Really Retro: Raising an AleCon: Renaissance Music Stars Three Quarter Ale Celebrate Their First Decade with a Convention and Performance Festival!

Posted on: Aug 10th, 2012 By:

Three Quarter Ale. L-R: Rivka Levin, Dolph Amick, Becky Cormier Finch.

What do you do when your popular Celtic/Renaissance rock band hits 10 years old? If you are Three Quarter Ale, you throw a convention and festival for musicians, performers and fans of history-inspired musical theater and performance art. The three-day AleCon is this weekend (Aug 10-12) at Fabrefaction Theatre Company in Midtown and features performances not just by Three Quarter Ale but a host of other Ren bands and performance artists presenting magic to bellydancing. Other activities include panels on a variety of theatre, music and even film topics from stage combat and Irish dance to prop-building and financing art projects, as well as Killer Karaoke and daily costume contests.

A while back, we made Three Quarter Ale vocalist/flutist/guitarist Ariana Pellayle, aka Becky Cormier Finch, Kool Kat of the Week for her ’80s revival band Denim Arcade, so this time we asked bandmate vocalist/harpist/percussionist Rosemary Quench, aka Rivka Levin, for the scoop on Alecon and the enduring appeal of Ren music.
ATLRetro: Ten years old is a big landmark for any band, but they don’t usually throw a convention and performance festival. How did you guys get the idea for AleCon and what inspired you to go all out?
Rivka Levin: It was my bandmate Dolph‘s [Amick, aka Wicked Pete Speakeasy] idea. We are all three actors and dancers as well as musicians, so paying tribute to all the various crafts in which we participate seemed like the thing to do! Plus, we’re kinda ambitious that way. We are so much more than just a band, and we are THRILLED to be able to do something huge to celebrate out 10th anniversary.
You’ve assembled a pretty impressive performance line-up. Was it challenging or more a matter of ask and they will come?
OHHHH yes, it was challenging. We first had to narrow down what panels might be interesting to the general population as well as professionals – AleCon is designed to appeal to any arts lover. Then we got on the horn and started talking to the many talented people we know. But being so talented, many of them were already booked! WONDERFUL for them, but it meant another round of “who would we like to hear speak or perform?” and more phone calls. On the other hand, we did have some folks who heard about what we were planning and approached us to ask if there was a way they could get in on it! So it was a bit of both, really.
AleCon also includes panels and workshops. Can you tell us a little bit about the range of programming and highlight a few cool learning opportunities?
Sure! One of the panels about which I’m most excited is the Musical Stylings panel. We’ve got three industry leaders – really AMAZING people – talking about how to take a melody and do something unique or different with it – like making a standard musical theater piece jazzy or making a jazz tune sound classical. They are so good at what they do, and I can’t wait to hear them share their knowledge!
We also have an Irish Dance workshop, a podcasting panel by some of Atlanta’s best, “Recording on a Budget” and even a Prop-making For Film panel featuring the man who does all the props for VAMPIRE DIARIES! And some of the most talented and varied performers lined up, too.
The full schedule can be seen at http://alecon.threequarterale.com.
I understand Three Quarter Ale has a secret origin story of sorts which will be revealed at AleCon. Can you divulge a bit of it or do we have to come to find out?
Oh, you’ll have to attend! Our characters are pretty malleable and timeless, so there are really many possibilities regarding their origin or story. But I have just finished an historical novel with one exciting version, which I’ll be debuting at AleCon on Sunday! Parts of it have been posted online, and it already has quite a following of readers who have been chomping at the bit for the last several chapters!

Three Quarter Ale as 2011 finalists in the Georgia Lottery All-Access Music contest.

You’re a trained opera singer and act at The New American Shakespeare Tavern, too. How do these skills inform your work with Three Quarter Ale?

As I said, all three of us are actors, and one of the most electrifying things about Three Quarter Ale is the stage show we put on. People really connect with these three characters, in part because they are so real. I think folks come to an event of ours as much to spend time with Rosemary, Ariana and Pete as they do to hear the music itself. That’s also why I’ve so enjoyed writing this novel! Watching these three lovable and imperfect people get into scrapes, lose their tempers, deal with being kidnapped by pirates, fall in love, argue with each other, comfort each other – it’s been SO much fun! And so very rewarding.
With regards to being an opera singer, Dolph (Wicked Pete) is very skilled at writing original music that makes the most of the skills Becky and I bring to the table. Much of what he writes for me, even if it’s got a heavy metal or ’60s rock chord structure, uses my classical voice. It makes for a very unique and interesting sound, and it’s something that our fans really appreciate about our music – that it’s truly OURS, and no other trio could do it quite the same way.

Three Quarter Ale plays coy. L-R: Becky, Dolph and Rivka.

Do you have a personal highlight/favorite moment in 10 years of Three Quarter Ale?

