A story appeared yesterday in The New York Times about New York City Ballet modifying its production of Balanchine's The Nutcracker to do away with "yellowface" – stereotypical portrayals of Asian people.
Columbia Classical Ballet's presentation of "The Nutcracker" in 2015. (Provided photo)
Last year, New York City Ballet modified the choreography, costumes and makeup. And, just last month, the Balanchine Trust, which owns the rights to Balanchine’s work, notified other ballet companies that the changes were an approved option, though not required.
With Nutcracker season upon us (several open on Thanksgiving weekend and the rate accelerates into December), The Hub thought it was an interesting topic to share with our readers, especially in light of the controversial comments made by Megyn Kelly before her departure from NBC last month.
These adjustments are part of a broader effort to re-examine how people of color are portrayed in the performing arts and how classics with potentially troubling aspects can be made acceptable to modern audiences. In 2015, the Metropolitan Opera eliminated blackface from its “Otello.” The Bolshoi has toned down a segment of its “La Bayadère” featuring white children in blackface, but it has been criticized for not going far enough. And more recent fare has also been revised: The musical “Cats” dropped a song in which characters sang in Asian accents.
You can read the full story here. These are hot-button topics everywhere, but it is certainly relevant to the S.C. Arts Commission, where our legislative charge is "to create a thriving arts environment that benefits all South Carolinians, regardless of their place or circumstance. Diversity, inclusion, and access are critical components of that charge.
Tuning Up: History and art at Florence park + Wando band update
Good morning! "Tuning Up" is a morning post series where The Hub delivers curated, quick-hit arts stories of interest to readers. Sometimes there will be one story, sometimes there will be several. Get in tune now, and have a masterpiece of a day. And now, in no particular order...
We hope you paused to reflect during the weekend and/or yesterday's holiday. While Veterans Day comes but once a year, a park in Florence combines history with art to honor them year-round. Yesterday it added a monument to the Korean War to its six-and-a-half-acre expanse. The park features sculptures and, for history buffs, artifacts such as a 280-pound chunk of limestone taken from the rubble of the Pentagon's eastern facade and the bell from the USS South Carolina, which served during WWI.
Last week we brought you the story of the Wando High school marching band's quest for glory at a national competition in Indianapolis. Writer Karen McDonough followed up with The Hub and reported that the band advanced to the 2018 Grand National finals on Saturday and finished sixth in the nation, a first for a South Carolina band. Congratulations!
Wando band marches in national competition today
Sculpture and music combine for an award-winning marching band show
By Karen McDonough
While most high school students probably have never heard of Alexander Calder, a group of South Carolina teen musicians have become quite familiar with the 20th century American sculptor’s work.
Calder’s art work is the central theme of this year’s show by the nationally-ranked Wando High School marching band in Mt. Pleasant.
The band performance – which features Calder-inspired sculptures as set props and other nods to his creative force – is a moving collaboration and celebration of sound, movement, and art. And it has catapulted the school to winning back-to-back, first-place wins this fall in regional Bands of America (BOA) competitions for the first time ever. The band performs in the BOA Grand National competition Nov. 8-10 in Indianapolis.
In the Calder-inspired show, some 260 students –playing everything from the piccolo to the sousaphone with a highly impressive drumline – move, dance and march across a football field, along with 38 color guard wearing bold-hued costumes during the 12-minute theatrical presentation.
The Wando High School color guard performs on the swing prop. (Stacey Mercorelli)
“Our show is an attempt to use the abstract use of form, color, balance and motion seen in Calder’s sculptures, to create an environment on the football field that is not unlike a modern sculpture garden,” Wando Band’s program coordinator Michael Gray told MoultrieNews.com. “Each of the Calder inspired props in our show contain elements that move throughout the show, all dependent upon the environment in which they are placed.”
The students play musical selections from the classic film "To Kill A Mockingbird” by Elmer Bernstein, an original score by South Carolina composer Jay Bocook and “The Big Apple” by Johan de Meij – against a backdrop of colorful, movable props – all handmade by band parents – reminiscent of the shapes in Calder’s work.
The show features recorded narration which tells Calder’s story from the words of art historians, collectors and others who best knew his work.
One of the props is inspired by Calder’s famous red outdoor “Flamingo” steel and glass sculpture in downtown Chicago, which the band affectionately refers to as just “Chicago.” Other bright colored props carry the childlike and innocent feel of Calder’s work.
Band parents adjust the "Chicago" prop. (Mike Terry)
The show was titled “By a Thread” because Calder’s art seemingly hangs by a thread, Gray said, as viewers must look up to see his mobiles and large-scale sculptures.
Michael Gray (Margie Jackson)
Gray is a Charleston-based impressionist painter whose artwork is in several galleries around the country. He’s been a part of the Wando band creative team for 18 years and came up with the idea for a Calder-inspired show eight years ago. While it took that many years for the school to get permission to use the likeness of Calder images as set props and on the color guard flags, something else had to be present. The students had to be advanced musically enough as well to tackle a show like this, Gray said. And this season everything came together.
