Arts & Culture | St. Louis Public Radio

Arts & Culture

Longtime executive producer Mary Edwards is retiring Friday after more than four decades with St. Louis Public Radio.
August Jennewein | UMSL

Over the past 44 years, the radio and news industries have gone through many changes. Two things that haven’t changed during that time are Mary Edwards’ dedication and passion for her work at St. Louis Public Radio.

Edwards, who came to the station in 1974 after earning her bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame last year. She started as a music assistant and held positions including music director, program director, production manager and operations manager.

Edwards’ most impactful work at St. Louis Public Radio began on September 3, 1996, with the launch of St. Louis on the Air, the station’s flagship and premier local program. Friday’s show marked her final broadcast as she put in her last day of full-time work and embarked on a well-deserved retirement.

On Chess: Three co-champions take home the Sinquefield Cup

Aug 31, 2018
Fabiano Caruana, world champion Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian share the crown as winners of the Sinquefield Cup in August 2018.
Tatev Abrahamyan | Grand Chess Tour

Three players were crowned as winners of the sixth annual Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. Normally, a playoff takes place to determine the sole winner of a tournament, but in an unprecedented turn of events, the players decided to share the title. 

World Champion Magnus Carlsen, his challenger Fabiano Caruana and the Armenian superstar Levon Aronian disliked the rule of eliminating one player by drawing lots and came to the unanimous decision, approved by the chief arbiter, to share the title. Thus, the “no-repeat-winner” tradition of the Sinquefield Cup was broken, as all three have won the previous editions.

Veteran Marine Captain Allyn Hinton recalls memories of the Vietnam War and talks about the upcoming reunion of USMC combat helicopter pilots in St. Louis next week.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Vietnam veterans are on the minds of many following the recent passing of Sen. John McCain, and for former Marine Captain Allyn Hinton, this event conjured up some unique memories.

“John McCain was flying A4s off an aircraft carrier doing bombing missions over North Vietnam when he was shot down, captured and a POW for five and a half years,” Hinton recalled on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “His father was the commander of all naval forces in the Pacific, and so he was quite a prize to the North Vietnamese …”

Jen Kerner plays a Bird Girl in Christ Memorial's 2016 production of Seussical.
Cindy Tiefenbrunn

St. Louis actor Jen Kerner has played dozens of characters, but in recent years she’s taken on a new role: making the theater experience enjoyable for people who are overwhelmed by loud sounds and bright lights that are part of the typical theatrical experience.

Kerner works in job placement for people with developmental disabilities who often have sensory issues. Four years ago, she began to pay more attention to her own sensitivities during rehearsals for “The Music Man," in which the orchestra seemed noisy and abrasive. Shortly thereafter, a doctor diagnosed her with autism.

From left, Jeremy Segal-Moss, Renee Smith and Tracy Mitchell are all involved with the Big Muddy Blues Festival slated for this weekend.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Blues music runs deep in St. Louis’ roots, and this weekend St. Louisans will celebrate the genre with one of the largest outdoor music events in the region.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the upcoming 2018 Big Muddy Blues Festival with co-coordinator Jeremy Segal-Moss.

John Harrington has led local hip-hop group Midwest Avengers for 25 years, in addition to being a longtime organizer of annual graffiti festival Paint Louis. 8/29/18
Courtesy Midwest Avengers

A new St. Louis hip-hop festival will go beyond the music and celebrate the culture that surrounds it, including art, film and dance.

The four-day series of events dubbed Hip Hop Week will coincide with Paint Louis, an annual gathering of hundreds of graffiti artists from around the world who will paint murals on the flood wall by South Wharf St. downtown.

“If I say Hip Hop Week, most people will think of it as: ‘Oh, it’s a music festival.’ And [they’re] not thinking of other elements of hip-hop — such as the fashion, such as the film, such as the culture of hip-hop,” said Dwight Carter, a local event promoter who is the festival’s creative director.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt (third from left) and front office officials answers questions on August 28, 2018 after giving Shildt a two-year contract as manager.
5 On Your Side

The St. Louis Cardinals like what they’ve seen from Mike Shildt, and they want him to stick around and keep it going.

The team announced Tuesday they had removed the interim tag from Shildt, and signed him to a two-year deal as manager of the club. The terms were not disclosed.

Several years ago, when Aretha Franklin (at left) was planning her birthday party in New York City, she gave Denise Thimes a call and asked the St. Louisan to sing for her.
Courtesy of Denise Thimes

Denise Thimes was still a young girl when she first interacted with Aretha Franklin in St. Louis during the late ’60s. But even then the Queen of Soul made a big impression on Thimes, who is now an accomplished vocalist herself.

“I emulated her a lot and never had a chance to, as a little girl, sing for her – which is what I wanted to do when she would come to our home,” Thimes told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “But to have done her birthday party [a few years ago] and to stand there and watch her watch me sing – Don, I had to fight back the tears the whole time.”

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, August 19, 2018 will be “Gospel Piano, Tributes to Jean Kittrell and Aretha Franklin Plus New Music.”  This week’s Jazz Unlimited show will be in three parts.  The Keys and Strings Hour will feature gospel piano with Ramsey Lewis, Les McCann, Hank Jones, Bobby Timmons, Mildred Falls with Mahalia Jackson, Gene Harris, and Johnny O’Neal in the first hour.  We will play tributes to the Jean Kittrell, who died at age 90 on October 14 and Aretha Franklin, who died at age 76 on August 16 in the second hour.  The third hour presents New Music by the Mik

Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be at the East St. Louis Heritage Festival on Sunday. Aug. 26, 2018
Provided by lllinois Bicentennial Commission

East St. Louis will celebrate its own rich history on Sunday as it joins about a dozen Illinois cities holding celebrations to mark the state’s bicentennial.

