ArtBeat: Alaska cellist tours Spain -- on foot

Mike Dunham

This month, Dane Johansen, a native Fairbanksan, is hiking 600 miles in France and Spain with his cello strapped to his back. Johansen is following the historic Camino de Santiago, a famed pilgrimage route since Roman times. Along the way, he'll stop to perform Bach suites for solo cello in various very old churches.

The Alaskan now working in New York is a member of the Escher String Quartet and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He also teaches at Juilliard. He just finished a two-week tour of England and will be back in his home state to perform with the Anchorage Symphony next January.

During the Spanish trek, Johansen is being accompanied by filmmakers creating a documentary titled "A Walk to Fisterra: A Cellist's Journey" ( As a cellist, his expenses (aside from the cello) are pretty simple: bow rosin and good shoes. But the filmmakers are hoping to raise money via Kickstarter to complete their end of the project. Late word was that they were looking for an additional $20,000 by May 14. Find out more at

More cellos in the news

Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, the team better known as 2CELLOS, are also scheduled to perform in Anchorage on March 13, 2015, as part of the upcoming Anchorage Concert Association season. They're best known for doing pop and rock on their electrified instruments and were the first instrumentalists ever featured on the television show "Glee." They've just released a new music video for "Mombasa," a featured track from the 2010 Christopher Nolan film "Inception."

The duo from Croatia recently wrapped up a sold-out tour of Japan and a stint with Elton John in Las Vegas. They'll be guests on the CBS program "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" on May 22.

More video clips of several acts in the upcoming ACA season can be seen at

New shows announced

The Anchorage Concert Association announced two additional big-name performers last week. Crooner Lyle Lovett will perform on Sept. 20 and comedian Bob Newhart will perform on April 25, 2015. Expect both shows to sell out. Call 272-1741 for more information.

Mr. Whitekeys has announced that, after medical issues derailed last year's edition, The Whale Fat Follies will resume next month. Keys will be joined by the fabulous Bridget Sullivan and the hilarious Cameron Morrison in the songs and schtick, lampooning Alaska's most sacred mooses. Musicians include bass player Justin Somadoruff and drummer Morgan Welch. Joey H.D. Murphy handles the multimedia show consisting of "over 800 awe-inspiring images of Alaskan stupidity."

The follies will start at 6:45 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from June 11 to Aug. 20. In a rare concession to conformity, tickets are available at Once again, those who really want to see the show are advised to get their seats now. Previous runs have been bought up weeks before the opening.

Dancing at the debut

A new memoir, "Dreaming Bears: A Gwich'in Indian Storyteller, a Southern Doctor, a Wild Corner of Alaska" (Epicenter Press), will be launched next Sunday at the Anchorage Museum. Author Mike Holloway builds the book around his youthful experience traveling, hunting and living with storyteller and former medicine man Johnny Frank and his wife Sarah in the remote Arctic village of Venetie starting in 1961.

"Johnny and Sarah were to become my mentors and adoptive grandparents," Holloway says in a press release. "Their wisdom and generosity shaped my life."

Holloway's life since meeting the Franks has included some of that medicine-man stuff. He's an M.D. He did a stint as a Peace Corps doctor in South America and worked at the hospital in Dillingham and the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, where he was chief of orthopedics. He's since taught medicine in Asia, Africa and Central America, but continues to make Alaska his base.

The Anchorage Museum book launch will include an Athabascan dance group led by Samuel Johns. It starts at 1 p.m. on May 18. Additional book signings and readings are scheduled for the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks on May 29, the North Alaska Environment Center, also in Fairbanks, on May 30, and the University of Alaska Anchorage bookstore on June 11.

Find out more about the author and see a video trailer for the book at

Adams at Carnegie

The New York Times reported that composer John Luther Adams had never been in Carnegie Hall until Tuesday night, and it was not a typical first visit. Adams, a longtime Alaskan now living in the Big Apple, was there to hear his Pulitzer Prize-winning piece "Become Ocean" for the first time. He'd been unable to hear the original debut last year by the Seattle Symphony, which commissioned the work, due to medical issues. But, even before the prize was announced, Seattle conductor Ludovic Morlot had already planned to present it during their prescheduled Carnegie concert.

As of this writing, I was able to find two reviews of the Carnegie performance. George Grella, on the New York Classical Review website, said Adams "was the star of the evening, and 'Become Ocean' is splendidly crafted and affecting. Opening the concert, it has symphonic duration -- about forty-five minutes -- but unlike a symphony it does only one thing. And that thing is profound."

Writing for the Financial Times, veteran critic Martin Bernheimer called the piece "an extended tone-poem ... The score casts a fine abstract spell, predicated on constantly evolving textures and surprising dynamic structures. Waves of sound, both exhaustive and exhausting, flow and ebb -- mostly flow -- for more than 40 minutes as smart nuances drone and tensions accumulate.

"The composer deserved his standing ovation."

A recording of the work by the Seattle Symphony will be released in September.

Among other awards, Adams won the 2010 Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist award, a prize that actually brought him more money than the Pulitzer. The next round of Rasmuson artist awards will be announced on May 13.

Writing winners next week

The May 18 edition of Life will be dedicated to samples of the winning submissions in the 32nd University of Alaska Anchorage/Anchorage Daily News Creative Writing Contest, coordinated by the Alaska Center for the Book. The ArtBeat column will return on May 25. Until then, a review of Saturday's performance by the Anchorage Civic Orchestra -- and other odds and ends -- will be posted at

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.