Home Arts-Entertainment Showcase HERE'S THE 2001-02 REICHHOLD CENTER LINEUP



June 20, 2001 — The coming season at the Reichhold Center for the Arts has a distinctively Latin flavor — subtly through the Brazilian and Cuban influences on the jazz group Spyro Gyra, then permeating the three other visiting acts announced so far: the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, Cuban-born "Queen of Salsa" Celia Cruz, and Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico.
A fifth guest artist performance, for a "reggae festival," is to be announced.
And closing out the season will be the eighth annual STARfest Virgin Islands talent revue.
In addition, the production of two Caribbean plays to be announced by the Reichhold's own Caribbean Repertory Theater is scheduled for next summer.
Here's a look at each performance on the Reichhold calendar for 2001-2002:
Saturday, Oct. 13 — Spyro Gyra. The acclaimed contemporary jazz ensemble, marking its 25th year, "endures as an audience favorite because they created an original style that sounded like nothing that came before," Jonathan Widran wrote in Jazzis Magazine. He credited the group with having "one of the most amazing live shows in instrumental music and killer, killer songs."
Known for its fusion of jazz, Latin, Caribbean and R&B, Spyro Gyra has played on St. Thomas before — at the old Barnacle Bill's, whose patrons were the test audience for some of its new songs. This will be the band's first appearance on the big Reichhold stage. Marking its quarter century, the group just came out with a new album, "In Modern Times," its debut release on the Heads Up International label.
Led by saxophonist and co-founder Jay Beckenstein, the band was born in Buffalo, N.Y. in 1974, soon after Beckenstein and keyboardist Jeremy Wall graduated with music degrees in New York and California, respectively. Spyro Gyra is a misspelling of the scientific word spirogira, a microscopic marine organism that Beckenstein had written a biology paper about in college; early on, when a club owner needed a name for the band, that's when he came up with.
"Shaker Song," on the band's 1977 self-titled album, and "Morning Dance," from its first platinum seller of the same name, in 1979, became trademark must-play tracks, both live and on the radio. Touring today, the band consists of Beckenstein, Cuban-born Julio Fernandez on guitar, Joel Rosenblatt on drums, Scott Ambush on bass and Tom Schuman on keyboards. Wall and fellow alumnus and marimba master Dave Samuels still contribute to albums.
Saturday, Nov. 3 — the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. For the third successive season, and again in a co-production with the Birch Forum, the 76-member orchestra, the largest and most acclaimed in the Caribbean, will present a classical concert with special guests to be announced.
Many attendees at last fall's performance, when the orchestra shared the stage with the Territorial Court Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra, would say that concert will be hard to top.
The government-sponsored full-time, professional orchestra was begun at the urging of legendary cellist Pablo Casals in 1957, the year the Casals Festival also made its debut. During its 48-week season, the orchestra performs for symphonic concerts, operas, ballets and pops, community and children's concerts, in music halls and schools and out of doors.
In August, Guillermo Figueroa, who has served as the orchestra's principal guest conductor, will become its first native Puerto Rican music director.
Saturday, Jan. 26 — Celia Cruz. As a Los Angeles Times writer put it, "Before there was a musical phenomenon known as salsa, there was Celia Cruz." The dynamic Cuban singer, generally referred to as "the queen of salsa," is an artist "whose time has come and gone and now come again," he wrote a few years ago.
Born in Cuba, Cruz studied classical music as the Havana Conservatory of Music and began singing professionally in 1950. She emigrated a decade later to New York, where she soon began a longtime collaboration with Tito Puente and his band. She has also worked with David Byrne and has been featured in numerous films, including with Puente in the 1992 "Mambo Kings."
She has some 75 albums to her credit, along with a Grammy Award, a Hollywood star, the National Medal of Arts (presented by President Bill Clinton in 1994) and a doctorate from Yale University. Her soneo phrasing style within the Latin music genre has been compared to the scatting of American jazz greats Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald.
But, Cruz herself says, "Afro-Cuban music is the root of today's salsa. It is steeped in cultural identity and embraces the folklore of every town and province of the tropics. It is a source of pride, of happiness, of being alive. It is what I bring to the people."
Saturday, Feb. 23 — Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico. One of the leading Hispanic classical ballet companies in the nation today, Ballet Concierto impressed a New York Times reviewer in its 1990 mainland debut as "one of Puerto Rico's best-kept secrets."
A Buffalo, N.Y., critic hailed it as "many companies rolled into one. From classical ballet to ballet with Hispanic themes, this company dances as if each performance is its last — full of passion and drama."
Founded in 1978 by Lolita San Miguel, a former dancer with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York, the Ballet Concierto has won recognition for its signature interpretation of the classics as well as for the many works it has commissioned with Hispanic choreographers. Its repertoire includes the full-length "The Phantom of the Opera," which was choreographed by Alberto Mendez, principal choreographer of the Cuban National Ballet and featured Fernando Bujones in the role of the Phantom in its premiere. Another favorite is a 1994 version of "Carmen" by Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros, Miami City Ballet resident choreographer.
Among Ballet Concierto's touring offerings are the dramatic "The House of Bernarda Alba," based on the last play of Federico Garcia Lorca; the ritualistic "Gateway to El Yunque," inspired by Puerto Rico's tropical rainforest; "Tributo," which pays homage to a Puerto Rico composer; and "Ritmos Caribenos" (Caribbean Rhythms) by Eddie Toussaint.
The company produces new works by invited Caribbean choreographers at its annual Choreographers' Festival and has incorporated a number of them into its active repertoire.
March date to be announced — Reggae festival artists to be announced.
Saturday/Sunday, May 11/12 and Sunday/Monday, May 19/20 — STARfest 8. From the time Reichhold Center director David Edgecombe introduced audiences to the first STARfest in 1995, the annual showcase of music, dance and other local talent has proven its appeal to Virgin Islands audiences. The artistic quality has remained high while the sophistication of staging and choreography has continued to evolve.
Repeat STARfest audiences know they can count on seeing a professional-quality show. The supply of fresh new talent appears in no danger of running out, while perennial crowd pleasers are welcomed back year after year. It all allows the Reichhold Center to fulfill its purpose under Edgecombe's leadership of providing a first-class showcase for up-and-coming Caribbean talent.
This year's STARfest brought the innovation of a theme, "Celebrate the Century's Sensations," and a new director, Malaysia Rabsatt. For 2002, look for no less. And anticipating a strong turn-out, the Reichhold is building in four performances from the start.
Ticket information
Two subscription series packages are available, with seating either in the covered section or in the open air.
The Foundation Series is for all six presentations. It's priced at $247 for the covered seats and $160 for the outside ones, in both cases representing a savings of 1
0 percent off individual ticket prices.
The Create-Your-Own Series allows patrons to choose any four or more performances and get up to 5 percent off individual ticket prices.
Individual show ticket prices are:
Spyro Gyra — $55 covered, $35 uncovered.
Puerto Rico Symphony — $60 covered, $30 uncovered.
Celia Cruz — $65 covered, $42 uncovered.
Ballet Concierto — $35 covered, $25 uncovered.
Reggae Festival — $35 covered, $28 uncovered.
STARfest — $25 covered, $18 uncovered.
Tickets also may be purchased for the two Caribbean Repertory Company play productions to be announced, set for performance in June and August of 2002. All tickets for these performances are $15.
To obtain further information and to make credit card purchases, call the Reichhold Center box office at 693-1559. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Or visit the Reichhold Center web site, which has the season information posted, along with an interactive online box office function for ordering tickets using a major credit card, at www.reichholdcenter.com.


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