The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Performing arts jump on Jenkins’ welcome wagon

Mark Bemenderfer, Liz Byrum, Brian Doxtader, Molly Griffin and Analise Lipari | Thursday, September 22, 2005

As part of the celebration of Father John Jenkins’ Inauguration as President of the University of Notre Dame, there will be a series of performing arts related events this week in the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. This includes the group Bahola, the Ramsey Lewis Trio, a viewing of “Babette’s Feast”, and a Blues and Poetry Café.


The Irish character of Notre Dame is one of its defining features, so it seems only fitting that the celebration of a new president of the University would include some traditional Irish music.

The Irish music group, Bahola, will be performing at Washington Hall at 9 p.m. on Thursday September 22. The unique character and energy of the group’s music will add a special dimension to the Inauguration’s festivities.

The group Bahola consists of Jimmy Keane on the accordion, Sean Cleland on the fiddle and vocalist/dordan player Pat Broaders. The three men were well-known musicians on the Irish music circuit before joining together in what the Irish Herald called a “super group” of Irish musical talent.

The Chicago-based group is known for the lengthy, complex arrangements that build and change over time. The songs that they cover range from traditional reels, jigs and slides to new songs composed in the vein of traditional Irish music.

The powerful, driving style of the band stems from the Irish-American spin on traditional Irish music and gives their sound a distinct character. The lengthy arrangements compliment this style since it allows the powerful sound to build and release without restriction.

The band’s name, spelled in all lower-case letters, comes from a small town in County Mayo in western Ireland.

The band deftly balances traditional music with some modern embellishments, which is the hallmark of good Irish-American music. Bahola’s performance will be one not to miss during the series of events that comprises Father Jenkin’s Inauguration activities.

Ramsey Lewis Trio

For a night of legendary jazz and piano playing, one should look no further than Decio Mainstage Theatre at 8 p.m. tonight. There, the Ramsey Lewis Trio will be performing their signature jazz musical style, a style that has won numerous Grammy awards.

Ramsey Lewis’ style reflects not only on jazz, but also his early spiritual and classical roots. The trio is composed of Larry Gray on bass, Leon Joyce on drums, and Lewis himself on the piano. All three are commendable musicians in their own right, and together they play phenomenal music. Lewis has been performing for a long time now, and his style shows the years of expertise. Lewis has been performing for nearly half a century, creating such hits as “The In Crowd,” “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water.” He has also earned the award of Personality of the Year for two straight years, in 1999 and 2000, as well as the R&R Industry Achievement Award for his work. Through his life work in music, he has won numerous honorary degrees from various institutions, including the Honorary Doctorate of Arts Degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lewis was even one of the Olympic torch runners in the 2002 winter Olympics.

There are not too many opportunities to listen to exceptional jazz in the fine city of South Bend, so passing the chance to see the Ramsey Lewis Trio should be unthinkable. Opportunities like this come few and far between.

Babette’s Feast

There will be a special screening of Gabriel Axel’s “Babette’s Gaestebud” (“Babette’s Feast”) today at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the Browning Cinema at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. It is being shown as part of the Inauguration events, as it is one of University President Father John Jenkins’ favorite films. The 1987 classic is oft-considered one of the best films of the 1980s and is based on a short story by Isak Dinesen, the author portrayed by Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa.”

The film follows Babette (Stephane Audran), a Parisian political refugee, who is taken in by Philippa (Bodil Kjer) and Martina (Birgitte Federspiel). From there, the film follows the paths of these three people, as the audience learns of their pasts and how it will affect their future.

In the meantime, Babette prepares a feast that is far more than a mere meal, as it transcends into an ultimate statement of self and artistic expression.

“Babette’s Feast” was a major critical success upon its release and went on to win the Best Foreign Film award at both the Academy Awards and the British Academy Awards (BAFTA). Some have cited the Franco-Danish collaboration as being about food, but the strong critical reception to the film’s poeticism suggests otherwise. The New Times review praised “Babette’s Feast” as “a very handsome, very literary film that does justice to the precision of the Dinesen prose.” Additionally, the film has religious and cultural undertones, as the Babette’s Catholicism blends with Northern European Protestantism, which illustrates a rejetion of prejudice and stereotypes.

Blues and Poetry Café

One of several events running at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center this weekend for the Inauguration of University President Father John Jenkins is the Blues and Poetry Café. Taking place in the Philbin Studio Theatre, the Café is a more intimate gathering of local spoken-word poets and blues musicians, all with a certain coffeehouse vibe thrown into the mix.

Managing, coordinating and hosting the event is Notre Dame of English Professor Cornelius Eady, himself an active playwright and poet. Eady has written six books of poetry, including “Victims of the Latest Dance Craze” and “Brutal Imagination.” He has also been nominated for many national awards for his work, including a National Book Award and the Lamont Prize for the Academy of American Poets (which he won in 1985).

Before coming to Notre Dame, Eady taught at universities such as American University in Washington D.C., Sarah Lawrence College and New York University. He is also the cofounder of Cave Canem – a rapidly growing program for African American poets.

Guests at tonight’s Poetry and Blues Café include some of the African American poets that have been a part of the Cave Canem community. The readings these talented poets have put on in different cities around the country have included haikus, the blues, sonnets and other forms.

One particular performance of interest is the Oblates of Blues, an on-campus blues group begun by theology professor Max Johnson. The band’s lead vocalist and harmonica player is none other than Dean of the First Year of Studies Hugh Page, who was able to speak with The Observer about both this unique event and his own group’s performance.

“I have been playing with the band since it began in 1999, and our first performance on campus was in 2000,” Dean Page said about his experience with the Oblates of Blues.

Regarding performing alongside several prominent poets, in particular those from Eady’s Cave Canem workshop, Page said “I think it’s great. It’s an opportunity to hear spoken word poets, some from Chicago and some from South Bend. Hearing the juxtaposition of spoken word with blues music is a wonderful opportunity for communication, as these are two important genres that have been essential in both the African-American and other communities.”

While it may seem odd to include such performances as the Blues and Poetry Cafe in conjunction with Father Jenkins’ Inauguration, Page disagrees. “I feel that a well-rounded Catholic education must contain elements of the humanities, the sciences and the arts. Arts are one of the key languages through which humanity can achieve understanding,” he said.

The coffeehouse-type format of the event, as well as its mixture of music and poetry, is unique in comparison to past performances for the Oblates of Blues.

As it helps to usher in a new era, the Blues and Poetry Café can serve the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities as an opportunity for that understanding and communication to thrive in a fun, cultural format.

The Blues and Poetry Café will run in the Regis Philbin Studio Theatre of the DPAC from 6:30 to 11:00 p.m. September today and Friday.