Last week the resident artists of the Shreveport Opera visited Central Louisiana bringing their music to local schools and health facilities throughout the week and giving a public concert at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center Thursday night. The resident artists were able to make the trip south thanks to a collaboration by the Central Louisiana Community Foundation and the Arts Council of Central Louisiana. Their troupe included soprano Sarah Bauer, mezzo-soprano Gillian Lynn Cotter, tenor Johnathan Riesen, baritone Ryan Bradford, and pianist Michael Gaertner. While here these five were showed much generosity by local arts patrons as they were treated to meals and given free room-and-board.
Their tours were well-received as the troupe exposed opera to elementary school students through fun mini-operas full of life lessons; these shows were called Stop, Bully! and The Ugly Duckling. High school students – although they might have had doubts at first – were thrilled to hear familiar opera arias and Broadway show tunes that they did not even realize they knew until the music began. Residents at assisted living facilities were treated to much familiar music too, as were the patients and staff of the VA Medical Center in Pineville. Thursday evening’s performance at Coughlin-Saunders was even better than I had expected – and, I had been travelling alongside the troupe listening to them perform throughout the week.
If you missed the festivities last week – or just want more – there’s one more chance to catch the Shreveport Opera this season. Saturday, April 11 the Shreveport Opera will present Rossini’s Cinderella. Although their performance is in Shreveport – as I have written in previous blogs – the quality of the Shreveport Opera productions certainly warrants the drive!
This week Central Louisiana’s music lovers have two great concerts to look forward to. Tomorrow Japanese pianist and winner of the 2013 Louisiana International Piano Competition Kumi Matsuo returns to Alexandria to give a concert at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. This free concert is part of the Cathedral Music Series and will begin at 7 PM. This world-class pianist who with her victory at LIPC now has local ties will play music by Beethoven, Ravel, Schumann, and others. It was in fact the Concerto by Schumann that propelled this pianist to win the competition almost two years ago. At that concert, Matsuo gave a splendid interpretation of this often underestimated masterpiece – while the Schumann is not nearly as showy as some other concerti, it is just as demanding and fit well in Matsuo’s hands. I would expect nothing less from Kumi Matsuo than a terrific recital tomorrow evening!
Thursday evening the Arts Council of Central Louisiana presents its March installment of Abendmusik Alexandria. This concert is entitled A Night of Popular Favorites and features the Young Artists Chamber Orchestra of Alexandria directed by John De Chiaro. This group of twenty high school string students wowed Abendmusik audiences when they performed in November, and now they are back with a program of music that should be quite familiar to most audiences. Specifically, this concert features music from West Side Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Phantom of the Opera, and even the 1972 hit “Aubrey” by the soft rock group Bread in an arrangement made by De Chiaro himself. As past Abendmusik attendees will tell you, these concerts are not to be missed! The intimate and casual cabaret style atmosphere with appetizers and a cash bar by Southern Creations Catering makes the perfect setting for these concerts. A Night of Popular Favorites begins at 6 PM Thursday, March 5 at the Hearn Stage in Downtown Alexandria.
Hope to see you at one of these two great concerts – and, there’s no reason not to catch both!
About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a music historian and composer. He is a graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college – where he completed an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” He has followed classical music around the world, attending the BachFest Leipzig in Germany, Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival, and many concerts across Louisiana and Texas. Resident in Alexandria, Jackson works with the Arts Council of Central Louisiana as Series Director of the Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series. He also writes the program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra. As his day job, Jackson serves as Operations Manager of TicketCentral.