See ‘Hocus Pocus’ at cinema

A Halloween favorite will be shown Thursday night in Cleveland. The feature at 7:30 p.m. at Cinema at the Square is Hocus Pocus. Admission to the movie shown in the historic Palace Theatre is $5 and $4 for kids and seniors. The movie follows three witch sisters who are resurrected in Salem, Mass., on Halloween night.

Watch Elvis classic in Canton

The Canton Palace Theatre is showing the Elvis classic movie Viva Las Vegas on Thursday. The movie will start at 7:30 p.m. and admission is $5. Elvis plays race car driver Lucky Jackson who goes to Las Vegas to earn money to pay for a new engine for his car.

Knock off early for Happy Hour

It will be Happy Hour on the Plaza at 4 p.m. Thursday. Activities on the Cascade Plaza in downtown Akron will include adult beverages along with Spikeball and bocce ball leagues.

The PorchRokr Music and Art Festival was born from the quaint notion of encouraging Highland Square denizens to get out and get to know some of their neighbors and perhaps traverse some new streets in the eclectic Akron neighborhood.

But what began as a friendly neighborhood arts and music festival with a few thousand local attendees has grown into a daylong destination with festivalgoers and bands flooding in from across Ohio and other states.

The 2018 PorchRokr will be the seventh festival in six years (see, it ambitiously held two in year one). Each year it has grown, from having barely enough bands and barely enough host porches, to having bands submitting from other states and having festival organizers regrettably tell some excited porch owners “maybe next year.”

The festival shifts each year to one of four different sections of Highland Square. This year, the main stage will be on Beck Avenue behind Fifth Third Bank, headlined by Akron hip-hop band Red Rose Panic. The festival borders will be West Market Street, Belvidere Way, South Portage Path, Crosby Street and South Highland Avenue.

One might think that with so many successful iterations of PorchRokr under its collective belt, the all-volunteer Highland Square Neighborhood Association would have the festival’s planning and execution down to a science. But each year brings unique challenges.

“For people who like doing puzzles, this is a great activity,” said Katie Carver Reed, president of the association.

“Because you have to fit all these pieces together and some pieces look like they fit together, but they don’t. … It’s one big puzzle that looks super beautiful when you put it all together, but it takes some time,” she said.

Anchored at Will Christie Park, the 2017 PorchRokr was a huge success. Carver Reed and co-chair Jon Morschl estimated that 12,000 to 15,000 people attended, and as far as festivalgoers could tell, the PorchRokr puzzle fit together perfectly.

“We were overwhelmed [at the park]. We were not expecting the amount of traffic we had there,” Morschl said. Last year, police had to close down a few streets because some porches were just too crowded.

The 2017 PorchRokr even got some national attention last fall when the hip online magazine Noisey touted the festival and interviewed local headliner Time Cat.

So what will the association do to top last year?

“I don’t want to top last year, really, because it was so successful everything seemed to work for the most part,” Morschl said. “There were a couple small hiccups but I feel like we’re going to get to the point where, if we keep growing, we’re going to lose some of that homegrown, DIY feel that makes it feel unique to the neighborhood.”

Nevertheless, there are plenty of new additions to the festival.

“At some point, we can’t have new things anymore,” Carver Reed joked.

There will be a pre-festival 5K run at 8 a.m. that starts on Marshall Avenue, runs through Will Christie Park and ends at the main stage. Yoga Squared will offer an early yoga session. Also new is a Pokemon Go element that will send players to pick up their Pokemon at various points of interest throughout the festival.

The Akron Children’s Museum will have activities for kids near the corner of Payne and Byers avenues along with interactive activities from Summit Metro Parks, and online auction behemoth eBay will have a “retail revival” spot on Byers and West Market.

Bands and porches

But live, mostly local music on the porches of your friends and neighbors is the heart of PorchRokr This year, more than 130 acts will rock nearly 20 porches, plus a few stages, bars and restaurants.

Many local bands have played the festival multiple times, and it’s not just another local gig for them. Emcee Floco Torres, a recent Akron transplant, performed on the main stage last year to a packed park.

“The experience was dope,” he said via message. “I think PorchRokr is built for the audience a little more and there’s so much music that it encourages folks to check out something they may not any other time.”

The Rhodes Street Rude Boys have performed at every festival and members of the kinetic reggae/dub/dance hall group say the energy from a porch rather than a standard stage and the variety of acts helps make it special.

“Being within an arm’s length of the people, feels as if we’re inviting them into our home,” said Jordan Nunn, singer and guitarist for RSRB.

“What’s cool about it is you have established bands playing with aspiring musicians and all levels of talent and styles. To be able to see such a variety of bands and play alongside them is an awesome experience,” Nunn said.

By Light We Loom, a Cleveland indie-pop duo formed by husband and wife Shanna Delaney and Eric Ling, will make a second appearance at PorchRokr. Setting up in someone’s house can be a bit stressful, Delaney said, but the overall laid-back vibe is relaxing.

“You have more of a chance to control your time,” she said. “As a result, it gives you more of a chance to tell your stories and talk to the crowd so that they can get to know you and you can get to know them, which is one reason we love doing music!”

Red Rose Panic

Festival headliner Red Rose Panic was founded by best friends Luminari and Styxx in 2013 and has since grown into a full band that has built up a solid local audience playing house shows and gigs in bars around Northeast Ohio.

The quintet of emcee/vocalist Luminari, guitarist Styxx, drummer Reo Dinero, bassist Smokeface and live keyboardist Lou have performed at three PorchRokrs and thought they had a chance at the big stage.

“It’s pretty surreal actually,” Luminari said.

The band released its second album, Time Attack, this past May, and the album mixes the band’s contemporary hip-hop roots with elements of rock and R&B beats and head-nodding grooves that occasionally recall American neo-soul and the ’90s British Acid Jazz scene.

While he’s performed over backing tracks, Luminari said there’s nothing like the spontaneity of playing with talented musicians, which gives the band a different flavor than mainstream hip-hop.

“We’re kind of like that home-cooked meal,” Luminari said of the band’s live sets. “People can feel that more … there’s just something about seeing this live thing, seeing this guitarist actually sweat, it’s always going to be a unique sound,” he said. “The live feel resonates with people at a deeper level. That’s why we continue to kick those vibes even on a CD.”

Red Rose Panic has performed at four PorchRokr fests, and Luminari believes it encapsulates the local scene perfectly.

