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By Sarah Beth Costello

These days, there are few artists and bands that can successfully produce albums of such quality and depth to merit outstanding reviews. Brendan James, an up-and-coming pop artist from Derry, N.H., is an exception. The singer/songwriter, pianist and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate possesses a style and skill that trumps the majority of current top-grossing artists.

James released his self-titled second album on Sept. 7 and despite nominal popularity, he reached No. 1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart. James remains in the top-15 albums on iTunes, among popular bands and artists including Justin Bieber, Kings of Leon and Sara Bareilles. James reached No. 92 in the Top 100 on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart and debuted his single, “The Fall,” on Sept. 25 during CBS Saturday’s Second Cup Café.

What separates James from the mass of pop singers and songwriters clamoring for attention in today’s very competitive music industry, is the genuine nature of his songs, his clear and identifiable tenor and the passion evoked in his music. James writes from experiences, life, good and bad times, and is seemingly unafraid of appearing vulnerable before an audience.

James has been described as a contemporary Billy Joel or James Taylor, an artist who appeals to the common individual because his music is so real and attainable. James is successful in digging past the superficial messages of many modern artists, and writing about the complexities of relationships (not sex), love (not lust) and patience (not instant gratification).

The 12 songs on the new album are equally deep. They range from happy and romantic (“Stupid for Your Love”), sad and serious (“Your Beating Heart”) to hopeful and sweet (“Anything for You,” and “The Fall”).

It is rare when an artist can produce a balanced, diverse and unique album, but James’ dedication to the production of his lyrics and music has resulted in a tight package. While most artists are hit with continual demand for new albums, James is more concerned with writing and singing songs that will be remembered beyond the next six months. James worked on his new album for more than a year, and says his manager and label pushed him to write more music before they agreed he was ready to begin recording.

The young pianist has generated a stream of followers through social networking and has gained media attention with each tour. James released his first album, “The Day is Brave,” in 2008 and has exceeded expectations with the release of his second album, which he says is self-titled because it is a reflection of his own life.

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By Sarah Beth Costello
May 23, 2009

In 1940, German troops invaded the Netherlands and secured bans and new laws that placed Jews and other individuals in danger. Millions of Jews were brutally murdered during Adolf Hitler’s reign, a time in history many wish could be forgotten.

Despite the fact this time was dark and tragic, many stories emerged of hope and forgiveness. One such story involved the ten Booms, a family who risked their own safety, security and lives to hide Dutch Jews in their watch shop in Amsterdam, Holland.

Corrie ten Boom later wrote the book, “The Hiding Place” describing the secret room built to hide their Jewish guests and the many events, including the arrests of the ten Boom family, the death of their father, Casper, and the tragedies and miracles that followed.

Image courtesy of: http://artsalivestudio.org/

Image courtesy of: http://artsalivestudio.org/

This book has been written as a script and will be performed by the Arts Alive senior acting class at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Paramount Theater, 128 E. Front St., Burlington. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.

“I’ve always loved ‘The Hiding Place,’ ” said Erin Tate, who is playing the part of Corrie. “I’d read the book several times and have always admired (Corrie) and I was really happy for the opportunity to portray her on stage.”

Although the play is serious and sad at times, the message is powerful.

Corrie and her sister Betsie were eventually sent to Ravensbrück, a women’s concentration camp in northern Germany. But despite the filth, lice and utter discouragement of the camp, the ten Boom sisters continued to cling to God.

“There is no pit is so deep that He is not deeper still,” said Betsie during a time when Corrie was struggling with hate and anger.

“Corrie begins and ends the play with the line ‘love is greater,’ ” Tate said. “I think that’s really important no matter what time period you’re in if you have the love of Christ. God’s love is universal and it’s needed just as much in today’s culture as it was in Nazi Germany.”

Arts Alive is down to the final weeks before opening night and the students and staff are busy with last-minute preparations

“This is the first production that I’ve helped direct,” said executive manager Jordan Cubino who is a former Arts Alive acting student. “(Productions are) always a learning experience. It’s interesting seeing the ‘Hiding Place’ from an actor’s perspective and returning to see it from a director’s perspective.”

The performances at Arts Alive are more than entertainment venues. The students, directors and staff hope to encourage and challenge theatergoers while presenting a clear gospel message through the arts.

Sarah Costello is a junior at Elon University and a Teens & 20s writer.

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Graphic by Sarah B. Costello

Sarah Beth Costello
March 10, 2009

It was a night of elegance and perfect manners.

The room was full of Mr. Darcies, Mr. Binglies, Elizabeth & Jane Bennets and even a couple of Emmas. The fiddle, fife and flute ensemble coming from a nearby sound system kept the young ladies and gentlemen in constant dancing mode.

The young men escorted their lady partners onto the dance floor, and the room was filled with the sounds of laughter, the instructions from the step-caller, and the gentle swashing of yards of colorful fabric.

Adolescent members of Alamance County Christian Home Educators gathered Friday for an evening of old-fashioned fun at the fourth annual English Country Dance. This year’s theme was “The Rosings Park Promenade,” based on Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride & Prejudice.”