I think one we all share was our first CD release concert for our second CD, INTERTWINED. We always start each set or concert with our theme song, in which we shout a toast, “Drink Hail!” and the audience is cued to toast us back by shouting, “Wassail!”  We’d been doing the theme song for two or three years, and we knew our fans knew the cue…but still, when we shouted that first “Drink Hail!” and an entire theater full of people shouted back “Wassail!”, it was so loud and so enthusiastic that it literally rocked all three of us back on our heels! The sheer volume! The love that was pouring forth from folks who had driven all the way out just to celebrate with us! It was honestly elating, humbling, and beyond anything we expected. But who knows – maybe something at AleCon will top even that!!
After AleCon, what’s next for you and Three Quarter Ale?
Oh, heavens! Dolph’s working on a screenplay that gives an alternative version to the novel. We’ve got lots of new material not yet on a CD. We’ve even talked with some sequential artists about a Three Quarter Ale comic book or animated video. AAAAAND if you come to AleCon on Saturday night, you’ll see the surprise secret project we’ve been working on, too! Honestly, the possibilities are endless.
Note: All photographs are courtesy of Three Quarter Ale.

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Retro Review: 1940s RADIO HOUR Transports Audiences Back to a Yule of Yesteryear at Theatre in the Square

Posted on: Dec 20th, 2011 By:

 

By Jordan Barbeau
Contributing Writer

THE 1940s RADIO HOUR; Theatre in the Square; Dec. 17, 2011-Jan. 1, 2012; please note: all performances are at Southern Polytechnic State University – Joe Mack Wilson Student Center; tickets here.

Possibly more so than any other time period, the 1940s were an incredible example of beauty amongst chaos. As World War II raged on across the sea, Americans on the home front did their best to keep up the morale of the citizens through various mediums. One such medium, used to entertain, inform and advertise, was the radio.

THE 1940s RADIO HOUR, written by Walton Jones and directed by Susan Reid at Marietta’s Theatre in the Square, focuses on a New York radio station in December 1942. The play opens as a group of people (including singers, musicians, workers at the station, etc.) are frantically preparing for an hour-long radio show they are about to perform. When everything comes together, the ensuing hour, full of music and commercials alike, is a brilliant, faithful throwback to the time it is emulating.

To begin, a confession is in order: before attending the production, I was a bit skeptical of the content. A recreation of a 1940s radio hour did not seem like the most interesting plot for a play, but I will be the first to admit that this could not be farther from the truth. Produced by Theatre in the Square and running through Jan. 1, THE 1940s RADIO HOUR is not only an excellent musical, it is an excellent representation of the ‘40s.

Jeff Jackson in THE 1940s Radio Hour, now playing at Theatre in the Square. Photo credit: Seamus Bourne

The most important part of any musical is, of course, the music. THE 1940s RADIO HOUR boasts an impressive soundtrack that is very faithful to its source time, ranging from famous ‘40s songs such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to holiday classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The performers were in top condition; everyone from Johnny Cantone (played by Maxim Gukham), the man with the velvety-smooth voice, to Ginger Brooks (played by Jessica Miesel), the comically high-pitched, wannabe pin-up girl, wowed in their own unique ways.

Authenticity can often suffer in productions based on different time periods, the time period itself taking a back seat to the performances. This was not the case with RADIO HOUR; before the play even began, looking at the stage as I walked into the auditorium, I felt as if I had stepped back in time. The set’s Christmas theme was overshadowed by the attention paid to recreating the 1940s, with everything from the furniture to the telephones looking authentic.

One of the most impressive aspects of the production was its cohesiveness. From the second it began to the second the lights went out at the end, the show did not stop; there was no changing of scenes, no intermission, nothing. The dynamic set contributed greatly to the show’s easy accessibility to audiences, as the lack of constant scene changes and set changes made the show extremely easy to follow and very enjoyable.

Left to Right: Drew Arthur, Jessica Miesel and Anna Kimmell. Photo credit: Seamus Bourne.

While it may seem an odd topic to point out in a musical, my personal favorite parts of THE 1940s RADIO HOUR were the commercials that separated the songs being performed. The play did an impeccable job at recreating how commercials were done back in the ‘40s, such as how sound effects were made either by mouth or by various random items. These short breaks in the show not only provide some enjoyable comic relief (an advertisement for a laxative coming to mind), but also provided a very interesting, real look on the differences and similarities between commercials then and now.

THE 1940s RADIO HOUR is an incredible production that even non-theater fans will enjoy. It is simple to follow, the songs performed are authentic and enjoyable, the actors are likeable and charismatic, and the attention to detail paid to recreating a lost time is painstaking. THE 1940s RADIO HOUR is not only a fantastic Christmas play, it is a fantastic play in general and should not be passed up.

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