06/09/13 8:44pm
06/09/2013 8:44 PM

JOE DOLL COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Idol winner 2013 Taylor Burgess.

Tonight, Riverhead has a new Idol.

When 16-year-old Taylor Burgess stepped onto the stage to perform, those in attendance saw a calm teenager. When she opened her mouth for the first notes of “Breathless,” a Corinne Bailey Rae song she says she loves, they heard just how talented she is.

By the time she stepped off the stage, the audience was left mesmerized.

The Riverhead High School junior, who hopes to study vocal performance and dreams of one day being famous, was the winner of tonight’s Riverhead Idol competition at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.

After the performance, judge Dee Martin could only gush.

“That was effortless,” she said. “It was seamless. It was gorgeous.”

JOE DOLL COURTESY PHOTO | Riverhead Idol 2013 winner Taylor Burgess, right, with second place finalist Ryan Mancini and third place finalist Megan Schlichting.

Ms. Burgess won a $250 cash prize, a $150 gift card to Tanger Outlet Center, $50 at The All-Star bowling alley and a trophy. Second place went to Ryan Mancini, an eighth grader from Riverhead Middle School, while third place was awarded to Megan Schlichting, a seventh grader.

When asked how she prepared for today’s competition, Ms. Burgess smiled.

“The shower,” she said with a laugh. “I sing in the shower.”

Read more about the Riverhead Idol competition in Thursday’s issue of the News-Review.

05/30/13 1:48pm
05/30/2013 1:48 PM
Downtown Riverhead, Blues & Music Festival, Vail-Leavitt

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Robert Ross of NYC at the 2012 Blues Festival in June.

The Riverhead Blues Festival as we know it is no more.

At least for this year.

Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

Bob Barta, president of downtown’s Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, confirmed Thursday theater officials did not submit an application to hold the two-day music festival on town property downtown.

The once-wildly popular festival, which has served as the historic theater’s chief fundraiser, will likely be restructured as a series of in-house events, tentatively scheduled for September, Mr. Barta said.

Mr. Barta said Vail-Leavitt officials hope to hold the festival outdoors in the future.

“We’re unsure at this point, but we’re trying to work things so that we can hopefully have it outdoors in coming years,” he said.

Mr. Barta said there were “a couple of factors involved” regarding Vail-Leavitt’s decision to call off the outdoor festival, but could not comment further at this time.

Initially run by the downtown Business Improvement District, the original Riverhead Blues Festival ran into financial troubles and for the past six years — save for another year it was canceled, in 2011 — the festival has been run as a fundraiser for the historic Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue.

The festival had traditionally been held in July until last year, when it moved to June and lost $8,720, Vail-Leavitt officials have said.

Theater officials had said in March they were hoping to hold a two-day outdoor event in September on the north side of Main Street.

The festival has always been held on the south side of Main Street.

ryoung@timesreview.com

05/01/13 4:00pm

JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO | Sophia Parise (left) accepts her first place award last year from Rose Sanders in the Riverhead Idol contest, which will be held in June this year.

Riverhead Idol will be back this year, a little later than usual, and it will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary, said Riverhead Councilman Jim Wooten, who annually serves as the master of ceremony for the singing contest.

This year’s competition will be held at 2 p.m. June 9 at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Mr. Wooten said.

“We normally have it in March, and we were going to do it in early May, but between the testing they were having at the schools, and the fact that they they had a play going on, we moved it back,” he said. “A lot of the kids in the contest are multi-talented — they are in the choir and in band and in plays and the Blue Masques — so we wanted to make sure they are all done with those things first.”

This year’s Idol will be held in the afternoon for the first time because that’s when the theater was available, Mr. Wooten said.

Auditions will be held May 15 at Riverhead High School and at the middle school the next day. May 17 may also be used for auditions, he said.

From there, the field will be narrowed down to about a dozen singers for the June 9 show.

“Last year, we had about 40 people audition,” Mr. Wooten said.

The fact that the town doesn’t have a Youth Bureau director this year also may have contributed to the show’s later date, Mr. Wooten said.

“I think there was some confusion as to who would be running this,” he said.

Longtime Youth Bureau director Donna Lyczkowski retired last August and her position was not filled. The recreation department took over those duties.

Mr. Wooten said recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne took the job along with volunteers who served on the Riverhead Youth Advisory Committee and set up the June 9 date. The youth bureau and the advisory committee had produced the event in years past, Mr. Wooten said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/30/13 10:00am
03/30/2013 10:00 AM
Downtown Riverhead, Blues & Music Festival, Vail-Leavitt

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Robert Ross of NYC at the 2012 Blues Festival in June.

This year’s Riverhead Blues Festival will likely be held in September to avoid conflicting with other events, according to Bob Barta, the president of Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which has held the event as a fundraiser since 2006.

The festival had traditionally been held in July until last year, when it was moved to June and lost $8,720, according to Vail-Leavitt officials.

“We had originally planned to have it at the end of June, but then there were all sorts of conflicting events being planned then, so we decided we were going to reschedule it, and right now, we’re looking at dates in September,” Mr. Barta said. “It will be after Labor Day, and the idea will be to try and do it at a time when there aren’t such a hugh number of events going on at the same time.”

