The ArtsOct 01, 2012
Miles to Go
Happy birthday to three giants in the St. Louis arts world.
Story: Gwen Ragno
Photos: "hip hOZ" photo courtesy of COCA; Sheldon photo courtesy of Sheldon Concert Hall
THEY SAY AGE IS JUST A NUMBER, but when it comes to the arts—particularly in the nonprofit world—every birthday is worth celebrating. This October marks a number of significant milestones for St. Louis art institutions, including a century for The Sheldon Concert Hall, a quarter-century for COCA and one year since Peabody Opera House’s great rebirth.
A HUNDRED YEARS STRONG
The Sheldon Concert Hall celebrates its centennial Oct. 11 in the most appropriate way possible—with a big, splendid concert. Acclaimed jazz pianist Peter Martin wrote an original composition for the occasion, a fusion of jazz and classical music titled “This Present Past” and inspired by a poem by Howard Nemerov. Joining Martin on stage to perform the piece is an all-star lineup of Sheldon favorites from over the years, including saxophonist Branford Marsalis, soprano Christine Brewer, bassist Christian McBride, violinist David Halen and drummer Ulysses Owens. Members of the St. Louis Symphony will also be on hand to perform a Tchaikovsky piece that was part of The Sheldon’s opening night concert in 1912.
Meanwhile, be on the lookout around town for “Music on the Go” pop-up concerts, bringing music to St. Louisans when they least expect it, in places like Citygarden, area malls and Laumeier Sculpture Park—thanks to a PNC Arts Alive grant.
The Sheldon Art Galleries are also pitching in, honoring the centennial with a collection of sketches by Al Hirschfeld, a St. Louis-born artist known around the world for his caricature portraits of celebrities and musicians. The retrospective exhibit is on display through Jan. 5, 2013.
HERE TO STAY
Though it’s a relatively young pup compared to some of the other art institutions in town, COCA has grown over the last 25 years into a national leader in community arts education. The organization is celebrating its quarter-century milestone with six weeks of special programming, starting with “hip hOZ” (Oct. 6-7), a hip-hop interpretation of “The Wizard of Oz” created by renowned choreographer Redd Williams (a COCA faculty member who also counts J-Lo as one of many high-profile clients). The production embodies everything COCA stands for, with a talented cast of both professional and amateur performers and a masterful blend of contemporary and classic dance. In November, the celebration culminates with a gala featuring performances by COCA alumni—artists who went through COCA’s programs, and went on to dance or sing professionally.
In the 25 days between the two events, COCA is publishing 25 "Stories of Impact" on its website, sharing personal accounts from people whose lives or communities have been impacted by the organization over the years. Executive Director Kelly Pollock says the stories selected demonstrate COCA’s founding principle of serving as a bridge among the diverse populations of St. Louis city and county..
STAGING A COMEBACK
The Peabody Opera House has already made a powerful statement in its first year back in business after a 20-year hiatus, packing the house again and again for acts ranging from Wilco to Nicki Minaj. When Peter Frampton played there in March, he later wrote on his Facebook page: “One of the best nights of the whole tour...I would go as far as to say it’s in the top five best-sounding rooms in the US.” In honor of the one-year anniversary since its grand reopening last October, The Peabody is serving a signature cocktail.
Other notable birthdays this fall include 10 years for The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 20 years since The Black Rep moved into the Grandel Theatre, and 30 years since The Fox Theatre’s grand restoration and reopening. Web exclusive coming soon with more history on all six institutions.
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