By Lee Shepherd
Combine the best of all 12 First Fridays, Spiedie Fest, Blues on the Bridge, JulyFest and the now defunct (unfortunately) First Night Binghamton, and that will give you an inkling of the LUMA experience my husband and I enjoyed on Sept 2 in downtown Binghamton.
Standing-room only crowds of people milling about on the streets and sidewalks of downtown, countdowns to all the visual displays on the buildings, galleries chock-full of local artwork, music performances everywhere, good food and, as a bonus, a short performance of Strauss, Offenbach and Grieg by a subset of the Binghamton Philharmonic accompanying a funny and clever animation of Johnny Hart’s cartoon characters on the back of The Forum.
We started the evening with SingBing with hundreds of our closest friends, a sing-a-long of Beatles’ tunes and other music organized by Greg Keeler and Marisa Crabb and led by Ayanna DelValle and Devinne Meyers. The love was felt by all at Peacemaker’s Stage, as we sang, danced and waved our arms in unison to “All You Need is Love.”
Then we raced down to the Phelps Mansion to catch a recital by Mary Lou Muratori’s studio of gifted “prima donnas.” She dubbed the recital “Five-and-a-Half Sopranos”, the half soprano being Gianna Chen, who is only 15 but possesses a fully mature and beautiful voice and an abundance of stage presence.
Muratori, a superb pianist and vocal coach, accompanied all five women — Claire Gerchman, Brittney Hayes, Michelle Thompson, Jennifer Micale and Maria Guryleva, — who sang music ranging from opera and classical to pop. We must single out Guryleva, the product of fine training at a Russian music conservatory and a great addition to the Triple Cities music scene, who emigrated here from Russia a couple of years ago with her husband, concert pianist Gleb Ivanov.
At the opening reception for its members’ art exhibit, the Broome County Arts Council provided hors d’oeuvres (literally and figuratively) for the smorgasbord of evening entertainment. The exhibit, running 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Sept. 30, features works by Stephen Appel, Chris Bahr, David Beale, Marcia Blackburn, Glenda Blake, Douglas Bogart, Aldo Borromei, Lori Farist, Bill Gorman, Anthony Hanakovic, JW Johnston, Karen Kucharski, Jim Mullen, Gerry Ponterio and Robert Sikora.
While at the reception at the arts council office, 81 State St., we e watched a very good slide show created by BCAC intern Ella Kang, highlighting arts organizations in Broome County.
I must admit we didn’t see more of the LUMA projections than the Philharmonic show/illumination. The crowds were just too dense, and it began to feel a bit dangerous to be so tightly packed with so many people.
If you go next year, a couple of suggestions: Park across the river or well away from State and Court streets. Even bicycle down. And if you’re claustrophobic, this is not for you. You cannot move easily in and out of the crowds near the projected displays. But do go – it was the biggest party of the year and a celebration of the rich arts and music scene in Binghamton.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Whether you were a participant or a spectator, please share YOUR thoughts about LUMA in the comment section.