By CHRIS M. SLAWECKIPublished: October 9, 2014

The acoustic jazz Matadors came together while its three members—multi-woodwind playerMichael Sachs from Los Angeles, bassist Aaron Darrell from Virginia and drummerJun Young Song from Seoul (Korea)—were simultaneously pursuing undergraduate studies through Berklee College of Music scholarships. Their progressive jazz debut marks the first release on Berklee's independent record label birnCORE, was recorded live in the Berklee Internet Radio Network live room, and was produced by George Massenburg (whose decades of experience as an engineer, mixer, remixer and producer include work withLittle FeatHerbie Hancock and Linda Ronstadt). 

The quiet and thoughtful Matadorials never confuses intensity with volume and projects the studied, assured confidence of musicians equally adept at mainstream, free, modern/progressive jazz and whatever might come after that. Several titles prove most descriptive: The somber "Sullen Skies" sounds more like a studied classical miniature than like jazz, especially when someone's singing voice doubles the saxophone's melody line, and empties into total silence before the bassist picks up his solo. "Oslo" almost imperceptibly opens with percussion that softly rattles like icicles scraping against your windowpane, and then floats through a meandering melody barely tethered together through the lightest of musical threads. 

In the opening "Lisney Dand," Darrell's walking acoustic bass bumps and nudges Sachs's alto, as sharp and dry as Paul Desmond's, like a playful yet obedient pup following its master's walk. It's a quietly adventurous sound, perhaps even the new cool school: Sometimes all three seem to be soloing simultaneously, sometimes they seem to be playing in tight unison, and sometimes no one's playing at all. But the trio won't let you take "Lisney Dand" too seriously; it's arranged to deliberately sound like a skipping vinyl record—twice. 

Sachs's airy, nimble alto in "Reaudition" also brings to mind, in addition to Desmond,Mel Collins' beautiful work in King Crimson on such albums as Islands (Editions EG, 1971). So does the subsequent jumbled jazz of "Disarray," which the trio, especially drummer Young Song, scrambles into frothy rhythms—the interwoven sound of a band conversing among itself. 

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AuthorCara McCarthy

Jesca Hoop: Five Songs Live EP Review

Posted by Ryan on March 18, 2014

With the recent release of Undress, Jesca Hoop fans have been rewarded with more frequent releases than ever. It was her third release in eighteen months; she’s been treating her listeners well. Five Songs Live was recorded on October 17, 2013, and it gives a glimpse of the outstanding performances she has been giving of her established material as we wait in anticipation for her next studio album.

It is the next release from birnCORE, and will be available digitally starting march 25th. Analog Revolution was fortunate enough to score a preview copy, and my impressions of the release follow.

 

  1. City Bird.

As haunting as ever, the echo in the room seems the deliver Jesca from a forgotten past. With prophetic-jazz lyrics, City Bird finds itself tiptoeing along familiar corridors: slower, reserved, suspenseful. “I set the table for the ghosts in my home. And pour the wine and raise a glass for the guests in my home.” Better to be haunted than lonely. City Bird exemplifies the vocal improvisations that really set this EP apart. By the end of the song, the skid-row warnings and lamentations from beyond seem unreal before the eager cheers of the audience.

 

  1. Murder of Birds.

This is the first time this song has been released as a solo performance. Jesca’s soprano head-voice is more elastic in the absence of Guy Garvey. A sparser rendition of this song is unimaginable. With that comes a newly found attention to lyrical content. Guy’s warmth is missed, if not for the enjoyment of the audience, then for that loneliness in Jesca’s voice. There is a melancholy that was not present before, especially during the chorus. The improvised free-singing is so detailed you can see her lips forming the words if you listen closely. The track is filled with animal imagery and the shared secrets of lovers. The way Jesca phrases each note into an arcing line is exquisite. This track is a beautiful variation on a theme.

 

  1. Born to.

This rendition is slower than we are familiar with. The intensity builds with each verse. Again, the solemnity in Jesca’s voice sounds mercurial. Jesca’s vocal dexterity in style and range is as diverse as ever. The song stretches from apocalyptic imagery into memoir. It transitions from third-person to first-person with eloquence and tact. The dynamics are more prominent on this track than the others. “You’ve got to get it with what you’ve got. What you’ve been given or not.” The track is a tribute to natural abilities and our potential to realize our passions, both because and in spite of them. This is no better illustrated than in Jesca herself.

