On Stage: ‘Divas’ on stage at Keswick

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

“Calling All Divas,” which is being presented by the Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) on March 2, is more than just one form of entertainment.

It’s a play. It is a concert. It is an evening of fun in a theater. And, it is a world premiere.

There are other things about the show that come in aspects of four. “Calling All Divas” features four diverse and very talented female singers – Broadway performer and Radio City Rockette Lisa Sherman, favorite Philly R&B vocalist Carol Riddick, Nashville siren Trenna Barnes and 20-year-old newcomer Brittneyann Accetta as the blossoming subway singer.

“Calling All Divas” is a hit parade of songs in four genres — pop, rock, soul, and country. The show affirms the power of music, friendship, and sisterhood through the journey of Frankie, a struggling, wannabe hit songwriter. Frankie searches the city to find the next “Un4gettable” female voice in a desperate plan to save a faltering iconic music nightspot from closing its doors. Along the way, he finds far more than he could have ever imagined – four female vocalists with superstar potential.

One of these vocalists – Trenna Barnes – has already achieved international fame though her previous band Cowboy Crush.

As lead singer-songwriter for her Nashville-based all-girl band and Curb Records recording artist Cowboy Crush, Barnes has toured 35 countries, headlined over 500 shows, and appeared with such diverse artists as Huey Lewis, Charlie Daniels, Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Trace Adkins, and Kellie Pickler. Cowboy Crush is most known for its hit “Nobody Ever Died of a Broken Heart.”

As an actress, Barnes has portrayed “Ring of Fire” principal June Carter with the Denver Center Theatre Company, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Casa Manana Theater, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Cabrillo Theater (LA Ovation Award Nominee), Fox Riverside Theatre, Totem Pole Playhouse, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, and Cincinnati Playhouse.

“I got into this project because of Randy (Alexander),” said Barnes, during a phone interview Monday evening. “Cowboy Crush was performing in Atlanta and Randy, who was there with Patti LaBelle, saw us play. Later he introduced us to Patti.”

Alexander is a New Jersey-based music industry vet who is “VP Marketing and Publicity” for “Calling All Divas.”

“Cowboy Crush started when we were students at Belmont University in Nashville,” said Barnes. “An A&R guy from Curb saw us play in a garage and signed us to Curb Records. We toured for a decade. The band isn’t together any more – for now. Everyone is still alive. Who knows what the future might bring?

“That was all girls back with Cowboy Crush and I’m working with all girls now. With ‘Calling All Divas,’ it’s like a family. It’s all about girl power.”

“Calling All Divas” is brimming with girl power as the female foursome celebrates the timeless tunes and talents of Etta James, Carole King, The Pointer Sisters, Kelly Clarkson, Aretha Franklin, Miley Cyrus, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and many more.

Academy Award-winning songwriter Franke Previte (“Dirty Dancing”) and world-renowned live show specialist Michael LaFleur (Disney, Universal, Celine Dion, etc.) have joined forces to put “Calling All Divas” together.

“The main person was Frankie Previte,” said Barnes. “He saw Lisa perform and that was the start. She always had this vision and started her own show ‘Decades of Divas.’ She did tons of shows with that.

“Now, it has morphed. Now, it’s a play. It is a play and it’s a concert with music from different genres – country, soul, rock, gospel and pop. The first act is a play and the second act is a concert.

“Frankie and Lisa are a couple in real life and it’s really nice to see their love story come to life. He loves her singing and wants people to listen to her. Frankie wanted to write Lisa a show and he got a wonderful director to work with — Michael LaFleur.

“There is a wonderful script for the play about a legendary bar that’s struggling. Frankie starts looking for talent to save the bar. He finds Lisa in a recording studio and Carol in a church. He encounters Brittneyann on a subway and finds me in a country bar.”

Barnes has performed in countless country bars since relocating to Nashville.

“I grew up in Oklahoma – in Tulsa,” said Barnes. “I moved to Nashville in the 90s and was a student at Belmont University. It was awesome. I got college credits to work at Opryland. I’ve been fortunate – going to Belmont, working in Nashville and singing in Cowboy Crush. Now, I’m in ‘Calling All Divas,’ which is great. It’s a real feel-good show.”

Video link for “Calling All Divas” – https://youtu.be/9qL_AlRpJII.

The show at the Keswick Theater will start at 8 p.m. Tickets prices range from $37.50-$75.

Other upcoming shows at the Keswick Theater are Alan Parsons on March 3 and The Monkees on March 6.

