City announces lineup, unveils poster for Piccolo Spoleto Festival

The 2016 Piccolo Spoleto Festival poster was designed by Gil Shuler.

A month before the festivities begin, Charleston officials announced the program for Piccolo Spoleto Festival 2016, unveiling a poster by local graphic artist Gil Shuler and celebrating the festival’s 38th year.

It’s the first Piccolo Festival organized under the auspices of Mayor John Tecklenburg, though a meeting about Interstate 526 kept him from attending Tuesday’s announcement in Washington Park. Tecklenburg has been an active participant in the festival, sometimes helping to organize the jazz series and typically performing on harbor cruises and in various concerts.

This year will be no different. Tecklenburg will play with longtime musical collaborator and band leader Lonnie Hamilton on the June 5 harbor cruise.

“It’s great to see the mayor continue to participate but also officiate,” said Office of Cultural Affairs Director Scott Watson, who spearheads the organization of the festival. “For us, as city employees, that’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The festival features the usual profusion of events, many of which are free. It’s meant to complement the international Spoleto Festival USA by showcasing local and regional talent, presenting events throughout the city and making the arts generally accessible to patrons who might not regularly attend concerts downtown.

This year, the city is offering programs in the Avondale section of West Ashley, at West Ashley High School, at Magnolia Community Garden in West Ashley, in Allen Park and in Hampton Park. There is also a series of classical and concert music at both Bishop Gadsden on James Island and at Franke at Seaside in Mount Pleasant.

The Charleston Symphony Orchestra will perform with pop artist Ben Folds at Daniel Island’s Volvo Car Stadium on June 8. The concert will be led by CSO Principal Pops Conductor Yuriy Bekker and will feature Folds on piano singing some of his hits.

Events are scheduled to enable concert enthusiasts to take advantage of Piccolo’s offerings and still have time to attend Spoleto Festival events, Watson said.

Dance concerts, theater productions, poetry readings, improv comedy, exhibitions of visual art, youth concerts, street festivals, organ recitals, early music concerts and more once again are part of the festival. The Spotlight Concert Series, a festival cornerstone, this year includes 13 eclectic programs by local and regional performers.

Bekker is artistic director of the series. He received support from coordinator Lee Kohlenberg and director emeritus Ellen Dressler Moryl, Yiorgos Vassilandonakis and Jennifer Luiken.

Annual traditions include the May 27 “Sunset Serenade” concert with the CSO at the U.S. Customhouse, which kicks off the festival; Family Day at Marion Square on May 28 and the Memorial Day concert in Marion Square; the June 4 sand sculpting competition on Isle of Palms; a special May 30 concert at Mepkin Abbey near Moncks Corner; a four-event Celtic Arts Series featuring Taylor Music Group artists; a work called “The Red Suitcase” by Annex Dance Company, on June 6 and 7, inspired by works of art; and “Sounds of the Cigar Factory,” a May 29 dramatic reading adapted from Michele Moore’s novel “The Cigar Factory.”

Much more is on tap, about 500 events in all. For a complete program and a wealth of festival information, go to piccolospoleto.com. Printed programs will be available at the Charleston Visitor Center, the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the Gaillard Center and at various venues around town. The Gaillard Center box office opens May 2.