Cliburn award winner scheduled to perform at UAA

Mike Dunham
Plein air artist Jim Leach paints Mount McKinley from Denali State Park.
Photo courtesy of Alaska State Parks

The announcement last week that Sa Chen, among the top winners of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will present a recital at the University of Alaska next month certainly caught my attention.

In November 2005 the acclaimed virtuoso gave an impressive solo concert in Atwood Concert Hall. This time, she will perform in the UAA Arts Building Recital Hall -- maybe the most intimate venue in which she's played lately, aside from her living room.

The recital will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18. Tickets are available at, or should be soon.

Denali reality check

An exhibit of large-format photographs by Tim Remick of physically and emotionally ravaged mountain climbers taken "mere moments after they stumbled into Mount McKinley's base camp" will open Friday at the Anchorage Museum.

"I really wanted to have a single frame at the end of the experience that caught the exhaustion, the adrenaline, the emotion," Remick said, and the enormous photos (about 5 feet tall) may make you wince.

Remick will give a talk at the museum at 8 p.m. Friday, which is also First Friday, meaning that museum admission is free starting at 6 p.m. "After: Portraits from Denali" will remain on display through April 15

Death on McKinley

"After" coincides with the release of a new book, "Should I Not Return," by Jeff Babcock (Publication Consultants). The Daily News has not yet received a copy to include in "Reading the North," but Alaska author Steven Levi has and sent the following as a "You Be the Critic" letter:

Every once in a while a book comes along that, quite literally, chills you to death in your own living room. But "Should I Not Return" is not a book of horror or ghosts from unknown. It's a mountain climbing book that culminates with the saga of the recovery of the bodies of a group of climbers on Mt. McKinley who vanished in the 1960s.

While this book would have been a good read if it had only been one of mountaineering forensics, what made it spine tingling was not just the writing -- readable and understandable even if you are not a mountain climber -- but the photographs. If you ever wanted to know just how dangerous mountain climbing is, this is the book to read. The photographs alone are worth the price.

By the time you finish the book you will wonder not only why anyone would tempt Mother Nature in as desolate an environment as could be created on earth.

As to the story, it was gripping. Not being a mountain climber I had only a vague idea of what actually transpired. Now I know in mind numbing detail. The tale of the corpse recovery aside, the book will chill you to the bone when you realize you are walking the footsteps of some very brave individuals.

Wear your parka when you read this book.

(Readers are invited to send critiques of local arts to "You Be the Critic" by emailing or mailing them to the Daily News at 1001 Northway Drive, Anchorage 99508.)

'Planets' realign

At 4 p.m. the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra will repeat last night's program of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony and Holst's "The Planets" with spectacular recent images from out there in the final frontier.

Tickets for the concert in Atwood Hall are available at and a review of last night's performance is now posted at

How low can they go?

A program titled "Low and Lower" will feature the deep, dark, dulcet stylings of cellist Brooks Whitehouse and bass player Paul Sharpe.

The two are classically trained, but the press release promises some genre-bending sounds and even a little comedy. The performance is at 7:30 tonight at Anchorage Lutheran Church, 1420 N St. Admission is free, but donations are accepted to help continue these kinds of concerts.

Clarinet spectacular

The award-winning UAA Clarinet Ensemble will present a concert of pieces by Mozart, Elgar and others at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

You'll hear just about every kind of licorice stick there is, from 18-inch soprano to the 8-foot contra-clarinet. Tickets are $18 general, $15 students, seniors and military, available at or by calling 786-4849.

Summer idyll

Need a shot of summer to boost yourself through the winter blues?

Stop by Blaines Art, 1025 Photo Ave. (between Benson and Northern Lights) where a show is hanging featuring plein air paintings done last summer at Byers Lake in Denali State Park, a collaboration of Alaska State Parks, the Alaska Artists Guild and Plein Air Painters of Alaska.

The show opened on Friday -- Blaine's does a "last Friday" opening for its shows -- and will remain up through most of February.

We told you it was good

Our review of the 2009 premiere of Dick Reichman's play about the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, "The Big One," described it as "good history, good theater and good food for thought."

Others shared that opinion, it turned out.

The play has been presented in other cities and has been picked up as a semifinalist for the 2012 National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.

Final selections for the play writing plum will be made in April. Successful candidates will be expected to be in residence at the O'Neill from late June through the month of July. "Casts and directors will come and go throughout the month," said the letter from O'Neill artistic director Wendy Goldberg, "but playwrights are expected to commit to the entire term of the conference."

Reach Mike Dunham at or 27-4332.

Anchorage Daily News