A September festival also figures to have cooler weather, Mr. Barta said.

Last year marked the return of the Blues Festival after a one year hiatus in 2011. The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District were involved in dispute over who would run the festival in 2010.

“Last year, the big thing was that we unwittingly set ourselves up against the Strawberry Festival,” Mr. Barta said, alluding to the fact that the 2012 Blues Festival took place at the same time as the popular Mattituck festival. “That was really one of the biggest problems on our point.”

He said they are being careful to pick a date that doesn’t conflict with other popular events.

“There have always been issues with trying to not conflict with other big festivals like the Great South Bay Festival in Patchogue, which would limit certain acts from being available,” he said.

While town officials have said the Riverfront parking lot in downtown Riverhead might not be available for big events much longer once the Summerwind apartments open, Mr. Barta says Vail-Leavitt is hoping to have the Blues Festival there this year.

“We’ve been having discussions with representatives from the town about trying to have one last shot back in some version of the back parking lot,” Mr. Barta said. “We’re trying to see if that is workable. We started looking at other locations, but we have a preference for the back parking lot because it allows us to showcase the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, and it allows us to showcase the riverfront. We’d like to have it back there.”

Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill said the BID is hoping to hold its concerts in the Riverfront lot as well this summer, with the stage placed along the riverfront, so the audience faces the river. When Summerwind opens, the residents in the 52 apartment units will be permitted to use the riverfront lot as their parking lot.

The Town Board has a public hearing scheduled on a proposal to establish a three-hour parking limit in a section of the lot between Tweed’s and Cody’s BBQ.

Mr. Barta says Vail-Leavitt hasn’t determined exactly where in the back parking lot the festival would be located.

Mr. Barta said holding the event in September will help give them time to dig out of the financial hole.

“We’ve partly dug out already,” he said. “This coming month, we thought we were on a track to be completely dug out by the summer, but as it worked out, our bookings for April were a bit light.”

He said they’ve gotten a little more than halfway out of the hole, and they plan to hold some fundraising events to act as kickoff events for the season and to give them “a boost” as they head toward the Blues Festival.

In past years, the Blues Festival would already have been scheduled by this time, but no application has been submitted to the town for the event yet this year.

Mr. Barta says Vail-Leavitt still plans to make the festival a two-day weekend event and still plans to charge admission, although a price hasn’t been determined.

The BID originally ran the festival as a free event before facing a huge debt in 2005. Vail-Leavitt took over the event in 2006 as a fundraiser for its non-profit organization and began charging an admission fee.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/18/13 3:30pm
03/18/2013 3:30 PM
Fame Jr. In Riverhead

EAST END CHILDREN’S THEATER COMPANY COURTESY PHOTO | Performers in the company’s ‘mainstage program’ in a photo from last year. The same young actors will be performing FAME Jr.

The little actors and actresses of the East End Children’s Theatre Company will be debuting an original showcase, FAME Jr., at the Vail Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead this weekend.

Vail-Leavitt downtown Riverhead

FILE PHOTO | Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue.

Tickets for the show cost $10. The shows are scheduled for 6 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday nights, and again at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The show is “a very energetic, funny rendition of Fame, with amazingly talented kids,” said Selina Pasca, company co-director and acting coach.

The story is based on a prestigious acting school in New York City.

The story is based on a prestigious acting school in New York City.

Kristen Poulakis, who co-directs with Ms. Pasca, trained the children on vocals and dance.

The pair founded the children’s theatre company in September, bringing together their individual talents.

Ms. Pasca’s skills in writing and improvisation, paired with Ms. Poulakis’ skills in song and dance bring a unique experience to young students, ages 4 to 16 years old, they say.

“I write these shows according to who’s in the company,” Ms. Pasca said. “I meet the kids first, [then] I write what will be fun for them.”

“We find out what their strengths are by playing games,” said Ms. Poulakis. “We decide at that point where to put them in the show. It depends on what naturally shines thorough.”

The duo will also be hosting an open house for interested kids and parents on March 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Vail Leavitt Music Hall.

cmiller@timesreview.com

11/19/12 2:51pm
11/19/2012 2:51 PM
Starshine Burlesque, Coney Island, Brooklyn, Riverhead, Downtown Riverhead, Vail-Leavitt

SUNSHINE BURLESQUE COURTESY PHOTO/DALE HARRIS | Performer Little Brookyn of Brooklyn-based Starshine Burlesque.

A Coney Island burlesque troupe will be bringing strip-teases, magic acts and live music to the historic Vail-Leavitt Music Hall for an adult-only stage next month.

“Mondo Vaude” will be produced by Chris Jones and Bob Barta, who have both played gigs as musicians for decades.

“We were brainstorming about putting together a show at the Vail-Leavitt, and Chris began talking about Coney Island performers he had met while in Brooklyn,” Mr. Barta said. “From that point, it took on a life of its own.”

