Piccolo Spoleto Festival, the spring arts extravaganza organized by the city of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs that’s meant as a companion to Spoleto Festival USA, revealed a lineup on Thursday rich in music and theater programming. But the festival includes a large variety of family-friendly events, visual art exhibitions, dance performances and literary gatherings, too.
For classical music fans, there seems no end to the offerings. One highlight is Natalia Khoma’s marathon through all six of Bach’s cello suites. She’ll deliver them three at a time, at 3 p.m. June 1 and 5 at the Huguenot Church downtown. Khoma also is slated to perform a program with pianist Volodymyr Vynnytsky and another with violinist Yurriy Bekker and pianist Ran Dank.
The Huguenot Church is hosting a large early music series that includes many other recitals by guests and local players.
There are jazz and blues cruises, as well as two concerts presented by Jazz Artists of Charleston. There’s Celtic music. There are organ recitals in downtown churches.
There’s a gem of a series at Bishop Gadsden that includes an unusual cello recital by Norbert Lewandowski who puts some electronic gadgetry to use, a Gullah concert by Ron Daise, a Charleston Academy of Music faculty recital, a concert by soprano Gail Robinson-Oturu and composer-pianist Roland Carter, and the St. John Youth Ensemble performing “1945: Peace.” All performances in the series are free.
And of course there’s the usual “Sunset Serenade” U.S. Customhouse concert that opens the festival (this year conducted by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s new music director, Ken Lam), the Spotlight Series and the Memorial Day concert in Marion Square.
The Charleston Music Hall will host two nights of bluegrass music organized by Awendaw Green on May 28 and June 4. And local favorites such as the Charleston Men’s Chorus, the Mt. Zion Spiritual Singers, CSO Gospel Choir and Spiritual Ensemble and other groups all will have their turn.
On the theater front, the recently opened Charleston Performing Arts Center on James Island will present “Charleston, The Musical,” an original show by Kirk Sprinkles and Scott Pfeiffer; Stan Gill will return for “Mark Twain’s Final Tour” at the Footlight Players Theater; Art Forms & Theatre Concepts will present the play “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men,” also at the Footlight Theater; and Threshold Repertory Theatre will offer two shows, “The Flick” and “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992.” What If? Productions and Midtown Productions also are presenting plays.
Pure Theatre is trying something new this year by staging three one-person plays starring Joy Vandervort-Cobb, Rodney Lee Rogers and Sharon Graci respectively.
The College of Charleston offers its selection of theater, too, in the Stelle di Domani (Stars of Tomorrow) series. And don’t forget about the ever-popular festival within the festival, Piccolo Fringe, housed at Theatre 99 and featuring lots of improv comedy and schtick.
Charleston City Ballet will present “Beauty and the Beast” on May 30 and 31 at the Music Hall, and Annex Dance will perform “The Path Taken” on June 2 at the City Gallery, a site-specific work with original music that’s inspired by the art in the space.
“A World of Jewish Culture” returns with music, film and more. And Mepkin Abbey once again will host a special concert on May 25. Loads of literary offerings — lectures, storytelling, poetry readings and more — are on tap, along with free neighborhood pop-up events in Avondale and Wagoner Terrace, the annual sand sculpting competition on the Isle of Palms and a special concert by the Ben Miller Band, which specializes in “Ozark Stomp,” in Brown Family Park at Nexton in Summerville. (The Ben Miller Band concert is free, but reservations are required.)
All in all, there are more than 500 events planned.
“The goal is to make the festival touch everyone in the community and be accessible to everyone in the community,” Mayor Joe Riley said at Thursday’s announcement. “The festival becomes the city, and the city becomes the festival.”
Scott Watson, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said the festival this year is anchored by traditions but leaves room for new discoveries. Patrons can attend any number of the free and ticketed events presented in the city’s many venues, but they can also gather in neighborhoods and collect at the U.S. Customhouse or in the parks and squares.
“Piccolo also can be an easy neighborhood experience,” he said.
The poster selected this year is by Charleston native Tug Mathisen. It’s called “Jukebox Gate” and it’s inspired by the ironwork and architecture of the city. It features a picturesque brick and cement gate with ironwork configured into musical shapes. It is the entryway to a city alive with art and culture.
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