MCES's involvement in live performance began somewhat informally back in 2013. MCES had just joined up with Art-Reach, (a Philadelphia-based non-profit dedicated to increasing accessibility to the arts) to explore the idea of bringing performing artists to MCES. After the initial meeting, Art-Reach contacted MCES to tell us that the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation had given them a small grant to be used specifically for an in-facility concert, and would MCES like to be the beneficiaries of that free concert? Of course, we jumped at the opportunity and in April 2013 legendary percussionist Doc Gibbs wowed patients and staff with an hour-long concert, complete with dance accompaniment.
This live performance event spurred a commitment to the arts by MCES, regularly securing performing artists to come to MCES to engage, entertain, and educate. In those early days, money to pay for the concerts came exclusively from the Patient Fund. However, a couple years later, the MCES Inpatient Concert Series is fully grant-funded by the Clayman Family Foundation and by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Since then, MCES has seen an impressive array of performances, including a 44-piece concert band playing at twilight in the courtyard, a nationally-known singer-songwriter who traveled from his home in New Hampshire to play in our cafeteria, and fifty chorale singers bringing cheer and warmth the week before Christmas.
What Doc Gibbs had to offer our patients and staff, through his talent and his personal connection, was indeed special, and we knew we wanted him back. Doc returned to MCES on February 16 with dancer and instructor Cachet Ivey. He brought along with him percussive instruments from around the globe and had patients performing with him and with each other. What, to the casual observer, looked like a simple box or a George Foreman grill, Doc Gibbs was able to turn into expressive, tuneful instruments that had people up and moving to Doc's rhythms and Cachet Ivey's infectious moves.
Doc Gibbs has performed with Erykah Badu, Wyclef Jean, Grover Washington, Jr. and many others. He was also the bandleader on the "Emeril, Live!" show from 1997-2007.
On March 24, MCES will welcome another Carpenter Foundation-funded Art-Reach concert: Brazilian duo "Minas."
Documentary Film Highlights MCES's Our Town
By Gabriel Nathan
Development Specialist and Our Town Stage Director
Typically, the production of a play is an emotionally and physically taxing endeavor and, when it's all over, there is nothing but a bare theatre and the audience, cast and crew's memories of the experience.
Fortunately for MCES, Our Town will last a lot longer than that, thanks to a film crew headed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Glenn Holsten. In addition to many other projects, Glenn creates short documentary films for the website OC87 Recovery Diaries, which features positive, enriching and engaging stories about mental health recovery. The site was founded by Bud Clayman, whose foundation financed MCES's production of Our Town.
On December 17, just three days before Our Town opened to the public at Building 33, Glenn and his film crew attended and filmed the entirety of that evening's dress rehearsal, and filmed several interviews with cast members. Glenn and his team spent countless hours editing the footage from that rehearsal and created a beautiful, 7-minute documentary film about MCES's production of Our Town. The film is a moving tribute to the intrepid mental health professionals at MCES who worked so hard to create this memorable and beautiful play for the community, and for each other.
The Our Town documentary may be viewed here. There you will not only see the film, but a touching write up about the play that also includes some of the excellent still photography of MCES Assistant Crisis Director Paul Butler. I encourage all of you to go visit the OC87 Recovery Diaries site and enjoy Glenn's film, share it with everybody and anybody you can, and keep the message of Our Town close to your heart.
With 40 years of experience in psychiatric emergencies and mental health crises, MCES will be making good use of that knowledge and understanding in a blog. The blog will feature the diverse and skilled voices of MCES staff members writing about a variety of topics related to mental health, wellness, recovery, suicide prevention, and commenting on pertinent issues in the psychiatric community.
MCES's blog will also be a great way to keep connected to the community, and keep the public updated and informed about goings-on within the hospital and the services we provide. MCES's blog can be found from the MCES website homepage and will be updated once a week. Stay on the lookout for valuable information and thoughtful commentary from MCES staff.
Since its now well-established inpatient concert series began in June of 2014, MCES has played host to a GRAMMY-nominated flutist, a forty-piece concert band, a fifty-member choir, and a folk music legend who traveled from his New Hampshire home to pluck and strum for our patients and staff.
The first MCES concert event of 2015 was a lovely hour of great music provided by three excellent musicians from Opera North, Inc. Vivian Fairfax, coloratura soprano, Dan Lickteig, baritone, and accompanist Pasquale Montenegro entertained and moved staff and patients with their beautiful renditions of pieces by Mozart, Puccini, Gershwin, and other composers of great works of opera.
These talented performers, however, explored other musical areas, including operetta, giving a playful nod to Gilbert and Sullivan, and musical theatre, singing songs from "The Phantom of the Opera", "Les Miserables", and "The Most Happy Fella." Ms. Fairfax and Mr. Lickteig provided brief, informative introductions to each song, putting them into historical and plot context for those in attendance.
Opera North, Inc. is the oldest African American opera company in Pennsylvania, presenting full-scale productions, recitals, concerts, and engaging in a wide variety of outreach and educational programming throughout the region.
This concert was made possible by a generous grant from the Clayman Family Foundation. In mid-February, MCES will proudly welcome back the first performer to make music at MCES: renowned percussionist Doc Gibbs!
MCES's production of "Our Town" was prominently featured in the November 30 Sunday Inquirer.
by Art Carey
The name of our town is West Norriton, 40 degrees north latitude, 75 degrees west longitude. Population: about 16,000, give or take a few hundred. It's just across the border from Norristown, the Montgomery County seat. Down there, at the bottom of that sloping cornfield, is the hospital for those with urgent psychiatric troubles. Goes by the name of Montgomery County Emergency Service, MCES for short.
Our story begins last spring with a team-building staff retreat. Leading it is Gabriel Nathan, an enthusiastic young man with a theatrical background. He serves as a development specialist at MCES.
"Work can become so busy and chaotic that we don't have time to look at each other, to stop and really appreciate each other," he laments to his coworkers.