 

  1. DNR

Warning: This song contains morbidity.

As with the previous tracks on this EP, the lyrics on this track find new prominence in the composition. The dominant-tonic one-five of Jesca’s guitar forms into a delicate pulse, wavering with the melody throughout the song. Her phrasing during the bridge is great. Just great. The smoothness of the first half of the song is contrasted by the pin-point outro. This song showcases the ever-present intimacy of Jesca’s songwriting more than ever.

 

  1. Hunting My Dress.

One of Jesca’s most distinguishing traits as a performer is her ability to perpetually reimagine her songs through hundreds of performances. She tends to her songs through the years like a patron saint. This performance was just three weeks before she recorded the song with Sam Beam for her album, Undress. The shape it had taken on before Sam’s arrangement shows beyond a doubt that Jesca’s music is alive. This song absolutely steals the show.
Jesca transforms her guitar into a harp during this piece. This is, perhaps, the most organic song in the repertoire of an artist who has lived in, of, and by the wilderness for years. Adopting the voices of several animals throughout the story, Jesca pleads with herself to-and-fro; never sure if she can be trusted. The instrumentation swells like the waterline of a drought-quenched reservoir. Her words grow like branches in a cove through which she lures you. Each verse leaves a new impression in its wake, as the intricacies of her song structure contrast her meditatively simplistic guitar parts. This is Jesca at her best: alive, alone, a love.

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AuthorCara McCarthy

Club d'Elf: Fire in the Brain Live at Berklee (2013)

By CHRIS M. SLAWECKI, Published: March 11, 2014

"To thine own self be true" is a reliable expression, and few band biographies are more true to their subject than the official label writeup on the marvelously twisted Club d'Elf: "Circling about bassist/composer Mike Rivard (Morphine, Either/Orchestra, Guster, Boston Pops), D'Elf is a constellation of top musicians from the jazz, DJ, rock and world music scenes of Boston and NYC who get in the groove and proceed to blow it up."

Fire in the Brain presents a fevered d'Elf performance recorded in July 2012 Live at Berklee in their Boston hometown. Rivard is joined by longstanding partners in making "d'Elf music": Dean Johnston on acoustic and electric drums, DJ/turntablist Mister Rourke, Allain Mallet on keyboards and a melodica that sings both sweet and spooky, and guitarists Randy Roos and David Tronzo.

Rivard and Johnston are Berklee alumni, and Mallet, Roos and Tronzo serve on the Berklee faculty. More than 90 minutes, Fire in the Brain captures the long and wild ride of their joyous homecoming. You don't have to venture much further than its two-part leadoff title track: "Part 1" opens with a disembodied, swirling voice introducing "what I call the elf music"—a great example of how turntablist/DJ Rourke uses the human voice to introduce not only narrative direction but different colors into the band's sonic palette—and ends with guitar screams which sound like a monster that escaped from King Crimson's epic Starless & Bible Black (Editions EG, 1974). Mallet quickly commandeers "Part 2" with an electric solo that nods and winks to Sun Ra, John Medeski and Horace Silver, and seems to simultaneously channel Brian Auger and Herbie Hancock in the subsequent "Black Heart Rebels."

Rivard swaps his bass for a sintir, the three-stringed Moroccan bass lute that's traditionally used by a mystical Sufi brotherhood of trance healers, for the final two tunes. He introduces a Moroccan vibe while Johnston's drums reflect shades of hip-hop and dub into "Peace One," composed by guitarist John McLaughlin for his landmark My Goal's Beyond (Douglas/Columbia, 1971). Atop the fading tumult of the finale—the Moroccan traditional "Zeed Al Maal"—Rourke drops in the line, "The experience of the dissolution of boundary and form..." to close this quite remarkable set.

