Category Archives: entertainment

Drinking on the Last Frontier: Cool festival is hot ticket —  Frozen River Festival kicks off Saturday

Photo by Lee Kuepper/courtesy of Frozen River

Photo by Lee Kuepper/courtesy of Frozen River

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

The 2016 Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival took place Jan. 22 and 23. For the second year in a row, a brewery from here on the Kenai Peninsula took first place in the Barley Wine Competition at the festival.

The panel of judges tasted barley wines from more than 30 breweries from across Alaska and Outside before awarding the gold medal to Kassik’s Brewery’s Buffalo Head Barley Wine. Two barley wines from Outside tied for second place, Old Gnarleywine Barley Wine from Lagunitas Brewing of Petaluma, California, and Old Birdbrain 2012 from Black Raven Brewing of Redmond, Washington. This is a real statement on the excellence of craft brewing here on the peninsula, coming as it does on the heels of St. Elias Brewing’s taking the gold last year with its Moose Juice Barley Wine. Congratulations to Kassik’s Brewery on taking home the prize.

But that was January. Now it’s February, which means it’s time to start getting ready for this year’s Frozen River Fest! The festival will take place from 3 to 6 p.m. Feb. 20 at Soldotna Creek Park. Yes, we are crazy enough to do it again and hold a festival outdoors in February. There will be live music and food vendors, plus activities for the entire family. But this column is about beer, so let’s focus on that part of the festival. The following producers will be in attendance: Arkose Brewery, Palmer; Baranof Island Brewing Co., Sitka; Bear Creek Winery, Homer; Broken Tooth Brewing, Anchorage;; Celestial Meads, Anchorage; Denali Brewing Co., Talkeetna; Homer Brewing Co., Homer; Kassik’s Brewery, Nikiski; Kenai River Brewing Co., Soldotna; King Street Brewing, Anchorage; Midnight Sun Brewing Co., Anchorage; Specialty Imports, Anchorage; and St. Elias Brewing Co., Soldotna

In addition, our two Soldotna breweries, St. Elias Brewing Company and Kenai River Brewing, have created another special beer in honor of the Frozen River Fest. They have each brewed a Wee Heavy Scotch Ale. This style of beer was created as Scotland’s answer to the barley wines of England and has its roots in the strong ales of the 1700s and 1800s. The term “wee heavy” means “small strong” and traces to the beer that made the term famous, Fowler’s Wee Heavy, a 12 Guinea Ale. They have strong malty sweetness, with little or no hop bitterness, and occasional roasted or smoked notes from caramelization during the boiling process. Strength typically falls between 6.5 percent and 10 percent alcohol by volume.

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‘The Orchestra Rocks’ on a roll — Kenai Peninsula concerts get national distinction

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Artistic Director Tammy Vollom-Matturro rehearses for the annual Link Up concert with fourth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai on Thursday.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Kenai Peninsula Orchestra Artistic Director Tammy Vollom-Matturro rehearses for the annual Link Up concert with fourth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai on Thursday.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Step aside, Carnegie Hall. The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Link Up program took center stage.

“It is a very education, fun concert. Every year we seem to do a little bit more and more. This year we’ve got 10 schools participating, which us the most ever,” said Tammy Vollom-Matturro, artistic director for the orchestra and coordinator for the Link Up concerts in Homer on Friday and Kenai on Saturday.

The program is a collaboration with Kenai Peninsula Borough schools, with students in third, fourth and fifth grades performing live onstage with the orchestra.

Link Up is put together by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, which provides the music, teacher guides, student materials and a slideshow to be played during the concert. Partner orchestras and schools across the country and around the world participate, including a giant concert at Carnegie Hall itself, which usually kicks off the program.

Except for this year, where the honor went to the Kenai Peninsula.

“I got a phone call from a lady from Carnegie Hall and she said, ‘You guys are the world premiere of The Orchestra Rocks.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, we usually premier the concerts in Carnegie Hall first.’ But they love what the Kenai Peninsula does with the Link Up program and they’re letting us premiere it first,” Vollom-Matturro said.

The orchestra also recently received the Alaska Music Advocate of the Year Award from the Alaska Music Educators Association, in part for the Link Up program.

“We support music education. It’s in our mission statement, to do education, so we do a lot of stuff that includes kids,” Vollom-Matturro said.

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‘Best’ bet of the season — Holiday show must go on at Triumvirate

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Gladys, played by Charli Byrd, performs her superhero rendition of the Angel of the Lord, disrupting the Christmas pageant that director Grace Bradley, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom, is attempting to stage.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Gladys, played by Charli Byrd, performs her superhero rendition of the Angel of the Lord, disrupting the Christmas pageant that director Grace Bradley, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom, is attempting to stage.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and said unto them —

“Shazam! Out of the black night, with horrible vengeance, the mighty Marvo!”

At least, that’s how it goes when Gladys Herdman plays the angel in the annual church Christmas pageant. She’s the youngest of the herd of six Herdman kids. Altogether, the brood is more unruly, ill-mannered and wild than anything that would eat out of a manger.

