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Composer Miguel Kertsman is nothing if not prolific. With an eclectic oeuvre and a genre-defying take on the music world, Kertsman has turned his talents to everything from composing to producing, creating work across the music spectrum from Orchestral, Operatic, and Chamber Music, to Experimental, and Jazz. This week, O Saci, His children’s show about the power of friendship has its US premiere right here in Chicago. Our Town spoke with Kertsman about his methods and what to expect from the family friendly show.

Our Town How does music come to you?
Miguel Kertsman Music is out there, in here and everywhere in our environment, our lives, our routines, in our world, in the universe and the cosmos. I feel composers are very fortunate to have the urge, desire, and ability to tap into all those sources and channel some of that fantastic energy -- sharing it with others, telling stories, conveying feelings and emotions through sound. Music can come in a dream, in the shower, during a walk, while implementing a totally unrelated task, in the city or in the country. Sometimes there may be a "reason" to write a piece: A person, an event, a commission, a theme. Sometimes the music simply comes to be because it needs to.

OT What’s your method for composing?
MK I write what I hear internally at any given moment and what I feel -- it could be a rather tender, tonal melody today, or a very textural, experimental, chaotic work tomorrow. Sometimes I allow myself to get more cerebral about the writing process; however, most of the time I write what I hear and what I feel -- genres or styles are irrelevant. Concerning methodologies, I still prefer to write by hand, with pencil and paper. Naturally, computer programs can be helpful, especially for mechanical work such as generating engraved, publishing-quality printed scores and parts for the musicians. However, I personally am not a fan of having a computer between the music and me during the creative process, unless the computer's resources would in fact support the aesthetics of the work at hand. I feel we spend far much too much time in front of a computer or other electronic device as it is.

OT Do you write or hear a single line at a time or multiple lines?
MK Either, depending on the piece. When writing orchestral music I write multiple parts on the fly and as I go along since the final product is often already playing internally in full sound -- as if you would be listening to your own internal radio station. It often becomes a matter of writing down and transcribing what you hear. If the orchestral score has, let's say, 32 individual parts (various winds, brass, percussion, strings, choir, special instruments, etc.) I will often write down the most important parts, and make decisions on other lines later -- for example, I may decide to have the third trumpet doubling the first violins at a certain passage, or add another percussion part or effect -- those are often important details, the icing on the cake. When writing pieces with lyrics or Jazz pieces, one can often hear / write a melodic line, and subsequently harmonize it. In such an instance, that represents a more vertical way of composing music.

OT How does improvising impact your compositions or are you more formal about your work?
MK J.S. Bach was an incredible improviser, as were many of the other great Masters -- would that make their music less formal? Improvisation can be a fantastic tool for composition.

OT What would a non-musician be most surprised to find out about a composer’s creative process?
MK I often notice expressions of amazement from people when talking about hearing full or finished symphonic pieces internally that yet do not physically exist. Well, I am just as much in awe when an architect, painter or graphic artist sees a finished work in her /his mind's eye which also does not yet physically exist.

It’s been a memorable year. I for one, misplaced a pair of black Converse and made a tolerable mustard/soy sauce marinade. I know many other Chicagoans had similarly staggering peaks and heartrending valleys. That’s why today’s blog is devoted to celebrating the common man. The New York Times may have award-winning photographers and poignant headlines, but I have my parents standing inches from me having an irate discussion about the temperature of my father’s oatmeal. That friends, is what it’s really about.

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This weekend at Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan, I didn’t think about my thighs. Afterward, perusing the official website, I searched for an explanation.

Perhaps I have the 1,950 acres of greenery or the magnificent Lake Michigan shoreline to thank. Possibly responsible: the 221 modern and rustic campsites, the 6 miles of trails, and the rugged dune formation rising 240 feet above the lake. Maybe stunned by the clean water and wooded pathways with which Mother Nature blessed this serene getaway-spot, I could practice only love and acceptance for the gifts she’d bestowed upon me.




September seems a ways off, but not if you plan to run Chicago’s 14th Annual Half Marathon and 5K at 7 a.m. on Sept. 12. As far as I’m concerned, the early bird catches the syphilis, but for those of you who fancy waking up at the break of dawn to run 13.1 miles, now’s the time to start training. Well, now or five weeks ago, because according to multiple unnamed but very official websites, the optimal timeframe in which to train for a half marathon is nine weeks.

