Wring out the Old: Just about every resort, nightclub, restaurant and bar, to say nothing of a number of churches and, on St. Croix, the government of the Virgin Islands, have plans in place tonight for folks of like-mindedness to send off the Old Year — and Millennium, if that's how you're counting — and welcome the New.
Last week's Scene & Herd summarized a lot of the planned celebrations on St. Thomas and St. John, and you'll find all of them and more listed under Things to do. For breaking news on the Frederiksted-to-Point Udall festivities tied to the island's being the first place in the United States east of the West Coast where the stroke of midnight will strike and the new day will dawn, just click on St. Croix. Now, if you're still looking for something different to do on this exceptional eve, here's one more suggestion:
Coral World is inviting the public to spend two and a half hours tonight gazing not into the underwater depths but up to the celestial firmament — with St. Thomas' own Kary "Starman" Williams as your guide. Williams owns what he describes as the Caribbean's most powerful telescope, one that can collect 4,000 times the amount of light of the human eye — and it's portable! So he'll have it set up at the Coki Point marine attraction this night from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. to allow lookers to see for themselves whatever heavenly phenomena are to be found, including the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, constellations galore and far-flung nebulae and galaxies beyond.
It's the centerpiece of a party, of course. There will be complimentary finger food and a cash bar with free pours of champagne for a midnight toast. And then everyone gets to look skyward again, this time without the telescope, to watch the fireworks being launched from a barge in Water Bay especially for the guests of the Renaissance and Sugar Bay Resorts and the Agave Terrace restaurant. This is a celebration suitable for families (if the youngsters can stay awake — and many of them are a lot better at it than their elders), and admission is thus $20 for adults and half that for accompanied children. Reservations are requested; call Coral World at 775-1555 ext. 247 or Williams' Star Charters at 774-9211.
Classic beginning: New Year's Day will bring an unusual opportunity for a musical celebration — an organ concert at 4:30 p.m. by Rebecca Faulkner at the Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church across from the fire station in Anna's Retreat.
Faulkner, a graduate of the Seventh Day Adventist School adjacent to the church, is home for the holidays from Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., where she is minoring in music. An accomplished musician as a high school student, she won awards in the Arts Alive/Vitelco Classical Music Competition in all three categories — piano, instrumental and voice. She continues to play piano, steelpan and violin with college groups but is now focusing her music studies primarily on organ with an eye toward graduate study next year.
Saturday's concert will include classical organ works by Bach, as well as sacred music by contemporary composers. There is no admission charge, but a freewill offering will be taken, with proceeds to benefit the church's fund to purchase a new organ.
Not the Chamber Blues: Word is getting out and about that Corky Siegel is coming back to St. Thomas and St. John week after next to perform at Tillett Gardens and the St. John School of the Arts. But some clarification may be in order. Those who enjoyed the two Corky Siegel's Chamber Blues concerts in recent years — and those who may have stayed home — need to know that what's coming to perform Jan. 12-14 is the down-and-dirty blues band that made "chamber blues" possible — the famed 1960s Siegel-Schwall Band out of Chicago.
Pianist, mouth harpist and vocalist Corky Siegel and guitarist/vocalist Jim Schwall were college music students when they began playing blues and rock in the Second City. The band they put together was playing its second gig at a South Side club called Big John's, Corky recalls, when "I remember some guy coming up and wanting to play harmonica. People said let him sit in — it's Little Walter."
The band went on to considerable success, notably on the West Coast. At one point in Chicago, Siegel's artistry attracted the ear and the fancy of conductor Seiji Ozawa. He dropped in to hear Siegel and Schwall perform night after night and finally invited the blues artists to "jam with my band." His band at the time was the Chicago Symphony. Later, as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, he invited Siegel to share the stage again, and the groundwork for chamber blues was laid.
But back to Siegel-Schwall. Although the leaders have been pursuing separate interests since the 1970s, the band still gets together every so often. In the '90s, it has consisted of the two founders plus bass player/vocalist Rollo Radford, an S-O-S veteran, and drummer Sam Lay, a founding father of the Chicago blues sound and rhythmic anchor of the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Together they add up to what one Chicago critic described as "not a nostalgia act but a musical force to be joyfully reckoned with, especially with the presence of master drummer Sam Lay."
Island audiences get three opportunities to hear for themselves. The band performs in concert at Tillett Gardens on Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and a pre- performance dinner with concert seating is another $30 plus bar service and gratuity. Next night, Thursday, Jan. 13, is the St. John School of the Arts concert, also at 8. But note: It will not be held at the school. Thanks to new partnering with the Westin Resort, this performance and two of the other remaining concerts on this season's St. John series (the Charlie Musselwhite Blues Band in February and a Gershwin cabaret show in March) will be held in the resort ballroom — which can accommodate 250 to 300 patrons, double the capacity of the school. Prices remain the same as they had been published for the school venue: $25 for students and $30 for everyone else. Then, on Friday, Jan. 14, the band returns to St. Thomas for a "club night" from 9 p.m. until in the Tillett complex. Tickets are again $25. There won't be a formal dinner for this show, but an a la carte menu and bar service will be available.
Reservations are recommended for all three shows. For either St. Thomas performance, call 775-1929. For the St. John show, call 779-4322 or 776-6777.
