Singer, songwriter and teacher, Natalie York, returns to Jammin’ Java

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

York performing. Photo by Luis Ruiz.

Photo by Luis Ruiz.

By Jessica Godart

After a three-week Spring tour promoting her newest album, Promises,’ Vienna-native Natalie York returns to her hometown on Saturday, Aug. 2 to rock Jammin’ Java.

The venue is a bit of a change of pace to the New York artist who finished her tour after visiting cities such as Philadelphia, Arlington, Waynesboro, Norfolk, Durham, Knoxville, Nashville, Indianapolis and Chicago. Even after her first tour, though, York is still excited to play in Vienna.

“Not everywhere I get to play is full of people who have known me my whole life and that’s more special,” says York.

The 25-year-old singer-songwriter looks forward to showcasing some new covers at the concert also, saying that the songs will be well-known, but with her own sound to them.

“I always try to put my own spin [on covers],” she says. “It’s always nice after a break to get back in.” ‘Promises’ was released earlier this year in January.

York’s summer break has been anything but, though. She has spent the past several months working as a teacher for high school students attending the University of Virginia (UVA) Young Writers Workshop summer program held at the Sweet Briar College campus.

Photo by Shervin Lainez.

“It was such a treat to come back to that program from the other side and get to teach some really amazing young writers,” York says.

York’s sessions focused on songwriting, the same class she participated in for the four summers she attended the workshop, stating that it’s “where [she] became a songwriter,” she also explained that she attended the workshop “not really even knowing [she] was a songwriter.”

Jammin’ Java attendees will be able to experience York’s songwriting skills on Saturday during her performance. York writes all of her own songs and will be featuring some from her “Promises” album. She describes the sound of the CD as “a fun hybrid.”

York's newest album, "Promises." Painting by Tim Hildebrandt and Design by Matthew Fleming.

York explains that, along with her four other band mates, the album focuses on the Americana genre of music, blending others as well such as “rock and roll…old country and we slip in a little bit of R&B.”

Coming soon York hints there might be a music video and working on focusing on recording some new songs. “I definitely want to get some stuff recorded.”

York advises aspiring songwriters to “write every day and set parameters for yourself. Some of the best stuff comes not just when you’re purely inspired…but to write all the time sometimes you have to give yourself assignments” to complete and to be “constantly working on something.”

On Saturday, York will be joined by her opener, Karen Jonas, a current resident of Fredericksburg known for her array of personal and energetic songs.

Natalie York at Jammin’ Java
 August 2, 7 p.m.
227 Maple Ave E Vienna 
Advanced VIP tickets $20 / Bar $12 / Premier $12 / GA $12 
Day Of VIP tickets $20 / Bar $15 / Premier $15 / GA $15 



Cirque du Soleli brings female-driven “Amaluna” to National Harbor

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Courtesy of Laurence Labat/Cirque du Soleli  (Teeterboard)

Photo courtesy of Laurence Labat/Cirque du Soleli.

By Emily Rust

 “Amaluna”  isn’t your typical Cirque du Soleli show. It’s one dominated by women.

From the first all-female band in Cirque’s history, to casting a high percentage of women (Cirque casts are normally 70 percent male), “Amaluna’s” theme of women carries through onstage and off.

“I feel passionately that women should be presented with strong identities, strong opinions,” artistic director Rachel Lancaster says of “Amaluna” which will be at the Plateau at National Harbor from July 31-Sept. 21.

Loosely based off of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Amaluna tells the story of a magical island populated only by women, that is, until a shipwreck washes Romeo to shore. From there, Miranda, the daughter of Queen Prospera, faces challenges throughout her love affair with Romeo.

The show’s theme follows a portrayal of power and strength of women demonstrating that love “isn’t always a simple path,” according to Lancaster.

Audiences will see the classic acrobatics that define Cirque du Soleli shows. But for Amaluna, a new act has been created.

Courtesy of Laurence Labat/Cirque du Soleli  (Uneven Bars)

Photo courtesy of Laurence Labat/Cirque du Soleli.

Modeled from women’s uneven bars in gymnastics, this new act coincides with the storyline of a female amazon who is to protect and control the island. Like other Cirque acts, audiences will be captivated by the dangerous yet smooth acrobatics throughout the show.