The show will feature a master of ceremonies from the Coney Island USA Sideshow School, a magician who has appeared on Good Day New York and Fox 5 News, and a pair of award-winning burlesque performers named Little Brooklyn and Creamy Stevens.

“[It's] adult-themed entertainment, but it’s not raunch or porn or anything,” Mr. Barta said with a laugh.

The women are co-producers of the popular Starshine Burlesque in Brooklyn and are coming to the East End for the first time.

“Not only have we never had burlesque at the Vail before but I haven’t been able to find anything going back decades,” Mr. Barta said.

The show also star Kryssy Kocktail, a Brooklyn native who performs as a sword swallower and blade box girl with the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.

Live music will be provided by the Moto-Wrays, an instrumental group that specializes in retro surf rock, and the Sunnyland Jazz Band, a Long Island-based group of versatile musicians specializing in the New Orleans and Chicago-style traditional jazz popular in classic burlesque.

The show will be held on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. Advance tickets cost $39 each and are available at www.mondovaude.com. Tickets at the door will cost $44 each, if any tickets are available. No one under 17 years of age will be admitted. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. and beer and wine will be served.

psquire@timesreview.com

10/05/12 8:00am
10/05/2012 8:00 AM
Riverhead, Vali-Leavitt Music Hall, British Invasion, Chad and Jeremy

COURTESY PHOTO | A recent photograph of Chad Stuart (left) and Jeremy Clyde in London.

The Chad and Jeremy rock and roll group, part of the so-called British Invasion of the 1960s and singers of hits “Yesterday’s Gone” and “A Summer Song” are performing tonight, Friday, at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in downtown Riverhead.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets for the show, produced by Sandpiper Ice Cream of Greenport, which previously brought former Monkee Peter Tork to the North Fork, are $25 for general admission and $35 for VIP seating. Tickets are available at sandpiper.ticketleap.com.

We recently caught up with Chad Stuart, one half of Chad and Jeremy (Jeremy Clyde).

He talked about their music, their breakup after Mr. Clyde returned to England to pursue an acting career, and the duo’s rebirth.

Q: You and Jeremy have been performing together for more than half a century. How have you done it?
A: Well, we cheated because we have not performed consistently for the past half-century. If we had, we would have killed each other long ago. We officially broke it off at the end of the ’60s. Jeremy decided he wanted to go back to acting and went back to London, which was sort of inevitable. He’s a unique person. He’s also the nephew of the Duke of Wellington.

Q: What did you do during the ’70s?
A: I floundered about L.A. and did a lot of arranging. I was a staff producer at A&M Records and media director for the Smothers Brothers. I tried my hand at just about everything. I was trained as an arranger and am basically the musician of the duo. Jeremy’s the actor. Actors don’t work, they just pretend to work.

Q: Was he acting when you met?
A: Yes. I met him at a drama school in London called the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Q: How did you reunite?
A: We did a tour called the British Invasion II, which is a bit embarrassing, but it was quite lucrative and fun to do. I put together a band of my friends in L.A., so it was kind of fun.

Q: What do you mean embarrassing? Was it embarrassing to be part of the British Invasion?
A: It is, in retrospect. They keep trotting it out. You can see a cartoon on our website that has this grizzled old veteran chatting up this younger woman in a bar and he says, “Perhaps you remember me from the British Invasion.” And she says, “1776 or 1812?”

Q: Did you feel like a commodity during that time?
A: Oh, absolutely, and we didn’t get paid for the first three hit singles and two albums.

Q: Sounds like they took you to the cleaners.
A: They took everyone to the cleaners. It wasn’t just them. That’s just the way it was because we were kids and didn’t have the faintest idea what we were doing, so that was hopeless. Jeremy’s connected — his father was a movie producer and partner at Douglas Fairbanks studio and his mother, the Lady Ms. Clyde, was pals with the Rat Pack. She was amazing. I came out of nowhere and we ended up as house guests at Dean Martin’s house.

Q: What was that like?
A: It was amazing. They had a huge house with two laundresses, a housekeeper and a cook in Beverly Hills. The kids were great, too. They had this huge garden and a tennis court and a swimming pool. I’d never seen anything like it. I’d never seen houses with bug screens on the window. I was in my room with its own bathroom, which is unheard of in England, and I was looking out through the bug screens thinking “Gosh, what are they keeping out?” It was crazy. Uncle Frank [Sinatra] would come over and I remember sitting on a couch talking to him.

Q: What was the most memorable thing he said to you?
A: “When you’re singing, you have to sing in the mask. If your face isn’t registering, you’re not singing properly.” Excuse me, I’m a bit hoarse right now because of the fires in Idaho — you can hardly see the mountains for the smoke.

Q: Is that where you live now?
A: That’s right. Sun Valley, Idaho. People get inordinately proud of where they live, but [my wife, Jules, and I] live in a really lovely part of the world. We’ve got a stream running through the garden and a pond and all that. There’s a big pond across the street and you can go sailing on it.

gvolpe@timesreview.com

09/29/12 11:00am
09/29/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Thursday evening.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James, debated Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate, moderated by Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly, can be seen below in three parts.