Foot feats: Island-starved lovers of classical and contemporary ballet are in for a full artistic meal on Saturday, Jan. 15, when the Birch Forum (which brought us the Puerto Rico Symphony last fall) partners with the Reichhold Center for the Arts to present a performance of the Oakland Ballet. Why did the presenters contract a company from the far-away California Bay Area, rather than one from, say, Miami or elsewhere on the East Coast? Well, for all the usual artistic reasons, of course, but also, it would certainly seem, because former Reichhold production and grants manager and former Birch Forum board member Renee Heider took up residence last summer as the company's executive director.
The ballet company was founded in 1965 by Ronn Guidi, an Oakland native who studied dance under Raoul Pause, a onetime student of the great Diaghilev dancer and choreographer Adolph Bohm. Guidi continued as artistic director for 33 years, until he retired to active emeritus status a year ago. Throughout its history, the Oakland Ballet has been known for its historical reconstruction of important ballets from the repertoire of Serge Diaghilev's legendary Ballets Russes, as well as classic American works and innovative
Among the company's noted faithful recreations of historically significant American works is Eugene Loring's "Billy the Kid," which is on the program to be performed at the Reichhold. Sharing the bill with that piece for the night are three works choreographed by Guidi — "Gallops & Kisses," "Trois Gymnopedies" and a pas de deux from "Secret Garden" — as well as "Bolero" by Marc Wilde and the Russian master Petipa's masculine tour de force "Le Corsaire." Look for a lot of masculinity in the whole program, in fact. The company is strong on male members and the works in its repertoire exploit this strength. Our local dance teachers, who are lucky if they can get a boy or two into a gymnastics class, let alone one on ballet, can only look on with envy and amazement.
So, yeah, see if you can persuade some boy children to go with you to the show. They'll see that ballet is more physically demanding than tackle football, if assuredly a lot less generously funded. Tickets are $35 in the covered section, $18 and a most affordable $5 in the open air. For reservations (highly recommended for the pricey seats) via charge-card purchase or information on ticket outlets, call the box office at 693-1559.
The essence of Espana: Spain, as classical and flamenco guitarist Dennis Koster noted at his concerts on St. Thomas and St. John this week, is culturally a melding of Moorish, Jewish and Christian influences that go back centuries. (For Ferdinand and Isabella, he noted wryly, 1492 was quite a year: Not only did Columbus come upon a "New World"; Spain became free after eight centuries of Moorish rule.) Later, Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition would flee to South America, some eventually migrating to the Caribbean and to St. Thomas. This brief history lesson is by way of introducing an informal lecture set for Tuesday, Jan. 4, that could be of interest to a number of segments of the local community.
Dr. Jose Ortega, a professor of American civilization at the University of Granada in Spain, will speak on "Southern Spain's Moorish, Jewish and Christian Heritage" at the V.I. Cultural Heritage Institute on lower Kongens Gade. His talk will also address the societal influence and architectural legacy of the Moors. The program is a joint presentation of the V.I. Genealogical Society and the Historic Preservation Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department.
Ortega, a native of Granada, received his Ph.D. in Romance languages from The Ohio State University and a second doctorate from the University of Granada. He has taught at Smith College, the University of Wisconsin and Case Western Reserve University and has published numerous books and lectured widely on Hispanic literature, culture and history. He noted that many old St. Thomas family names can be traced to Spain during the Moorish rule. His son, also named Jose, is a St. Thomas architect whose work includes designing the recent reconstruction of Emancipation Garden.
The talk is to begin at 6 p.m. Admission is free. For further information, call Myron Jackson at 776-8505.
Big screen scene: "Cinema Sundays" pick up this weekend at the Reichhold Center after a two-week holiday break. The film to be shown is The Red Violin, the picture that was scheduled for Nov. 28 but didn't arrive in time. (The series consists of 35mm reel projections, not enlarged videos, and the films must be flown in each week just as those for the commercial movie houses are.) The star of the picture is a violin that survives assorted disasters over the course of centuries, only to end up on the auction block where yet another intrigue awaits. Show time is 7:30 p.m. and admission is $5. To learn more, click on Movies.
Next week's offering is "Run Lola Run," a German entry.
All this jazz: Hurricane Lenny canceled the Junior Mance Trio jazz performance set for the St. John School of the Arts (because ferries weren't running between St. Thomas and St. John). Although the season patrons and those who had purchased tickets just for the Mance concert didn't know it at the time, they got a rain check. And on Monday, Jan. 17, which is being observed as Martin Luther King Day, they get the opportunity to cash it in.
That's when Garry Dial, a jazz pianist, composer and educator — who's in close communication with Mance — will perform at the school. A collaborator on the six most recent Red Rodney/Ira Sullivan albums (three of them Grammy nominees), he owns a time share on St. John and things just worked out, school director Ruth "Sis" Frank reports. Tickets will be $25 general admission and $15 for students. For reservations, call 779-4322 or 776-6777.
To be scene: Scene & Herd previews arts and entertainment events open to the public on St. Thomas and St. John. To have material considered for inclusion, submit it by Wednesday of each week for the following Friday's column by faxing to 776-4812, e-mailing to [email protected] or calling 776-4812 and leaving a message for a call-back.