“I like the evolution. There’s an awesome DIY scene in Akron where you see folks volunteering and giving their time because they appreciate the arts so much, and PorchRokr is a testament to that,” he said.

“There’s a lot of care for the arts in Akron … so much that we’ll do whatever it takes to shut down a whole neighborhood just to fill the entire Saturday with awesome music. That dedication to music, as far as being in the city of Akron, is really big. That’s something you’d expect to see in New York or D.C.”

Carver Reed and Morschl said they chose Red Rose Panic to headline after watching their growth musically and in terms of their fan base over the past few years.

“They have been really close to the top of the list for a while. Last year, they were on Jefferson and that was one of the streets we had to close because the entire intersection was flooded with people,” Carver Reed said.

“Red Rose Panic ticks all the boxes. They just have a really, really interesting sound and they are really great band, and they’ve been close to the top and this just seemed like the right year to choose them,” she said.

Despite being confined to the Highland Square neighborhood, PorchRokr continues to grow in stature locally and nationally while still maintaining the inclusive, relaxed vibe for which the neighborhood is known.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

Watch acclaimed movie

The Nightlight Cinema is showing the acclaimed Eighth Grade through Aug. 23. Our critic Clint O’Connor calls it “a painstakingly realistic film that features a wonderful, breakout performance” by young star Elsie Fisher. (Here’s our review: Get showtimes and tickets at 330-252-5782,

Hear staged reading of play

Weathervane Playhouse hosts a staged reading of Charles Busch’s The Divine Sister at 7:30 p.m., a send-up of Hollywood tropes about religion and nuns in particular. (Note that it’s for mature audiences.) Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative. 330-836-2626,

Attend free show in Massillon

Henry & David play a free outdoor show at 7 p.m. on Duncan Plaza near the Massillon Municipal Building.

Attend Signal Tree Fest at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron

A celebration of all things Akron, the Signal Tree Fest will take place from noon to 10 p.m. at Lock 3 Park, with food, craft beers, culture, vendors and of course music, including Gretchen Pleuss, Floco Torres, the Bizarros and Time Cat. For more, visit

Get up close to big trucks

Summit Metro Parks invites kids to its Touch-A-Truck event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Munroe Falls Metro Park’s Lake Area. They can check out various public service and law enforcement vehicles and Akron Children’s Hospital “Air Bear” helicopter. Food trucks will be on site.

Listen to Akron native perform

Akron native Brasko, who cites musical influences ranging from Todd Rundgren and David Bowie to Burt Bacharach, plays a hometown show at 8:30 p.m. at Musica. Liberty Deep Down and Zach Beaver open. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Hear Cleveland Orchestra play

The Cleveland Orchestra’s Blossom program includes Rachmaninoff’s lush Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (trust us, you know it) featuring pianist Simon Trpceski, and works by Liadov and Prokofiev. The concert is at 8 p.m.; be sure to get there early to pick out a prime picnic spot. Tickets are $26-$90 at

Have some laughs at theater

Host Productions presents the comedic play Ain’t Nothing Like Family at 7 p.m. at the Akron Civic Theatre. Tickets are $28 at 330-253-2488,

The Akron Art Museum’s portion of the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art features 16 artists from the U.S. and around the world and has been curated to offer perspectives on aspects of “The American City.”

The curatorial statement on the wall as you enter the exhibition explains how this segment of FRONT takes its directional cues from Akron’s timeline, from the growth and decline of the rubber industry, depopulation and vast abandoned spaces to how the city is aspiring to reinvent itself. The curatorial statement provides an excellent framework from which to view and better understand the exhibit.

This is a big group show, so by its very nature, there are a few artists included whose work does not come off as strong as others, or maybe just don’t fit as well. However, there are moving, insightful and hopeful works that point to the thoughtful way they have been chosen and displayed.

Two of the more powerful groups featured are by Katrín Sigurdardóttir and Maryam Jafri. Their works are displayed at the start as you begin to walk through the exhibit and in a way, they set a tone for the entire exhibition.

Sigurdardóttir mined clay in her native Iceland and cast it into cobblestones in her studio in New York City. She then installed them in four locations in Cleveland and Akron.

The photographs of the cobblestones featured in the exhibit are clearly pre-installation, and while it’s too bad we don’t get to see what the work will look like after nature has a chance to interact with it, the images are still haunting and beautiful in a stacked and manufactured sort of way. It would have been helpful if what we get to view was a little bit better explained; I had to walk through the exhibit twice to understand what I was seeing.

American artist Maryam Jafri’s anthropological works might take a bit of patience, but once you engage with them, they have a clear and present power that is rather palpable. Jafri’s work “draws attention to the ways corporations attempt to manufacture and fulfill consumer desires through the engineering and mass marketing of food products.”

Included in the exhibit are actual products culled from the archives of the food industry, as well as texts based on her research of products that failed due to lack of demand. It’s fascinating to wander through these pieces and think about the hopes and dreams pinned to the ideas as well as the “what were they thinking” aspect as well.

For example, one of the products on display is a Diet Pepsi baby bottle. Clearly, this product was created for the parents who loved Diet Pepsi and thought the logo looked cool. The idea that you might feed Diet Pepsi to your baby is clearly the reason this product never took off — at least we hope.

Another strong group of works is Jamal Cyrus’ Eroding Witness Series, made from four newspaper front pages showing the coverage of the July 1970 death of Carl Hampton, founder of the Houston Chapter of the Black Panthers. The front pages have been laser-cut into sheets of papyrus.

The papyrus renders these pages into something even more historical, as papyrus is a type of paper that was used by ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. The look is somewhat ghostly, as it’s hard not see the historical references of the paper itself as you try to read pages that have the words cut out, not printed.

Argentine artist Adriana Minoliti’s murals Modular shelter: kitty, alien, piggy, robot, bird, fish are made of brightly colored, squarish emoji-like creatures painted directly on the wall and images of retro-futuristic architecture printed on canvas and placed on a section of each of them. The pieces are fun and joyful and the artist states she “imagines a future utopia free of socially imposed divisions.”

What’s nice about the Akron Art Museum’s portion of the FRONT International Cleveland Triennial is that the exhibit feels like it is reacting to and talking with people who might know and love Akron. It also features enough artists that it’s easy to find some pieces you can form a connection with.

Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].

