On the 10th Day of Christmas, Opera in the Rock brings THE GIFT OF THE MAGI

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Opera In The Rock is pleased to present a special addition to the 2019-2020 season: David Conte’s chamber opera “The Gift of the Magi” in partnership with Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church on Friday, January 3rd, 2020, 7:30 pm at PHUMC, 4823 Woodlawn Dr., Little Rock, 72205.

“The Gift of the Magi” is a chamber opera in four scenes with music by David Conte and libretto by Nicholas Giardini based on the 1905 holiday short story with the same title by O. Henry. The opera focuses on the love story between the poor married couple Jim and Della who cannot afford to buy each other presents for Christmas. As a sentimental story about gift-giving with a well-known plot and an ironic ending, “The Gift of the Magi” opera delivers this classic holiday tale of morals with beautiful singing and a rich orchestral score.

Starring local operatic favorites Kyle Forehand and Shannon Rookey as Jim and Della alongside their friends Maggie and Henry played by Sarah Stankiewicz-Dailey and Daniel Morris, the chamber opera will include musicians from the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Robson sponsored by Pulaski Heights UMC.  Watch for some surprise cameos in the production, as well.

In partnership with Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, there will be a “Meet the Kings! Family Fun” event prior to the opera performance at 6:30pm in the Gathering Hall of the church. Activities for children and families include crown-making and cookie-decorating with an opportunity to meet the three kings.

General Admission is free with a $15 suggested donation benefitting Opera In The Rock performances and outreach programming. Childcare available at the church with RSVP only by calling 501-664-3600 with ages and number of children. For more information and tickets, please visit www.oitr.org or call 501-681-9640.

19 LR Cultural Touchstones in 2019. Part 2: Changes at the Arkansas Arts Center, ASO and UA Little Rock

As the look back to 19 cultural occurrences in 2019 continues, this entry looks at personnel and location changes.

4. Groundbreaking for reimagined Arkansas Arts Center on first day of tenure for new executive director, Dr. Victoria Ramirez.  October 1, 2019, was a red-letter day for the Arkansas Arts Center.  Not only was it the first day for new executive director, Dr. Victoria Ramirez, but it was also the ground-breaking for the award-winning reimagining of the Arkansas Arts Center.

Dr. Ramirez was hired in August 2019 to take over the leadership of the Arkansas Arts Center. She came from the El Paso Museum of Art, where she has been Director. Previously she has worked at museums in Austin, Houston, Washington DC as well as Georgia and Virginia. Since October 1, she has hit the ground running with meetings and almost daily visits to the construction site.

In June and August 2019, the AAC paid farewell to its previous building in MacArthur Park in a series of events. In August, the staff and museum school moved to facilities in the Riverdale section of Little Rock which will be its home until the reimagined (and largely newly constructed) facility is reopened in 2022.  The AAC continues to offer programming, largely in conjunction with the Central Arkansas Library System and the Clinton Presidential Center.

One last AAC note of mention: in December 2019, Bradley Anderson stepped down after FORTY years as artistic director of the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre.  In his typical lowkey fashion, he eschewed a public tribute, but was feted by the staff.  Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., honored him with a proclamation, as well.

5.  Philip Mann steps down as Music Director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra; Geoffrey Robson is Interim Music Director.  After nearly a decade on the podium of the ASO, Philip Mann left the organization in May 2019.  He was honored by the Board and musicians at final concerts in Robinson Center and the I.N.C. series.  Associate Music Director Geoffrey Robson was named as the Interim Music Director.

While he is conducting many of the concert for the ASO this season, he is sharing the podium with a variety of guest conductors.  Some of the guest conductors may be candidates for the permanent post.  In deference to those who would prefer to keep their interest under wraps, the ASO is conducting (pun intended) this search more privately than in previous efforts.  All of the guest conductors (whether a candidate or not) are being given a chance to interact with audience members.  So far, audience response to the concerts and guest conductors has been overwhelmingly positive.

The ASO has not publicly announced a timeline for naming the next permanent music director.  In the meantime, Robson and Executive Director Christina Littlejohn, along with ASO Board members and staff, continue to present an aggressive concert and outreach schedule.  Another ASO personnel change of note, longtime ASO supporter Ellen M. Gray was named an Honorary Lifetime Member of the ASO Board this year. She joins a very select few who have been granted this designation.