“Lots of moments look seamless and beautiful and easy but because acrobats are so good, you don’t see how hard it is,” Lancaster says.

Behind the final product lies a lengthy schedule of trial and error. For example, the uneven bars act started about 12 to 18 months ago in Cirque du Soleli’s native Montreal, Canada where performers tested out equipment to give feedback and see how the act can be improved.

Other acts include aerial straps, juggling, Chinese pole and teeterboard.

The two-hour, 15-minute show features electronic music that Lancaster describes as “energetic” and “punchy.” Guitars are prominent with side notes of percussion, cello, vocals and keyboards.

After “Amaluna’s” D.C. residence, it will continue its tour down to Atlanta, Miami and Houston.

The Plateau at Downtown National Harbor
300 Waterfront Street
National Harbor, Maryland
July 31-Sept. 21, times vary

Closing Weekend at Castleton Ends on a Sadder Note

Posted by Editorial / Friday, July 25th, 2014

Maestro Lorin Maazel and wife Dietlinde Turban Maazel. Photo by Molly Peterson.

By Kate Masters

Only a week before the final performances of the Castleton Festival, founder Maestro Lorin Maazel died, leaving his legacy with the scores of young artists whom he personally selected and trained. Despite his notable absence, the closing notes of the opera festival will still play on, aided by his wife, Dietlinde, general manager Nancy Gustafson, and the renowned conductor’s many protégées.

If you haven’t already taken advantage of the month-long festival, its final days this season are some of the best opportunities to attend. Maazel started Castleton in 2009 as a way to mentor young musicians, and almost all of the performers this year were personally trained or advised by the maestro himself.

Beyond working with a master class of conductors, Maazel also worked personally with the performers in the festival’s two opera productions, Madame Butterfly and Don Giovanni. Javier Arrey, the titular lead character in Don Giovanni, says that it’s very unusual for such a famous conductor to spend so much face time with the singers, but it speaks to the level of care that Maazel poured into Castleton. The festival became the sole focus of his creative energies after illness forced him to resign his post as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.

The final performance of Don Giovanni this Friday at 8 p.m. may be the best way to grasp the full Castleton experience. Though the acclaimed Italian stage director Giandomenico Vaccari directed the show, Maazel’s spirit still shines in every note—according to Jennifer Black, who plays Donna Elvira in the opera, there was a 50/50 collaboration between the conductor and the director, with Maazel approving every decision.

Besides Maazel’s deep involvement with the performance, Don Giovanni is widely considered to be the most perfect opera ever written. The story of a sociopathic womanizer (or a soulful but incorrigible hedonist, depending on who you listen to), the opera ultimately deals with society as a whole, and what becomes of those who flout its rules. The eponymous lead objectifies thousands of women and kills an innocent man without remorse, but the director of the performance ultimately decides whether he goes to hell at the end of the performance.

As Castleton’s Don Giovanni, Arrey interprets the character as a man who is not just mentally ill, but who completes his seductions to fill a void in his own life.

“In the end, Don Giovanni does not seduce these women because he is a lover, but because there is a hole in his own life,” Arrey says. “He is empty, there is emptiness there, and he is always trying to find something to fill himself up.”

Black plays Donna Elvira, one of Giovanni’s more serious conquests, who vows vengeance when she learns of his womanizing ways. Throughout the opera, she is a perennial thorn in his side, thwarting his seduction attempts and warning other characters of his amoral ways. Black calls Elvira a “cockblock,” but says she’s the only player in the performance who wishes for a reformed Don Giovanni.

“Elvira is a woman who sees his ways, and has to come to terms with the fact that the man she loves is evil,” Black says. “She’s the only person, in the end, who wants him to change. Everyone else wants vengeance, but she wants both.”

Don Giovanni is the final available opera at Castleton, but there are still ample opportunities to see other musicians who worked under Maazel’s tutelage. At 4 p.m. on Saturday, chamber players will grace the stage at the Theatre House, and there’s a symphonic concert at 7 p.m. featuring some of the greatest love arias in opera. Though its founder has taken his final bow onstage, Castleton lives on, and will end its sixth season with a flourish befitting Maazel. 

Get a sneak peek at the nice list at Alexandria’s annual Christmas in July

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Santa and Mrs. Claus at Christmas in July in Alexandria.