Country star Keith Urban headlines concert at Blossom Music Center

Country superstar, sometime TV judge and celebrity spouse Keith Urban brings his Graffiti U tour to Blossom at 7:30 p.m., with up-and-coming opener Kelsea Ballerini. Tickets are $37 and up at

North Hill to spice things up

The Hot Summer Celebration at 5:30 p.m. at Patterson Park in Akron will highlight cuisine from the area’s Bhutanese population. Not every dish is spicy, organizers promise, but those with iron stomachs can enter the pepper-eating or hottest-pepper competitions. Admission is $20, which includes food and activities; suggested donation is $10 for each contest.

Dance festival at Hardesty Park

Neos Dance Theater is next up on the Heinz Poll Dance Festival, performing at 8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Hardesty Park near Wallhaven. A children’s interactive program begins at 7:45 p.m. each night.

RubberDucks reimagine past

The RubberDucks used to be called the Aeros, and before that they shared the Indians name with the big-league club to the north. But the team is imagining what their uniforms might have looked like if they’d had that name in the 1970s, and will wear “Fauxback” gear for the 7:05 p.m. game against Portland. Allman Brothers fireworks will follow.

Free shows in Akron, Barberton

Free outdoor concerts include the Cars tribute Moving in Stereo with opener Angie Haze, 6 p.m. at Lock 3 in downtown Akron; Night School, 7 p.m. at Goodyear Heights Metro Park; and Ruby Shooz, 7 p.m. at the Lake Anna Gazebo in Barberton.

The Ellet neighborhood is quietly vying to become the next “hip” spot in Akron. Over the last several years, restaurants, breweries and bars have been popping up around the area hoping to attract young, old and basically any reasonably moneyed patrons from around the city.

Among the newer spots is Rm. 727 Gastropub. It’s got “gastropub” in its name so you know, immediately, that it is both quite hip and surely happening.

Housed in the space previously occupied by the old and quite old-school Duffy’s Restaurant & Grill, Rm. 727 has all the familiar modern trappings. Outside is a strip of incredibly clean and uniform grass (because it’s not real) for future cornhole tournaments with an adjacent bocce ball court.

Inside Rm. 727 has that new bar smell, i.e. no strangely permanently sticky floors, or that pervasive dirty mop water scent you’ll taste in some spots. The general vibe is chill, the crowd is mixed, the ambient music leans toward new and old rock and isn’t too loud.

Two months in and everything is still new and shiny in the cozy gastropub, including the high-back stools at the long, black bar that lines one side of the building, and all the new tables and other furnishings that sit on the new wood flooring and faux fireplace that make up the dining area. There are three plasma screens unobtrusively placed with the sound off, and outside is a good-sized patio overlooking the parking lot with a window to the bar so you don’t have to work too hard to get another beer.

It’s even got one of those weird, big antler chandeliers that, for aesthetic reasons that completely escape me, seem to be a required fixture in any mid- to upscale bar/restaurant built in the last seven years or so.

But first-time visitors will probably not spend too much energy contemplating the lighting hanging from the high ceiling, because the menus have plenty of interesting items to offer.

Everything on the food menu is under $15, which for a gastropub is pretty darn amazing. Additionally, Rm. 727 touts that it locally sources nearly all of its ingredients, and makes its various sauces and reductions and fancy cocktail accoutrements and whatnot in house, so you’ll never see a big truck full of frozen foodstuffs pulling up to the back door.

The dedication to local sourcing also means dishes are seasonal (What? You can’t get fresh Ohio raspberries in December? Dang), which should keep it interesting.

The menu isn’t huge and most offerings are served tapas-style, and you get fun combinations of flavors including Prince Edward Island mussels ($10) served with Belgian beer butter and caramelized onions, and stout-braised short rib sliders ($8-$10) that come with charred onion jam and crispy Gouda bites.

We tried the quite yummy candied salmon bacon on fancy crusty bread, and one of the personal-sized, spent grain pizzas. (Spent grain is dehydrated grain from beer brewing that’s been remilled into pizza crust.)

Though I’m a dedicated omnivore leaning heavily toward carnivore, I couldn’t resist the Outkast reference in the “So Fresh and So Green Green” pizza featuring seasonal veggies, San Marzano tomato sauce and creamy Boursin cheese. The dough is tasty and the veggies were fresh and crisp, though I wouldn’t have been mad at a little bit of that Leoncini ham that comes on the Tommy Tsunami (ham, bacon, caramelized pineapple, tomato marmalade and goat milk cheddar).

As for the “pub” end of “gastropub,” Rm. 727 sports a modest signature, handcrafted and dessert cocktail menu in the $9-$14 range. Whiskey and rye fans will be giddy at all the varieties and brands available, including Ohio distillery Cleveland Whiskey. I honestly can’t recall the name of the drink I had, but it had whiskey and fresh berries and I could’ve sipped on it all night.

The beer cooler has a good variety with 27 rotating taps, a healthy selection of Ohio breweries and a well-stocked cooler. Flights of four tasting-sized beers are available, priced according to the beers chosen.

Mike Engelhart of Akron, Phil Harris of Ellet and Chris Fox of Stow were sitting at a table stacked with food and brews. It was their first time checking out Rm. 727, and they were suitably impressed.

“I used to come here when it was Duffy’s, and when they changed it I’d been meaning to come, and I came here and it’s amazing. It’s completely different and the food is amazing. The short rib sliders were the best, in my opinion. The mussels,” Engelhart said.

“It’s all good, I think there may be two things that we didn’t order,” Harris said laughing. “The jalapeño margarita is fantastic!”

“They did a great job. It’s nice to have something different around here. I’ve lived in this area my whole life and we’ve never really had too much around here. It’s nice to have somewhere to come and get a drink, eat some food and be able relax and hang out,” Engelhart said.

For folks who are always looking to try what’s new and are into interesting gastrogrub combinations, Rm. 727 is worth the trip to a part of town that’s on the rise.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3758. Follow him on Facebook at or on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.

The Cleveland Orchestra announced Thursday it has received a $9.3 million gift from the estate of Dr. Jean Hower Taber.

Taber, the great-granddaughter of industrialist John H. Hower, one of the owners of an Akron company that became part of the Quaker Oats Co., died in July 2017 at age 94.

The orchestra said Saturday’s concert at Blossom Music Center, featuring conductor Vasily Petrenko and pianist Simon Trpceski performing works by Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Liadov, will be dedicated to Taber.

