Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Little Rock Look Back: Miss America in Little Rock

Tonight a new Miss America will be crowned.  Arkansas’ own Savvy Shields will conclude her whirlwind year as the third Miss America to come from the Natural State.

Earlier this year, two of Arkansas’ three Miss Americas were in Little Rock for the Miss Arkansas pageant.  So as Savvy wraps up her reign, it seems a good time to remember when Donna Axum first brought the Miss America title to Arkansas.

A native of El Dorado and a student at the University of Arkansas, during her reign as Miss America Miss Axum (or simply Donna as the newspaper headlines referred to her) made four public visits to Little Rock.  As the first Miss Arkansas to become Miss America, the state’s Capitol City was very interested in giving her a warm welcome.

After being crowned on September 7, 1963, Axum’s first official visit to Arkansas was November 1 through 3.  In addition to stops in Hot Springs and El Dorado, she appeared in Little Rock to attend events including an Arkansas Razorback football game at War Memorial Stadium.  Her entourage included the top four runners up from the Miss America pageant.

In February 1964, she made a brief appearance in Little Rock which included a press conference.

Donna Axum spent nearly two weeks in Arkansas in May 1964 attending several pageants as well as spending time with family.  During that visit she appeared in Little Rock twice.  The second time she headlined a concert with the Arkansas Symphony (not related to the current Arkansas Symphony Orchestra) and the Arkansas Choral Society. It took place at Robinson Auditorium.

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Godspeed Scott Walters

scottwaltersdepartureFor twelve years, Scott Walters has been an advocate for many things in Little Rock.  One of these has been the arts — especially literature, visual arts and music.

His tenure as Rector of Christ Church saw the concerts by Mavis Staples and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the development of The Undercroft music venue, the creation of the Sixth Street Library gallery, and partnerships with the Arkansas Literary Festival.

As he moves on to his next adventure in Memphis, this is a chance to say farewell to him.

 

CHANGES AND CHANCES

A troubadour of truths once came
to a church of rock in a city built on a rock.
A language loving scholar with an interest in seemingly everything
He was a student of cultures (both pop and high).

He was called to aid people as they worked and watched and wept.
With his carpenter’s hands he
Crafted,
Carved,
Hewed,
Shaped.

During times of joy and woe, he shared insight he had gained.
In his brilliantly simple and simply brilliant words he referenced
Sacred Texts
NPR stories
YouTube videos
Childhood memories.

Like the philosophers of old, he raised questions not easily answered.
As he sought to make sense of a world that too often
Confounds
Confuses
Conflates
Confutes.

But, as in his carpentry days, he used his tools and
Found a way to restore equilibrium and return the bubble to the
Middle
Level
Even
Balanced.

Though at home in a pulpit,
he was equally at ease walking the streets
Be they the sidewalks of his city
Or a pilgrimage through Spain.

His unassuming manner was on display whether chatting with
Prize winning poets
Presiding Bishops
Preschoolers
And all other personalities included in this story of human redemption.

The troubadour and his family embraced the church of rock,
Its neighborhood and its city built on a rock.
As active participants in its life
Their impact spread far beyond the half of a city block.

Now

There are many more lessons to teach.
There are many more lives to touch.
There are new words to explain.
There are new worlds to explore.

When particles collide, they are forever changed.
(That is what physicists tell us in their not-so-ancient texts.)
Hurtling on their new trajectories, seeking new directions,
The particles are eternally impacted because of the contact.

This church of rock in the city on a rock
Is likewise evermore transformed by the troubadour and his household.
A dozen years of tears, laughter, memories
And ordinary time that twas always more than that.

In improvisation (this troubadour once noted)
there is a perfect response when met with a strange new reality.
It is two words which accept that revised status quo
And anticipate the unforeseen.

So now as the troubadour and his family
venture into their new realms
And as the church of rock in the city on a rock
Remains with a renewed purpose

Collectively everyone takes a breath,
A pause
A prayer
A smile
A tear

And utters with gratitude for the past
And anticipation for the future

“Yes, and….”