Gray designed the color guard costumes, which were inspired by circus costumes Calder had designed for the dance company of Josephine Baker, who dominated the Parisian entertainment scene of that era. Gray also designed the band’s new uniforms this year, an upgrade from the same uniform they wore for 13 previous years.
Gray’s artistic vision for the program, along with the hard work and long hours of a sizable team of pros lead by Wando Band Director Bobby Lambert and Assistant Directors Lanie Radecke and Jeff Handel, has helped raise the school’s national profile.
“I love focusing our attention on a specific person because it allows us to bring that person and his art to life in a way that can only be done through music,” Lambert said.
“In no other activity is a young person asked to be brilliant, athletic, sensitive, and artistic all at the same time. Bringing all of those mediums together alone is a triumph but to do it at a level commensurate with some of the best in the country is extraordinary.”
Wando won two first-place titles in regional BOA competitions in October, earning Outstanding Music Performance, Outstanding Visual Performance and Outstanding General Effect in each. The marching band has been a Grand National Finalist four times and the South Carolina 5-A state champions 11 times since 2005.
It’s Gray’s hope to educate and entertain audiences watching this year’s show. “If one person gets on their phone and Googles ‘Alexander Calder,’ I’m at peace,” he said.
Karen McDonough is a freelance writer based in Mt. Pleasant.
Recording preserves famed organ’s signature sound
Earlier this year, internationally renowned musician Parker Ramsay visited Winthrop University to record an album of George Whitefield Chadwick’s organ music on the university's famed D.B. Johnson Memorial Organ.
It is the last recording on the organ before renovations to Byrnes Auditorium that will temporarily prevent its use began. Enthusiasts of the historic organ can still revel in its signature sound captured in the Raven Label recording until the organ is once again available for performances.
Winthrop commissioned the organ’s construction in 1952 by the Aeolian-Skinner company. It is named for the Winthrop founder and first president. The large four-manual instrument with 3,788 pipes, the last instrument of famed tonal designer G. Donald Harrison, makes the organ to this day one of the largest in the Carolinas. During its 50th anniversary in 2005, the treasured instrument underwent extensive restoration efforts thanks to generous supporters and Winthrop alumni.
Given the Byrnes makeover, admirers said now it is even more critical to preserve both the sound of the instrument and the building, equally highlighted on Ramsay’s recording of Chadwick’s music.
“It’s a uniquely American artifact, and this recoding preserves that signature sound … it’s a national treasure in so many ways,” said Murray Somerville, who helped establish the Friends of the D.B. Johnson Memorial Organ Performance Fund along with his wife, Hazel, a Winthrop alumna from the class of 1969. Hazel served on the faculty of Vanderbilt University as artistic director of the children's choruses at the Blair School of Music.
Somerville, artistic director emeritus of Nashville's Music City Baroque period instrument ensemble, and former Harvard University organist and choirmaster, performed a recital on the classic organ in 2016 and was instrumental in coordinating the production of Ramsay’s CD.
Music lovers can purchase the CD in the Winthrop Bookstore during the Nov. 16-17 Homecoming & Reunion Weekend or buy directly from Raven.
The recording – featured recently on Michael Barone’s "Pipedreams" radio program – is a debut for Ramsay, a young musician already regarded for his accomplishments and blossoming career on three instruments: organ, harp and harpsichord. The CD features Ramsay on organ playing compositions of George Whitefield Chadwick, who was president of the New England Conservatory in the early 1900's and a noted composer of symphonies and orchestral tone poems. Some of the pieces on this CD are first recordings, enhanced by Byrnes’ acclaimed acoustics.
“We have this wonderful memento of … and its acoustic setting, in all its tonal splendor,” Somerville said.
Other world-famous musicians have visited Byrnes solely to perform on the famous organ, including:
Princeton University Organist Eric Plutz, who spent the summer of 2012 recording his “French Trilogy” CD,
Juilliard-trained organist Christopher Houlihan,
Westminster Abbey organist James O'Donnell,
German musicians Christoph Wolff and Stefan Engels,
and Canadian organ virtuoso Maxine Thevenot.
For more information about how to give to the Friends of the D.B. Johnson Memorial Organ Performance Fund, contact University Advancement at 803.323.2275.
Welcome to National Arts in Education Week
Good morning, and happy National Arts in Education Week!
We've curated content for The Hub and our social media feeds this week to highlight the work being done in Arts Ed by professionals in South Carolina. Let's get it started with Glenis Redmond in Greenville in this Americans for the Arts video:
All week we'll be sharing infographics like this one on our social media feeds:
The Hub will feature guest posts related to National Arts in Education Week on Tuesday and Thursday.
South Carolina’s largest private art collection
The Hub will pardon you if you get a little disoriented here, but bear with us.
The Battle of Gettysburg: Repulse of Longstreet's Assault, July 3, 1863 - James Walker
What happens when Charleston's daily newspaper writes a feature on the state's largest private art collection, which happens to be in Spartanburg?
You get a story that's worth every moment it takes to read. Seriously. Hats off to Adam Parker of the Post & Courier for this feature piece on the ultra-significant Johnson Collection. (Ed. note: The Hub checked in on The Johnson Collection a couple weeks ago when it gifted the above work to the Spartanburg County Public Library.)