“I cannot possibly express how grateful we all are at The Cleveland Orchestra for this extraordinarily generous — and completely unexpected — gift,” said André Gremillet, Cleveland Orchestra executive director, in a prepared statement. “Jean Hower Taber truly loved The Cleveland Orchestra and believed in the power of music to change lives. She was a loyal donor for many years, but had not hinted to us just how generous her final gift might be.”

Taber’s estate also included a more than $20 million donation to the University of Akron, which has renamed its Student Union for her. That gift will fund scholarships and support Hower House, the 1871 Victorian mansion that her family donated to UA in 1970, where she lived for the first five years of her life and where she got married.

By Alex Tichenor

Massillon Independent

GateHouse Media Ohio

NEW PHILADELPHIA: Filmmaker Floyd Russ drifted sleepily around his New York City residence.

Then his phone rang.

It was Sunday, a shade before midnight. Not exactly the ideal time for a quick chat.

“My number has a Los Angeles area code, but I live in New York,” Russ said. “But still, 9 o’clock on a Sunday?”

Yet, he answered.

A voice came out of the speaker Russ didn’t recognize.

The next few minutes are a blur for Russ, partially because it was time to go the bed, but mainly because of what he learned. His short film, “Zion” made it into the Sundance Film Festival, arguably the most famous of its kind in the United States. Russ remembers his wife crying as he stumbled through the late-night conversation.

“I didn’t think we’d get into Sundance,” Russ said. “This is the type of stuff you dream of as a filmmaker.”

Months later, he received an email from Netflix, expressing interest in distributing the film as a Netflix Original. Now, “Zion” — the emotional story of Massillon’s Zion Clark — debuts nationwide Friday on the mega streaming platform.

It’s been the whirlwind of Russ’ career.

Back in Ohio

While Russ makes the film festival rounds and celebrates the success of his short film, Zion Clark strives for normalcy. He just moved into a new house in the heart of New Philadelphia, where he attends school and wrestles at Kent State University at Tuscarawas. He’ll share it with four of his teammates.

It’s a typical freshly-moved-into house of college guys. Not much furniture outside of the essentials. No decorations on the walls. The less stuff to break, the better.

Clark is, of course, the subject of the film bearing his first name.

Around Stark County, the story of Clark’s life is well-known. Clark’s lower body never developed while in the womb due to a condition called caudal regression syndrome, yet he became a standout wrestler and track star at Washington High School all the same.

Local media noticed first. Then, ESPN came to town for a story. Almost overnight, Clark’s life became invaded by outsiders gawking at his impressive athletic feats.

And with the Netflix release of “Zion,” people are noticing again.

“My phone has been blowing up,” Clark said. “Hundreds of people are trying to talk to me and I’m just trying to mind my own business. It’s cool, I’ll talk to a couple of people. But honestly, I can’t talk to everybody. I’d be sitting in the same spot forever.”

Clark could easily be the high school jock who revels in his past achievements — he qualified for districts as a wrestler and was a state-champion track athlete — but he doesn’t. He’d rather talk about his current wrestling form.

“My wrestling is on a whole different level,” Clark said. “If I were to wrestle myself from high school, I’d probably beat myself up pretty bad.”

Or his plan to move to Arizona upon graduating college with a degree in business management for the same reason anyone moves to Arizona.

“It’s warm,” Clark said.

When he made the trip to Park City, Utah for Sundance back in January, he left after two days to get back for a wrestling tournament. He’d rather spend time around people who see him as their peer than people who see him as their inspiration.

“Honestly, I couldn’t care less,” Clark said of the attention. “I’m living my own life and doing the things I know I need to do to have a good life to be able to take care of myself and eventually have a family and that kind of stuff. If fame comes from this? Cool. If not, I’m going to college so I can be set either way.”

Filming “Zion”

Russ first noticed Clark’s story when Michael F. McElroy reported on the then-high school wrestler in 2016.

“The written part did not do [Clark’s story] justice,” Russ said. “The photos were amazing, but I expected to see a 30 for 30 when I clicked on it. … I was surprised no one shot video.”

From there, he attempted to contact Clark, but once he got the phone number, Clark didn’t return his messages. After months of being pestered for interview after interview from other entities, Clark was worn out. Eventually, Clark’s mother, Kimberly Hawkins, got the two in contact.

From there, Russ and Clark talked on the phone periodically over a span of eight months, while Russ gathered the funds necessary for the project.

“That six- to eight-month period definitely tested my patience and his patience, too,” Russ said.

Eventually, he made it to Ohio with his five-person crew (including himself), filming Clark over the course of four days. During that short period, the crew set up in Clark’s home and filmed him doing everything from lifting weights to eating breakfast.

And Russ couldn’t help but develop admiration for the teen.

“I felt very attached to him,” Russ said. “I was holding back tears while hugging him on the last day. … I would be super stoked if my child grew up to be like Zion by the time he was 18.”

A viewing suggestion

“I don’t want people to feel bad for me,” Clark said. “That’s one thing that annoys me and irritates me. Yeah, I struggle, but I’m really just like any other guy. Just normal, doing my own thing, it just so happens I don’t have legs. And I’m just as good as other people at the sport I do.”

Pity has no place in Clark’s life.

That’s something Russ quickly learned, especially when he got to spend time with Clark in person.

“I didn’t see his disability after spending a day with him,” Russ said. “He was an 18-year-old who spent a lot of time on Instagram. He wanted to go to Taco Bell.”

Russ agrees with Clark’s assessment of the film, as well.

“The whole point isn’t: hey, look what people can do,” Russ said.

Russ wanted to somehow portray both Clark’s normalcy and his exceptionalism in the 11-minute film.

Viewers can judge for themselves very soon.

From the start, J.D. Goddard has had a very democratic approach to Master Singers Chorale: No auditions.

All are welcome, from all musical backgrounds and levels of ability. No attendance policy; all who are able to be at rehearsal will be there. And it all works out in the end.

“I have professional singers and I have people who can’t read a note of music,’’ Goddard said. “In any community choir, it’s repetition, repetition, repetition.”

The one thing this artistic director is adamant about is that the choir’s repertoire be all classical, including numerous premieres of new classical works. And he firmly believes that all people can learn great choral literature.

“There has to be something for everyone,’’ he said. “My job is to teach the notes.”

Seventeen years after founding Master Singers, Goddard will retire as director after conducting the community choir in his final concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at Sts. Cosmas and Damian Church, 10419 Ravenna Road, Twinsburg.

Remaining true to the group’s mission of performing classical choral masterworks, the choir will perform a Brahms program that includes a work from its first concert 17 years ago: Requiem.

