  I think it is.”

During which time Soffian has influenced uncounted numbers of students and actors.

“I get a lot of letters now from students who say, oh they remember me or that, you know, I helped them or that I changed their lives.  It seems . . . It’s kind of a weird feeling, I mean it’s very complimentary but it makes me feel weird in a certain way.  You know what I mean?  I think, well if I was really famous, I mean those famous people must really get letters all the time, like Jennifer Aniston, right?  Somebody’ll say, oh how you really inspired me or something like that and she’s like, you know, brushing her teeth or something.”
“No, it’s nice.  It’s just a funny feeling.  I can’t explain it.  Because the thing is what they . . . it’s like I’m different than . . . you know, I’m not who they think I am.”

Modest perhaps about his effect on his students, he was less shy about his current production.

“It’s called Circle Mirror Transformation.  It’s written by Annie Baker, a young woman, an American.  She’s twenty-?  I don’t want to make her too old.  I think she’s twenty-eight and she’s a very prominent young playwright.  This is maybe, I don’t know, maybe her third or fourth play that’s been produced off Broadway and she’s a very good writer.  And I don’t know how many productions have been done in America of this, but I’m guessing around twenty so far.  So it’s starting to be done all the time.”

“There are a couple of reasons I like theater and one of the reasons is, I like literature.  You know?  I like really well written stuff.  I mean, I like the communal aspect and other stuff about it, but I kind of like literature and so I’ve done a lot of new plays over the years, you know, quite a few.  And luckily that’s what I enjoy doing.  I think I like doing that and classics.  I’ve done some old chestnuts, but I think that I prefer to do really classic theater and new plays.  Because, you know, contemporary writers, they have really good ideas; it’s totally new and also you’re not cemented into an interpretation, because you’re looking at a new piece and you’re really interpreting it totally fresh.  You’re supposed to do that with every play, but you know, you get kind of like addicted to certain plays.”

Soffian was asked, after decades in the position, how many years he felt he had left.

“Well, I don’t know, a couple at least, I would think.  I would say.  You know?  I mean . . . I think so.  I mean, it’s nice having a job.  It’s true, right?”

“I like the actual theater space.  I’ve worked in it for like . . . I’ve probably directed, you know, a lot of plays in it and produced a lot of plays.  So, I like that.  And you know, I actually enjoy teaching on my good days when I’m not, you know, a curmudgeon or you know frustrated by the genius/sub-geniusness of my students.  So, I mean I’ll just keep working until something happens and . . . whatever that is.  I mean I’m doing other stuff so . . .  I don’t think I’ll stop directing.  Even if I’m not teaching I’ll probably still do that.”

Circle Mirror Transformation performances continue Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 in the evenings through March 19, 2011 with a Sunday matinee on March 13 at 2:00 pm.

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Master Martial Arts Prior to Mixing


Photo by Joe McGarity
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Although the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts competitions remains strong, it would be incorrect to think of it as the new thing.  The Fantom Penguin spoke with Alan Myrtle of Northwest Martial Arts in Anderson who told us of the sport’s origins.

“Well, MMA’s been around actually, if you look at the history, for years.  People have been doing full contact fighting since the dawn of time and a lot of it’s been regulated with rules and so forth, but it’s not until recently, in the last say, fifteen years or so has it become as popular as it is today.  I think that has a lot to do with the promoters and a lot of the money people that have been behind it to promote this particular industry and make it something that a fighter, a martial artist, a wrestler, if you will, could possibly make a living doing something like this.”

Alan’s son, Nick Myrtle, has stepped into the octagon as a local MMA fighter.

“Well, I’m 1-1 right now locally in the cage.  My last one didn’t quite end how I wanted it to be but, you know, it happens and it’s the name of the game and you just gotta keep moving on.  But it’s definitely one of the most exciting feelings that I’ve ever felt in my life, especially when you’re in the winner’s circle.  You’re on Cloud 9.  There’s just no other greatest feeling for a competitor that’s looking for that ‘different’ feeling as opposed to just doing every other ‘regular’ sport.”

Nick was asked if the rules were similar to traditional boxing.

“There are similarities.  I mean, you are going to have a point system.  Basically, you’ve got three judges, and depending on the organization how long it’s going to be.  So, like an amateur fight around here, you’re talking about three three-minute rounds.  But if it’s a pro fight, you’re talking about three five-minute rounds.  So they expect those guys to be a lot more conditioned when you get into that kind of level.  It also depends upon the production company.  But also, the similarities between boxing and MMA:  They still go for strikes.  What are strikes landed?  Aggression?  You get points for that.  You also get points for takedowns.  You get points for octagon control or ring control if it’s in a boxing ring.  So they still score a point system in case the bout goes the whole distance and then the time limit’s up.  They have to decide a winner.  So they tally up the points of who landed the most, who had better control, better aggression, that kind of stuff and they’ll decide the winner from there.”

Alan Myrtle added, “As far as for somebody starting off in an MMA career, there’s a few ways to go.  Now if you look at your really great MMA fighters out there, as Nick was mentioning earlier, these guys have a background in some art.  They’re either a black belt in Jujitsu or they’re a collegiate wrestler or they’ve got a black belt in some kind of striking art.  So, in other words, they have reached a proficient level in something and then they went off and diversified.  If they were strikers, such as in Kenpo, our forté is striking, kicking, punching, elbows, knees, all that kind of stuff.  We have definitely a wrestling/grappling component here as well, which is a big part of it.  Jujitsu is an underlying component of Kenpo, but striking is our forté.  But someone that I would train, I would then suggest go learn some more grappling, some more Jujitsu after I’ve worked with them for a little while.  Somebody who might be a wrestler, I would say, ‘Hey, you need to come see me and learn how to punch and kick and throw some elbows and go to that area.’  So, everyone in that art cross trains into other arts, but you need to have a base art that you’ve got to work with and fall back on.  And I believe that it should be striking in most cases because striking is your first line of defense or offense.  I mean before you even get up-close and personal, he’s gonna run into a fist or a hand and to me, I’d like that better than having them come up and grab me.”




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