Sponsored by New Balance, Gatorade and Ryder, the event sold out in 2009 and is only accepting 20,000 runners this year. According to the website, highlights include a “scenic view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan,” and a “commemorative long-sleeve T-shirt,” less than persuasive if you ask me. The lakefront is there whether you’re sweating and chafing or just sitting on a beach blanket sipping lemonade, and Village Discount sells long-sleeved shirts for less than a buck.

3 Things To Do Today

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Seu Jorge, Almaz
8 p.m. at Logan Square Auditorium; $25
Multi-talented musician and actor Seu Jorge has been touring to promote his self-titled album, taking a three-week North American tour.

Wine 102
7:30 p.m. at Webster's Wine Bar; $40
Take your oenophilia up a notch with this course and tasting on the basics of wine structures.

Dance in the Park
6:30 p.m. at Douglas Park Cultural & Community Center; free
Learn moves from the Douglas Park Dance Program students at this quarterly dance event.

3 Things To Do Today

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Movies in the Park
The summer-long Park District series features child’s-play fantasy "Where the Wild Things Are" at Cricket Hill (Montrose and Simonds). "The Longshots," about the first girl to play Pop Warner football, plays at Union Park (Ashland and Lake). For a little international flavor, see Cuban import “El Premio Flaco” at Mozart Park (2036 N. Avers Ave). All shows are free.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, Bomba Estereo
6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park; free
Sultry soul singer Naomi Shelton will melt the stage with her raspy, powerful lyrics as part of the New Music Mondays series.

8 p.m. Hamburger Mary’s; $5 per card
This ain’t your grandmother’s bingo game. Drag queen Velicity Metropolis makes calling out bingo numbers as raunchy as possible at this adults-only game.

Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.

Asked to name key life experiences, many cite a first kiss (mine had just gulped chocolate cake and Doritos … next), a wedding day (please, what’s the divorce rate now, 100%?), or the birth of a child (new life, big deal, let’s talk about that time I made the ultimate BLT).

All of the above is well and good (no it isn’t), but pales in comparison to my plans for Friday. At exactly 8:30 p.m. I will be reclining in Chase Park watching The Never Ending Story outdoors on the big screen. I challenge you to conjure a more profoundly perfect experience.

Growing up, I enjoyed a strict diet of public television and Hollywood musicals; my exposure to anything pop culture was almost nonexistent, so the movies I did see may have been unduly influential. However, I’d venture that even a kid whose mother didn’t play the autoharp and make her own yogurt could name one special movie that resonated, made a sweet home inside her, influencing her childhood games, and even her later life choices. For me, Flight of the Navigator came close, and I am still terrified of Disney’s Watcher in the Woods, but The Never Ending Story is mine.

Let me break it down:


Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho. Got a question? Email her!

Once upon a time, a novel called The Notebook was made into a sappy yet sexy movie that left people romanticizing Alzheimer's disease and fantasizing about rowboat dates through nature. Here's how to make those dreams come true (minus the debilitating disease):

RICH MAN: Once a month, Chicago River Paddle offers a "dinner cruise" called the Moonlight Dinner Paddle. For $45 a person, you get to choose a boat and head out with your sweetheart in the early evening from the Chicago River on the Northwest Side, stopping for a riverside picnic dinner of Persian chicken skewers and grilled veggies from Noon-o-Kabab vegetarian options available, before paddling back by moonlight. The trip is around three hours long, departing at 6 p.m. Call (773) 704-2663 soon -- this month's trip is on Saturday! -- for reservations.

POOR MAN: In the perpetual search for free (or nearly free) things to do in Chicago that might remotely be romantic, I am constantly defaulting to Chicago Park District offerings. This week is no different, because beach season officially opened on May 28. While the Rich Man enjoys turtle sightings and the antique Addison Bridge, you and your cheap date can hit Kathy Osterman Beach (aka Hollywood Beach), a native dune habit and bird and butterfly sanctuary. No life preserver needed.

The Chicago Outdoor Film Festival in Grant Park may be gone (at least for this year), but that doesn't mean alfresco cinema is out the window for this summer. Plenty of movies will be shown in the city's parks all season long, beginning on June 18. The Chicago Park District just released its schedule for 2010, which includes everything from "The Goonies" and "Ghostbusters" to "The Blind Side" and "Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself." Check out the full schedule here.