But don’t think all this art is sequestered away in a private residence somewhere for the sole enjoyment of the Johnson family. What began as a simple interest in collecting fine art of the Carolinas has become a public enterprise. The inventory has grown so much that it requires a small staff to manage it.
The enterprise is unusual. It’s not a nonprofit. It has no board of directors. It can’t accept donations. It provides no tax benefit to its operators. It generates no revenue. Rather, it is a philanthropic venture with millions of dollars in annual expenditures.
A new summer camp brought learning full STEAM ahead for 100 Barnwell County students.
The Engaging Creative Minds Summer STEAM Camp was held at Macedonia Elementary/Middle School between June 4 and July 19. Approximately 100 students in the first through eighth grades engaged in fun and educational activities centered upon the components of science, technology, engineering, arts and math. While many students were from Blackville, a number also came from Barnwell and Williston.
The model used for the camp was started as an arts integration program during the school year in Charleston several years ago. A summer camp component was added in 2014, which proved successful and expanded into Clarendon County. This caught the eye of the South Carolina Department of Education which along with the S.C. Arts Commission provided funding for this year’s camp in Blackville, said Robin Berlinsky, the executive director of Engaging Creative Minds. Another camp was held in Allendale County.
Jeremiah Gilchrist, 11, a rising sixth grader at Macedonia, said he isn’t the best artist, but instructor Terrance Washington pushed him to be creative. “He told me not to tell him what I can’t do, but to at least try to do it,” said Gilchrist, who noticed his artistic progression throughout the six-week camp.
Photo from Augusta Chronicle, credit not provided.
‘Chicken Man’ loves what he does
“You gotta love it, you gotta love what you do.”
That from renowned Columbia artist Ernest Lee, known to most as the "Chicken Man" for his iconic artwork featuring ... well, you know. He's going strong 51 years into his art career.
“When I was five, I started drawing. And I told my mom if there was anything in the world I wanted to be, I wanted to be an artist,” he said. “I just picked up the pencil and kept playing with it.” When he got older, Lee began painting the interior and exterior of houses, until someone suggested he start doing “something he could call his own.”
We posit that he did. Read more on Lee's story on ColaDaily.com.
Wheel Sessions: Greenville’s Underground Jazz Series
“Wheel Sessions” is a jazz performance series in Greenville with performances for an intimate listening audience on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of each month. The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.
The first 41 Wheel Sessions were held at their namesake venue, the Wheel, a shared arts space in West Greenville’s Arts District. Wheel Sessions host and resident drummer Kevin Korschgen transformed that location, filled with funky comfortable furniture, into a “groovy” underground jazz club not unlike one you might find in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Set as theater in the round, that intimate space played an important role in establishing a unique Wheel Session brand.
However, the true success of the sessions is in the music! Sadly, the Wheel no longer exists – but the sessions continue to thrive. The Wheel Sessions enjoy an enthusiastic and supportive fan base. Whether billed as a House Party, held in a local club, or in its soon to be home, the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (GUUF), the Wheel Sessions are a must see and hear event.
Mr. Korschgen consistently books many of the Carolina’s finest jazz musicians for the sessions, extending them complete artistic license to perform as if they where in Village. Until you have attended a Wheel Session it is hard to imagine such creative jazz brewing in the Upstate.
For information on upcoming shows, visit wheelsessions.com.
Wheel Session 48
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Justin Ray Quartet
7:30-9:30 p.m. … doors open at 7 p.m.
Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
1135 State Park Rd., Greenville, SC 29609
Admission $15 (Cash only)
To reserve a seat, phone or text 312.520.2760 or email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels
Furman tenors shine at national competition in Las Vegas
After impressive performances at both state and regional National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions held earlier this year, two Furman University vocalists made the best of opportunities to compete on the national stage.Tyrese Byrd, a junior vocal performance major from Williamston and Bergsvein Toverud, a senior music education major from Lenoir, N.C., competed in the semifinals and finals of the National Student Auditions, part of the 55th NATS competition held June 22-26 in Las Vegas. The tenors won third place in their divisions at the event where they competed among 200 vocalists.
Before getting a chance to compete in the semis, the two were required to submit YouTube videos for the preliminary round. (View them here: Toverud | Byrd) Having made the cut, which included the top 14 in their respective divisions, the tenors matriculated to the live semifinal round where they continued to shine.
Only the top three or four singers in each category from the semifinals advanced to the live, national final. “Tyrese and Bergsvein were the only two tenors competing in the college classical competition at this level. This is remarkable considering the size of our music program. It says a lot about the type of student and level of talent we have here, ” Furman Professor of Voice Grant Knox said.
Knox believes no other school came away with two finalists at the competition. And besides acknowledging the raw talent students brought to the event, Knox gives a nod to Furman. “These types of successes would not be possible without Furman’s support and encouragement. These students come to Furman because they feel the university values music and the arts. I look forward to celebrating more achievements like these in the years to come,” he said.