Friday, April 21, 2017

Hey CofC students, you can work with SC Public Radio during Spoleto — for credit

If you've got a face for radio ...

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 12:42 PM

Calling all College of Charleston students: Spoleto Festival USA needs students to help out with an SC Public Radio show playing during the fest. The job, which requires six hours of work each day, will get you independent study credit. This year's radio program will focus on recording Chamber Music at Dock Street Theatre, along with some interviews, tiny desk-style concerts, as well as social media and press opportunities.

The course is classified as an independent study in the Arts Management program and space is limited. If you're interested, email professor Jeanette Guinn at

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spoleto tunes up with six-figure Steinway grand piano, unveils its poster, and honors Stephen Colbert's in-laws

How sweet the sound

Posted by Maura Hogan on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 12:21 PM

This Steinway comes all the way from Hamburg. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • This Steinway comes all the way from Hamburg.
Spoleto Festival USA 2017 is hereby tuning up. The past week sounded a few stirring strains of the arts immersion to come, by way of events and announcements that the Spoleto savvy have come to heed as a heads-up. It’s time to nab the hot seats, brush up on performer buzz, secure a showstopper of a wide-brim hat, and start sleuthing out the over-the-top opening night do.

At first blush, this year’s festival reveals just how sweet Spoleto is on its artists. When you perform in Charleston, it seems to say, our home is your home. For starters, last Monday the festival rolled out — or rather rolled in — a shiny new, donor-funded six-figure Steinway Hamburg “Model D” grand concert piano, the hands-down winner of the nine contenders tried out by Spoleto pianist Pedja Muzijevic. To do so, the pianist traveled to Hamburg with Festival General Director Nigel Redden and David Vail of Steinway Piano Gallery Charleston.

“It was surprising to me how much of a difference I could hear,” says Redden, while ruefully bidding farewell to the present Steinway & Sons grand piano, which, after 900 chamber concerts and more, had endured “a life of vicissitudes” — including surviving a Gaillard roof collapse, an unsanctioned shellacking of the keys, and a calamitous fall. For Redden, the acquisition does far more than make a joyful noise. “It is affirmation to the artists that we care about their performance.”

And on Thursday, the festival’s annual poster unveiling served as an artistic homecoming for artist Charles Gaines, a Charleston native whose work has shown at venerable spaces like The Whitney Museum American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. The 1988 work featured on the poster, Numbers and Trees IV, Tree 3, Spike, features a tree on a grid that Redden connects with the blossoming each year of the festival in the city. It is the artists, he seems to say, that lend the vibrancy to the city. That vibrant tree gains all the more resonance with Gaines' homegrown roots.

Patti and Peter McGee helped Spoleto Festival USA become what it is today. - LEIGH WEBBER PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Leigh Webber Photography
  • Patti and Peter McGee helped Spoleto Festival USA become what it is today.
For me, this artist-centricity hit home at Friday’s sixth annual Mary Ramsay Civic Award Luncheon. This year, at a merry yellow garden party at The Governor Thomas Bennett House, the festival celebrated Evelyn (Patti) and Joseph H. (Peter) McGee, whose civic contributions are legion and longstanding. At the behest of Mary Ramsay, the McGees nurtured the fledgling American go at the famed Italian festival in its crucial formative days. Gian Carlo Menotti asked them to host chamber music concert receptions in their Church Street garden neighboring the Dock Street Theatre. They did so for 16 years hence, throughout the 17-day run of the festival. “It was perhaps the most personal kind of philanthropy that one can offer,” says Redden.

Enlisting their teenage daughters, Madeleine and Evie, along with a cadre of friends, the McGees served up cheese biscuits and other Charleston staples to a revolving garden door of artists and arts enthusiasts of every stripe and stature. Evelyn McGee-Colbert, who was 14 at the time, also recalls The Today Show using their home as a green room, where she passed biscuits to Tennessee Williams and Strom Thurmond. The garden spilled over with the likes of a baby-faced Joshua Bell and an emerging Yo-Yo Ma. (At the luncheon, Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley, Yo-Yo Ma, and Joshua Bell, among many others, sent videotaped messages of congrats to the McGees). For McGee-Colbert, this close range to working artists opened a new world, one where professional artists make a living by doing what they love to do most. As co-founder of the Montclair Film Festival, those days inform her still. “An arts festival is only successful if it nurtures its artists,” she says. “To further their creative process, you need to make a home for them.”

So weeks before the banners rise up, the sets load in, and the artists splash that vibrancy, the connective tissue of Spoleto USA 2017 begins to reveal itself. At its best, an arts festival is a vital interplay between its artists and its community. That’s certainly hard-wired with ours. In 1977, the Spoleto Festival found its footing in a Charleston that was far quieter but no less grand. At the luncheon, flutist Paula Robison, former co-director of the chamber music concerts, likened the city in those days to a beautiful woman not yet dressed for the ball. Menotti’s vision was fueled by the civic scrap and tenacity of Mayor Joe Riley and the blind faith and warm embrace of Charlestonians like the Ramsays and the McGees. And that ball has been rolling with ever-accelerating momentum since.

When I was living in Dublin in 2003, I met an actor at a dinner party, who excitedly shared that he was heading to the festival with a role in The Gate Theatre’s Pride and Prejudice. Most every Dublin actor, he told me, keenly vied for a spot in a Spoleto-bound show, as those who did so always returned home raving about their royal treatment in the city. Thus far, the 2017 churnings bode well for artists and audiences alike. It does so by investing time, talent and resources in the creative process — and by honoring the open home and outsize heart of Peter and Patti McGee, who set a tone that, 40 years hence, continues to set the stage. As we amp up for this year’s festival, I urge you to approach the coming festival with the same enthusiasm and individual commitment. You’ll not only be personally gratified by doing so, but you’ll contribute to the making of great art.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Bank of America Chamber Music Series announces program details

Music to our ears

Posted by Kathryn Noviello on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 4:40 PM

The St. Lawrence String Quartet - WILLIAM STRUHS
  • William Struhs
  • The St. Lawrence String Quartet
The 2017 Bank of America Chamber Music series is quickly approaching, and Spoleto Festival USA has recently announced details about each of the 11 programs. Geoff Nuttall, the director and host, organized the orchestral program.