The good news: Tickets for the 10th annual Green City Market BBQ (July 15, 6-8 p.m.), which features food and drink from some of Chicago's top chefs, including representatives from Avec, David Burke's Primehouse, Hot Chocolate, Naha, Perennial and more, go on sale today.

The bad news: They're $100 each, which is about twice the price of last year's event. Still, you will get all the gourmet refreshments you can handle for two solid hours, and help to support a worthy non-profit. It's up to you to decide whether it's worth it, but don't take too long -- the BBQ sold out fairly quickly in '09.

The outdoor market (1790 N. Clark) will be open today from 7 a.m.-1 p.m., and tickets for the BBQ will be available on-site. A special kick-off event including guided tours, a gardening workshop, chef demonstrations, tastings and more will happen Saturday from 7:30 a.m.-noon.

Check out Centerstage's full schedule of Chicago-area farmers markets.

Don't be alarmed if you see something like this on Michigan Avenue on Friday.

Jimmy Kuehnle's Inflatable Suit Tour
Noon Friday at Grant Park; free
Looking to add a little weird to your weekend? Check out this Michigan-based "performance artist" known for wearable inflatable suits during his public shows. will make performance treks through the city. We're not sure how else to describe the show, other than a guy in a big inflatable suit walking down the street and talking to people. Yeah, you probably have to see this one to believe it.

Svengoolie will be among the spooky stars at this weekend's Ghost Conference. (photo via

Chicago Ghost Conference
5-11 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m.-midnight Saturday; Portage Theater; $50 for a two-day pass
Join paranormal experts and speakers for this annual event about all things otherworldly. This year's speakers include Lorraine Warren from A&E's "Paranormal State" and Jeff Belanger, paranormal author and creator of, who join members of paranormal groups from around the country to educate, inform, network, share ideas and entertain others that are fascinated with the supernatural. If that's not enough, Chicago legend Svengoolie makes an appearance on Friday night.


African Festival of the Arts
All day Friday-Monday, Washington Park (51st and Cottage Grove), $5-10 or $30 for a weekend pass
The 20th installment of this immensely popular South Side festival finishes with a bang as the "Godfather of Funk" himself, George Clinton, headlines on Monday. Leading up to that, check out acts like The Pharcyde and Booker T. Jones (Saturday), Ahmad Jamaal and the Soukous Stars (Sunday). There's also a kids tent and a food court with traditional African fare.


If you've ever dreamed of being in the Guinness Book of World Records, now's your chance. Tonight, the Goodman Theatre, in partnership with the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival's showing of the Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup," will attempt to set the record for "most people wearing Groucho Marx glasses" at the same time. Arrive at Butler Field in Grant Park between 6-7 p.m. and sign in near the screen to get your free glasses. In order to be considered for the book, everyone will have to wear the glasses for at least 10 minutes and pose for photos and video (around 8:15 p.m.).

...or you could just come for the movie, which begins at 8:52 p.m. (sunset).

Want to avoid the scene altogether? Try one of these area drive-in theaters.

Where the boys are Part I
Chicago Sport and Social Club celebrates 20 years with its Volleywood Beach Bash from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at North Beach, 1600 N. Lake Shore. Teams will be competing (make new friends and cheer on your favorites). Live music kicks off at noon, and MC Hammer will perform at some point. The 21-and-over party is free. More info:


Where the boys are Part II
Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party (Madison and Desplaines). The annual event is a bona fide “meet” market. Which is a good thing, because our dance card still isn’t full. Ben Folds rocks the mainstage at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $40 (includes five drink tickets good for beer, wine soda or water). Ages 21 and over. Call (312) 648-1590 or visit

Where the boys are Part III
Offer to share both your blanket and your picnic for two at the Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park (201 E. Randolph). Christopher Bell conducts the Grant Park Orchestra in selections from Gilbert and Sullivan at 7:30 p.m. Free. Call (312) 742-7638.

Tell us your three favorite things about being single in the city!


Chicago Folk & Roots Festival
Saturday-Sunday at Welles Park; $8
The Old Town School of Folk Music's eclectic annual fest may fly a bit under the radar of many Chicagoans, but to know it is to love it (especially if you've got kids in tow). Don't be fooled by the name, as you'll find a whole lot more than just folk music here; this year's eclectic lineup includes throwback soul (Austin's Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears), Mediterranean electro (France's Watcha Clan) and what we'll describe as Indian-inspired club sounds (Karsh Kale, from New York).