“They’re basically raising themselves, they run amok, they’re hoodlums, they smoke and they curse and they bully the other kids. They’re really terrible children,” said Kate Schwarzer, who’s directing “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at Triumvirate Theatre this weekend.

In the show, the pageant is a staple church tradition of the Christmas season, but the usual director is out with a broken leg, leaving eager but inexperienced Grace Bradley, played by AnnMarie Rudstrom, to take the helm. Her enthusiasm, patience and optimism know no bounds, until the Herdman kids decide to participate and bully their way into the lead roles.

“So, Imogene has volunteered to be Mary — I’ll just write that down. Now, what other names can I put on my list? Janet? Roberta? Alice, don’t you want to volunteer?” Bradley says, as other kids are too intimidated by the Herdmans to speak up.

Gladys, the youngest Herdman, played by Charli Byrd, is convinced the Angel of the Lord is a superhero, and regularly sends rehearsals off track with her dramatic outbursts.

“I know a name! I’d call it, ‘Revenge and Bethlehem!’” she shouts.

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Color me calm — Kids’ pastime crosses line into adult activity

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Briley Morton of Soldotna completes her butterfly during an adult coloring program at the Soldotna Public Library last week. Adult coloring is becoming popular at libraries across the country.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Briley Morton of Soldotna completes her butterfly during an adult coloring program at the Soldotna Public Library last week. Adult coloring is becoming popular at libraries across the country.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Coloring, once considered a fond pastime from childhood, is no longer viewed as a frivolous venture restricted to the youngest members of society.

“Adult coloring is becoming popular nationwide and at libraries across the country, so we thought we’d try adding it to our programming and seeing what the community’s response was,” said Reilly Selmser, a clerk at the Soldotna Public Library.

The library’s first adult coloring class was in November, and there has been half a dozen people coming each week since.

The designs are also not the simple outlines of cartoon characters, as is common with children’s coloring books. There are elaborate nature depictions, complex fantasy scenes and circular mandalas, just to name a few. And rather than crayons, colored pencils or narrow-tipped markers tend to be the medium of choice.

“They work better on the fine lines and intricate details,” Selmser said.

Jamie Morton, of Soldotna, was one of the participants in last week’s coloring class. She said that after a long day dealing with the responsibilities of adult life, it is therapeutic to come color for an hour.

“I like coloring for the anti-stressing part of it. It’s very relaxing,” she said.

Morton said that she was not an avid colorer as a kid, but has been making up for the lost time now that the library has been offering the program weekly.

“My 12-year-old daughter and I frequent the library and I brought her to one and we really enjoyed it,” she said.

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Holiday tradition cracks the mold —  ‘Nutcracker’ charms in 28th year

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

From putting up decorations to making festive foods, there are numerous ways people celebrate the holiday season. On the Kenai Peninsula, taking in the Homer Nutcracker Ballet has become an annual tradition for many residents over the past 27 years.

“The production has been going on since 1987 when my mom, Jill Berryman, had the idea,” said Breezy Berryman, who, along with Jennifer Norton, will be the co-artistic directors for this year’s 28th annual performance, as they have the past five seasons.

Jill Berryman, along with Joy Stewart, Marianne Markelz and Ken Castner, built the show up over 22 years from a little production with a few sets and costumes into a giant yearly tradition.

Breezy remembers those times, too, since she was often in the production.
“I was in the very first one as Clara and every year until I graduated, and then I even came back many different times to dance and help my mom choreograph different roles,” she said.

Since taking over the production, Breezy and Norton have tried to bring their own twist, including, at times, the use of lasers and neon lights, but have often favored the original Russian storyline.

“When Breezy and I took over, we introduced E.T.A. Hoffman’s fairy tale back into the show. The original ballet is based on that story, but focuses more on Clara, and a kind of dream sequence in which she sees wonderful dances from around the world. We decided to focus more on the Tale of the Hard Nut, which is how the Nutcracker actually becomes a Nutcracker. We got to introduce a lot of fun new characters that way,” Norton said.

This year, they decided to return to the more traditional ballet story, although still with some deviations to make it creatively their own.

This year’s production will also feature one of the largest casts so far.

“We had 103 kids audition and we have the biggest cast ever at 85. It is very challenging to get all those people coordinated, but perhaps more challenging to turn them down at auditions,” Norton said.

Many of the kids are younger this year, too, mostly 13- and 14-year-olds, but Breezy said they have practiced hard to meet the expectation of performing to the best of their abilities.

“This year the cast is pretty young because a lot of our high school students graduated. Some of the choreography is quite challenging, but I’m really pleased with how much they are working hard to step up to the challenges,” she said.

Norton said it helps to try and pair each teen with a role that best suits them, based on their talents and abilities.

