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.

2015 In Memoriam – Susan Purvis

1515 PurvisRemembering Susan Turner Purvis, Artist and Teacher – by Judy Baker Goss

From the bulletin, “A Service of Resurrection and Thanksgiving to God for Susan Turner Purvis:”

In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. 

-Marc Chagall

On July 22, there were many reasons that an overflowing crowd filled the sanctuary of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church to memorialize the radiant life of Susan Turner Purvis. I believe that her large heART was the root of them all. A native of Hope who lived in Little Rock over forty years, Susan’s love deeply touched family, friends, fellow teachers and artists, and students.

Fortunately, I knew Susan for half a century. We met as Hendrix freshmen living in Galloway Hall, where she was the ringleader for fun. Packed three girls to a room, we were the last class to endure Hendrix’s version of orientation “hazing.” When commanded, “Button, Freshman,” we fell to a knee in dresses, one hand touching beanie cap, and sounded off, “Good afternoon, Miss Jones, m’am, I’m freshman Susan Turner from Hope, Arkansas, m’am.”  An “upperclasswoman” told Susan and her roomies to “fly like birds” into the dining hall for supper, but Susan topped that comical idea. Looking adorably innocent, Susan’s impulses were extremely impish. She made bloody bandages from huge gauze pads dripping with red lipstick blood, which they taped to their knees. They boldly flapped in that evening, giggling in front of the astonished crowd! Wherever Susan went, there was laughter, and many anecdotes prove that she never sought sainthood. The blessings she showered on others, however, gave her the aura of cherished guardian angel.

Susan knew she was an artist in college, as I was stepping into theatre, and she always encouraged my dreams. We know this was her nature, too. During her twenty-eight year career as Art Specialist at Gibbs International Studies Magnet School, which she began with no classroom and, rather, one table and a box of Mardi Gras beads, she not only provided excellent art education, but she aligned her efforts with others, enhancing the creative potential of all.  Discovering that a former Gibbs custodian, Eddie Lee Kendrick, was a self-taught artist, she facilitated his joining her for a year at Gibbs and then co-curated a show of his work with the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Arkansas Arts Center. When she worked with a project of the Rockefeller Foundation, UALR and the Japanese-American Museum in Los Angeles dealing with the Japanese-Americans who were relocated during World War II, especially to the Arkansas camps at Jerome and Rowher, she co-wrote curriculum for social studies and art teachers based on those internees’ experiences. Her Gibbs students made a wonderful quilt reflecting their encounters with this curriculum. Susan brought people together to move forward, through art, to greater human understanding.

Her approach to learning always demonstrated curiosity and creativity, making something new from what was at hand. By no accident did her methods produce remarkable results time and again. Her students won many awards, some in the exclusive International Children’s Art Exhibition sponsored by Pentel.  In nineteen of the twenty-six years that Gibbs students’ work was accepted in the Young Arkansas Artists (YAA) exhibition through the Arkansas Arts Center, they won “Best in Class.” In 2015, Susan’s retirement year, two Gibbs group projects won awards. Also beloved by her professional peers, she was twice named Arkansas Elementary Art Educator of the Year and once as Arkansas Art Educator of the Year.

Bright and well-educated, Susan’s contributions were never limited to theory; her talented efforts blossomed through personal relationships: Susan provided her full self. She convinced students that they were artists by opening their hearts to believe it and coaxing their visions into art objects, the solid evidence. She presented core ideas which students could research and expand and for which they could imagine inclusive group participation to produce results. Their remarkable achievements sprang from authentic shared creativity. I agreed with Susan that there is no higher educational goal. The outpouring on Facebook by young adults whom Susan taught at Gibbs often referenced specific examples of her inspired teaching, which still nurtures them today.

One of my happiest memories of Susan is a joyful collaboration on a music and arts project with other young mothers at our church in 1986. We guided elementary students, including our children, to create their own Christmas pageant.  They wrote a script from Bible stories, selected songs, built props and acted the play in the sanctuary. Susan and I loved the children’s interpretations, especially their decision that someone should BE the star of Bethlehem, and “it should move.” With Susan’s direction, they created a stunning orb, which was carried atop a pole down the center aisle, one of the high points in “Starry, Starry Night.” Yes, think Van Gogh, too, for Susan added art history along the way. It’s apt to say we followed Susan, our star.

Time and again, I saw that Susan’s vision of the power of self-expression was all-encompassing. It mattered to her how others experience the world, and her empathy for them, especially for children, opened the heavens for us all.

Great grief pours from great joy and love, and though the light of her life will not fade, Susan is deeply missed in this community. I treasure reminders of Susan: the faces of her family and friends, the photos and stories we’ll share over and over, her voice in my mind’s ear, and her artist’s spirit tucked deep in my heart.

2015 In Memoriam – “Daddy Jack” Fryer

1515 FryerIn these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

Though his vocations ranged from furniture sale to the financial industry to farming, it was as a singer that “Daddy Jack” Fryer made an impact on the cultural scene.