3 Things We Love About ... the 4th of July!

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1. Life!
As in “get an active one.” There are miles of lakefront perfect for walking, blading or biking.

Of course, if you’re at the beach-slash-lakefront this weekend, you’ll be people watching. You can’t help it. Your attention will wander and then ... hey ... look at that guy!
So make a game of it ...

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Click to download all four of our Beach Bingo cards ...

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As you spot something in each square, mark it off. First one to make bingo wins — er, another hot dog?

2. Liberty!
As in Lady Liberty. She always said she wanted your tired, your hungry and your poor. While we aren’t sure about the tired part, the $9 Lady of Liberty salad (Bordeaux baby spinach, diced grapefruit,avocados, chopped garlic, strawberries, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of apple cider vinegar) at Martini Park (151 W Erie; 312-644-0577) will take care of the hunger and certainly won’t make you poor.


3. And the pursuit of happiness!
Which, for us, means fireworks. Like watching the ball drop in New York’s Times Square on New Year’s Eve, watching Fourth of July Fireworks at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand; 312-595-7437) is one of those things you have to do at least once in your life. Make it this year. Things kick off at 9 p.m. Saturday, but you’ll want to get there early.

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All together now: Oooooooooh! Aaaaaaaahhh!

Tell us your favorite three things about the 4th!

3 Things We Love About ... Chicago fountains

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See more photos of Chicago fountains here.

1. They’re world-class
With a 1.5 million gallon capacity, 134 powerful jets and 820 lights that may well be visible from outer space (or at least a faraway really tall building), Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park does nothing in half measures and lures gawking tourists from all over creation — many of whom have never seen an episode of “Married With Children.”

2. They’re an excellent alternative to wimpy backyard sprinklers.
The Crown Fountains at Millennium Park are a tot favorite for just that reason. Glass towers that stand 50 feet tall, they sport blinking, smiling, kinda creepy human faces that intermittently gush forth cool aqua into a shallow and barefoot-friendly wading pool. Ah, summer bliss.

3. They’re much-needed settings of serenity.
Wherever the fountain is — whether it’s in the Chicago Women’s Park, 1827 S. Indiana (behind the Clarke House Museum), or the one on the southern end of Loyola University’s lake shore campus — they offer a tranquil respite from the breakneck pace that is city life.

Tell us your three favorite things about Chicago fountains!

The Mix: Really cool things to do

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Mmmmm, authentic tacos ... (File)

Get a jump on the celebration of an important Mexican victory over the French on May 5, 1862, with the three-day Cinco de Mayo Festival in Douglas Park, 1401 S. Sacramento. Live music, performances, food, carnival rides and games are expected to attract as many as 250,000 people today through Sunday. Admission is free, though some attractions are not. A colorful neighborhood parade will step off from Cermak and Damen at noon Sunday. Call (773) 843-9738;

But wait, there's more! Check out this list of Cinco de Mayo events all over town.

More events after the jump ...

3 Things We Love About ... Evanston

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1. McGaw YMCA youth programs
Evanston’s “Y” has shrewdly brought together generations of kids from all corners of this diverse suburb with its youth sports leagues, swimming classes, after-school programs and its crown jewel: Camp Echo, a rural Michigan summer camp. The “Y,” at 1000 Grove St. and open since 1885, is a community hub — and often the answer to why Evanston kids all seem to know each other.

2. Buffalo Joe’s
Everyone’s got their favorite wing joint nowadays, but if you haven’t tried Joe Prudden’s at 812 Clark Street in downtown Evanston, you should stay out of the discussion. God knows it’s not the decor, the ancient video games, the prices or the crowded waiting area that brings people back again and again — it’s the ridiculously good wings and the Cheddar-covered waffle fries. Nothing bad comes off the flaming grill there, but it’s in the deep fryers and the secret Buffalo sauce where the magic happens.


3. Lighthouse Beach
Each of Evanston’s six public beaches has its own character and draw, but nothing beats the backdrop provided by the 113-foot-tall Grosse Point lighthouse guarding the suburb’s northernmost beach. Completed just north of Central Street in 1873 in the wake of the Lady Elgin disaster (some 400 died when the steamer was rammed by a schooner in the middle of the night), the lighthouse still shines today.

Tell us your three favorite things about Evanston!

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