In 2001, Goddard put up $10,000 of his own money to pay for a 30-piece orchestra for Master Singers’ first concert and to advertise in local newspapers announcing the new choir, which draws singers from throughout Northeast Ohio. Thirty-seven singers attended the first rehearsal 17 years ago and more than 60 performed in the first concert at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Akron.

Master Singers charged admission for concerts in the beginning, but now, the group’s performances are free. The nonprofit choir is supported by grants from the Akron Community Foundation and Ohio Arts Council and is sponsored by Don Sitts Auto Group.

In its 17 years, Master Singers has performed more than 60 major works, 70 world premieres and 22 American premieres, including works by resident composer Jason Metheney of Seville. Sunday’s concert also will include Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 and feature soloists Marian Vogel (soprano) and Frank Ward (baritone).

Thirty-seven singers showed up for Master Works’ first rehearsal 17 years ago. Now, between 50 and 60 singers participate in each of three annual concerts. The rehearsal period preceding each concert is about 13 weeks.

“They can pick and choose whichever concert they may or may not want to sing,’’ Goddard said.

Goddard, 73, who grew up in Montrose, Mich., began playing the clarinet at age 4. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in choral conducting at Occidental College in Texas and master’s degrees in operatic performance and voice at the University of Texas and a doctor of musical arts in conducting from University of Texas. He was a southwest regional finalist for the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, twice.

The musician also taught voice and opera at Amarillo College in Texas, served as director of opera at the University of Akron in the late ’70s and served as one-year interim director of opera at Kent State University in the late ’80s.

“All I ever really wanted to do was conduct’’ choruses or orchestras, Goddard said.

In recent years, he has retired as director of the Western Reserve Chorale, Chagrin Valley Choral Union and the Euclid Symphony. Now he’s retiring from his last remaining choral group, partially due to health reasons. Goddard, who has had both knees replaced, must sit down to conduct. But the musician, who lives in Akron with his wife Pearlmarie, said he is still looking forward to lots of golfing in retirement.

If you’ve met Goddard once, you’ll never forget his larger-than-life size, personality and booming bass-baritone voice.

“He’s able to correct people at a level that everybody can relate to,’’ said charter member Ken Zach of Silver Lake. “This is a real teacher, somebody who takes people from multiple backgrounds — music majors and vocal majors and people who have never sung before — and molds and melds them all into one group and sort of a homogeneous sound. For an amateur group, I think it’s a pretty good sound.’’

How has Goddard done that?

“I guess by explaining things pretty plainly,’’ said charter member Jill Hornickel, who has known Goddard since he taught her as a UA graduate student in 1979.

Zach served as rehearsal accompanist for about seven of his 17 years with Master Singers and is back to singing. The choir rehearses at Church of New Hope in Stow.

“J.D. and I just seemed to click,’’ he said. “We wanted to make the group the best that it could be.”

Goddard’s successor as artistic director will be Ted Shure of Cuyahoga Falls, who is artistic director of Shure Studios for piano and voice and is entering his 15th season as director of the Cuyahoga Falls Community Chorus. He was trained in piano performance at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and formerly sang bass in the Akron Symphony Chorus and Summit Choral Society Masterworks Chorale. He accompanies the Grace Baptist Church Choir of Kent and plays piano on its Worship Team.

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]. Like her on Facebook at or follow her on Twitter @KerryClawsonABJ.

It has been 155 years in the making.

So when the North and the South tangle at Hale Farm & Village in Bath Township this weekend, guests will have a chance to witness firsthand the first day of one of the most important battles of the Civil War.

The South drove back the North that day in Gettysburg in July 1863, setting the stage for a deadly series of battles in the Pennsylvania town.

It has been five years since re-enactors last re-created the initial battle here.

But this time, things will unfold a bit differently.

Jason Klein, who is the site director of the historic village, said that past battles have taken place in the rolling pastures. But this time, the soldiers will also use the area just outside the steps of the historic Hale House.

“It immerses visitors in the history of our nation,” he said.

The battle unfolded as the North was driven back the first day by a then much larger number of Confederate soldiers who inexplicably stopped their pursuit of the retreating Union soldiers.

The tide would change in the ensuing two days as reinforcements from the North prevailed in the bloody conflict.

With some 800 re-enactors — making it the largest such annual gathering in Ohio — there are a wide variety of other activities and displays before and after the battle, which is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Other activities include performances by the fife and drum corps, artillery demonstrations and President Abraham Lincoln’s famed Gettysburg Address. There will be merchants and food.

The remainder of Hale Farm’s dozens of historic buildings and demonstration areas are also open during the event although some may close during the battle itself.

The farm dates back to 1810 when Jonathan Hale and his family settled in the Cuyahoga Valley. It was donated to the Western Reserve Historical Society in 1956 by Hale’s great-granddaughter and opened its doors to the public in 1958.

Soldiers and cavalry

“It is a sea of canvas tents from one end of the property to the other,” Klein said.

Aside from the sheer number of soldiers, Bob Minton, who is the brigadier general of the Union Army, said what also makes the gathering at Hale Farm special is the number of mounted cavalry — 30 or so — that also take part.

He said many of the participants also traveled to Gettysburg last month to participate in the anniversary re-enactments held there.

Unlike some other gatherings where organizers limit the space available, Minton, who lives in McCutchenville, near Sandusky, said Hale really works to ensure the battles are able to be presented as accurately as possible, and that sometimes means moving a fence or two.

“They work hard to make it the best event possible,” he said.

Planning for the annual gathering at Hale, now in its 34th year, really begins after the smoke settles from the last battle and continues throughout the year.

It is the careful planning and attention to detail, Minton said, that makes this one of the best and most popular re-enactments around and one that attracts 5,000 to 6,000 spectators each year.

The goal is to share history with visitors and help them learn more about the conflict.

Hale Farm offers “Civil War Education Day” on Friday with the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry.

The one-day event lets kids ages 7 to 12 get a peek behind the scenes of the battle.

They visit re-enactor camps, see the mounted cavalry and meet soldiers and civilians in period dress.

Reservations are required for the youth Education Day and can be made by calling 330-666-3711, ext. 1720, or by visiting

Minton said teaching a new generation about our nation’s history is what this is all about — and the re-enactors having a bit of fun, too.

“It is like a big reunion for the re-enactors.”

Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected] or 330-996-3547.