Image result for ua little rock logo6.  A new Chancellor and new arts Dean at UA Little Rock.  While not specifically a cultural institution, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is definitely a player in the City’s arts environment.  2019 saw Dr. Christy Drale, a longtime university administrator, assuming the helm as the Chancellor of UA Little Rock.  She has been a valued supporter of the university’s arts, cultural and heritage offerings throughout her tenure.

While she is faced with making deep cuts at the university due to declining enrollment and the accompanying decrease in funding, it is highly unlikely that she will make knee-jerk cuts to arts funding first, which has often been the case in the past not only at this university but at many others.

Likewise, Dr. Sarah Beth Estes was permanently named Dean of Arts, Letters, and Sciences at UA Little Rock in the summer of 2019. She had previously held the position in the interim and has been a faculty member and administrator at UA Little Rock since 2006.  Dean Estes has been a vocal advocate for cross-discipline collaborations within the university as well as the importance of UA Little Rock as a community asset.

Image result for ualr public radio7 – Comings and Goings at UA Little Rock Public Radio.  KUAR and KLRE, the public radio stations at UA Little Rock saw some personnel changes of their own this year.  After leading the station as Interim General Manager for several years, Nathan Vandiver was named General Manager in December. He started at the stations in 2009 as an intern while he was a student at UA Little Rock.  From 2013 to 2016, he was program manager for UA Little Rock Public Radio before assuming the title of Interim G.M. following the death of Ben Fry.

Longtime Arts Scene host Ann Nicholson retired from the station in the fall of 2019. A British national, she was raised in India, Scotland, and England. She moved to Canada in the 1950s and the US in the 1960s. She and her late husband moved to Little Rock in the 1970s, upon which she quickly ensconced herself in the arts community. In 1985, she started hosting Arts Scene on UA Little Rock Public Radio. Since then, she has interviewed hundreds of artists, musicians, authors, and performers about projects in Little Rock.

UA Little Rock reporter Daniel Breen is conducting the Arts Scene interviews now. A graduate of Little Rock Central High School and UA LIttle Rock, Breen is an avid fan of the music scene and the arts in general in Little Rock.

Kevin! The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is presenting HOME ALONE with live orchestra this weekend!

Home Alone PosterThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents the first concert of the 2019-2020 Acxiom Pops! Live concert series: Home Alone: Film with Orchestra, Saturday, December 21th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 22th at 3:00 p.m. in the Robinson Center. The Pops! Live concert series is sponsored by Acxiom.

A true holiday favorite, this beloved comedy classic features renowned composer John Williams’ charming and delightful score performed live to picture by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

Macaulay Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy who’s accidentally left behind when his family leaves for Christmas vacations, and who must defend his home against two bungling thieves. Hilarious and heart-warming, Home Alone is holiday fun for the entire family!

The Symphony, under the direction of Geoffrey Robson, will be playing John Williams’ Oscar-nominated score as the film plays.

Joining Culkin (whose aunt Bonnie Bedelia is a star in another Christmas move: DIE HARD) in HOME ALONE are a group of seasoned veterans.  While the adults are meant to be more cartoonish, they still keep the film grounded.  Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern have wonderful chemistry as the Wet Bandits.  John Heard’s slightly befuddled father is an apt foil for Catherine O’Hara’s intense mother. The latter displays much warmth when needed, as well. John Candy turns in a fun cameo in the first film. If you blink, you may miss future Tony nominee and The Newsroom actress Hope Davis as a French ticket agent.

Tickets are $16, $36, $57, and $70; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 1. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at https://www.arkansassymphony.org/freekids.

The Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra presents fall concert tonight

The Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra (ASYO), Geoffrey Robson, conductor, presents its fall concert Friday, November 22nd at 7:30 p.m at the Woolly Auditorium at Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (2400 W Markham St).

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles’ top group opens the concert with Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger followed by Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. ASO’s principal horn, David Renfro will join the ASYO for their last piece, Chabrier’s Larghetto.

General Admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the venue beginning 60 minutes prior to the concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 1. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to this performance free of charge, and these complimentary tickets can be reserved via phone or walkup.

