A lot of people travel this summer, some to places in Texas, others to the four corners of the United States, and others to the nations of the world. Not everyone gets to travel during the hottest months, but a concert tonight can transport us, not only to different places but also to a different time.

The St. Cecilia Consort will celebrate the summer solstice tonight with Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Music from England, France and Italy. The concert will be at 7:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 906 George Bush Drive in College Station. The concert is free, but a free will offering will be accepted to pay the talented musicians performing tonight.

The St. Cecilia Consort is a group of local musicians -- instrumentalists and singers -- who perform music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods, using instruments of those times. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of music.

Unless you've to a St. Cecilia's Consort concert before, you probably never have heard music played on some of the instruments used,including harps, psalteries, recorders, violins, brass, harpsichord and organ.

The concert flier says tonight's program will include:

• Medieval songs and dances celebrating the coming of summer -- Sumer and Campanis, and a rondeau about a horse enjoying going barefoot in summertime: Or est Baiars.

• Music by Guillaume de Machaut, a composer who wrote both secular songs about love and the first complete polyphonic mass setting, La Messe de Notre Dame.

• Choral music by Jcsquin Des Pres, the most famous and most highly esteemed composer of his time, well-known and admired by Martin Luther and many other notables of his day -- to mark the 5OOth Anniversary of the Reformation.

• Renaissance dances by Italian composer Giorgio Mainerio: Caro Ortolano, Tedescha, Ungarescha.

• Miserere Mei by Gregorio Allegri.

• Early Baroque Music from Italy, including music from the first oratorio, Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo, Francesco Cavalli's Messa Concertata, and Monteverdi's Madrigali Concertati and the Vespers of 1610.

Getting personal

There is one final performance of the two Stephen Sondheim one-musicals Passion and Assassins at 2 p.m. today at The Theatre Company, behind JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Bryan's Tejas Center. Please don't miss it.

I saw the musicals last weekend and was blown away. They are challenging, especially Assassins. They are difficult. They are timely, again, especially Assassins. It is unlikely many people in the Brazos Valley have seen either one before. This is the first time they have been presented on the same bill -- ever, anywhere. Sondheim 's organization had to give special permission to do so.

Passion isn't done very often, which is a shame because the music is incredible. Assassins is produced from time to time and, in fact, will open a limited run on Broadway later this summer.

IT took courage for The Theatre Company board to agree to present the two musicals in honor of Sondheim's 60th year on Broadway. Sondheim is not everyone's favorite composer, although his music frequently is beautiful. His subject matter can be dark and disturbing.

But his musicals always -- always -- are interesting and they are important.

The two musicals are entirely separate entities, but director Adrienne Dobson has tied them together in a special way. Boy, are The Theatre Company and this community lucky to have her.

Passion is a love triangle set in mid-19th century Italy. Giorgio is in love with Clara, who is married to someone else. The sickly Fosca is in love with Giorgio. Much of the story is told in letters between Clara and Giorgio. As I mentioned, the music is thrilling, but difficult for the actors to perform. Music director Chris Hoffman did an incredible job preparing the cast and orchestra for Passion. Aren't we lucky he lives here and shares his prodigious talent with us?

Armineh Davis, Paul Early and Christina Freeman simply are wonderful in the lead roles in Passion. The rest of the cast is quite good, too.

After intermission, the same 13-member cast puts on Assassins, perhaps the harder sell to the audience. It is the story of America's presidential assassins, from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley, successful and not. It neither glorifies them nor condones their terrible acts. Rather, Assassins explores what drove them to murder a president. In today's heated and hostile political world, Assassins seems particularly timely and we're left to hope nothing befalls our president.

Again, the entire cast is good, but Corey Barron as Booth, James Cho as Lee Harvey Oswald, Michael Prince as the deranged Sam Byck, and Adrienne Rowell as Sara Jane Moore simply amaze. Zack Brattin does an incredible job tying all the assassins and wannabes together.

A few audience members in the audience at several performances last weekend walked out. The language at times can be strong, but Assassins doesn't sugarcoat these terrible misfits in our history. By leaving early, though, the patrons miss the ending of Assassins which brings everything together.

Audiences for Passion and Assassins have been small, something The Theatre Company Board anticipated. The company is known for its lighter, brighter musicals and Hello, Dolly! In August certainly will fill that bill.

But, from time to time, even local community theaters need to present something more thought-provoking, more challenging, more difficult -- not only for the cast but also for the audience. When they do, they deserve the support of their patrons and others in the community who appreciate great theater.

Please, please consider attending Passion and Assassins at The Theatre Company at 2 p.m. today. Last week, a mother took her 16- and 13-year-old children and said that the two musicals sparked questions and discussions between parent and children -- surely a good thing.

Tickets remain for today. They are available at the box office starting at 1 p.m. or online at www.theatrecompany.com. Adult tickets are only $20, while tickets for seniors and students are $17. You'd pay a lot more on Broadway, and there is no way a production there could be any better than the one at The Theatre Company.

Celebrate America

Independence Day is just around the corner and numerous celebrations are planned to let us show we love and support our country. One of the first will be July 2 at Christ United Methodist Church, 4201 Texas 6 S. in College Station.

The Sanctuary Choir will salute our military veterans and those Americans serving in our armed forces today.

Colors will be posted by the American Legion Post 159 Honor Guard.

Attendees are invited to wear their favorite patriotic attire or veteran organization's uniform.