Noor Hindi

Poet, journalist and student Noor Hindi is getting ready to start the second year of her three-year NEOMFA program at the University of Akron. She also teaches a composition class, is the assistant poetry editor for the University of Akron Press and managing editor of the Devil Strip magazine. Her chapbook, “Diary of a Filthy Woman,” was published this year by Porkbelly Press. For more information:

Fear of poetry

I think a lot of people are afraid of poems. I think high school teachers kill poetry. It’s insane. When teachers approach me and ask me how to teach poetry in the classroom, I say, “You can teach the traditional poets like Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson, but start with contemporary poets first because those writers are speaking the language that these kids are speaking.”

Enjoy the colors

Don’t worry about meaning. So much poetry is nonsensical. It’s like looking at a painting. You may enjoy the colors but you don’t have to know what it means.


I grew up in Barberton. My parents are from the Middle East. I was born in Jordan. We were in Texas for a year and moved here when I was 3. Now we live in Firestone Park.

Sense of home

I think any immigrant can speak to this — when you grow up in a country that’s not your own and your parents speak a different language than you, and the larger community is celebrating holidays that are not your own, things are not always in sync. I grew up in a conservative Muslim family and we didn’t have a huge Arab community that we were part of. And the schools I went to were predominantly white, predominantly Christian. Then you think, what is home? My father is a Palestinian refugee. My parents will refer to home, but I can’t stake ownership to that. I’ve never set foot in Palestine, but we refer to it as home.


I just try to focus on my own experience. People want to fit you into a uniform box, or are like, “Oh, you’re our one Arab friend, so obviously your experience is universal to everybody who has ever set foot in the Middle East.”

Political writing

I think I am political in my writing. I think everything is political. The reason I am sitting with you right now at Mustard Seed is because of the 1948 war and the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. Otherwise, I would be there. I consider my whole existence and anywhere I go in this country a political act.


I started with spoken word poetry in high school. I was like 16, 17. It was weird. Now I look back on it and think: Whoa! I just had this inflated sense of confidence. I would just go up and perform these poems. Later, I had to go through and delete every YouTube video that had my name on it, because I was like, “These cannot be online anywhere!”

Killing your poems

Now I go to poetry events and I can’t handle it when people are reading, holding the page [acts out hiding her face behind paper] in front of them and whispering their poems. Or they are reading them in the most monotone way. And I’m like, “Why are you killing your own poem? Let it live!”


I do a lot of journaling. I believe that writing with a pen or a pencil is a good thing to do. I like the feel of that.

A poem a day

This summer, I’ve been trying to write a poem a day. I’m trying to do 60 before the second year starts. Most of them suck. It just becomes quantity over quality instead of making it pretty. Probably five or 10 of them are going to be good enough, potentially, for a collection. If I revise them enough. Then the others are just like dumpster fires.

Noor’s Faves & Raves


A Walk in the Park Cafe [in Firestone Park] is my place to go when I need to escape. They have great food and drinks, and it’s super relaxing inside. I go there a lot to read and work.


A place in Akron that I think is totally underrated is Pierre’s Brooklyn Pizza & Deli in Kenmore. They make the best pizza! My favorite toppings there are green olives and pineapple. If you love pizza, you have to go to Pierre’s.

— Clint O’Connor

Byrne promises mix of songs, ambitious show

David Byrne promises a mix of songs from his solo career, including his latest effort American Utopia, and from his days fronting the art-rock pioneers Talking Heads for his concert at 8 p.m. at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. He calls this “the most ambitious show I’ve done since the shows that were filmed for Stop Making Sense.” Tickets are $30-$145 at

Alt-country band Son Volt to play Kent Stage

Alt-country favorites Son Volt play the Kent Stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 at

Take a dip at metro park lakes while you still can

It’s the final week for lake swimming at Silver Creek and Munroe Falls Metro Parks; both close for the season on Sunday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends, and admission is $5 for ages 5 and older.

Sit down for a free outdoor concert in park

Free outdoor concerts include the Silver Creek Band, 6 p.m. at Crisman Park in Barberton; and the Cover Band (now there’s an honest band name), 7 p.m. at Firestone Park Community Center in Akron.

Canton Bluecoats compete

Cheer on the hometown Canton Bluecoats as they compete in the DCI Tour of Champions show at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon. Eight of the country’s best drum corps will participate, and if you’ve never seen a DCI show, they’re more like high-level theater productions than marching bands, with lots of movement, special effects and virtuoso musicianship. Day of show tickets are $30-$55; gates open at 6 p.m. and the music starts at 7:30.

Free concert at Hardesty

The Howard Street Blues Band puts on a free show at 7 p.m. in Hardesty Park in West Akron.

Sensory-friendly ‘Wonder’ at Canton Palace

The Canton Palace Theatre’s summer family movie series continues with Wonder, showing at 1 p.m. and repeating at 6:30 p.m. in a sensory-friendly environment. Tickets are $1. 330-454-8172,

Maroon 5 headlines Canton stadium concert

The Concert for Legends, featuring Maroon 5, closes out Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities at 8 p.m. at Tom Benson Stadium. Tickets are $50-$275 at

Akron Symphony to perform in cemetery

The Akron Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Concert Season continues with a 7:30 p.m. performance at Glendale Cemetery, 150 Glendale Ave., Akron. It’s free.

Keys to Serenity hosting Cuyahoga Falls event

Keys to Serenity hosts “Keys to the Heart” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Cuyahoga Falls Moose Family Center, 4444 State Road. The free event is for kids affected by the drug epidemic and will feature costumed characters, face painting, photo booth, therapy ponies, firetrucks, dancing, animal shows and more. Call Brenda Ryan at 330-730-0864 or email [email protected].

‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ to end well

It’s your last chance to catch Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of the “bizarre rom-com” All’s Well That Ends Well, performed outdoors at Stan Hywet. Gates open at 6 p.m., curtain at 8. Tickets are $28-$33, $15 students, at 888-718-4253, option 1,

Science Splash at Great Lakes Science Center

Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland’s summer Science Splash bash continues from noon to 5 p.m. with wind-powered boat building, liquid nitrogen ice cream, chemistry experiments and an “explosive” Big Science Show outside on the harbor. All activities are included with general admission.

Few directors could have pulled off the mixture of whimsy and emotion tinged with fun that inhabits Christopher Robin.

Marc Forster creates something of a variation on his 2004 audience pleaser Finding Neverland, which examined how author J.M. Barrie taught a family with a host of children how to play, leading him to create Peter Pan.