The East St. Louis Heritage Festival at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center will note the 200th anniversary of the state’s first constitution, signed in Kaskaskia on Aug. 26, 1818. The festival also will celebrate remarkable East St. Louisans, like iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, Olympic gold medalist Joyner-Kersee, and others.

Ralph Toenjes carries game-used baseballs during an Aug. 16 game from the Cardinals' dugout to the Authentics Shop in the right field concourse of Busch Stadium.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

What happens to all those used baseballs the umpires toss out of games at Busch Stadium?

After Keith Duncan of St. Louis submitted that question to our Curious Louis feature, we went to the Aug. 16 game between the Cardinals and Washington Nationals to find out.

That’s where we found Ralph Toenjes hard at work, happily greeting fans at the Authentics Shop, located behind center field. Toenjes sells memorabilia, including used baseballs, fresh from the field. During games, it’s his job to fetch baseballs from the Cardinals dugout every two or three innings.

Tihara Mari rehearses with Grupo Atlantico at the home of founder Carmen Dence.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

When Carmen Dence was growing up in the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, she danced to cumbia, porros, gaitas and other traditional sounds of her country.

Dence left Colombia in 1969 to attend graduate school at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Nine years later, she and her husband moved to St. Louis, where she became a radiology professor at Washington University. But she never lost her passion for the music and dances of her homeland.

Paul Gallant is a local grandfather whose family’s story inspired a book.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The relationships cultivated across generations within a family can be seen as valuable for a number of reasons, and grandparents play a special role in it all.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with one local man whose family’s story was turned into a book. Over the course of three decades, Paul Gallant explored the seven continents, but with some unlikely travel companions: his grandchildren.

The historic battleship USS Missouri was the site of the Japaense surrender during WWII.
USS Missouri Memorial Association

The USS Missouri has played a role in history that is likely equal to its heft. Missouri’s namesake vessel is three football fields long, 20 stories high, 45,000 tons and once housed a crew of 2,400 sailors. The famous battleship was the site of the Japanese surrender during World War II and was a favorite of President Harry Truman, a native Missourian.

“There’s always a lot of renovation,” explained Mike Carr, president and CEO of the USS Missouri Memorial Association, who joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh on Thursday. “It always takes a lot of effort and money to support 45,000 tons of steel."

Hikaru Nakamura won the second Annual Rapid & Blitz tournament which took place Aug. 10-16, 2018. Nakamura, center, displays his trophy alongside St. Louis Chess Club founders, Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield.
Austin Fuller | Grand Chess Tour

Another week full of chess action has just finished, and we are fast approaching the end of the regular season of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour. This year, the format of the tour consists of five events: Your Next Move in Belgium, Paris GCT, St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (USA), Sinquefield Cup (USA) and the Grand Chess Tour Finalin London, which features the top four finalists from the previous four events.

Geoffrey Soyiantet, Sally Gacheru and Gracemary Nganga compare their Kenyan beed bracelets. Several teens from the St. Louis area are now in their home country of Kenya for about two weeks through Soyiantet's Vitendo4Africa organization.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Aug. 20 with follow-up conversation: On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with St. Louis Public Radio education reporter Ryan Delaney upon his return from travels in Africa, where he caught up with some fellow St. Louisans.

Listen to their conversation:

Brandon Bieber played a number of different roles in the recent touring production of "Something Rotten."
Brandon Bieber

When Brandon Bieber was a toddler, his parents took him to his older sisters’ dance recitals.

Soon, he was riveted to the sight of their sequins and sashays. When a call went out for children to be part of a Westport Playhouse production of “The Phantom of the Opera,” his sister tried out.

“They said, ‘We like her — and we’ll take the boy, too,’” Bieber said.

For more than a decade, Bieber has worked as a Broadway and touring dancer and actor. He’s back in St. Louis to direct a St. Lou Fringe Festival play about a stock-car racer challenging traditional female stereotypes, called “Race Cars and Romance.”

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for Sunday, August 19, 2018 will be “The Music of Sonny Clark.”  Pianist Sonny Clark was born in a coal-mining town near Pittsburgh.  Apparently self-taught, he began playing professionally while visiting the west coast.  He eventually moved to New York and recorded several classic Blue Note recordings before dying at age 32, a victim of the 1950’s heroin epidemic.  We will hear him with the Lighthouse All-Stars, his own trio, quintet and sextets, our own Grant Green, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, Serge Chaloff, Jackie McLean, Curtis Fuller, Buddy DeFranco

Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove. She married at 14, then came to St. Louis at 20, after her first husband died, to join her brothers who worked as barbers.
Madam Walker Family Archives/A'Lelia Bundles

In 1888, a young, African-American woman left Louisiana to join her brothers in St. Louis.

The future Madam C.J. Walker earned a living by doing laundry, then began selling beauty products. Eventually she founded her own company and went on to become one of the nation’s first black, female millionaires. Warner Brothers is producing a TV series for Netflix about her life.

Walker’s time in St. Louis was transformational, according to her great-great granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, who wrote the book on which the series is based.

Looking Glass Playhouse in Lebanon, Illinois, is one recipient of a set of grants targeting arts organizations in rural areas. 8/16
Arts and Education Council

Nine arts groups in Missouri and Illinois will share $45,000 in grants announced Wednesday by Arts and Education Council, a nonprofit agency funded by private donations.

The money is split between two programs, each funded by Monsanto Fund. One offers general, organizational support to established arts organizations in rural areas; the other funds smaller groups planning new programs or events.

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