A 122-year-old opera house in McPherson, KS was saved from destruction. Recently restored, the town's opera house lives to see another curtain rise. KPR's Shelley Schlender reports.
By Shelley Schlender/KPR
McPherson, KS – Around the turn of the 20th century, opera houses were like sparkling jewels on the Kansas Prairie. One of the finest was an elegant, three-story structure in the central Kansas town of McPherson.
Kansas City, Mo. – Businessman and political boss Tom Pendergast was a major player in Kansas City life for nearly 20 years. Many of the facts of his underground activities during Prohibition have been lost to history.
But new renovations and development in the Crossroads have recently revealed another clue to understanding the man who's been called the Al Capone of the Plains.
Kansas City Symphony executive director Frank Byrne returns with some favorite new classical music recordings. His picks include music from composers Antonio Salieri, Pablo de Sarasate, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
As part of its spring program, the Kansas City Ballet presents two world premieres - including one by choreographer Toni Pimble. Pimble studied at the Royal Academy of Dance, and danced with companies in Germany before co-founding Eugene Ballet Company in Oregon 1978 where she's artistic director.
Kansas City's Experimental Instrument Orchestra is a folk band, in which the two members craft their own instruments.
Kansas City, MO – Folk music has always relied on a do-it-yourself philosophy. But Kansas City's Experimental Instrument Orchestra takes the idea to new extremes. They not only improvise music, but also create their own instruments. KCUR's Alex Smith recently spoke with EIO band members Amy Farrand and Mark Smeltzer.
The central character in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" is the Don himself, a young nobleman with a list of more than two thousand female conquests. As the opera begins, this ladies' man has assaulted a young noblewoman and killed her father, and he's also trailed by jilted lovers. Don Giovanni's schemes and their consequences will be on display at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
Kansas City guitarist Will Matthews has toured and recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra for nearly 15 years, but he's also found time to develop a solo career.
By Alex Smith
Kansas City, MO – In the 1930's, Kansas City may have served as the jazz capital of the world, but today, you rarely hear the swing music of groups like the Count Basie Orchestra. Count Basie died in 1984, but his band continues to play around the world to audiences craving the classic Basie sound.
Though the Unicorn Theater has always been quick to pounce on the most buzzed about plays in New York, it has actually launched many new plays. In fact, a quarter of the shows over the years have had their world premieres in Kansas City. The latest is called "Green Whales," and while it tackles tough subjects in comedic ways, it is giving everyone involved a voice in bringing this new play to fruition.
Local musician Russ Wever has been playing the pedal steel guitar for more than forty years. He's performed at the Grand Ole Opry and on Broadway, and has had a big influence in the pedal steel guitar world.
By Tim Bridgham
Kansas City, MO – When you see a pedal steel guitar it doesn't look much like a guitar. Laid out horizontally, the pedal steel has two necks and a lot of foot pedals and knee levers. Though its roots come from the guitar, this version of the instrument has the ability to do much more.
The thousand-year-old Chinese folk tale, "Madame White Snake," is the story of a white snake demon who longs for love. And there are tragic consequences. It's the subject of the first opera for composer and UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance professor Zhou Long. In the production, elements of traditional Chinese opera meet the style of the West.
The Kansas City Art Institute includes a who's who roster of artists who've studied or taught at the college in its 125-year history. Among the notable figures: animator Walt Disney took Saturday classes as a child; Thomas Hart Benton headed the painting department from 1935 - 1941; Robert Rauschenberg studied fashion design in 1948; and Nick Cave graduated in 1982 from the fiber department. Cave's Soundsuits will be featured at a performance this weekend.
The Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Festival. And it's considered the most important traditional Chinese holiday. Families clean their houses to symbolically sweep away ill fortune and make way for good luck. Windows and doors are decorated with red to celebrate the themes of happiness, wealth and longevity.
After contributing six decades of musical direction and genius, Randy Weston remains one of the world's foremost pianists and composers of today, a true innovator and visionary.
By Up to Date, Feb 5, 2010
Born in Brooklyn N.Y., Randy Weston didn't have to travel far to hear early influential jazz giants like Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and of course, Duke Ellington. But his greatest influence, by far, was Thelonious Monk.
Local author Ann Ingalls' new children's book introduces young readers to the legendary pianist Mary Lou Williams.
By Alex Smith
Kansas City, MO – If she were still alive this year, jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams would be 100 years old. Williams was considered by many to be the greatest female jazz instrumentalist of all times. She spent the years between 1929 and 1941 in Kansas City, and was one of the principal architects of the Kansas City swing sound.