Based on a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder, Christopher Robin turns that concept upside down in a way that will please those who fondly remember the many Winnie the Pooh specials that graced various holiday times back in the 1960s and ’70s. They usually featured fine narration from the regal Sebastian Cabot that complemented the common-sense philosophy that often came from the mouth of a silly old bear named Pooh.

Here, an adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor), who vowed to never forget his friends — Pooh, voiced by Youngstown native Jim Cummings, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and, of course, Tigger — in the Hundred Acre Wood, does exactly that. Today it’s called adulting, and after reaching high school age in the pre-World War II Britain, Christopher finds himself following in his father’s footsteps straight to boarding school.

Then tragedy strikes, forcing him to become the man of the household at a tender age. Christopher is the anti-Peter Pan. He must grow up. He goes to war. He falls in love. He marries, becomes a father and, yes, forgets how to truly live as he slaves away as an efficiency expert at a luggage manufacturing company.

He neglects his wife (Haley Atwell) and daughter Maddie (Bronte Carmichael) as he toils devotedly at his company. He’s faced with a challenge when his boss, Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) requests he lower costs by 20 percent. Of course, that means labor costs will likely have to be cut.

Winslow gives him a weekend to come up with a solution, and the stress weighs on him. Pooh, who finds himself alone in the Hundred Acre Wood, seeks Christopher out, hoping he hasn’t been forgotten so they can work together to find his friends.

Despite the fact that the script and Forster tease that Christopher Robin might be suffering from stress-related issues, it’s easy enough to predict where the film will head.

No one should care.

Forster skillfully captures the tone of A.A. Milne’s characters and the subsequent productions drawn from the source material, making resistance to the film’s charms futile.

His camera paints a stark difference between the Hundred Acre Wood and grungy London, which allows the audience to bask in Robin’s conflicted emotions. He is rewarded with a memorable performance from McGregor, who throws himself into the part, portraying it with the right mixture of quasi-desperation, disbelief and, ultimately, joy.

Another standout: Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) as the voice of Eeyore captures the downtrodden donkey perfectly.

Christopher Robin suffers from occasionally languid pacing, but it’s a truly worthy summer entry for families.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected].

Cities are living organisms that change from day to day and year to year. As time passes, some parts of a city can get left behind. This happens for a variety of reasons, because of lack of money, or because the pressure to make a substantive change is too great, and people just can’t comprehend it.

Akron is no different than countless cities throughout North America. Parts of Akron highlight the robust, diverse and quality community we know it to be and other parts seemingly limp along. While we would all love for them to become more vibrant, and of course we would support that type of growth, how to start that ball rolling might be out of our grasp.

One area of Akron that has struggled in the past is its downtown. A group called the Curated Storefront is working to bring it new energy.

On its website, the Curated Storefront says it’s “a series of ongoing exhibitions that will activate unused storefronts with multimedia art installations in downtown Akron, Ohio along Main, Market and Exchange Streets.” Right now they are in 32 storefronts. It may seem like a lot, but if you wander through downtown, you’ll quickly realize that there are so many more storefronts that could be used, and 32 feels like a drop in the bucket.

The Curated Storefront exhibit has been planned to coincide with FRONT International, the new contemporary art triennial based in Cleveland and featuring exhibits throughout the region, including Akron.

So, how is creating installation pieces or small exhibitions of work in vacant storefronts going to change the landscape? The Curated Storefront works to “showcase the work of exemplary local and regional artists along with other local art and cultural objects while lending dynamic visual excitement to the streetscape and attracting the public to Akron’s underutilized urban center.”

In essence, they are temporarily shining a light on a problem area, while creating the “vibe” of what having vibrant commerce all over downtown might look like through the display of quality and interesting artwork.

Candy Coated’s Energy Flows from Serpents Lips, Drips, and Butterfly Wings is made of vinyl graphic stickers, lights, affirmations and magic. It’s located at Little Mayflower, 275-279 S. Main St., and depicts a large purple serpent looking out over a field of gems, crystals and organic plant shapes.

It’s an energetic work that comes across as full of the joy of making, hope and positivity, which stands in striking contrast to the building it’s displayed on. It was created by scanning the artist’s sketchbook drawings and her handmade paper-cuts and then transferring them into a computer program so they could be cut out in sign-maker’s window vinyl.

Michael Loderstedt’s Garden City is an installation piece made of digitally printed paper houses, dried plants, monofilament, hardware and text. It references the “Garden City” movement begun in late 19th century England as a utopian urban design idea that integrated housing for all incomes.

This particular project responds to the garden city of Hellerau, a suburb of Dresden, Germany, and was originally shown there as part of an international art exhibit. Each house represents a specific address in Hellerau. The houses were designed by the artist using photographs crowd-sourced from a neighborhood website, and the interiors were developed from photographs of plants growing in the artist’s own garden in Cleveland.

For Akron, the installation was expanded to include more houses, with added poetic text elements that spill from the houses onto the ground in both German and English. The artist intends this to be a meditation on the potential of all neighborhoods to strive to become the utopian model of a “garden city” ­­— that is, providing for the economic, cultural and community needs of its citizens.

Staring at the installation through the storefront window, there is a sense of aspiration or even exaltation about the houses that comes through. The pieces seemingly float throughout the space and each house exudes its own personality, not unlike a room full of people waiting for you to look at them and listen to their stories, if only for a few moments.

Ian Brill has created two large pieces. Reverie is located at Building #2, 37 N. Main St., and Trunk is at the Akron-Summit County Public Library, 60 N. High St., near the [email protected]

Brill’s work focuses on the creation of interactive, performative and multi-sensorial environments and he has had a lifelong focus on design, specifically pertaining to the impacts of the physical world on the human condition.

Reverie is electronic art made using light-emitting diodes. The piece takes up every window on the front of Building #2, and watching it you get treated to lights and patterns that flow from one pane to the next in fluid motions and patterns. It’s most fun to check out at night.

This work, as much as any included in the storefronts, creates a vibe and sense of potential for downtown Akron. Through the artist’s use of technology he has created something familiar to all of us right now, an electronic screen, and then placed it out for everyone to stare at and ponder. It creates a conversation that transcends color and space, as well as generations and reminds us of what a busy building might look like were we to happen upon it during an evening stroll.

The Curated Storefront is a unique and wonderful way for the visual arts to engage and transform a community. Creating a more vibrant downtown Akron is certainly a project all of us can get behind.