I received a gift copy of Stanley Kramer's 1963 monumental It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World ("the comedy that would end all comedies," Kramer once vowed) this past Christmas. Listening to Fire in the Brain is much like watching that ensemble comedy classic: After you become familiar with the threads that run through things—the movie's plot and the music's development—you can pretty much jump in anywhere and know that you're not far from somebody in the ensemble stepping forward to deliver an inspired performance.


Track Listing: Fire in the Brain Part 1; Fire in the Brain Part 2; Nematodes; Black Heart Rebels; Jar of Hair; Big Light in Sky; Peace One; Zeed Al Maal.

Personnel: David Tronzo: slide guitar; Randy Roos: guitar; Alain Mallet: keyboards, melodica; Mister Rourke: turntables; Mike Rivard: bass, sintir, bass kalimba; Dean Johnston: drums, electronic percussion.

Record Label: Birncore

Style: Modern Jazz

Read the blog here

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AuthorCara McCarthy
No Country Podcast

Music blog, No Country For New Nashville, sits down with your favorite artists from Nashville and beyond. The first guest on the podcast is Brooke Waggoner. 

Join BMI's Brad Wilson and Stan Edward as they take over Brooke's studio to talk about her new release, Sing To Me (Live In Boston),  through birnCORE, what movies she's watched recently, and her impressive white-picket fence. 

No Country Podcast is available for streaming, here.

Brooke's first live album, Sing To Me (Live In Boston) is available through birnCORE, here.

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AuthorCara McCarthy

Radio Boston  November 26, 2013

Club d’Elf frontman, bassist Mike Rivard plays the Moroccan sintir at Club Helsinki in 2011. (Andrew Janjigian/Flickr Creative Commons)

Club d’Elf frontman, bassist Mike Rivard plays the Moroccan sintir at Club Helsinki in 2011. (Andrew Janjigian/Flickr Creative Commons)

For 16 years in Greater Boston, a group of ever-changing but highly talented musicians have been performing an eclectic mix of music under the name Club d’Elf.

The musicians are mostly a rotating cast performing with bassist Mike Rivard. More than 100 musicians have been a part of Club d’Elf at any given time. They play a mix of jazz, electronica trance music with Moroccan influences.

They are hosting an release party for their new album “Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee)” this Friday at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge.

Guests

Mike Rivard, sintir

Dave Tronzo, slide guitar

Mister Rourke, DJ

Dean Johnston, drums

Paul Schultheis, keyboard

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AuthorCara McCarthy
tumblr_inline_mwdc0mcyP41qj5zlf.jpg

Review by Bill Grady ‘14

 

Fearless. Innovative. Powerful.  Upon first listen these are the first three words the music of Club d’Elf evokes, and their new album, Fire In The Brain, does just that.  Recorded live at Café 939 in July of 2012, the BIRN is proud to release this incredible new album on our BIRNCore label.

 

As any Berklee student knows, every student and faculty member has their own projects they claim are completely “original” or “game-changing.”  Then there are the inevitable listening sessions with friends where one is subjected to everything from Asian Heavy Metal Hip-Hop to Israeli Funk-Fusion.  By the time I reached my senior year, I thought I had heard it all.  Then I listened to Fire In The Brain, and I was exposed to something the likes of which I had never heard before.  The uniqueness of the instrumentation, the combination of different musical styles, and the energy and quality of the performance make this album a tour de force that doesn’t care if the listener likes it as long as he or she acknowledges its creative persistence.

 

Club d’Elf was founded in 1998 by frontman, bassist, and composer Mike Rivard.  Since then the band has never stopped being daring in its live performances.  The band doesn’t have a set line-up for every show; on the contrary, the guests that come and go with each concert is what makes the music truly original every time it’s played.  Past guests have included John Medeski & Billy Martin (MMW), DJ Logic, Marc Ribot, Skerik, and Marco Benevento among others.  For this particular album, Rivard stayed close to home and got some of the best Berklee faculty the school has to offer.  Along with Rivard on bass, sintir, and bass kilimba, the rhythm section is completed by Dean Johnston on drums and electronic percussion, Alain Mallet on keys and melodica, and Mister Rourke on turntables.  Rounding out the line up are Randy Roos on guitar and avant-garde slide master Dave Tronzo.  Just the idea of combining those instruments in a live setting seems risible to the everyday listener, but it’s this iconoclastic view that makes Club d’Elf’s sound rise to the top of the fusion scene.

