Number of sidewalk opera singers in Charleston

Tourists come to Charleston for the history, for the food, for the culture. It's safe to say they don't come here for the opera. At least not opera sung from a street corner, from a doorway, and from the steps of the U.S. Customs House.

Richard Blakeney believes if the people don't come to the art, the art has to come to the people. Every week or so, he ventures out to the Market along East Bay Street to spread the word. And it never fails that people stop to listen, then chat with him afterward about how much they just love "Ave Maria" or "Summertime."

Blakeney founded Organic Opera, a new nonprofit organization, and he has forged partnerships with the local YWCA, the Lowcountry Children's Museum, and the Charleston County Public Library. He teaches children how to read better by having them act out stories in song. He also encourages them to make up their own songs and stories.

His outreach is largely to African-American students, many of whom certainly don't have an interest in opera. Even so, Blakeney is persistent, and that persistence often pays off. What makes the struggle worthwhile is the pleasure of witnessing teenagers' eyes suddenly awaken.

"I fell in love with opera because of outreach like mine," Blakeney says with his deep baritone. "I was sitting in front of this soprano, and when she started singing, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was magic."

The Numbers Issue

  • The Numbers Issue

    We're giving up the digits
  • 70

    The number of events at which the Homespun Hoops girls have performed
  • $490,000-$525,000

    The cost of the six Panama houses currently up for sale at the Navy Yard at Noisette.
  • 3,000

    The weight in pounds of six iron chairs at the Macaulay Museum of Dental History
  • 150-170

  • 2

    Number of ghosts that are fans of Chamber Music Charleston
  • $35 million

    The "asking price" for the newly open, even more recently closed Hard Rock Park
  • 200

    The number of guitar picks used by Graham Whorley each year
  • 108

    The North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in 2008 by the numbers
  • 17,000

    Number of miles traveled so far by the Transit Antenna
  • 1.5 million

    The estimated number of pounds of shrimp caught by commercial shrimpers in the Charleston area
  • 750,000

    The estimated number of seeds planted by local farmer Rita Bachmann
  • 1

    The number of wooden legs at MUSC's Waring Historical Library
  • 47.03

    The number of inches of rain Charleston received so far in 2008
  • 55

    The percentage of Charleston County voters who voted for Obama


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