1998 NOV. 26 - DEC. 2

As the balloon wranglers untangle Barney from the Chrysler Building (the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, airing from 9 a.m. to noon on WKYC-TV/Channel 3), do your own good turn. St. Procop's church hosts a Thanksgiving meal for the needy, elderly, and alone today from noon to 1 p.m. Volunteers are needed to serve meals and distribute gifts of winter hats and gloves. To help out, just show up at the church, 3181 W. 41st St. (216-631-0365), by 11:15 a.m.

The Blues Benefit for the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless should be a real barn-burner, what with Cleveland blues legend Robert Lockwood Jr. and Frank "Silk" Smith performing together. The pair were last seen onstage at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute concert to Robert Johnson in September. Lockwood, born in rural Arkansas, learned his art at Johnson's knee. Smith, a longtime sideman for Travis Haddix, toured with the Isley Brothers and Little Richard in the '60s, replacing Jimi Hendrix, who had abandoned them for a solo career. Organized by Chris Kofron, the stream-of-consciousness host of the Skid Row blues show on WCSB-FM/89.3, the benefit also features the sandpaper-voiced Rev. K.M. Williams and right-brain-belter Crazy Marvin, who's always ready to get up on the table and party. Tonight at 9 p.m. at Wilbert's Bar and Grille, 1360 W. 9th St., 216-771-2583. Tickets are $6.

Those Cookie Monster slippers are starting to talk--time to get out. Bring them to the B-Movie Pajama Party at the Highland Theatre in Akron. For eight bucks, you get two films--Mr. Sardonicus and House on Haunted Hill--directed by schlockmeister William Castle, whose promotional stunts included tingling seats and life insurance giveaways. But wait, there's live surf music, too, by California trio the Vultures, and swing by the King Dapper Combo. Admission is $2 off if you wear your nightie and bring two cans of food for the Akron Food Bank. At 8 p.m. at 826 W. Market St. (330-375-1824).

The Cleveland Lumberjacks rev up the Zamboni for some post-game public skating after tonight's hockey match against the Indianapolis Ice. The Jacks are in the hole right now (6-9-1 record), but the season's just begun, and hey, if things get slow, entertainment will be provided by the drunken frat boys in the next row. Tickets are $10, $16, $18, and $23; the public skate is free with admission (bring your own blades). At Gund Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza, 216-241-5555.

A death wish becomes the impetus for a road trip in Taste of Cherry, a film by Ira-nian director Abbas Kiarostami that had to be smuggled out of the country last year, in part because Iranian law forbids talk of suicide. In the film, which won the Palm d'Or at Cannes last year, a world-weary man named Mr. Badii drives through the hills outside Tehran, searching for someone who will either bury him or save him if he botches the job. Along the way, he meets characters from many walks of life, each with a reason to decline the offer. It's showing Saturday, November 28 at 9:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Cinematheque, 11141 East Blvd., 216-421-7450.

Pass the milk: The Cornflake girl, Tori Amos, whose indulgent yet inventive music is equal parts rock, classical, and baby talk, performs in Akron tonight, one of her last stops after eight months of touring. Her fourth CD, From the Choirgirl Hotel, is less piano-centered than previous releases, and for the first time, she's traveling with a full band. She'll be at the University of Akron's Rhodes Arena, 373 Carroll St., tonight with opening act Unbelievable Truth. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $26.50; call 216-241-5555.

Now that those pesky real estate developers have subdivided all the good sledding hills, slicker measures are necessary. The Cleveland Metroparks offers hassle-free tobogganing at its Chalet Recreation Area, which is outfitted with two refrigerated ice chutes (sort of an arctic version of waterslides). The chutes are open, weather permitting, from November 27 through February 28. Hours are 6-10 p.m., Thursdays; 6-10:30 p.m., Fridays; noon-10:30 p.m., Saturdays; and noon-9 p.m., Sundays. Tickets are $7; $5 on Thursdays. Chalet Recreation is on Valley Parkway in Mill Stream Run Reservation, between state routes 42 and 82 in Strongsville, 440-572-9990. Children must be at least four feet tall to partake.