Santa and Mrs. Clause at Christmas in July. Photo by Abbie Rufener.

By Jessica Godart

Santa Claus is coming to town – and he’s showing up in his swim trunks. For the fifth year, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be making a special appearance for Alexandria’s Christmas in July event taking place at Union Street Public House in conjunction with The Christmas Attic next door.

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Aye! Lake Fairfax Park to Bring First Pirate Fest

Posted by Editorial / Monday, July 21st, 2014

By Elke Thoms

Pirate Fest Logo

Courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority.

Are words like “avast” and “me hearties” commonplace in your home of pirate-fanatic children? This Saturday, Lake Fairfax Park will provide a day that’s a welcome alternative to watching Pirates of the Caribbean for the 67th time.

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Fearing the Beast

Posted by Editorial / Monday, July 21st, 2014

A story of isolated terror, “Abominable” takes audiences on a journey of how fear can strike any of us, at any time. –Shelby Robinson

‘Abominable’ by Helen Pafumi.

Photo courtesy of The Hub Theatre.

Sterling resident, Helen Pafumi wrote the first draft of “Abominable” to explore the destructive behavior exhibited by the son of her friend after his parent’s divorce. But the countrywide terror caused by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary hijacked Pafumi’s play, leading her to transformed it into an exploration of the potential affects bullying has on an individual and on a community.

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Andrew Tufano and his Mustached Guitar Take Jammin’ Java

Posted by Editorial / Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

By Elke Thoms

Andrew Tufano with Guitar

Photo courtesy of Molly Peach.

A few minutes after Andrew Tufano and I are supposed to meet, I receive a mildly frantic call from the singer/songwriter.

“I’m sorry, I just walked into Tyson’s—where is the Starbucks?” Tufano asks.

“It’s across from Gap, on the lower level,” I respond.

He assures me he’ll be there soon, just as soon as he finds a map. I hang up feeling confused as to why he picked this meeting spot.

The 19-year old has lived in Sterling his entire life, save for the past year he spent in Nashville completing his freshman year at Belmont University, where he is a songwriting major.

So how does a Northern Virginia native survive his teen years without memorizing Tyson’s layout? 

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Clifton Film Fest Brings Original Short Films to NoVA

Posted by Editorial / Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Clifton Film Fest 2014. Courtesy of Clifton Film Fest.

Clifton Film Fest 2014. Courtesy of Clifton Film Fest.

By Emily Rust

Starting a film festival wasn’t in Dani Weinberg’s plans for post-grad life. It was a dream for later on.

But her plans changed after she attended a friend’s graduation at the Art Institute of Washington where Mark Ruppert the founder of the 48 Hour Film Project spoke.

“He just inspired me because he just up and started the festival. I just never thought it was something maybe I could do, until I heard him speak.” Weinberg says.

Weinberg is in her sixth year as director and founder of the Clifton Film Fest, which began in a small park in Clifton with 200 attendees. Now the festival has outgrown the park and moved on to Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

Films are still shown outdoors just as they were when the festival started, giving the festival a “summer block party feel.” This year’s festival features more than 20 different original films.

The festival focuses on short films (entries must be under 10 minutes) and promotes independent filmmaking.  Most filmmakers are from Virginia, but this year’s films will include entries from Australia, France, England and South America.

Although the festival has “always been for the people,” as the festival has evolved, filmmakers have themselves become the stars.

Filmmakers are split into two categories: under 19 and 19-plus. During the festival, filmmakers are given the star treatment with red-carpet interviews and a special “VIP” room, encouraging collaboration.

“There’s all these websites and YouTube to show your work now. But I think it’s cool to be able show your video in public and see the reaction rather than just comments or likes,” Weinberg says. “You get to see what people think of your film and get that instant gratification. If everyone’s laughing, you get to see them laughing at the parts you want them to laugh at.”

Two filmmakers who are returning this year are Dillon Meyer and Seth Scofield.

Meyer, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, is entering his first “real” film outside of college titled “Cold Cuts,” about two veteran mobsters who are going out to lunch one day to the same restaurant that they always bring hits, when one of them discovers that the other one’s intentions are a little bit more than just a friendly lunch.