 

With such a variety of instruments, sounds, and personal backgrounds coming together, multiple genres can be picked out of the bands distinctive sound.  Rivard describes the bands influences as such: The music draws from a startlingly wide spectrum of styles, including jazz, hip hop, electronica, prog-rock and dub, with the band exploring mash-ups of these diverse musical universes before the term was even in use. A Squarepusher-styled drum’n’bass groove may give way to a traditional North Indian tabla interlude, in turn dissolving into some Miles “Live Evil” type electric mayhem.

 

Every song on the album is a painting, with each different influence adding color and variety to create a product greater than the sum of its parts.  The guitar-driven jam “Nemotodes” sounds like The Allman Brothers jamming with traditional Moroccan musicians, where as “Big Light In the Sky” is straight-up Headhunters style funk with the added tinge of Pink Floyd-esque sampling courtsty of Mister Rourke.  One must note, however, that no matter how strong the influence on a particular track, the sound is never derivative and always original.

 

Just because Club d’Elf’s music is different and sophisticated compared to some of the other live acts around does not mean that this is “sit down in your living room with a cup of tea and analyze every note” music.  The energy of the performers on stage elicits the same reaction from the audience, forming an inter-personal relationship and vulnerability with the crowd that is seldom seen at other shows of the same genre.  After speaking personally with members of the band, some of them didn’t even realize the show that became Fire In the Brain was being recorded.  That means that everything that happened on stage - every success, every mistake, every tightrope walking moment of risk and reward - was the same product that is delivered every show by this amazing collective of musicians.  This is a band that thrives on the integrity of live performance, never predictable, but always honest.  Engineer Ryan Walsh did an amazing job taming the beast that is the Club d’Elf sound, making every timbre, every level, and every emotion crystal clear.  This gives the listener the feeling of not only communicating with the band but also experiencing the zeitgeist of the crowd itself.

 

The BIRN couldn’t be more excited to work with the great members of Club d’Elf, and we thank them for their participation.  Be sure to check out the album on iTunes today!

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AuthorCara McCarthy

Making a Record with birnCORE

By:

Lesley Mahoney

November 18, 2013

 

photo by Mike Spencer

photo by Mike Spencer

To the uninitiated, the concert looked like a regular night at Cafe 939 as Jesca Hoop—the Manchester, England-based indie performer who has an almost ethereal presence—transfixed the audience with her quirky, norm-bending, rule-defying lyrics. What wasn’t obvious was that the show was an album-in-the-making. Upstairs, engineers in the Berklee Internet Radio Network (BIRN) studios recorded the concert and streamed it live on the BIRN. The captured audio will be mixed by Berklee alumnus Aaron Bastinelli and cut into an album to be released by Berklee Internet Radio Network Cooperative Recordings, or birnCORE.

Opening for Hoop was Cocoa Jackson Lane featuring Jess Harlen, whose performance will also be made into an album to be mixed by a student engineer.

Berklee’s new independent record label, which in the last year has been quietly signing an impressive roster of established artists, celebrated its launch that night, October 17. That same day,Brooke Waggoner’s Sing to Me (Live in Boston), which was recorded at Waggoner's concert in April, was offered to fans, five days before birnCORE officially released the album. The label's next release,Club d'Elf's Fire in the Brain (Live at Berklee), will drop on November 19.

The brainchild of electronic production and design professor Stephen Croes, the label has evolved in stages over a few years. Under Croes’s leadership, the BIRN production studio was revamped and upgraded.

The next step was to develop a contract for artists, an agreement by which Berklee can multitrack record and make an album; under the contract, Berklee owns the recording and splits the profits 50/50 with the artist. All the albums will be recorded by students and mixed by students or alumni.

The label tested out the process during an artist-in-residence visit from recording engineer George Massenburg when the alumni jazz trio the Matadors performed for a recording session. The sound was so good that it made sense to use for a first pass at an album, recalls Tony Brown, special projects manager for the Professional Writing and Music Technology Division and operations manager for the BIRN and birnCORE. Now, birnCORE is poised to cut its fourth and fifth albums. 

