For the organizers of Piccolo Spoleto Festival, the goal is accessibility. They want lots of local and regional artists to join the lineup, and they want lots of local and regional patrons to enjoy all that’s offered.
Think of those medieval European towns, with the splendorous palace, full of art and artifacts, at the top of the hill and then, just outside the palace gates, a colorful marketplace populated by vendors of all sorts.
Spoleto Festival USA is that palace, with its top-drawer international offerings; Piccolo Spoleto is that popular marketplace, where the abundant goods are exchanged with enthusiasm.
Piccolo Spoleto is organized by the Office of Cultural Affairs and accommodates hundreds of events such as music concerts, children’s programming, harbor cruises, poetry readings, street parties, art exhibitions, dance shows, sketch comedy and lots of theater.
Patrons can expect to revel in all the usual fare: the Sunset Serenade concert, Early Music Series, Spotlight Concert Series, sand sculpting competition, Festivals of Churches and Synagogues, Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99, Outdoor Art Exhibition, Sundown Poetry Series and more.
But some surprises are on tap. Neighborhood pop-up shows, for example. And trumpet master Charlton Singleton joining the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for the curtain-raiser.
This year, Piccolo Spoleto is extending its reach to Beaufort with a short series of early music concerts.
Many events are free. Others are cheap. You will find original programming, revivals and improvisation. You will have a chance not only to take in a performance but to buy art for your walls. You will discover the deep well of talent in town as well as enjoy remarkable performers and artists from off.
Piccolo Spoleto Festival’s offerings are so multitudinous and varied, it seems a little absurd to try to recommend a limited selection of events. Does one emphasize theater? Classical music? Comedy? Dance?
So here is our caveat: This small selection is arbitrary, merely one of a million possible lists. You would be wise to scrutinize the program, for you are sure to find plenty of performances, exhibits and activities that satisfy your particular interests. The following suggestions are merely a starting point.
“Ballet on Queen” features professional dancers of the local company Ballet Evolution in collaboration with Unbound Dance Project and Chamber Music Charleston. 7 p.m. Friday, May 24; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, May 25. $25. Queen Street Playhouse, 20 Queen St.
Nameless Numberhead, the husband-and-wife comedy team, offers an imaginative and funny set of hyperbolic sketches for the Piccolo Fringe Festival, hosted by Theatre 99. 9:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26. $16. Theatre 99, back of 280 Meeting St.
“Carvalho’s Journey,” a 2015 documentary film about Solomon Nunes Carvalho, a Sephardic Jew from Charleston and photographer who was hired to document J.C. Fremont’s fifth expedition across the Rockies in search of a railway passage. This is one of three film screenings that are part of the “World of Jewish Culture” programming. 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 28. $10. Arnold Hall, Jewish Studies Center, College of Charleston, 96 Wentworth St.
The In-Between is a unique trio of performers — soprano Jill Terhaar Lewis, sax player Robert Lewis and pianist Gerald Gregory — who will collaborate with Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker, local guitarist Tyler Ross, Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Nathan Koci and jazz pianist Maxx Bradley. 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 29. $21 adults. Second Presbyterian Church, 342 Meeting St.
The Life and Times of Mary, Queen of Scots, a program of choral songs, motets, anthems and more by The King’s Counterpoint. Featured composers include Byrd, Tallis, Victoria and Mantua. This program is part of the Early Music Series. 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1. $25. St. Philip’s Church, 142 Church St.
The Charlestones Sing Everything. That’s the title of the program, and it’s not far from the truth. The male vocal quartet does everything from a cappella barbershop to Broadway to patriotic pop. 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1. $20. St. Jon’s Lutheran Church, 5 Clifford St.
Natalia Khoma performs Bach’s cello suites to end the Early Music Series. Khoma is on faculty at the College of Charleston. She is an accomplished musician known for her expressive, virtuosic style. 3 p.m. Saturday, June 8. $25 adults. St. Philip’s Church, 142 Church St.
Poetry at McLeod: Roger Reeves. McLeod Plantation on James Island hosts African-American poet Reeves, who will illuminate the black experience in America with a poetry reading. Reeves has been published in numerous poetry and literary periodicals. Currently, he is associate professor at the University of Texas-Austin. 2 p.m. Sunday, June 9. Free for first 50 arrivals. McLeod Plantation, 325 Country Club Dr.