Community Palette

The Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus: A Wonderful Surprise

March 23, 2014

The Alexandria Harmonizers Chorus is a chapter of the Society for Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Like me, before I went to their performance, I am sure this description may have already turned you off. I used to equate barber shop quartets with four guys singing old songs in colorful jackets and straw hats.

The Alexandria Harmonizers (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The Alexandria Harmonizers

Then I want to the A CA Challenge last Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre and I will never think of them the same way again. Six a cappella groups competed for a $1,000 cash prize and it was one of the most fun times I spent in the theater in a long time. The first half of the show was the competition and the second half was a stunning performance by the Alexandria Harmonizers. Over the years this group has won regional championships 24 times and Gold medals in International Championships four times. They are the best of the best at what they do and they keep you mesmerized with their singing. Great credit must be given to their director Joe Cerutti who is also musical director and president of the board of “No Borders Music Consort” which has organized a 100 person youth chorus from around the world to sing at New York City’s Carnegie Hall each year on December 26th.

 The competitors in the A CA Challenge (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) The competitors in the A CA Challenge

I was invited to the show by the producer, Ken Rub. Ken is a longtime friend, member of the Harmonizers, and a well-respected realtor in what some call his full time job. But clearly producing this show was full-time. The six groups competing ranged from college groups like the GW Vibes and UMW Symfonics to the Chromatics who are older and part of a group that first began as the OK Chorale formed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. They were all incredibly talented and but even though they came in 3rd it was the lead singer in the last of the three songs performed by the GW Vibes that brought the house down. She clearly should try out for the VOICE or American Idol.

If you are like me and were tuned out to a group like the Harmonizers I urge you to take either a first or second look at them. They perform around the metro area, have performed around the world and have been invited to perform at the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy. Take a look at their website for more information.

There are so many things to do in D.C. these days that it is hard to keep up. We have become a great award-winning theater town and a wonderful music venue. The Lincoln Theater is now going through another renaissance along with ‘U’ street and is being run by the same group that manages the 9:30 Club. We can look forward to a lot more great music and other productions being presented there.

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Routeam Helps People Live Healthier, More Well-Balanced Lives

March 4, 2014

A new online company designed to help you get fit, eat healthier, and in general live a more well-balanced life has emerged in the D.C. Metro area. It is called Routeam and is the brainchild of two young healthy-lifestyle fanatics and entrepreneurs Dustin Canter and Andrew Conklin. I chatted with them and learned they began exploring the idea in 2011 and its taken time to get it up and running. They experimented with different options to make it easier for clients to connect with opportunities to make their lives better.

They now have the formula for success. Routeam works with both individuals and businesses and the goal is the same; helping people live healthier, happier lives. The genesis of Routeam was understanding that many people in D.C. don’t have the connections or a plan to achieve that healthier life. They may not have a circle of friends who work out at a gym or a partner to go to yoga classes with. Routeam can connect you with people who share your goals and their coaches will help you achieve them.

It’s easy to join Routeam as an individual and at no cost answer a number of questions about yourself and what you think your fitness and life goals are. If you are simply looking for a fitness program or instructor then can connect you. Dustin explained they can help “Those who want a heavy duty workout that causes them to sweat and others who maybe just want to glisten”. Routeam understands that often people who want to live better and healthier lives need that little bit of help and encouragement and their coaches are there to do that.

Currently over 500 individuals have set goals on Routeam and there are numerous trainers, yoga instructors, gyms, and other facilities and individuals who are part of Routeam ready to help them achieve those goals. Richard Blumenreich, a principal with KPMG said, “I love Routeam. I have lofty health and fitness goals, but not the drive to get there by myself.  After wasting money on many unused gym memberships, I turned to Routeam and finally I am attaining my goals. Routeam is the best health and fitness organization I have ever belonged to.  I plan to continue my relationship with them for a long time.”

Routeam also works with businesses to help their employees’ live healthier lives which in turn make them more productive employees. A real win-win situation.  They develop classes for employees at lunch or other convenient times and then encourage those employees to use their website to find additional classes and activities outside of the office.  One employer that found Routeam productive for them and their employees is the Kaiser Medical Center on Capitol Hill. Marta K. Cookson, the Manager of Regional Wellness Programs in the regional office of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc. said,"Routeam positively impacted our Capitol Hill Medical Center staff to become healthier employees and I have now decided to share with our other Mid-Atlantic worksites this workplace health program.”

This could be a great opportunity for the many businesses in the District. Law firms or other stress inducing businesses could join with Routeam to provide something positive for their employees at really minimum cost. They can track the increased productivity and satisfaction of their employees. Routeam is all about making people’s quality of life better.

Their approach isn’t to build another brick and mortar place but to connect people with the facilities that already exist in every neighborhood. They help make the connections you want and need to achieve the level of fitness you want that will ultimately help you reach your goals in life. Joining a gym is great for many people and we have some of the best in the nation including options like VIDA and the LA Connection. But those gyms aren’t the place for everyone and Routeam wants to help each person to develop the fitness routine and healthy lifestyle that suits them best. That could be anything from a morning dance or yoga class near work to a personal trainer on weekends. They can help you find a group to go hiking or swimming and do it at times convenient to you. To find out more about Routeam you can go to their website or email

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Patti LuPone at the Harman Theatre

February 18, 2014

On Monday evening Michael Kahn, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre, did one of his famous interviews. This time it was with Diva Patti LuPone. It was a fun evening in the theatre.

Very few people do this kind of a one-on-one interview better than Kahn. He has a great way of bringing out the best in people and getting them to talk. But in LuPone’s case it was easy. Michael didn’t even get to finish his question before she was off and running with an answer and her answers were frank and often funny.

Alan Paul and Michael Kahn (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Alan Paul and Michael Kahn

LuPone was a student of Kahn’s at Julliard in 1968. She is a graduate of the first class of the Drama Division at the school and went on to become a founding member of John Houseman’s The Acting Company. She likes to remind people that she is a classically trained actor and suggested that we need more of them today and less focus on the Kim Kardashians of the world. We clearly know what she doesn’t like and that includes what Michael Bloomberg has done to Times Square. She riffed on her inability to get out of the theatre last New Year’s Eve because the streets were blocked off for the mass New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. She even complained that police in New York no longer give deference to actors.  She was asked what role she ever took that she regretted and she said none. I expected her to say the lead in Sunset Boulevard from which she was let go early in the London production. She did tell us she took much of her wardrobe with her from that show when she left.

In reality ever since I saw her in Evita on Broadway back in the 1970s I think of Patti LuPone as a star. She jokingly admitted to being in many flops but the successes have been incredible. She was an amazing Mama Rose in Gypsy and has received numerous Tony nominations including for Anything Goes and Sweeny Todd, and the Tony award for her role as Evita. She has won a number of Drama Desk Awards and many forget she was Fantine in the original production of Les Miserables for which she won an Olivier award.

There was a reception for her after the interview but she didn’t stay too long and was picture shy. She is in D.C. for An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at the Kennedy Center now through February 23rd. She and Patinkin first met when co-starring in Evita.

One of the interesting people at the reception was Director Alan Paul who just won his first Helen Hayes award nomination for his direction of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Shakespeare Theatre. He will be directing Man of LaMancha next season.

A night at the Shakespeare Theatre is always worthwhile.

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