Arts & Culture | St. Louis Public Radio

Arts & Culture

A Dutch historian is in St. Louis this week searching for information about 172 African-American soldiers who are buried or memorialized in the Netherlands American Cemetery, pictured here during a Memorial Day 2017 ceremony.
American Battle Monuments Commission

Some of the U.S. soldiers who helped liberate Holland in September 1944 during World War II never made it home, and many of them are buried or memorialized in the Netherlands American Cemetery. Those ranks include 172 African-American service members.

Dutch historian Sebastiaan Vonk's efforts to learn about their lives have taken him on a trip to St. Louis.

“There are a lot of veterans coming over each year [to the Netherlands], but the African-American veterans unfortunately have not been coming over a lot,” Vonk said on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “The stories are almost unknown. So that’s something that we, I guess you could say, want to get fixed and make sure that also their stories are told and also that their service is being honored.”

This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” during the noon hour on Monday. This story will be updated after the show. You can listen live.

Cornerstone Chorale and Brass is a nonprofit organization that exists primarily to serve the mainline Christian churches. Through music, narration and drama, the choir focuses on social justice.

(L-R) Will Soll, Rachel Zolotov and Rabbi Brad Horwitz talked about showcasing Jewish arts and culture in St. Louis.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis has been home to a vibrant Jewish community for many decades. This weekend, an arts and culture festival will bring together various artists and musicians across the country to showcase Jewish talents, food and customs.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the upcoming festival, billed as “Sababa.” It’s a joint effort by the St. Louis Jewish Community Center (The J), St. Louis Jewish Federation and other local organizations. Joining the conversation were artist Rachel Zolotov and musician Will Soll, both of whom are participating in the event. Rabbi Brad Horwitz, director of Jewish Engagement & Adult Programs at The J, also joined the program.

The St. Louis nonprofit Prison Performing Arts has been putting on plays with incarcerated people for 19 years. Here, two women at the penitentiary in Vandalia, Missouri rehearse a scene from "Hip Hop Hamlet." 10/11/18
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s opening night for “Hip Hop Hamlet” and more than 200 women dressed in baggy, khaki-colored clothes have packed into the gymnasium at the women’s penitentiary in Vandalia, Missouri. They’re eager to watch fellow members of the prison population perform a beat-filled, rap adaptation of the Shakespeare text.

Shakespeare scholars say his work offers ways to get in touch with what makes a person fully human. For the women participating in this show, that plays out at a very basic level.

From left, Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, Miriam Ruiz and Colin McLaughlin joined Thursday's show  for a focus on immigration, labor and identity through a creative lens.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

While planning for the 20th anniversary of the Sheldon Art Galleries, director Olivia Lahs-Gonzales and her team could have looked to the past, drawing material for this fall’s exhibits from hundreds of retrospective possibilities. But they opted to celebrate the future instead.

“I thought, ‘What better way – since we serve our community – [than] to focus on our immigrant communities and celebrate them and show all of the range of contributions and the issues that surround [immigration], especially in today’s world?’” Lahs-Gonzales said Thursday on St. Louis on the Air. “I think it was really fitting to kind of look out, forward, rather than looking backward.”

She joined host Don Marsh alongside Miriam Ruiz, community programs manager for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and Colin McLaughlin, musical director for Bread & Roses Missouri, to discuss how the Sheldon and other artistically inclined entities and individuals are deepening St. Louisans' understanding of social issues in creative ways.

The U.S. men took silver at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia on Oct. 5, 2018.
Goga Chanadiri

The United States made history with its victory in the 2016 Chess Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan, its first success in the biannual team event in 40 years.

It nearly repeated this triumph two years later in Batumi, Georgia, tying for first with China and Russia, but finishing second to the former on tiebreak.

Gemma New wants to talk about music with you. 10/10/18
Cropped photo by Roy Cox

New Zealand-born conductor Gemma New is on a roll. She’s on the cover of the October issue of International Musician and will make her debut with New York Philharmonic in November. In St. Louis, she made history on two fronts in September when she led St. Louis Symphony’s opening-night concert. She was the first woman and the the first resident conductor to do so.

New, 31, spoke with Cut & Paste in Powell Hall after leading the orchestra through its first rehearsal for opening night.

Logan Ely is the chef-owner of Savage.
Michelle Volansky | Sauce Magazine

Looking for some new cuisine to kick off the fall?

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed some of St. Louis’s best new restaurants with our partners from Sauce Magazine.

Joining him for the culinary conversation were Sauce’s managing editor Heather Hughes and staff writer Matt Sorrell.

Daniel Drake creates pancake art using a grill from Dancakes' griddle kit.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A St. Louis native has turned pancakes into an artform.

Daniel Drake co-founded the business called, what else? Dancakes.

Wielding a squeeze bottle filled with colorful batter, Drake can draw just about anything from cartoon and anime characters to portraits of celebrities and the average Joe. For the last five years, Drake’s self-taught talent for edible art has allowed him to travel all over the world.

Joining host Don Marsh (at left) for Tuesday's discussion were (from center left) four-time Tony nominee Terrence Mann, Variety CEO Jan Albus and Variety teen performer Selah Harris.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Musical-theater aficionados likely associate four-time Tony nominee Terrence Mann with the original Rum Tum Tugger of “Cats,” Inspector Javert in “Les Miserables” or perhaps one of the titular characters in “Beauty and the Beast.” Now the acclaimed actor is diving into yet another key role – this one on a St. Louis stage that will take him under the sea as King Triton.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, while taking a break from rehearsals for Variety Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Little Mermaid,” Mann joined host Don Marsh for a conversation alongside two St. Louisans who are also involved in the show.

Teenage performer Selah Harris was one of them, and when Marsh asked her what it’s like to work with someone as esteemed as Mann, Harris described the opportunity as “really amazing” in terms of boosting her drive and confidence as a young performer.

