by C.J. Hirschfield
The Band (left to right): Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo © by Elliott Landy.
A good documentary can take a subject we think we already know, and present it in a fuller and more complex context, leading us to a new level of understanding and appreciation. ONCE WERE BROTHERS; ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND does just that, by telling the story of an iconic and pioneering Americana band of five that Robertson describes as “a beautiful thing—so beautiful it went up in flames.” The film, directed by Daniel Roher, also greatly benefits from interviews with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, George Harrison, and many others. Continue reading
By C.J. Hirschfield
In 1964, renowned and prolific choreographer Merce Cunningham and his troupe embarked on their first world tour. In Paris, angry audience members threw eggs and tomatoes at him. “I wished it was apples; I was hungry,” he recalls. But when they performed in England, the response was dramatically different: “Merce Cunningham Conquers Conservatism,” read the headlines. And although Cunningham famously refused to define his work as modern or avant garde (preferring to let his audience define him based on their experience), he, and his partnerships with celebrated artists of the day, was in the center of an influential group changing the way we characterize music, visual art—and dance.
The original Merce Cunningham Dance Company. ©Robert Rutledge. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
by C.J. Hirschfield
The first public performance of San Francisco’s renowned Gay Men’s Chorus took place in 1978 at an impromptu memorial at City Hall for pioneer gay rights advocate and city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone, who had been assassinated earlier that same day. It’s worth noting that they performed a religious song: “Thou, Lord, Hast Been our Refuge.” The tens of thousands of mourners had marched to City Hall from Castro Street.
Since that time, the world’s first gay chorus has performed all over the world.