While in college at the University of Arkansas, he received the nickname “Daddy Jack” for his receding hairline. The nickname stuck and would later be used in a series of bands.

Daddy Jack loved singing, whether it was in a Michigan restaurant, a church choir or fronting a band at a gig.

Though he had spent most of his life in a church choir (starting at an early age), he never learned how to read music.  Whether as a solo or part of a choir, Daddy Jack sang the notes he wanted to sing the way he wanted to sing them — and figured out a way to make it work.

Among his bands rock ‘n roll, R&B and blues bands over the years were Daddy Jack and the University Soul Association, Daddy Jack and the Seven Screamers, and Daddy Jack and the All Stars.

A man who struggled with personal shortcomings, Daddy Jack believed in the redemption. He devoted the last few years of his life to prison and recovery ministries.  Even when he was facing his own challenges, he still had a quick wit and a big heart.

It was fitting that his memorial involved both a worship service at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church (where he had spent countless hours in the choir) and a reception at the Country Club of Little Rock featuring music by Johnny Roberts and the All Stars.

Jonathan William Moyer organ recital tonight

cacago moyerThe Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists welcomes Jonathan William Moyer for a recital tonight.  It starts at 8pm at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church and is free.

Jonathan William Moyer maintains a dynamic career as an organist, pianist, singer, and conductor. He has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan, including such venues as Washington National Cathedral, the Musashino Civic Cultural Hall in Tokyo, and at the Dvôrák Spring Festival in Prague and Vienna. He is a member of the critically acclaimed early music vocal ensemble Quire Cleveland.

At the Church of the Covenant in Cleveland, Moyer oversees a music program consisting of a professional and amateur choir, children’s youth and handbell choirs, one of Cleveland’s largest pipe organs (E.M. Skinner/Aeolian Skinner/Holtkamp), the Newberry baroque organ (Richards Fowkes), and a 47-bell Dutch carillon.

In 2008, Moyer performed the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen in four recitals at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, celebrating the centenary of the composer’s birth and the renovation of the cathedral’s organ. Also that year, he received second prize in the Sixth International Musashino Organ Competition in Tokyo, Japan. In 2005, he was one of four finalists in the St. Albans International Organ Competition. He has served on the executive committee of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.


Monday Musings – Jay Clark

Jay ClarkWhen Jay Clark is not on stage at the Arkansas Rep or other local theatres, you will might find him in a pulpit or leading a youth outing at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.  His “day job” is Pastor with Youth and Their Families at PHUMC.  He is currently an understudy for Vice-Principal Panch in the Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He is set to perform on the 22nd and 23rd this week (Thursday and Friday).  If you saw him in multiple roles in the Rep’s production of Hairspray, you know you’re in for a good show!
After graduating from the American Musical and Dramaitc Academy in New York, Jay worked behind the scenes on Broadway/Off-Broadway productions of The Sunshine Boys(with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman), The Gin Game (with Julie Harris and Charles Durning), Jekyll and Hyde, The Life, and An Evening with Jerry Herman.  He has worked with United Methodist youth in New England, New York City, Arkansas, North Carolina and Nashville.
-My earliest memory was (age and incident)

Maybe watching Aloha from Hawaii. I was only a few years old, but I remember sitting in front of the tv on the bean-bag and watching. It was either this or dancing with a stuffed animal fox.

-When I was in high school and imagined my adulthood, I thought I would be…

An actor, no doubt. Plus I wanted a fulfilling life.

-Star Wars, Star Trek, Battle of the Network Stars, or Dancing with the Stars?

Battle of the Network Stars.

-I most identify with the Winnie the Pooh character of…

Tigger…although I have my Christopher Robin moments.

-The performer I’d drop everything to see is…

Dead or alive? George Burns, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, The Rat Pack – I tend to be old school.

-My first paying job was…
digging ditches and house footings for my grandpa. Then as a radio dj for KRLW in Walnut Ridge
-A book I think everyone should read is….
anything by Dostoevsky
-My favorite season is…
-We are all geeks (or experts) about something. My field is….

ASO Inaugural INC Tonight featuring Justin Bischof


The Stella Boyle Smith Intimate Neighborhood Concert Series is a new concert series by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, featuring fantastic music in gorgeous, acoustically unique venues around Little Rock.

The three concerts—each about an hour long—offer a special, intimate performance and the opportunity to get up-close and personal with musicians in chamber orchestra ensembles performing pieces in perfect settings. In addition to hearing these beautiful works, you are invited to mingle with the musicians after the concerts.

Organ virtuoso Justin Bischof joins Philip Mann and the ASO at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church on Thursday January 17 at 7pm.

ROSSINI: Barber of Seville: Overture
POULENC: Concerto for Organ
BISCHOF: Improvisation
IVES: The Unanswered Question
MOZART: Symphony No. 35 in D, “Haffner”

Tickets may be purchased on the ASO website or at the door.  But seating is limited.