The Seinfeld of his day, eighteenth-century Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni is no longer a household name. But the comic genius is back in reruns this weekend, when the Cleveland Play House unveils its family production of The Servant of Two Masters. The lunacy of Goldoni's original is updated (a Venetian concert becomes "Canal-apalooza") by perhaps the only Clevelander up to the task, playwright Eric Coble, who had Jesus working as a pizza delivery guy in 1997's Virtual Devotion. A classic tale of mistaken identity, Servant gets rambunctious, with the actors improvising and the audience shouting instructions. "It's a perpetual motion machine," says Coble. "Children who are easily overstimulated should not see this show." The play, which is recommended for ages 5 and up, runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 20; show times are 1 and 3 p.m. At 8500 Euclid Ave., 216-795-7000.

Don't get mad, get medieval with Laudisti, a Cleveland vocal ensemble performing a cappella music from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. "Laudisti" is the term for Italian singing fraternities in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the ensemble came together in that spirit. They're all music professionals (the members include the music director at St. John's Cathedral and a soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra) brought together by Ülle Laido, the music director at Holy Rosary Church in Little Italy. They'll perform a free program of Advent, Christmas, and sacred music tonight at 8:15 at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church, 20401 Hilliard Blvd., Rocky River (440-333-2255).

Blunt metal objects will be checked at the door for the Grease on Ice skating show starring charm school dropout Nancy Kerrigan, who won an Olympic silver medal in early 1994 and the world's heart several months later, when she dissed Mickey Mouse. Rumor has it Tonya Harding was asked to play tough-talking Rizzo in the Grease production, but she had to cancel because her skate laces came untied. Tickets range from $15.50 to $28.50. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. today and Wednesday, December 2 at Gund Arena, 100 Gateway Plaza, 216-241-5555.

A Laurel and Hardy movie, holiday carolers, a visit from a singing Santa (with real reindeer), and puppet storytelling are all part of the fun tonight at the Holiday Circlefest, organized each year by the University Circle museum and arts organizations. Kids (and adults, too) can make lanterns in a workshop that night at the Cleveland Museum of Art, then participate in a luminaria parade around the circle. The illumination continues at the Wade Oval green, with holiday lighting installations by six area artists, including a five-sided "lantern house" by Mark Jenks, with windows made from grates so visitors can peek inside. Performers include the Repertory Project, the Jocelyn Chang Harp Ensemble, and the Early Music Ensemble from Case Western Reserve University. The festival is from 5-9 p.m. tonight; get there early if you can because parking is nightmarish. Maps and parking information are available by calling 216-791-3900.

Elegy for a Polka King

Maybe in some other Cleveland suburb they memorized Ted Nugent riffs, or wore their hair in a Peter Frampton frizz. But where Joey Tomsick grew up, in Euclid's Chardon Hills neighborhood, playing the accordion was cool.

"I attended St. Paul's grade school, and 80 percent of the students were from a Slovenian background, and their parents were from there," says Tomsick, now 33. "I'd say, 'Do you know that song, "Jaz Pa Ti" ["You and Me," a Slovenian folk song],' and they'd start singing it."

The coolest of all was polka king Frankie Yankovic, whom Tomsick first met at a Slovenian function when Tomsick was barely big enough to see over the instrument he was playing. Yankovic was already one of his idols, as Tomsick's first-generation American parents "were always into keeping Slovenian music playing in our homestead.

"I must have been about eight or nine years old," he says of the meeting. "I was really thrilled. I had just started playing the accordion myself, and I was sort of jamming along with enough other people--I really didn't know a lot of songs. He took a shine to me right away."

A handshake and a few words of encouragement were the beginning of a musical friendship that lasted until Yankovic's death at age 83 in October. At the funeral at St. Mary's Church in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood, Tomsick was by far the youngest of several accordion players serenading Yankovic's casket with the "Blue Skirt Waltz."