For years, the music world has known and loved the Three Tenors – a trio of international opera greats featuring José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and LucianoPavarotti.

Three Tremors

Now, the music world also has the Three Tremors.

Up until a few years ago, “three tremors” could only refer to readings found on seismologist’s equipment – especially seismographs.

The Three Tremors now also refers to a singing trio featuring three of metal’s finest vocalists — Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest, Iced Earth), Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin (Jag Panzer, Titan Force, Satan’s Host), and Sean “The Hell Destroyer” Peck (Cage, Death Dealer).

On March 2, the Three Tremors will make their area debut with a show at Bar XIII (1706 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-746-2213,http://barxiii.com/event/echo).

“Sean called me about three years ago,” said Owens, during a phone interview Friday afternoon on his way to a gig in Poughkeepsie, New York.

“He wanted to mastermind a three-singer thing. He didn’t want us to perform just singing hits from our other bands. He wanted us to sing original songs – and make an album.”

Both of Peck’s dreams have become realities.

The Three Tremors’ self-titled debut album was just released on February 22. Now, the band is on the road – touring in support of its maiden album.

“It’s a throwback,” said Owens. “Everything is over the top.

“I was in the biggest band – Judas Priest – but all three of us have a lot of band history. We have a lot of metal fans. We can also go mainstream and we’re even getting some of the fans of underground.

“The album just came out. At a lot of these shows, people hadn’t even heard the CD yet. We did 17 shows in Europe in October because we thought the CD was coming out in October. It wasn’t released and we were still drawing big crowds. Fans have really been into it.”

Much of the album’s DNA was provided by Peck.

“Sean had already written the music,” said Owens. “He sent me the version to sing to. He did that with both me and Harry. We’d do our parts and send them back to Sean. I like the work ethic of Sean.

“I also made my own version of the music. I did a different voice with a lot of layering and harmonies. We could all release our own versions of the album – and we might do it. We’ve talked about putting out as a triple-CD sometime in the future.”

Owens lives in Akron, Ohio, while Peck and Conklin call San Diego home. Peck also has his own band in Southern California – a metal band called Cage.

The Three Tremors use Cage as their touring band. Cage features Alex Pickard on bass, Dave Garcia on guitar, Sean Elg on drums and Casey Trask on guitar.

“In our live shows, we stay with the same arrangements we had on the album,” said Owens. “We do have a couple songs that have sped up live. But, we’ve tried to keep it pretty much the same as what fans are used to hearing. We’ve done 23 shows so far and we keep making it better.”

Video link for The Three Tremors – https://youtu.be/j_qEDLpOprM.

The show at Bar XIII will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $22.50.

William Ryan Key

For almost 20 years, William Ryan Key was a key member of Yellowcard, a rock/pop/punk group from Jacksonville, Florida.

Two years ago, Yellowcard made the decision to break up for good. The band played its final show in March 25, 2017 in Anaheim, California.

Finally, after almost two decades, Key was free to do whatever he wanted musically.

“I had a lot of plans in mind,” said Key, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Raleigh, North Carolina.

That tour brings him to the area on March 2 for a show at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150,www.thefillmorephilly.com).

“I thought I’d transition more into a production role,” said Key. “I live in Franklin, Tennessee, which is just outside Nashville. I have a great studio here. I did a couple records for other people and some songwriting sessions – but I didn’t feel fulfilled.

“I felt like I have a lot of hustle left in me – but not that kind of hustle. I didn’t have a big producer resume so that was a big challenge. It all went back to me writing my songs and playing my music. At that point, I could taste blood. I got really ambitious and hit the ground running.”

Key released his debut solo EP, “Thirteen,” in May 2018 via The Lone Tree Recordings.
According to Key, “It took a long time to find my own focus and direction after 17 years in a band. However, once I found it, the music felt like coming home. There was new freedom and creativity that I channeled into each of the songs.”

“Thirteen” took off – and so did Key.

“I had been offered a tour opening for New Found Glory,” said Key. “I didn’t want to the nostalgia thing with an acoustic Yellowcard set. I released ‘Thirteen’ and decided to do my own thing. I enjoyed the trial-by-fire.

“My solo career went in a new direction. I’ve had a lot of influences not associated with Yellowcard. I kind of shifted into listening to electronic music, soundscapes and soundtracks. I was also listening to more singer/songwriter indie folk. When I started writing this stuff, all of it found its way into my second EP.”

Key’s second EP was “Virtue,” which came out on November 30, 2018 via The Lone Tree Recordings.