The narrative for “Cold Cuts” was inspired by Martin Scorsese films, of whom Meyer says, the writer is a big fan. This year will be the Clifton native’s fourth time entering the festival.

Another returner, Scofield, was inspired by his love of cooking and Julia Child when creating his film “Cooking with Jacqueline,” a parody of the television show “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.”

As a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, Scofield has always loved the arts, which attracted him to the festival.

“It’s a really art centered environment,” Scofield says. “It’s awesome to have something so close that has so much culture in it.”

During the festival, judges including freelance producers, videographers and film enthusiasts, will announce festival winners.  Live music from “Little Red and the Renegades” in conjunction with Workhouse’s Mt. Vernon Nights,” along with a snow cone and barbecue truck will entertain visitors before the evening showings begin.

Clifton Film Fest
Workhouse Arts Center
9601 Ox Road
Saturday, July 19
4 p.m. Day Showing, 7 p.m. Evening Showing

Whiskey While You Work

Posted by Editorial / Friday, July 11th, 2014

A full tasting room at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. Photo by Rick Martin.

 By Kate Masters

Well-dressed women swilling whiskey have been a national institution since at least Prohibition, when trailblazing female bootleggers started outselling their male competitors five sales to one.

Take a chance to honor those roots with Finch Sewing Studio’s Sip and Sew series, hosted this month in collaboration with Catoctin Creek, Loudoun County’s first legal distilling company since before the temperance era. 

The studio’s July 14 event features a lesson on Sashiko stitching, a type of Japanese hand embroidery. Owner Nicole Morgenthau describes it as a beginner’s sewing project, but one that looks more complicated than it actually is. In Sashiko, geometric patterns are sewn onto solid-colored fabric using a technique that inserts several stitches at once, simplifying the creation of an otherwise ornate design.

Sashiko sampler. Photo courtesy of Purl Soho.

Students at Monday’s event will leave the class with a handmade Sashiko wall hanging.

As for the whiskey, Cactoctin Creek distills a competitive rye that comes recommended by the Washington Post and The Whiskey Women, an online blog that takes its aqua vitae very seriously, indeed. The distillery also makes a blend called Mosby’s Spirit, an un-aged white whiskey that harkens back to the days of home-brewed Southern moonshine. While un-aged spirits often suffer from overwhelming harshness, Catoctin’s is more evenly balanced, with palpable notes of floral and citrus.

The business was started in 2009 by Becky and Scott Harris, former chemical and software engineers, respectively, who apply the same level of scientific expertise to their distilling processes. Beyond whiskey, the pair also experiment with gin and several different kinds of brandy, made from organic and often locally-sourced ingredients. 

There’s a take-home element to the Sip and Sew series that makes it easy to recreate the event after it’s over. If you can’t get enough of stitching and sipping, pick up a bottle of whiskey at the distillery and some extra embroidery supplies at Finch Sewing Studios and go wild in the privacy of your own living room.

We’ve included a Sashiko instructional video below if you need to refresh your technique, and a cocktail recipe so you can imbibe while you embroider. Catoctin Creek hosts a guest bartender every month from some of the area’s best local restaurants and shares their best creations on the company website. Becky Harris says her favorite has been a ginger martini crafted by Jamie Imhof of Wildwood Kitchen in Bethesda.

The mixologist makes the martini with Mosby’s Spirit instead of vodka or gin, giving it better complexity and a more lingering flavor. Imhof also adds a red wine rim to the cocktail for an extra layer of visual interest.

Jamie Imhof's ginger martini. Photo courtesy of Catoctin Creek Distilling Company.

Ginger Martini from Wildwood Kitchen

2 oz Mosby’s Spirit

1 oz ginger syrup

½ oz lemon juice*

½ oz lime juice*

½ oz pineapple juice*

Red wine of your choice (use a pour spout)

*Imhof only uses very fresh juices in her cocktails, emphasis on the very. Canned or bottled juices won’t deliver the fresh fruit flavors that really make the martini pop.

Pour Mosby’s Spirit, ginger syrup, and juices into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until frothy. Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish by rimming the glass with red wine.


Ginger Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 ½ cups water

½ cup ginger, peeled, diced, and muddled

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let steep, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain. Can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a month. 