Artists
Geoffrey Robson, conductor
David Renfro, horn

Program
WAGNER – Prelude to Die Meistersinger
TCHAIKOVSKY – Nutcracker Suite
CHABRIER – Larghetto
Featuring ASO Principal Horn, David Renfro

Ravel and Villa-Lobos are on the program for tonight’s Arkansas Symphony River Rhapsodies

Ravel & Villa-LobosThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra continues the 2019-2020 River Rhapsodies Chamber Music season with Ravel and Villa-Lobos, Tuesday, November 12th at 7:00 p.m. at the Clinton Presidential Center.

ASO’s Rockefeller String Quartet, along with other musicians are performing Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello, Ives’ Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano, Missy Mazzoli’s Death Valley Junction, and Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.

River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Concerts are held in the intimate setting of the Clinton Presidential Center’s Great Hall. A cash bar is open before the concert and at intermission, and patrons are invited to carry drinks into the concert. The Media Sponsor for the River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series is UA Little Rock Public Radio.

General Admission tickets are $26; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSympohny.org; at the Clinton Center beginning 60 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 1.

Artists
Rockefeller String Quartet
-Trisha McGovern Freeney, violin
-Linnaea Brophy, violin
-Katherine Reynolds, viola
-Jacob Wunsch, cello

David Gerstein, cello
Katherine Williamson, violin
Geoffrey Robson, violin
John Krebs, piano
Casey Buck, cello
Rafael Leon, cello
Daniel Cline, cello
Stephen Feldman, cello
Kristin Smith, cello
Hannah Yeo, cello
Maria Fasciano, soprano

Beethoven, Blue Jeans, and a Brace of Arkansas Composers on tap for ASO Weekend Concerts

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents the second concert of the 2019-2020 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks season: Beethoven and Blue Jeans, Saturday, November 9th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 10th at 3:00 p.m. in the Robinson Center.

The ASO is proud to present Beethoven and Blue Jeans, featuring the works of two Arkansan composers, Florence Price and William Grant Still, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 “Eroica.”  Beethoven and Blue Jeans is sponsored by The DoubleTree Hotel. The Masterworks Series is sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.  The concerts will be under the baton of guest conductor Andrew Grams.

Interim Artistic Director, Geoffrey Robson, gives these notes: “Beethoven and Blue Jeans will feature your Arkansas Symphony performing two works by 20th century African-American composers with deep Little Rock roots. William Grant Still’s Festive Overture is a lively march that passes the virtuosic torch around to all sections of the orchestra. Florence Price is rapidly gaining long overdue notice for the powerful late-romantic style and unique harmonic idiom of her compositions; her music will be interpreted by guest artist pianist and scholar Karen Walwyn. The second half of the program is filled by Beethoven’s Heroic Symphony, a beloved work representing the dividing line between the Classical and Romantic eras.”

All people with a ticket to Beethoven and Blue Jeans are invited to the annual pre-concert street party: Symphony Local. The party is on W Markham St in front of the Robinson Center starting at 5:30 on Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday. ASO will serve free brats, Stone’s Throw Brewery will sell beer, and music will be provided by the Episcopal Collegiate Steel Drum Band, under the direction of ASO percussionist Erick Saoud. The Arkansas Food bank collect non-perishable food donations, and will provide any patrons who bring 10 items or more will receive a voucher good for two best available tickets to a future Masterworks or Pops Live! concert. To learn more visit http://www.ArkansasSymphony.org/party

Tickets are $16, $36, $57, and $70; active duty military and student tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Robinson Center street-level box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 1. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at https://www.arkansassymphony.org/freekids.

Artober – Behind the Scenes. An Arkansas Symphony Orchestra rehearsal in 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, people sittingOctober is Arts and Humanities Month nationally and in Little Rock. Americans for the Arts has identified a different arts topic to be posted for each day in the month. Today’s focus is “Behind the Scenes.”

In 2017, I had the rare privilege of sitting on the stage during an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra rehearsal. These are some of the photos I took from that time.  It was exciting to not only hear the music up close but the see the musicians interact with each other on breaks. My appreciation for the ASO musicians (which was already high) grew even more so that evening.

As I was seated next to the violins, most of the photos are of the strings section.  I tried to be as subtle as possible in taking the photos.

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