“The most complex part of this production for me is trying to give all the kids a part that they will love. There are often several hard-working dancers competing for the same roles and we try to make sure that even if they don’t get the exact role they imagined, we are giving them something challenging and rewarding which best highlights their abilities,” Norton said. Continue reading

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Eclectic, electric — Musician brings diverse style to Kenai concert

Photo courtesy of Radoslav Lorković. Radoslav Lorković will perform in Kenai on Saturday night.

Photo courtesy of Radoslav Lorković. Radoslav Lorković will perform in Kenai on Saturday night.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

If there’s anything a Croatian-born, classically trained pianist-turned-U.S. folk, rock, country, blues, jazz singer/songwriter and Zydeco accordion aficionado demonstrates, it’s that categories don’t mean a hill of New Orleans red beans. Good music is good music, no matter what classification it may or may not fit into.

“I cover quite a bit of ground. A lot of it is rooted in kind of New Orleans-piano styles. Some of my big heroes are Professor Longhair and a great pianist named James Booker, but I’m also a singer/songwriter and there my influences range from, of course, Bob Dylan, Jackson Brown, people like that. So I will be doing a few original ballads, some up-tempo New Orleans piano style with a Second Line sort of approach to it, and some straight-up boogie woogie and blues, as well,” said Radoslav Lorković, who will perform at the Flats Bistro on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Saturday night. “And then, just when you think you’re safe, an accordion will come out and I’ll be playing some Zydeco.”

Lorković was born in Croatia into a deeply musical, though stylistically divided environment. His maternal grandmother sang him Croatian, Slovenian and Czech folk songs since birth. As family lore goes, he could sing back in pitch by age 1, and by age 3 was performing floor shows for the family. The soundtrack at home was classical music, since his paternal grandmother was an internationally renown classical pianist. Lorković started studying piano, as well. The family moved to the United States when he was 6. By the time he was 14, living in Iowa, he was progressing toward a likely career as a classical musician.

Until, that is, he was led astray by the siren songs of a green transistor radio playing Top 40 music, and a lesson in how to play to blues music.

“I was just plodding along, playing my Bach and Mozart, being a good boy,” he said. “And then it was my sophomore year in high school, 1973. This gentleman showed me a blues scale and a base configuration to go with it. First he played it for me and I thought, ‘Oh my God, where do I buy the music for this?’ He said, ‘You don’t.’ And he showed me the scale and that blew my world wide open. You couldn’t keep me off the piano. I was just glued to the piano ever since — and still am, happily.”

From there Lorković became omnivorous of Americana music, tasting wide samplings of styles, starting with rock ‘n’ roll and tracing back from the Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan and Woodie Guthrie. He emulated the styles of boogie-woogie greats Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson and Freddie Slack, and the blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins. His palate came to include the spice of New Orleans, with Professor Longhair and James Booker, and branched into Tex-Mex and Zydeco-style accordion, as well.

His sets still include representations of his favorites, but along the way he developed a style and music all his own, as well. But it’s not just a blues song, followed by a jazz piece, then a folk ballad. It’s a little bit of all of them, all the time.

“They all show up. The jazz shows up in my blues. The blues shows up in my jazz, which is critical to jazz,” Lorković said.

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Better than fair — Kenai Peninsula Fair adds new events, entertainment to already-popular format

Photos courtesy of Ed Kobak. The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs continue to be a favorite of the Kenai Peninsula Fair, held over the weekend in Ninilchik.

Photos courtesy of Ed Kobak. The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs continue to be a favorite of the Kenai Peninsula Fair, held over the weekend in Ninilchik.

By Ed Kobak, Redoubt Reporter

A heavy dose of sunshine merely gilded the full slate of fun offerings at the Kenai Peninsula Fair over the weekend.

Music is a draw of the fair, and though there were bands playing all weekend long, it was the atmosphere that brought the listeners to Ninilchik, in keeping with this year’s theme, “Country Nights and Carnival Lights.”

Executive Director Lara McGinnis is continuing her vision of adding new events and entertainment to the perpetual fair favorites, keeping the successful, down-home country feel.

Friday was Kids Day, with free admission for youth with a donation to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Nearly 400 kids were treated to cotton candy, compliments of the fair. Sunday was Senior Day, with anyone 60 and older getting in for $3, which was a popular draw judging by the long line at the entrance gate.

The first day was also billed as Red Shirt Friday. Everyone wearing that color was invited to the rodeo grounds in the afternoon, where they stood in formation of a heart to honor servicemen and women for their dedication and sacrifice.

The Alaska’s Got Talent performance entertained the lively crowd Friday evening as the night got in full swing with the swelling crowd.

The addition of a midway has been particularly popular, with throngs gravitating to the games and rides all weekend to experience carnival thrills on the Zipper, Flying Swings, Tilt-a-Whirl, Tea Cups, Merry-Go-Round, Super Slide and a Ferris Wheel.

The agriculture and horticulture exhibit areas held to the theme of “Sow It, Grow It, Grow It,” with a variety of displays of vegetables, flowers and more.

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