Contact Anderson Turner at [email protected].

Dance festival at Glendale Cemetery

The Heinz Poll Dance Festival continues with GroundWorks DanceTheater, which will perform at 8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Glendale Cemetery in Akron. A children’s interactive program will begin at 7:45 p.m. It’s free.

Soul, Rhythm and Brews in Cuyahoga Falls

The season’s final Cuyahoga Falls Downtown Friday event has a “Soul, Rhythm and Brews” theme with beer tasting, local food, vendors, kids’ activities and music on two stages from 5 to 10 p.m. It takes place at the Falls Amphitheater and Front Street.

Basketball hall of famer to sign book in Montrose

Basketball Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore, all 7 feet 2 inches of him, and co-author Mark Bruner sign Here Comes the A Train! The Story of Basketball Legend Artis Gilmore beginning at 6 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 4015 Medina Road, Bath.

Theater company to present Tammy Faye play

A reading of The Gospel According to Tammy Faye will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Kenmore’s Rialto Theatre as a fundraiser for QuTheater, Akron’s new LGBTQ+ youth theater company. The show, about the late televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, was written by Akron composer JT Buck and playwright Fernando Dovalina of Houston. Cost is $20 or $10 for students. See or call 234-525-1956.

Queen tribute band to perform at Lock 3 Park

Get ready for the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie with Almost Queen, and local favorites the Twist-Offs opening, at 6 p.m. at Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron. Your $5 admission goes to charity.

Outdoor concerts in Goodyear Heights, Barberton

Free outdoor concerts include Moustache Yourself, 7 p.m. at Goodyear Heights Metro Park; and Liverpool Lads, 7 p.m. at the Lake Anna Gazebo in Barberton.

Poet and Akron native Rita Dove is the winner of the 2018 Cleveland Arts Prize Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dove won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for Thomas and Beulah, poems about life in Akron as witnessed by her grandparents. She was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 1993, the youngest ever at age 40 and the first African-American.

Her Collected Poems, 1974-2004 came out in 2016 and was a finalist for the National Book Award. In addition to poetry, she also writes fiction, plays and lyrics.

She is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia and is also serving a one-year term as the New York Times Magazine’s poetry editor. Other honors include the National Humanities Medal and the National Medal of Arts.

Former Beacon Journal artist John “Derf” Backderf, who grew up in Richfield, is the recipient of the Mid-Career Award. His autobiographical graphic novels Punk Rock and Trailer Parks, Trashed and My Friend Dahmer have all earned wide acclaim.

The story of his junior high and high school friendship with future serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was turned into a movie, released last year and filmed partially at Dahmer’s childhood home in Bath.

Backderf also drew the comic strip The City for more than 20 years, appearing in more than 140 publications, including the Village Voice, Chicago Reader and the Los Angeles Reader.

Other recipients of 2018 Cleveland Arts Prizes are:

• Darius Steward, Emerging Artist Award for visual arts.

• Mark Reigelman, Emerging Artist Award for design.

• John Williams, Mid-Career Award for design.

• William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Barbara S. Robinson Prize for advancement of the arts.

• Louise and the late Thomas Boddie of the Boddie Recording Co., Robert Bergman Prize for dedication to a democratic vision of art.

• Suzanne DeGaetano, co-owner of Mac’s Backs: Books on Coventry, Martha Joseph Prize for contributions to the vitality and stature of the arts in Northeast Ohio.

• Robert P. Madison, architect, special award for past Arts Prize recipients.

• Verge Fellowships: Stephen Bivens (visual arts), Stephanie Fields (literature), Amanda King (visual arts), Damien McClendon (literature), and Kayla Thomas (dance).

The Cleveland Arts Prize’s 58th annual awards ceremony will be held on Oct. 21 at the Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Tickets are $75-$250 and go on sale Sept. 1. at

Behold the power of cheese. And wine. Watch the sparks fly when you get the two together. The perfect two.

Tim Sahr, owner of the Kent Cheesemonger, has that power. If you haven’t been there, put it on your list. Cheeses can be just as complex as wines.

Cow, goat, sheep, buffalo. Oh, my. Sahr is making Kent grate again.

I took a trip to see cheesemonger Tim and was joined by former British Open champion Ben Curtis, his lovely wife, Candace, and a bottle of their new 2017 Fairway & Vines chardonnay.

The wine is 100 percent Lodi chardonnay with a beautiful nose of tropical fruit. Think mango, banana and a little peach. Just a kiss of oak. A few more sips and it was time for the cheesemonger to do his magic.

“Cheeses and wines are both very complex,” Sahr said. “You can get that dynamic explosion in your mouth when you get the right ones together.”

He quickly came back with a couple of great options: A few slices of Cassetica di Buffala, an Italian buffalo milk cheese that actually tasted better with a sip of the wine. The second option was a personal favorite of mine: McKenzie Creamery Chèvre goat cheese made in Hiram.

I’m a fan of almost any goat cheese, especially McKenzie.

Sahr suggested a dab of peach jam to bring out that flavor in the wine.

“Don’t be afraid to experiment and ask questions,” he said. “That’s the fun part about it.”

The Curtises, who live in Stow, regularly enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. A food and wine pairing at Cliff Family Winery in the Napa Valley was an eye-opener for them.

“The pairing was pretty impressive. We had a pizza and some cheeses and jams to pair with each wine. It was perfect,” Ben said.

“It really helped sell the wine,” Candace added.

The evening had one more surprise as the Curtises brought along a bottle of their 2016 Fairway & Vines red blend, which had yet to be released.

I definitely wasn’t cheesed off by the opportunity to taste a bottle.

On their annual trip to California, they met winemaker Rich Parducci at his Alexander Valley winery and sampled barrels of zinfandel, syrah, petit syrah and a few others that make up port wines to come up with this blend.

My first impression was: prisoner killer. Cult fans of Dave Phinney’s (The Prisoner) zin blend, you have just been served notice.

I thought Ben was yanking my chain when he said it would cost $19.99! Come on, man!

Sahr had one more cheese to take this night to a new level. A few slices of Gouda from Old Forge Dairy in Brimfield, and now my 2016 Fairway & Vines is atop the leader board.

All in all, it was a Gouda time.

Buy the chardonnay ($14.99) or the red blend ($19.99) at the Kent Cheesemonger, Campus Wine Cellar and by the glass or bottle at Treno Ristorante.

Read more Phil Your Glass wine stories at Contact him at [email protected].