Some favorite performers of the past are returning for this year’s program, including countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, oboist James Austin Smith, percussionist Steven Schick, violinists Livia Sohn and Benjamin Beilman, and pianists Pedja Muzijevic and Stephen Prutsman. The program includes a mix of classical and more contemporary pieces, including music from composer-in-residence Jarosław Kapuściński and newcomer composer/cellist Joshua Roman. Each program will be performed three times.

Spoleto's Chamber Music series kicks off on May 26 and 27 with a program that includes songs by composers Antonio Vivaldi, Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, Lei Liang, and Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka. The second musical piece, Juicy by Kapuscinski, will be a collaborative performance with animation designer John Edmark. As Kapuscinski plays
the piano, there will be corresponding computer-controlled images and sounds.

Throughout the remainder of the series, attendees can look forward to a mix of contemporary and classical music from composers like Gustavo Aguilar, Johann Sebastian Bach, Dmitry Shostakovich, Maurice Ravel, and many more.

Don’t miss the chance to see the collective effort of these talented 18 artists and two string quartets. Learn more online.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

On the day of the 2017 unveiling, Nigel Redden talks about what makes a great Spoleto poster

Eyes up here

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 1:06 PM

Charles Gaines created this work as part of his series, 'Numbers and Trees' - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Charles Gaines created this work as part of his series, 'Numbers and Trees'
Spoleto 2017 draws near and after this morning's unveiling, we can now put a poster to the festival's name. Artist Charles Gaines is the guy behind Spoleto Fest 2017's poster, with his work, Numbers and Trees IV, Tree 3, Spike. The masonite and acrylic image was actually created back in 1988, but festival director Nigel Redden considers its message timeless.

"This poster represents the festival enormously well this year," says Redden. "I thought it was appropriate for us because it seems to be hopeful and to be about birth, about the possibility of spring. Even though sometimes we may think May is summer, it is spring. It's a spring festival."

The idea of new growth isn't just a general one either — trees relate specifically to two of this year's productions, Eugene Onegin and Waiting for Godot. "Trees play a significant role in Eugene Onegin. The birchwood forest becomes, well, more than a forest," says Redden. "In Waiting for Godot there's a tree, there's always a tree. In the festival generally you can find points of contact between things that somehow have a connection."

  • Provided
  • Gaines
Gaines' poster image draws connections between numbers and colors — although even Redden admits that he isn't quite sure how the grid works. In the center of the poster you can see zeroes that spread out: 1 then 2 then 3 in all directions (you get the idea). Gaines, who was trained as a musician (because, artists), is currently writing an opera. "The way he writes music is also associated with numerology," says Redden.

We had to ask Redden — does he ever receive posters from artists that are not quite what he'd hoped for? "There's only been once or twice," he admits. "There was one artist who gave us an image that was anatomically correct. It is, I think, incredibly sexist, however, one can have naked women, but we can't somehow see male genitalia." Needless to say that poster never quite came to, err, fruition.

Fortunately for us, Gaines' poster strays toward the conceptual rather than the sexual. Redden says one poster unveiling attendee compared the image to the peninsula. We think it kind of looks like a heart — an anatomically correct one, at that. "I think that this is the wonderful thing, you get to interpret it as you like, and in some ways, it's the same with the entire festival," says Redden.

What do y'all think of this year's poster? Can we all agree that it's better than bad ones of the past? In case you needed a reminder, here's an ugly Spoleto poster roundup from the one and only, Chris Haire. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spoleto Festival USA Offers last chance ticket savings for locals this weekend

Loco for locals

Posted by Mary Scott Hardaway on Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 4:46 PM

You can snag tickets to the Charles Lloyd Quartet and more during the Locals-only discount this weekend. - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • You can snag tickets to the Charles Lloyd Quartet and more during the Locals-only discount this weekend.
It's that time of year y'all: Spoleto Festival USA 2017 is almost upon us, and that me ans it's time to start thinking about purchasing tickets for the sure-to-sell-out selection of dance, jazz, chamber music, and theater productions.

Being cultured can be pricey, though, and the Festival wants to throw locals a bone one last time before all the glittering globetrotters hit the town. This weekend, Sat. April 8 and Sun. April 9, locals will receive a 20 percent discount on select performances when they purchase tickets in-person at the Spoleto office at 14 George St. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or online anytime Saturday or Sunday using a promo code, which will be put online on Friday.

The fine print: discounts are not available over the phone and all tickets are subject to availability. These are the following select performances that are being offered at a discounted price this weekend: Monchichi, We Love Arabs, Yo, Carmen, Murmurs, Ramona, Waiting for Godot, Butler, Bernstein, and the Hot 9, Charles Lloyd Quartet,
Dee Dee Bridgewater, Evan Christopher's Clarinet Road, Terence Blanchard featuring the E Collective, and a number of Chamber Music performances.

Phew. Between ole Sammy Beckett, the inimitable Maria Pages, and enough jazz to transport you to a swingier, simpler time, why not take advantage of this discount?

This weekend the official poster of Spoleto Festival USA 2017 will be for sale at the Festival offices for $35. Look out for the big design reveal this Thurs. April 6, and be sure to check back for our previews of all of the aforementioned shows.
Location Details Spoleto Festival USA
14 George St.
Charleston, South Carolina
General Location

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