Representing us well

For 20 years now, members of Brazos Valley TROUPE have represented this community so well at the annual Texas Nonprofit Theatres Youth Conference and this year's 22nd edition in Baytown was no exception.

Nearly two dozen TROUPErs attended the conference from June 6 through 11, where they presented The Entire American Revolution (In 40 Minutes of Less!). The TROUPErs were joined by seven members of the new Off The Waller Theatre in Waller. That company is directed by TROUPE alumnae Bria Jackson Landry

The young TROUPErs captured numerous awards at the TNT conference, a fact which has become a tradition in years past. Two first time conference attendees, Emma West and Henry England were selected for the All-Star Cast for their performances in the production.

Production director M.A. Sterling, artistic/managing director of TROUPE, along with assistant directors Mary Kate Walker and Bria Landry were cited for outstanding direction.

Charlotte England and Henry England earned the Todd Hart Teacher's Pet Award for outstanding participation in workshops/classes.

Calista Moats was one of 16 seniors at the conference to receive the Brown & Lechler Award for graduating seniors who have exhibited outstanding participation with their home theatres and at the TNT Conference for at least two years). Moats, her parents, two sisters and brother have been TROUPE stalwarts for many years.

The Gilmore Spirit Award for those participants exhibiting the true essence and spirit of the conference was presented to 16 young thespians, including TROUPErs Nicolas Roman, who seems to win this award annually, Joseph Finch and Paige Perrone, who at age 9 is believed to be the youngest ever to receive the award.

Larry Adams, an adult TROUPE leader who directs the Oxymorons improvisation troupe, received one of two Linda Lee Leadership Awards for outstanding leadership at the conference. He, along with TROUPErs Mary Kate Walker, Evan Bendiksen, Hannah Smith and Brianna Buth, were recognized for their efforts as workshop instructors at the conference.

Grant Edens, Emma Lawson, Mikayla Moats and Nicolas Roman were named to a 25-member team to perform in a popular annual conference event: Improv-A-Ganza.

TROUPE once again received the Esprit de Corps Award, along with Circle Arts Theatre in New Braunfels and Actors Conservatory Theatre in Lewisville.

TROUPE participants in the conference included Kyra Batten, Daniel Beck, Jess Burdine, Maren Burdine, Izzy Burlin, Grant Edens, Charlotte England, Henry England, Joseph Finch, Mya Hardin, Emma Lawson, Calista Moats, Marissa Moats, Mikayla Moats, Rachel Nodar, Dallas Osburn, Paige Perrone, Nicolas Roman, Jacob Smith, Ron Toback-Wolf, Sage Vantine, Emma West, AJ Wright and Reece Wright.

"All were outstanding and, as always, each TROUPEr represented Brazos Valley TROUPE and Bryan-College Station as expected: with tremendous pride, terrific poise and a totally tip-top performance," Sterling said.

TROUPE will include a special encore of The Entire American Revolution (In 40 Minutes of Less!) when it presents Celebrate America! on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at TROUPE's 29th Street Studio. Sterling said, "Great patriotic favorites along with great moments in American oratory will be on tap as TROUPE presents this special treat just in time for Independence Day."

All seats will be only $10.

A few places remain in TROUPE's Summer Stock Program, during which TROUPEr's will prepare for its production of Disney's The Lion King jr. July 27-29. The production will be directed by Stanley Wayne Mathis, who starred in the original Lion King on Broadway.

Final registration for the program will be at 12:30 p.m. Monday. To reserve a spot, email Sterling at trouperinfo@gmail.com.

Sterling said, "TROUPE's Summer Stock Program is fully immersive hands-on theater arts and we welcome all who wish to participate."

Artists chosen

Five Texas artists have been selected to paint outdoor murals in Downtown Bryan as part of the West 31st St. Mural Project. Cliff Collard, Mick Burson, Sarah Blackmon, Calina Mishay and Tyler Kay Reichert were chosen from among applicants to complete large-scale murals on the north wall of Conlee-Garrett Moving & Storage building at 600 N. Bryan St.

The wall faces West 31st St. Each artist's mural will span two panels of the divided wall -- an area which is approximately 25 feet long and 18 feet tall. While each mural will be different, all will incorporate the artist's interpretation of the theme of showcasing Bryan's past or present commerce, culture and community.

Spearheaded by Katie Neason and Sarah Norman of Renovation Wranglers, the mural project aims to expand the ever-growing attraction of Historic Downtown Bryan.

"We believe that downtown is still an undiscovered jewel in our state. Our hope with the mural project is to add to the unique and eclectic vibe already here, and to add another reason for people to come and experience Downtown Bryan," Neason said.

The Downtown Bryan Association has partnered with Renovation Wranglers to kick off the mural project.

"As a recognized Texas Cultural District, Downtown Bryan is a perfect fit for this type of artistic project. We are excited to be a part of a unique activity that showcases these artists and Downtown Bryan," said Sandy Farris, executive director of the Downtown Bryan Association.

The artists will be working on the murals throughout the summer. The finished murals will be celebrated at the September First Friday on Sept. 1.

Additional sponsors include University Title Company, City Bank & Mortgage Company, Surplus Warehouse, Woodson Lumber & Hardware, Paint Warehouse, We Rent It, and ExtraCo Bank,

Items for Arts Watch should be emailed to robert.borden@theeagle.com. Deadline is noon Tuesday before the weekend you want it to run.

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