Arkansas Gives today from 8am to 8pm

If you are like me, you’ve been receiving notifications about Arkansas Gives Day for months.  Well, today is the day!  From 8am until 8pm, you can help grow the love for Arkansas’s nonprofit organizations by making a donation to the charity of your choice.  The event is sponsored by the Arkansas Community Foundation.

As a special incentive to give, each gift made through ArkansasGives on April 6, 2017, will be matched with additional bonus dollars; the more you give, the more bonus dollars your favorite charity will receive.

Nonprofit organizations and other tax-exempt charitable organizations may participate if they:

  • Are headquartered in Arkansas or have a base of operations in Arkansas.
  • Have 501(c)(3) tax exempt status under IRS code AND are qualified as a 509(a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) organization or as a private operating foundation.

The minimum amount is $25; there is no maximum amount you may give. You may designate up to 10 charities per transaction.

Accepted Forms of Payment: Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards online.
You will receive an email receipt of your gift; please retain it for tax purposes. Unless you choose to remain anonymous, your donor information will be sent to the nonprofits to which you give.

Here is a list of cultural organizations which offer services within the boundaries of the City of Little Rock.

 

There are MANY MANY MANY other worthy nonprofits which are participating. But since this is a culture blog, only the cultural institutions are listed.  But please consider visiting the website and perusing the entire list.


Little Rock Look Back: President Clinton performs with Arkansas Symphony

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the audience after reciting Martin Luther King’s famous speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, to the music of Alexander L. Miller at Robinson Auditorium March 25, 2003 in Little Rock. (Photo by Karen E. Segrave/Getty Images)

On March 25, 2003, former President Bill Clinton took the stage of Robinson Center Music Hall to perform with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Entitled “Let Freedom Ring – A Patriotic Celebration,” the evening was a joint fundraiser for the Symphony and the Clinton Foundation.

Before a packed house, Clinton narrated Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait which weaves excerpts from Lincoln speeches with Copland’s own unique classical take on American heartland music.  Clinton also narrated Let Freedom Ring, a symphonic setting by Alexander Miller of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The evening also consisted of Broadway veteran and Little Rock favorite Lawrence Hamilton singing “Wheels of a Dream” from the musical Ragtime.  On Broadway and on national tour, Hamilton had previously sung the song.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra also performed An American in Paris by George Gershwin and “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.  This final selection was a tribute to the seven astronauts who had died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

David Itkin, who was then the musical director of the ASO, conducted the concert.


Black History Month – Aretha Franklin and Robinson Center

wjc-arethaTwo days before the Clinton Presidential Center opened, at Robinson Center Music Hall, patrons were warmed by the musical talents of Aretha Franklin.

She shared the Robinson stage with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  The ASO brough Miss Franklin to town as part of the festivities surrounding the opening of the presidential library.  Long a favorite of the Clintons, Miss Franklin sang at his 1993 inaugural festivities the night before he took the oath of office.

Resplendent in a series of white dresses, Miss Franklin was in top form feeding off the love from the audience.  While backstage she may have been dealing with back and knee issues (which the Culture Vulture saw first hand), when she stepped on to the stage she was giving her all as she rolled through hit after hit from her starry career.  She sang, she played the piano, she entertained!

It was a sold out house and her voice and energy reached the last row of the balcony.

Born in Memphis, she moved to Detroit before age five and grew up singing at church.  After gaining some fame singing gospel songs, at 18 she switched to more secular music.  After initially singing for Columbia Records, she moved to Atlantic Records, later to Arista, and now has her own label.

Among her hits are “Respect,” “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” “Share Your love with Me,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Break It to Me Gently,” “Jump to It,” “Get It Right,” and “Freeway of Love.”

