Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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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….”

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2015 In Memoriam – Bert Parke

1515 ParkeBert Parke enjoyed music.  While he may have been better known for listening to the organ at the baseball park (first Ray Winder Field, then Dickey-Stephens Ballpark), he also enjoyed the organ at Christ Episcopal Church.  Of course his affection for the church organ cannot be separated from the fact that his beloved Ann Blair was often in the choir singing with the organ.

To many in Arkansas (and — let’s be honest, beyond Arkansas), Bert was known for his decades-long association with the Arkansas Travelers. He was part of the small group of businessmen who kept baseball in Little Rock in the 1960s by turning the Travelers into the nation’s only community-owned professional baseball team. In the 1970s, he served as Treasurer of the Travelers before being elected as President in 1980. For the next 30 years, he served in that capacity until becoming President Emeritus in 2010. Just weeks before he died, Bert was elected to the Texas League Hall of Fame.

As a businessman, he led Democrat Printing & Lithograph through many innovations and changes. Through it all, he made sure it continued to serve its customers. He passed this on to his sons Frank and John. To his children and grandchildren, he also passed on to his family the importance of philanthropy and serving the community.  He and Ann Blair co-chaired the first Opus Ball for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. At the time, there were very few black tie balls in Little Rock, so their leadership was crucial to the success of the event.

Bert also was involved in the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; he was named an Honorary Lifetime Commissioner of that museum. A life-long member of Christ Episcopal Church, he held many leadership positions in the church and the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas.

These words do poor service to the man who was Bert Parke. He had a perpetual twinkle in his eye. His mouth was always curled ready to burst into one of his generous smiles. He met no strangers.  For a while in 2015, he and I both were using walkers as we trudged down the side aisle at Christ Church. Well, I trudged. Bert reveled in the affection as he worked the crowd in a way that would be the envy of most politicians who try to work a rope line.  Each week, he would check on my progress as I recovered from a broken ankle.

For a better job at capturing the spirit of Bert Parke, here is the Rev. Scott Walters’ outstanding homily which was delivered at his service.


Creative Class of 2015: Scott Walters

scottwaltersOctober may have ended yesterday. But since this is about Creativity, the Creative Class stretches into November for one day this year.  Scott Walters uses his position as Rector of Christ Church to build connections and raise awareness of a variety of art forms and creative disciplines.

Through his leadership and encouragement, two different public gallery spaces have been created at Christ Church, an Arts at Christ Church series has been launched (featuring all types of music from Grammy winning soul to Renaissance chamber), the basement has been turned into The Undercroft music venue with regular performances, and a partnership with the Arkansas Literary Festival has been undertaken.

Concerned with the built environment, he has led walking tours of downtown which have focused not only on the history of the neighborhood but also looking at its present and envisioning its future possibilities.  Because Christ Church is at a hub of development in the River Market, Creative Corridor, SoMa, MacArthur Park and Hanger Hill, he is exploring ways to more actively integrate the church into its greater community.

Interested in historic preservation, he is currently shepherding an effort to restore the historic stained glass windows at the church. A student of poetry, philosophy and urban planning, he can often be found engaged in discussions about those topics.  But he is just as likely to discuss comedians, YouTube videos, and the local music scene.


Stephanie Smittle and The Smittle Band at The Undercroft tonight

resized_99263-smittle-v_47-16964_t300Stephanie Smittle and the Smittle Band play at one of Little Rock’s newest music venues when they perform tonight at The Undercroft. It is located on Capital Avenue just east of Scott Street, in the undercroft of Christ Church.

The concert starts at 8 p.m; doors open at 7:30. The cover charge is $5 at the door. The space is on the campus of Christ Church; the entrance is through the sidewalk-level red door on Capitol Avenue east of Scott Street.

As the Arkansas Times wrote: Regulars in jazz bars around the state, The Smittle Band offers gorgeous, fluid lounge sounds with a trickling undercurrent of classy Americana. Fronted by Stephanie Smittle, the band balances her hushed, smoky vocals with sharp guitar work from co-writer Wythe Walker, tasteful, smart keys from Jim McGehee and brushing percussion courtesy of Ray Wittenberg.

 

undercroftFor information about the new performance space The Undercroft, contact Rev. Scott Walters at Christ Church at swalters@christchurchlr.org or 501-375-2342.