“My first EP ‘Thirteen’ was really stripped-down,” said Key. “‘Virtue’ has more percussion, electric guitar and more work with vocals. I’m exploring still. With ‘Virtue,’ I think I’m closer to the sound I’m looking for.”

“Virtue” is a natural progression from its stark and vulnerable predecessor.

According to Key, “With ‘Virtue,’ I wanted to explore and expand on the sound I’ve discovered both musically and lyrically. Similar to my first release, all of the songs came together in such a spontaneous manner. The recording sessions were very much driven by capturing what felt right in the moment and moving on to the next idea

“I’ve always had a strong affinity for New York City. Ever since my first visit in 1999, I’ve felt drawn to it in some way. I’ve spent a good amount of time there this year, and it really had a major influence on the lyrical themes that make up the EP. I’ve learned that when attempting to develop your own sound, it’s important to remove overthinking and over analyzing from the equation. I’m really proud of these songs.”

Video link for William Ryan Key – https://youtu.be/_5aMufSm6vI.

The show at The Foundry, which has Selfish Things, Cory Wells, and Dave Melillo as opening acts, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Other upcoming shows at The Foundry are Oliver Tree on March 3, Dean Lewis on March 5 and Gavin James on March 6.

Steph Richards

Trumpeter Steph Richards makes music that spans genres and breaks down the walls between them. Her music has been tagged avant-garde, experimental, jazz, contemporary, improv and electronic.

During her years in New York City, Richards made a name for herself in the Manhattan/Brooklyn improvised and experimental scenes. She worked with a wide array of legendary artists including Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Jason Moran, David Byrne, St Vincent, Yoko Ono and John Zorn. Her works have premiered at Carnegie Hall, the Blue Note and Lincoln Center.

In recent years, she has opted for solo work and has released two solo albums – “Fullmoon” and “Take the Neon Lights.”

“Take the Neon Lights” was just released on March 1 on Birdwatcher Records.

Now, Richards is performing shows in support of her newly-released LP including a concert on March 4 at The Rotunda (4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia,http://www.therotunda.org/event/steph-richards).

“I started making solo records late in my career,” said Richards, during a phone interview Friday afternoon. “The current record is my second record. The first was actually a quartet.”

Richards is currently performing with a quartet — NYC players James Carney on piano, Sam Minaie on bass and her husband Andrew Munsey on drums.

“I recorded ‘Take the Neon Lights’ three years ago Tedesco Studios in Paramus, New Jersey,” said Richards. “It has sat around for a long time. I co-produced it with Andrew. He also did the mixing and mastering. We recorded it in one very short session.

“On my first record, I was very interested in choreography. I was interested in activation other instruments with my horn. On the second album, the tunes were older. They were all written about places in New York.”

Conceived as a lyric poem to New York City, her compositions are an arresting exploration of spontaneous prose, woven with grit and brilliance. Titles are named from poems that similarly evoke the city—poems by literary icons Maya Angelou, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Langston Hughes. Richards leads an acoustic quartet that oscillates between dense complex structures and expansively vulnerable improvisations.

“The entire thing is structured,” said Richards. “Inside of it is a lot of free space. But, even in a free context, there is a lot of structure. Most of the tracks on the record are notated in some form.”

Richards does not concern herself with how accessible her music is to listeners. She has trust in their ability to follow.

“We need our audience,” said Richards. “They are built into the architecture of the music. I think the way we package things has a lot to do with people feeling excluded or included with the adventurousness of the music. I never ask my self – is it too far? This group pushed things forward.”

Richards now resides in San Diego, California where she is a professor of performance at University of California — San Diego.

“I grew up in western Canada – in Calgary, Alberta,” said Richards. “Music was just a natural thing. I was glued to a piano at an early age. I loved dancing as a really young kid. That led to the idea that I can let my body take over while I play. I get lost in the sound. I was around 12 when I started playing trumpet. I love the sizzle of trumpet. The first record I bought was Miles Davis’ ‘Kind of Blue.’ It took me a few years to finally understand it. I was also influenced a lot by Freddie Hubbard and Duke Ellington.”

Richards is already looking ahead to her next project and will treat fans this weekend to a preview of what to expect.

“In my shows now, half are songs from the just-released album and half are new songs,” said Richards. “The new record features compositions based on smells.”

For a talented and creative artist like Richards, her next project makes sense – or scents.

Video link for Steph Richards – https://youtu.be/RlNsoMNvHKg.

The show at The Rotunda, which also features Nick Millevoi and Brian Osborne, will start at p.m. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

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