Franklin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979 and became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. NARAS awarded her a Grammy Legend Award in 1991, then the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, the same year she was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1994.  In 1999, she received the National Medal of Arts from Bill Clinton.  George W. Bush bestowed her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  She has 17 Grammy Awards and 14 additional nominations.


Black History Month – Kristin Lewis & Christin-Marie Hill with Arkansas Symphony at Robinson Center

aso-mahler-soloTonight at Robinson Center, soprano Kristin Lewis and mezz-soprano Christin-Marie Hill will be soloists as the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  The concert will be repeated tomorrow.  Under the baton of Music Director Philip Mann, these two ladies and the ASO will be joined by combined choirs from UA Little Rock, UCA, Lyon College, Hendrix College and the Arkansas Chamber Singers.  Yesterday the two soloists hosted a Brown Bag Lunch at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center as a way for the community to meet them.

Kristin Lewis is a native of Little Rock.  A lyrico-spinto soprano lauded for her interpretations of Verdi heroines, she began her vocal studies at the University of Central Arkansas under the guidance of Dr. Martha Antolik. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree, she continued with her Master of Music studies at the University of Tennessee with Ms. Kay Paschal and Mr. Andrew Wentzel. Her postgraduate instruction was led by Dr. Jonathan Retzlaff. She currently lives in Vienna, Austria, and is a student of Carol Byers.

A recipient of many honors, Ms. Lewis was recently awarded the 2015 College of Arts and Sciences Divisional Achievement Award for the Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She was awarded the Orazio Tosi Prize 2012, given by the Club Lirica Parma, at the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi. Ms. Lewis was named the 2010 recipient of the Artist of the Year Award by the Savonlinna Opera Festival. In addition, she was voted a 2010 recipient of the coveted “Oscars of the Opera” by the Foundation of Verona for the Arena. She is a two-time National Finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competition. She has also been a finalist of the “XLVI Concours International de Chant de la Ville de Toulouse”, a winner of the “Internationalen Gesangswettbewerb Ferruccio Tagliavini” and a winner of the “Concorso Internazionale Di Musica Gian Battista Viotti”. Ms. Lewis also won the Opera Prize and the Audience Award in the “Concorso Internationale di Canto Debutto A Meran.  In 2015, she made her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist with Mahler’s Second Symphony.

Christin-Marie Hill previously sang with the ASO in Verdi’s Messa de Requieum and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.  Career highlights  include singing with the Minnesota Opera, Oper Frankfurt, Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Kansas Opera Theater, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Tanglewood Festival, and as a soloist with the Mark Morris Dance Company.  An avid concert and oratorio soloist, Ms. Hill’s extensive list of concert credits include appearances with the Memphis Symphony, Richmond Symphony, Utah Festival Opera Orchestra, and Atlanta Symphony.

A native of Evanston, Illinois, her distinctions include a fellowship in voice from the University of Illinois as well as career grants from the San Francisco Opera, the Rislov Foundation, the Kaplan Foundation, and the 2005 Elardo International Opera Competition. Ms. Hill holds bachelor’s degrees in French literature and sociology, and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Illinois.


Black History Month – Maya Angelou and Robinson Center

1414mayaOn February 23, 1998, Maya Angelou appeared with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in a concert at Robinson Center.  The evening featured Dr. Angelou narrating Joseph Schwantner’s tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “New Morning for the World.”

Dr. Angelou, a former resident of Stamps, Arkansas, was not a stranger to Little Rock. She had appeared before at Wildwood Park and would later appear at the Clinton Presidential Center.

A former Poet Laureate of the United States and Tony nominated actor, she won a Grammy Award for her reading of “On the Pulse of the Morning” which had been written for the first inauguration of Bill Clinton as President of the United States.

A poet, author, educator, dancer, singer, actor, and activist, she wrote seven autobiographies. The most notable was arguably I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  Born in St. Louis, she spent part of her childhood in Arkansas before moving to California.  She led a peripatetic life both geographically and career-wise ending as a professor at Wake Forest and residing in North Carolina.  It was there that she died in May 2014.