Dennis Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for October 7, 2018 will be “Remembering Randy Weston.”  Pianist Randy Weston, famous for blending African rhythms and sensibility in his work died on September 1 at the age of 92.  We will remember him with his performances as a leader, with his sideman work and with his compositions.  Weston himself, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Abbey Lincoln, Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball Adderley, George Shearing, Kenny Burrell, Horace Parlan, Roy Brooks and Charles Mingus will perform music on this show.

Hamiet Blueiett was known as one of the greatest ever to play baritone saxophone. 10/5/18
Courtesy of Dennis C. Owsley

The jazz world has lost a giant. World Saxophone Quartet founder Hamiet Bluiett died Thursday. He was 78.

A native of Brooklyn (Lovejoy), Illinois, Bluiett was an internationally admired innovator who frequently returned to the St. Louis region as a performer and educator. He was known as a master of the baritone saxophone.

His sound on the horn was unmistakable, said trumpeter George Sams, a friend for more than 50 years.

The Webster Groves Arts Commission is honoring longtime actor Joneal Joplin with an award for lifetime achievement.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Joneal “Jop” Joplin has lost count of exactly how many roles he’s performed on St. Louis-area stages during his long acting career based in the region.

“I know that I’ve done something like 215, 220 shows in St. Louis – 101 at the Rep, 66 at the Muny,” he estimated Friday while talking with host Don Marsh on St. Louis on the Air.

Joplin, who will be honored Friday evening with the Webster Groves Arts Commission’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award, got his start as an actor in New York. But after traveling to St. Louis with his young family in 1972 to participate in just one show – a production of “Mice and Men” – he was asked to stay in town for another show.

Who hasn't enjoyed a comic strip in the newspaper or a comic book or a cartoon in the "New Yorker" at one time or other?

Harley Race poses for a portrait after responding to letters at his Harley Race Wrestling Academy office in Troy.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Harley Race, the pro-wrestler from Missouri once considered among the toughest in the world, has come full circle.

Or as they might say in the pro wrestling biz, full squared circle.

'Handsome Harley,’ as he’s known, has spent the past few years back in his home state guiding the next generation of pro wrestlers. He’s shifted from world champion grappler to wizened coach by running a training academy about an hour west of St. Louis in Troy.

RhonniRose Mantilla, wearing a red dress, rehearses Thursday night for an upcoming community production of West Side Story in July.
Monica Mileur | COCA

Famed Broadway lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim dismissed complaints that white actors should not be cast to portray people of color.

He made his remarks as a guest on Thursday’s episode of St. Louis on the Air.

The issue is freshly in the news with the cancellation last month of a student production of the 1957 musical “West Side Story” after Latino cast members complained that the director cast white actors to portray key Puerto Rican characters.

Hours before being honored with the 2018 St. Louis Literary Award, Stephen Sondheim spoke at length with "St. Louis on the Air" host Don Marsh.
Provided by Saint Louis University

Stephen Sondheim hesitates to settle on a single beginning point from which his now 70-year-long career in musical theater took off. There were the piano lessons he began taking as a young child, something he acknowledges may have “infiltrated” him early on. Then there’s the show he wrote at age 15, a script family friend Oscar Hammerstein gave an unsparing critique. He also credits his enjoyment of films growing up.

“The music that most influenced me at first was movie music,” the renowned composer and lyricist said Thursday on St. Louis on the Air. “I was a big movie buff, so it was the scores of people like Franz Waxman and Max Steiner and Bernard Herrmann that got me going.”

Gemma New was the first woman and the first resident conductor to lead St. Louis Symphony Orchestra's opening night concert. 10/11/18
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra

Opening night at the symphony has a special buzz and a once-a-year chance for the orchestra's artistic leader to welcome back the musicians and the audience. If an orchestra happens to be between leaders, the occasion also offers a plum spot on the calendar to invite a guest-star conductor with a pedigree.

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra took a different route this year. With the seat of music director technically unfilled — French conductor Stéphane Denève takes over that job next season — the orchestra’s leadership turned to the rising star in its ranks.

Gemma New, 31, led the orchestra’s annual kickoff concert in Forest Park and then held onto the baton for opening night at Powell Hall. She made history on two fronts: as the first woman to lead SLSO’s opening night concert, and as the first resident conductor to do so.

One of Harry Benson's iconic photographs of Bobby Fisher in Buenos Aires, 1971. From the collection of Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield.
Harry Benson

Harry Benson, world-renowned photographer and International Photography Hall of Fame inductee,was the only person to have private access to Bobby Fischer during the 1972 World Chess Championship match in Reykjavík, Iceland. Benson captured intimate images of this time with Fischer and was the first person to deliver the news to Fischer that he had won the match.

Benson began photographing Fischer when on assignment for LIFE magazine in 1971. He was sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to cover the 1971 Candidates Match, and began to cultivate a relationship with Fischer, who was known for being notoriously camera-averse, guarded and socially awkward. Fischer defeated Tigran Petrosian at the Candidates Match, qualifying him for the World Chess Championship match.

Florissant teen and singer Kennedy Holmes is a strong contestant on the 15th season of NBC's The Voice – havung recieved approval by all four of the show's celebrity judges.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Within the local scene, Florissant resident Kennedy Holmes has performed at various venues, including the Muny and Busch Stadium. But the 13-year-old recently caught the attention of people across the country during her blind audition on NBC’s The Voice singing competition.

Holmes received a standing ovation and approval from the show’s four judges: Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and Holmes’ idol, Jennifer Hudson. Her audition clip went viral, with nearly 5 million views on YouTube.

“[Performing on The Voice] is absolutely the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” Holmes told host Don Marsh on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.

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