HYPE AND ANTICIPATION

This event is widely anticipated by participants. Many girls make their own dresses and some even create their own patterns. The English Country Dance is similar to a prom, except girls don’t spend hundreds of dollars on dresses, hair and makeup, most boys don’t rent tuxes and no one comes with a date.

But the evening is a time for dancing and merriment, dressing up, curling hair, powdering cheeks, slipping on dainty, white gloves, donning a top hat and tying a bow tie.

“I like it because it’s the older style of dancing,” said eighth grader, Will Van Deventer, “I like the music too because it’s more elegant and graceful. I really appreciate that it’s a fun atmosphere.”

GUIDELINES

The dancers go all out when it comes to this evening, determined to make it as authentic as possible. Authenticating the dance means abiding by the original rules that would have been followed in Jane Austen’s day. Young men must be noble gentlemen and ask the ladies to dance.

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Dozens of young women in homemade 19th century gowns and young men deck out in ties, tuxes and long-tailed jackets participate in annual historic dances. Photo by Sarah B. Costello.

“I like that the guys have to ask different girls to dance,” said Brittany Wooten, a homeschooled high school student.

There were, however, a couple of Sadie Hawkins dances that allowed the ladies to seek out partners. To ensure that every attendee has equal opportunity on the dance floor, couples can only dance once with the same partner.

For three hours, teenaged homeschoolers sashayed up and down the floor to old fashioned dances such as “Yellow Stocking,” “Do-Si-Do” and “Strip the Willow.” The dances are similar to western square dances, except couples dance in one long line, with girls on one side and boys on the other.

The couples dance within squares of four, gradually making their way towards the end of the line. Once a couple reaches the end of the line, they must sit out for one turn. Nancy Bryant, step-caller and homeschool science teacher, has dubbed this short waiting period as “crystalizing.”

Nancy Bryant is a past homeschool mother who has been calling the dance steps for the past four years. “What happened was [my son] was invited to Pennsylvania for a dance like this and I had to take him,” said Bryant in explanation of the origins of the annual dance for ACCHE members. Bryant enjoyed the English style dancing so much she decided to introduce it to the homeschool group.

Click Here for more photos from the dance




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Sarah Beth Costello
February 23, 2009

It’s not often that a low budget, British-made film, with an inexperienced and unknown cast, shot in Mumbai, India wins eight Oscars at the Academy Awards.

This year the unexpected occurred when “Slumdog Millionaire” not only swept the Oscars, but also received the coveted best picture.

“Slumdog Millionaire” is based on the true story of Jamal K. Malik, an 18-year-old Indian from the slums of Mumbai, who wins the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Before Malik has the opportunity to answer the winning question, he is taken into custody by the police, beaten, tortured and commanded to confess to what they believe is obvious fraud due to the fact that he’s only ever know the slums.

The movie has been referred to as artistic expression and possesses a measure of reality; good battling evil and the triumph of the underdog.

RESULTS PRODUCE DIFFERENT REACTIONS

In an informal convenience sample of nearly 100 Elon University faculty, staff and students, most watched the Academy Awards Sunday night.

When asked which film won best picture, most knew the answer was “Slumdog Millionaire.” Forty-six percent said they had seen the movie though many had different opinions concerning the reasons behind the Oscar results.

“‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was very representative of the shifting of our society,” senior Amy Reitnouer said, “We’re definitely going to such a globalized society and I was really proud of the Academy for recognizing the very global film.”

The majority of Elon students were familiar with the movie. Most had seen the film, others had an idea of the story’s plot. Older faculty and staff, however, were not as familiar with the movie. Some had not even heard of it.

Elon University student, Mackenzie Ames, explains her reasoning for the success of “Slumdog Millionaire”

Sarah Beth Costello
February 11, 2009

The themes of the evening were comedy and parody as English Professor, Kevin Boyle, shared original and creative poems at an open poetry reading Tuesday evening.

Dozens gathered in the Isabella Cannon Room on Elon University’s campus to hear Boyle’s dramatic reading of “The Mushrooms of Alamance County,” “Five” (an ode to a favorite number) and “Chicken s–t for the soul.”

Boyle’s creative inspiration spawns from different events, circumstances and influences.

“When Malena Morling was here (our visiting poet for the fall),” said Boyle, “She had some poems that had to do with numbers or colors…I found it annoying that she could write a poem about a number…And so I decided I’d write one.”

Boyle’s poems are a combination of humor, science, religion, bodily functions and references to daily living.

Another Kevin Boyle original, “The Mushrooms of Alamance County,” is based on the well-known novel, “The Bridges of Madison County.”

This poem is a humorous piece about the annoyance of prevalent mushrooms, but also discusses racial prejudice and economic differences. The poem parodies the Biblical Gospel of Luke 12:27 at one point:

“Consider how [the mushrooms] neither spin nor reap, nor sow, and yet they just rip up through the ground like little Hiroshimas – American as apple pie…”

Boyle has published several poems and achieved the Mary Belle Campbell Poetry Book Publication Award. Boyle is a Philadelphia native who now lives in North Carolina and teaches at Elon University in Elon, N.C.

Boyle reads “The Mushrooms of Alamance County”