Known for his mentorship of young musicians, Yankovic had ten children of his own to support, which was one of the reasons he performed constantly after World War II, traveling to every two-bit town that had a dance floor and a set of folding chairs. That exposure contributed to his celebrity, which peaked in 1986, when he received the first Grammy Award for polka music.

"It was a matter of him reaching stardom when all the elements were right for him," Tomsick says. "Right after the war, he came out with some really great songs that the returning fellows knew, and he turned them into polkas. He barnstormed across America in little towns and big cities ... Rock and roll was not out yet, and though the big band era was happening, people were looking for something a little different."

Charisma and a genuine love for the music also set Yankovic apart. "One of his biggest things was not to let worries follow you on stage," Tomsick says. "When he picked that accordion up, all he felt was the joy of playing."

Tomsick says that one of the highlights of his young life came when he made his first television appearance, playing with Yankovic on his Hawaiian Special on the Sunday morning staple Polka Varieties."He called my mom and asked her if I would be willing or able to appear with them on the special," Tomsick recalls. "My mom told me when I came home from school, and I thought, 'Oh no, I don't know anything Hawaiian.' But we went out that night and bought a special tropical shirt ... I think every uncle and aunt I had in the 48 states was contacted." His father filmed the show off the TV set with his 8-mm camera: "It didn't come out too well, but we wanted to have some remembrance of the thing."

Tomsick, who now leads the all-occasion Joey Tomsick Orchestra, performed with Yankovic more than a dozen times over the years: "I really did want to emulate his style, his way with people. I wanted to become somebody that would have a band like this. To me, it was like going to Hollywood."--Putre

The Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame hosts a tribute to Frankie Yankovic at its annual Thanksgiving Polka Weekend. On Thursday, November 26 at 8:30 p.m., vocalist Nancy Siebert and guitarist Joey Miskulin (an early Yankovic band member who's now a Nashville session musician) perform in a Salute to Frankie Yankovic Jam. The Thursday salute includes a dance contest for teenagers and young adults. The Joey Tomsick Orchestra plays on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $12 per night. At the Cleveland Marriott Hotel, 127 Public Square, 216-692-1000.

Tweaking Tradition

For Marc-Andre Dalbavie, composing music is essential, "like breathing air." Dalbavie, a native of Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, is the winner of the Cleveland Orchestra's first Daniel R. Lewis Young Composer Fellowship.

A piano prodigy who began his musical training at age six, Dalbavie had already grown weary at fourteen of the grueling circuit of competitions and recitals. He decided that his true vocation was composing, not performing.

"I discovered literature," he recalls in his charmingly Gallic English. "I wanted to be a writer, and the language I knew very well was music."

Dalbavie studied composition and conducting at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) and the Paris Conservatory of Music, where he is now a professor.

"When I started to compose, I didn't think I would have a career in it," he says. Numerous commissions and the 1994 Prix de Rome convinced him otherwise. Now, at 37, Dalbavie devotes most of his time to what he loves best: creating music.

Clevelanders can hear Dalbavie's work on Monday, November 30, when members of the Cleveland Orchestra perform the U.S. premiere of his octet Tactus. The premiere is part of the program "French Impressions: From Debussy to Dalbavie," which also includes chamber pieces by Ravel, Bartók, Debussy, and Boulez, composers Dalbavie has cited as influences. However, Tactus, with its shifting rhythms and textures, doesn't clearly echo any of those composers.

In Tactus, Dalbavie tweaks tradition by adding piano to the expected octet arrangement of strings and woodwinds. He wrote the piece two years ago on a commission from the Cologne Philharmonic, as "a sort of homage to the Schubert Octet."

"There is a wonderful exploration of colors and sounds," says Cleveland Orchestra Assistant Conductor Steven Smith, who will conduct the piece."Each move-

ment explores a different sound world."
Although Dalbavie's career has taken him to Paris, Rome, and Berlin, he prefers the quiet life he now leads with his wife in Perigord, France. "It's a very nice, calm region, where I can work. Now I am a rural composer," he says with a laugh.--Pamela Zoslov

"French Impressions" will be performed Monday, November 30 at 8 p.m. in Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $15. Call 216-231-1111.

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