2019 was year one for keepamarilloarsty.com, and, in a twelve month period, the seventy or so blogs addressed perhaps sixty percent of the quality art in this locale.
Yet, appropriating a good measure of artistic ego and hubris, I will pick my Top 10, a critics choice, if you please, of personal faves. I readily admit to cop-outs in the form of combination and compromise, but, hey, it’s my blog, and omnia pro gratia artis!
The #10 spot goes to the Big Apple-based Opera Cowgirls, visiting fellow member Sarah Beckham-Turner, now on the WTAMU voice faculty. The ladies, divas all, Bransomized an array of arias, which, if anything, elevated their artistry. They showed their versatility by signing at several venues, including church, a jazz club, and Sunset Center.
They also, in commemoration of WWI, sang of series of songs taken from the letters of woman from both sides left behind. Stunning was too mild a word to describe the effect. Bravi and ya’ll come back soon. Y’hear?
The #9 spot goes to a trio of plays, all musicals, which dealt with edgy material and collectively mocked the conservative characterizations of this area. In the arts of Amarillo, conservatives need not apply.
Fun Home was staged at Amarillo Little Theatre’s Adventure Space; Heathers-The Musical was performed at Amarillo College; WTAMU hosted Spring Awakening.
Collectively the performances depicted mass murder, abortion, homosexual kissing, homo and hetero intercourse, suicide, coming-out, S & M and group masturbation. All here in supposedly conservative Cowboy Country.
Congratulations to the directors, casts, crews and sponsoring institutions for delivering such provocative and profound drama.
#8 returns to the lofty theme of opera, specifically the recrudescence of Amarillo Opera, now under the inspired direction of Mary Jane Johnson. Two of the productions offer a gauge of the impactful potential of this organization.
The first, Fireflies of Terezin, asked a lot of a young cast and of the audience, as it was created to entertain children of Theresienstadt concentration camp, an actual killing field masking as a resettlement paradise to fool the outside world.
This production was a putative world premier, resulting from several streams of musical and archival scholarship, and translated from Czech. The backstory informed the whole production, the art saying “Never Again!” in defiance of the Holocaust deniers and right wing hate groups.
Die Fledermaus marked the rebirth of Amarillo Opera’s grand vision, namely to bring the finest in the operatic repertoire to the High Plains. This time “The Bat” brought belly laughs, as well a trouser role. The cast, many recruited from across the county, had wonderful comedic chemistry in this spectacular production. To MJJ we say Grazie Bella Donna while to all involved we say Bravi!
#7 was a good-for-us serendipitous coalition that brought the Tuscon Boys Choir, the nation’s longest-running, secular boys chorus along with the combined choirs from Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Amarillo College, complimented by area musicians, to perform John Rutter’s Mass for Children.
A separate singing for the boys from Tuscon illustrated why the high church of the Middle Ages and the Church of England today credit these young male voices with the purest sound. The group sang selections from Vivaldi to Country-Western, sometimes in eight-part harmony!
Rutter’s work, a non-liturgical Missa Brevis, was first performed in 2003. This performance saw the collegiate choirs crowd the stage while the boys divided antiphonally. This performance was exceptional, showing that sometimes the stars do align in our favor.
#6 represents a distillation of all that is quality in one of America’s premier fine-arts programs. I refer to the Rededication Concert of the acoustically-upgraded Mary Moody Northern Recital Hall at WTAMU.
In fact, prior to the concert, Dean Robert Hansen introduced the Hall, now the world’s leading variable acoustical space, as the star of the show. None of the performers, most especially the Hall, disappointed, with the audience growing accustomed to the almost Star Wars like whirr and whine of side and stage speakers to actualize the potential in each performance.
Imagine the syncopated pulse of the Buffalo Marching Band Drumline, where every instrument is heard! Or, the Habanera from Carmen sung by Mobile mezzo Mary Ann Kile, who, by the grace of the Hall, made Carmen sound even more sultry and seductive.
Or Sarah Beckham-Turner and Matt Oglesby, singing a duet from Gotterdamerung, auf Deutsch, with complete clarity. Or the ennobling effect of the hall on the Symphonic Orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Coronation March for Czar Alexander III, used for the dedication of Carnegie Hall, followed by the premier of Pathway to Polaris by B.J. Brooks.
The Hall spoiled the audience early on, and to think that this was only the first of many performances with this space.
But the above represent only #’s 10 – 6. Stayed tuned for #’s 5 – 1. Bottom line, 2019 makes it a no-brainer to say, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!”