This Week in New Haven (November 26 – December 2)

M usic hath charms, they say. Hopefully it can soothe the savage breasts of the hordes of shoppers now that the starting bell of the holiday gift-buying season has sounded. There are umpteen guitars to listen to this week, whole bunches of them at a time, plus a tribute to one of the most influential folk compilation albums ever, some unique kids-music acts, classical musicians getting grungy, Irving Berlin tunes at the Shubert and the consummate grace of the New Haven Symphony. Many of these events are even helping out local charities. If music be the food of love (via local soup kitchens), play on!

Monday, November 26
Victoria Clark, who won a Tony for the musical The Light in the Piazza and whose diverse resume includes turns in the whimsical Broadway hit Sister Act, the dark Off-Broadway drama Prayer for My Enemy and several animated films, returns to her alma mater Yale to lead a master class in theater performance. The four-hour session (including a light dinner) is open to the general public, but space is limited and you should call ahead for info. 5:30 p.m. at Stoeckel Hall Room 106, 96 Wall St., New Haven; 203-432-1308, [email protected].

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Tuesday, November 27
Damien Hirst’s “In and Out of Love” (pictured second above) is an immense multi-media arrangement of ashtrays, boxes, a table and paintings of butterflies adorned with actual dead butterflies. The Yale Center for British Art bought it (or at least a good chunk of it) in the late 1990s and had it on display for several years. Now considered a major, seminal work by one of the world’s best-known and most provocative living artists, “Love” is discussed at the museum this afternoon at 12:30 p.m. by the YCBA’s own Head of Research and Curator of Sculpture Martina Droth and its Chief Conservator Mark Aronson. 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven; 203-432-2800.

Wednesday, November 28
The Connecticut Health Advancement Research Trust, which oversees the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, thinks it’s good for your health to see Matthew Heineman & Susan Froemke’s award-winning documentary Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. The organization has arranged a screening at 7:30 p.m. in the Bow-Tie Criterion Cinema complex at 86 Temple St., New Haven, and is hosting a panel discussion afterwards. $10. Tickets can be reserved here.

Tet Offensive is a classical ensemble that plays a few originals, but is best known for its creative covers of classic rock songs such as Nirvana’s “Stay Away” and Elvis Costello’s “Less Than Zero” and “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes.” The string ensemble is made up of Yale undergraduate music students, and frontman/composer/arranger Brian Robinson is the Managing Director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Tet Offensive opens for the eclectic Sugarbat (comprised of banjo, keyboards and drums) 8 p.m. at Cafe Nine (250 State St., New Haven; $5; 203-789-8281).

Thursday, November 29
The New Haven Symphony Orchestra (pictured first above) plays Carl Orff’s classic mid-1930s cantata Carmina Burana, based on medieval poetry and including the all-time classical hit “O Fortuna.” 7:30 p.m. at Woolsey Hall (500 College Street, New Haven; 203-865-0831). Not familiar enough? The concert also features Humperdinck’s overture from Hansel and Gretel and excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. $15-$69.

Friday, November 30
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, wake up, because  Sacred Heart Academy is presenting the stage version of the Irving Berlin movie for three performances this weekend: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 8 p.m. at the Shubert (247 College Street, New Haven; 203-562-5666).

Over a dozen local musicians join up for a Tribute to the Anthology of American Folk Music, the essential collection of 84 songs collected in an immeasurably influential 6-LP set by the great musicologist Harry Smith 60 years ago. Old tunes like “John the Revelator,” “Fishing Blues” and “Stackalee” were rediscovered by new generations, and are now standards, due to Smith’s scholarship. The Cafe Nine tribute is a benefit for Connecticut Food Bank. Singer-songwriter Lys Guillorn co-hosts, with Danburyan-turned-Brooklynite Elisa Flynn. 250 State Street, New Haven. (203) 789-8281. 9 p.m. $6.

Saturday, December 1
The United Community Nursery School’s annual Holiday Fun Fair is unlike a lot of other school fairs. Oh, it has the accustomed Scholastic Book Fair, silent auction, baked goods, lunch treats and lots of crafts and activities for kids. But it also has non-stop live entertainment in the cozy lounge of the United Church on the Green Parish House (323 Temple St., at the corner of Wall St., New Haven). The school’s director Betty Baisden always performs one of her Roxi Fox puppet shows, and musical acts this year include Buzz Gordo (of The Big Bad Johns), keyboardist Todd Stoops (from the bands Raq and Kung Fu), 13-year-old busker Henry Sidle, 7-year-old classical guitarist Jesse Balkcom, the new family-friendly rap group Elm City Mayhem (featuring another UCNS staffer, Lance Ligon), the local folk trio The Wayfarers and more, all doing sets finetuned for the youngest audiences. 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Admission is $4, a major fundraiser for the school, which turned 50 years old this year.

Another crowd of local artists convenes tonight at St. John’s Episcopal Church (400 Humphrey St., New Haven), with doors opening at 7 p.m. The hook this time is that they’re all guitarists. It’s the Eleventh Annual Fabulous Guitar Night hosted by Robert Messore (no slouch on the instrument himself). The cost is just $10 for over ten performers (in eight separate acts—see the full bill here). Messore also requests that you bring a “new or gently used item of winter clothing” as a charitable donation. (203) 787-9642.

And there’s yet another mass of musicians to consider—several more guitarists, even! The respected New Haven Improvisers Collective, which has been meeting for years at Neverending Books on State Street, can be found instead tonight at Firehouse 12 (45 Crown St., New Haven; 203-785-0468). The evening features two distinct sets: Guitar Trio E (namely Jeff Cedrone, Chris Cretella and Bob Gorry) at 8:30 p.m. and Electric NHIC (Cedrone and Gorry plus bassist Pete Brunelli, Chapman Stick guitarist Brett Bottomley, trumpeter Nick DiMaria, saxophonist Paul McGuire and drummer Peter Riccio) at 10 p.m. $15 gets you into both.

Sunday, December 2
A year ago, composer Lewis Spratlan  premiered his chamber opera Architect based on the life, work and spatial concepts of renowned architect Louis Kahn. The piece, which Spratlan created in collaboration with Jenny Kallick and John Downey, was filmed and will be screened at one of the very buildings which Kahn designed, the Yale Center for British Art, at 1 p.m. 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven. Free. (203) 432-2800.

Written by Christopher Arnott.

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Christopher Arnott has written about arts and culture in Connecticut for over 25 years. His journalism has won local, regional and national awards, and he has been honored with an Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. He posts daily at his own sites and New Haven Theater Jerk (

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