The label shows how far the BIRN has come since its inception in 2006. A few years later, the radio station began broadcasting shows live, and later, recording shows and making them available for artists’ promotional use.

“We went from just broadcasting the shows and interviewing bands to broadcasting and recording and giving bands a copy of their show, to where we are now—producing albums,” says Brown.

The albums are available for digital download for less than $10 and they are posted on the birnCORE website as well as through online stores throughout the world, such as iTunes and Amazon, via the Orchard, birnCORE’s distributor.

To at least cover its costs, birnCORE’s business model calls for approaching artists like Waggoner and Club d’Elf, who were booked for Cafe 939 and already have a loyal following.

“There are a lot of great people coming through,” says Brown. “It’s just a matter of reaching out and asking if they’re interested in doing a record.”

For the birnCORE release show, the label booked Hoop and Harlen’s band.

“One thing that’s really surprised us is that we’ve been able to get this level of talented people to sign with us,” Brown says. Hoop toured as a background vocalist for Peter Gabriel and Waggoner played piano on Jack White’s debut solo album and toured with him as part of an all-female back-up group. “These are people who are really highly regarded.”

Students Get Real World Label Experience

In addition to putting out records for established artists, birnCORE offers Berklee students a chance to work on a record label, similar to student-run enterprises Jazz Revelation Records and Heavy Rotation Records, which feature student artists.

“This allows Berklee to participate in the music industry on a day-to-day basis,” Brown says. “It will give them a true taste of the music industry.”

Indeed, MP&E major Ryan Walsh was the recording, mixing, and editing engineer for the Club d’Elf album. He spent a good portion of last summer working alongside the band’s frontman and alumnus Mike Rivard '85, who served as the album’s producer.

“This experience was intense,” Walsh says, noting that it went beyond anything he’d experienced in his job as the BIRN’s studio manager. “Mike really pushed me during the process. He definitely had an expectation of what this record was going to be, and he would not settle for anything less. Mike and I were constantly listening to my mixes, taking notes, meeting multiple times a week, and remixing. It was exhausting, but I learned that I needed to take Mike's expectations and make them my own.”

Walsh knows he’ll take these lessons with him after he leaves Berklee. “The most important lesson of all was to make the record sound great and to not settle for anything else.”

Walsh, who will have several commercial album credits to his name before he graduates in May, doesn't take the opportunity for granted and also sees the value of what birnCORE is offering to artists. “The main goal is the music and showcasing fantastic artists in a live setting. Live music has such an energy to it that I feel is captured beautifully on these records."

Another student is getting a taste of the business end of birnCORE. An intern for the label, music business/management major Cara McCarthy is getting experience with everything from A&R to digital download cards. She’s pulling lessons from her time studying abroad last spring at Berklee’s Valencia campus, during which she attended the music business tradeshow Midem, and her internship last summer at Red Music, the artist development and music distribution division of Sony.

“To have this on my resume is amazing,” says McCarthy. “If I’m going to try to work in the music industry, this is the best experience. Building this from the ground up and being involved in every small detail of it gives me a better understanding of what a record label is.”

As birnCORE paves the way for long-term goals like making enough money to support itself and representing itself at industry destinations such as SXSW and CMJ, students like McCarthy and Walsh are helping to shape what birnCORE is now—signing established artists and making albums.

Posted
AuthorCara McCarthy

Berklee College of Music launches independent record label

By Matt Rocheleau, Town Correspondent

The Berklee College of Music has launched an independent record label to give students “real-life record making experience,” campus officials announced.

The label, Berklee Internet Radio Network Cooperative Records or birnCORE, records independent artists who visit performance facilities at the college’s campus.

Student engineers work with the artists to mix the albums and the label then releases LPs digitally at no costs to the artist, prices each to sell at about $5 and splits half of revenues with artists.

“Harnessing the impressive roster of performers already visiting campus, birnCORE’s model focuses on simplicity,” said a statement from Berklee, which launched the label this month.

“While earning academic credit and on-the-job training, students gain real-life record making experience at birnCORE,” campus officials said. “Music business students act as artists and repertoire executives, while music production and engineering students earn album credits as mixing and recording engineers. Students are also the creative forces behind the album art.”