Septaquintaquinquecentennial of Christ Church in Little Rock (that means 175 years)

christchurch_scaledThough there have been several churches and institutions in downtown Little Rock for over a century, Christ Episcopal Church has been at Scott and Capital Streets since 1840. That marks probably the longest continuous single use of one location in Little Rock’s history.

Today, the church marks its Septaquintaquinquecentennial.  The first church service was held on March 10, 1839, at Little Rock’s Presbyterian Church, which was then on what is now Second Street. The Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, missionary bishop of Arkansas, conducted the service.  After it was concluded, a group met in the home of Senator Chester Ashley and organized Christ Episcopal Church, named after Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, of which several of those present had been members.

Among the early members of the church were several future Little Rock Mayors including Lambert J. Reardon, John Wassell, Samuel Webb and Gordon Peay.  Nicholas Peay, Gordon’s father and a member of the church, served on the Little Rock City Council.  Future Little Rock Mayor William Ashley was the first Little Rock resident to be married at Christ Church.

The first sanctuary was constructed in 1840-1841 and was later destroyed by fire in 1873 (most likely due to a lightning strike).  After meeting in a variety of places, a chapel was constructed on the property and served as the church’s primary place of worship while the new sanctuary was being built.  It opened in 1887.  It was in the chapel that future General Douglas MacArthur was baptized as an infant while his family resided in Little Rock.

In 1928, a Parish Hall was built. This was one of the first church buildings in the South which featured a gym and other spaces available for use not just by church members but by the entire city.  It would later serve as the temporary sanctuary of Christ Church.  On October 1, 1938, the second sanctuary burned just as a renovation had been completed.  Though there was no official cause of the fire, it was most likely due to spontaneous combustion of construction materials.

The cornerstone for the third, and current, sanctuary was laid on October 1, 1940.  Construction was completed in 1941.  It was designed by Edwin Cromwell with the unofficial assistance of the then-Rector, Rev. Dr. William Postell Witsell. (Dr. Witsell appreciated architecture and the arts. He was very instrumental in the design of the stained glass windows which hang in the church today.  Charles Witsell, one of the founders of the Witsell, Evans, Rasco firm, is a grandson of Dr. Witsell.) In the 1980s, an addition was built along Scott Street to connect the sanctuary with the Parish Hall.

Along with the revitalization of downtown, Christ Church has been active in implementing innovative programming in a variety of areas including sustainability and the arts. The Rector, Rev. Scott Walters, and Associate Rector, Rev. Dr. Kate Alexander, often pepper their sermons with references to poetry, music (both sacred and secular), writers, artists and even comedians.

The Arts at Christ Church program has brought such varied artists as Mavis Staples, Baltimore Konsort and the Vienna Boys Choir to Little Rock. In 1990, Nichols & Simpson, a Little Rock based organ builder of international renown, constructed a new organ for the Christ Church sanctuary replacing a 1954 organ.  While used in worship, it is also used for a variety of organ recitals throughout the year.  Christ Church has been a sponsor of the Arkansas Literary Festival for the past several years and participates in the 2nd Friday Art Night with a rotating gallery of Arkansas artists. In addition, the Undercroft debuted in late 2013. This intimate music space is located underneath the sanctuary and offers a venue for acoustic music.

To mark the 175th anniversary, Rt. Rev. Larry R. Benfield, the thirteenth Bishop of the Diocese of Arkansas will be conducting an Evensong service this evening.  Prior to being named Bishop, he served as Rector of Christ Church.


Kevin Kerby Tonight in Downtown Little Rock at The Undercroft

kevinkerbyKevin Kerby plays at one of Little Rock’s newest music venues when he performs tonight at The Undercroft. It is located on Capital Avenue just east of Scott Street, in the undercroft of Christ Church.

The concert starts at 8 p.m. The cover charge is $5 at the door. The space is on the campus of Christ Church; the entrance is through the sidewalk-level red door on Capitol Avenue east of Scott Street.

Kerby has long been one of those songwriters about town who has consistently created great music. It’s a streak that stretches back to before his days in Ho-Hum, and includes time in Ho-Hum, Mulehead — with its four albums of Arkansas rock — and other bands. Following the end of Mulehead, Kerby wrote and recorded two solo albums. First came The Secret Lives of All Night Radios, and then, picking up backing band Battery, Beautiful & Bright.

undercroftFor information about the new performance space The Undercroft, contact Rev. Scott Walters at Christ Church at swalters@christchurchlr.org or 501-375-2342.