Getting to know a 150-year-old Civil War General and Governor

Posted by Editorial / Friday, July 11th, 2014


(Left) Governor "Extra Billy" Smith portrait; (Right) David Meisky portraying Governor "Extra Billy" Smith. Photos courtesy of David Meisky.

By Jessica Godart

Speaking with the dead might come off as a little strange for most, but for David Meisky it’s all part of his daily life.

As a living historian portraying Gov. William “Extra Billy” Smith in the organization Lee’s Lieutenants, Meisky, 68, is actually one of the dead that many talk to.

No, he’s not skeletons and bones. His persona, Extra Billy Smith, served as a colonel and a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and, more often than not, he can be seen walking and talking at Civil War camp site during numerous Lee’s Lieutenants events.

He will be appearing as Capt. David Meade, the paymaster on July 12 and 13 at the Gray Ghost Vineyard’s 20th Anniversary Celebration.


How long have you been portraying?

Probably close to nine or 10 years. My first event as Extra Billy Smith was with [Chris Godart as Gen. Richard Ewell] up at Bedford Va.

What got you interested in living history?

I was very fortunate in the seventh grade – and let’s just say that was a couple years ago – to have a teacher that made history very interesting. So I’ve always been interested in history, especially in the Civil War. For a number of years I’ve been going to events thinking “Gee, that looks like fun, I’d better get into that reenacting stuff.” Finally about 15 years ago I did. I started [in] Lee Lieutenant’s as Capt. David Meade, the paymaster.

How did you choose who you portray?

I’m looking for the physical resemblance. I pretty much resemble him. His face is a little thinner; I’ve got a square jaw from my Pennsylvania-Dutch ancestry. There was the resemblance and there were some others, but this was the closest one. I didn’t know much about him I started realizing, “This is an interesting guy.” The other thing is you have people like Bill Frueh, who portrays Jeb Stuart, who is twice his age. I’m fortunate in that right now I am two years older than Extra Billy was at this stage 150 years ago, so the age works in great. [Extra Billy’s and my] birthdays are actually only nine days apart.

General Richard Ewell (left) portrayed by Chris Godart and General Extra Billy Smith (right) portrayed by David Meisky. Photo courtesy of David Meisky.

Do you identify with Extra Billy in any way?

Yes and no. I’m not going around thinking I’m the reincarnation of Extra Billy Smith, but you start to take an interest in things [as he did]. Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the beginning Dr. Jekyll could control the changes…but then it became that he couldn’t control it, he just slipped back and forth. When I’m speaking about Extra Billy, sometimes I find myself saying, “Well ‘I’ did this,” then suddenly saying, “Well ‘he’ did.”

When you’re not the Governor or Capt. David Meade, what are you doing?

Today, I will be at the Paxton House, a home built in the 1830’s. Two times a week I’m down there; tomorrow there’s a meeting for [the Paxton house]. I’m a member of the Civil War Round Table, I do a lot of speaking engagements. A month or so ago I read “The Three Musketeers.” Now I’m reading a book on German spy efforts in the early years of World War I.

What advice would you have for someone looking to get into the hobby?

Enjoy reading, and I would say first thing is to start out as a private or infantry or cavalry, that kind of gets you to feel what it was like back in that day. It gets you into the mindset of the period. Do a lot of research, talk to people, visit the sites. You can read all you want about different battlefields, but going out and actually being there as they would have been, gives you a bit of an idea what they were going through. Walk the places they walked.


Gray Ghost Vineyards. Photo courtesy of Gray Ghost.

The living historian will be joined at Gray Ghost Vineyards by members of the 17th VA Infantry Living History Society for artillery demonstrations.

The weekend festivities will include winery tours, vineyard tours, local art and jewelry vendors. Ezra’s Roadside Kitchen food truck will be on-hand and memorabilia from Colonel John Mosby on display. Civil War authors Eric W. Buckland and David Goetz will also be in attendance at the celebration for signings and meet-and-greet.

The vineyard’s name “Gray Ghost” comes from a nickname Mosby adopted while in the war. The vineyard is family-owned and operated, thriving on producing high quality wine.

Visit Meisky this weekend and ask all the history questions you can muster. For example: Where did Governor Smith get the nickname “Extra Billy” from? Only one way to find out. 

20th Anniversary Celebration
Gray Ghost Vineyards
14706 Lee Highway
Amissville, 20106

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