Weekend Best Bets

Posted: Friday, September 22, 2000

The John Renbourn concert tonight affords folks the rare opportunity to experience an acoustic guitar virtuoso who has influenced a generation of musicians.

The Alaska Folk Festival is sponsoring the concert, and I'm a member of the board. That's not why I'm recommending the concert. I was actually opposed to the idea to begin with. The festival had already planned to sponsor the Irish concert this Saturday night, and I didn't want to do two concerts in one week. But Renbourn fans convinced me, and I'm glad we took on the task.

Folks who have seen him live --playing solo, as he will be tonight, sang his praises. Others commented on what a big influence he'd been on them as they were falling in love with the steel-string guitar.

Renbourn recorded fingerpicked guitar instrumentals in the late 1960s that sound remarkably similar to Michael Hedges, and pre-date that innovative player by a dozen years. His country blues and folk guitar picking is right in league with Leo Kottke and John Fahey. He's not a classical guitarist, but he has a flair for classical styles. He's played Renaissance, Celtic and medieval music on the guitar since the mid 1960s.

I knew the British steel-string guitarist was a phenomenal player. I have long enjoyed the music of Pentangle, a folk-rock-Renaissance-jazz group Renbourn played with in the 1970s. Since then he's recorded at least 15 albums, working in bands, duos and solo. I got hold of five or six in the past month and have really enjoyed them. He's still going strong.

He sold out three shows in Anchorage this week, but there's still room at the Juneau show. The concert begins at 8 p.m. at Chapel by the Lake. Tickets at the door are $20.

Saturday afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m. the Alaska State Museum is sponsoring activities to celebrate the opening of "Amazing Mazes: The Puzzling Creations of Jeff Brown." It's definitely a safe bet that this will be a fun event for kids, and maze-lovers of all ages. Brown has built a dozen mazes -- not big walk-through mazes, but finger-tracing and hand-held sizes, and there will be other puzzles as well. Admission is free.

Monday night launches the first event in a literary reading series this fall and winter. Each will include a guest reader as well as an open mike for local poets and writers to make a short presentation of a poem or two.

Richard Dauenhauer and Nora Marks Dauenhauer are the first featured readers, and both are good. I've seen Richard read several times. At first I didn't know what to expect. The former Alaska humanist of the year and poet laureate of the state is a scholar and multi-linguist who has translated hundreds of works from languages as diverse as Tlingit, Finnish, classical Greek and German. He is certainly scholarly, but he's funny and comfortable on stage. He wore a cartoonish T-shirt of T.S. Eliot the first time I saw him and he was very entertaining.

Nora Dauenhauer just published a book of her plays, essays and poems, called "Life Woven With Song." I've read it and I'm looking forward to hearing her read her own work. Also a distinguished translator of Tlingit, she helped bring some of the traditional stories to the stage for Na Kahidi Theater. Her own poetry is also good.

"Between The Lines" will meet monthly. The first is 7 p.m. Monday at the Back Room at the Silverbow. Cost is $5.

Alaska Positive, the biannual statewide photography exhibition, opens in two weeks. This is a fine exhibit and Monday night you have the chance to get some behind-the-scenes insight. Ralph Gibson, the New York-based photographer who is judging the show this time, will talk about his work at 7 p.m. Monday at the Alaska State Museum.

Gibson will appraise 233 entries by 70 Alaska photographers in the coming week to put together the exhibit, which in the past has been about 60 or 70 images. Gibson has exhibited all over the world, and published 27 books of his photography.

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