“A birnCORE record costs artists nothing; their only investment is promoting the birnCORE album to their fans,” the college added.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

 

 

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AuthorCara McCarthy

Berklee Launches Independent Record Label

 

Mon,21 Oct 2013
 

Students at Berklee College of Music can now learn the ins and outs of an independent record label through the college's new label, Berklee Internet Radio Network Cooperative Records (birnCORE). birnCORE records some of today’s best independent artists who visit Berklee’s campus performance facilities, from the 200-seat Red Room @ Cafe 939 to the college’s state-of-the-art internet radio studio. Student engineers mix the albums to the artists’ specifications. Released digitally, birnCORE LPs are priced to sell at about $5.

Harnessing the impressive roster of performers already visiting campus, birnCORE’s model focuses on simplicity. While earning academic credit and on-the-job training, students gain real-life record making experience at birnCORE. Music business students act as artists and repertoire executives, while music production and engineering students earn album credits as mixing and recording engineers. Students are also the creative forces behind the album art. A birnCORE record costs artists nothing; their only investment is promoting the birnCORE album to their fans.

birnCORE is celebrating its launch with a performance by UK-based, “slyly inventive,” “lyrical wizard” singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop, the most recent artist to sign on for a birnCORE release on October 17 at the Red Room @ Cafe 939 at 8:00 p.m. Because of birnCORE’s unique model, the launch party also serves as her birnCORE recording session. That same day, birnCORE will release Sing to Me – Live in Boston, birnCORE’s release of singer-songwriter Brooke Waggoner, who performed on campus earlier this year. A rising star on the online music scene, Waggoner’s singles have beendownloaded 270,000 times, and this is her fourth LP.

 

- See more at: http://www.emusician.com/news/0766/berklee-launches-independent-record-label/153159#sthash.dvfjjIDD.dpuf

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AuthorCara McCarthy

By Caleb Hsu

 

photo taken by Ece Muniroglu

photo taken by Ece Muniroglu

The Berklee Internet Radio Network celebrated the launch of their new live music independent record label, birnCORE Records this past Thursday, bringing two emerging artists to grace Café 939’s stage. The night was unpretentious and presumably intentionally so, having minimalistic stage setups with enough intimacy you’d expect from The Red Room.

Coco Jackson Lane (CJL) opened the night with animated lead singer Jess Harlen’s commanding vocals taking the room. Consisting of band members from Berklee, the Pacific, South East Asia, and Barcelona, the group instinctively delivered an honest and raw performance with compelling lyrics that demanded attention and focus. With minimalistic harmonic accompaniments, you focused on the emotive content of each of their songs. Though the band is relatively new to the performance stage, they make up for potential rookie inexperience with infectious music with rhythmical feels that set them apart from contending openers just getting their feet wet in the live show pool. CJL upholds a tight unity on stage while maintaining a fun, lively atmosphere. They had the free-spirited folks of the room on their feet swaying their worries away from the day to funk grooves propelled by strong bass lines.

 

Originally from California (now based in Manchester, UK), Jesca Hoop continued the night with a mellow and velvety personality, mentioning this show was her first headlining show in Boston. Though there was quite a significant jump in style and overall stage persona from the first act to Jesca’s performance, the striking contrast was welcomed. She called her set the “the sunrise set” after “partying hard” with the opening act. Beginning with an “ethereal rumination” on the subject of homelessness and poverty, Jesca had a dark warmth to her voice that matched her lyricism, simultaneously being uplifting and haunting.

 

Jesca has a quality of singing that becomes conversational with a feeling of restrained effervescence. She writes poetic lyrical content where words become images that convey pictorial landscapes and create aural sceneries. There’s a level of playful mischief and precociousness in her songs. Jesca also mentioned that she released demons during her writing process, coming from a religious background, saying “it’s about the conversation you start.” You sense juxtaposition between her youthful innocence and the maturity of her onstage performance. Overall, Jesca has a beautiful voice that flutters effortlessly through all registers and captures an unparalleled conviction.

 

Check out all of our photos from the night on our Facebook page!

October 22, 2013 6:58pm

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AuthorCara McCarthy