Arts & Culture | St. Louis Public Radio

Arts & Culture

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 29, 2011 - After an opening miscue led to a struggle for equality, Grandmaster Yury Shulman conceded a draw to Grandmaster Gata Kamsky and with it the title of 2011 U.S. Chess Champion. Kamsky was the defending champion, and he won the title last year in another final-round game with Shulman. This year Kamsky took home $40,000 for first place, plus $2,000 more for winning his preliminary group. In the U.S. Women's Championship, International Master Anna Zatonskih survived 19 matches to claim her fourth title. She was awarded $18,000 for first place.

On Chess: Nakamura gets to observe


This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 25, 2011 - Having competed in six prior U.S. Championships, including the past two here at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, it is certainly an unusual feeling to be a casual observer this year. Over the past few months, I have raised my rating to number eight in the world, and I elected to not play in this year's event to focus my energy on preparing for the world elite and the next World Championship cycle.

Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 2015 is part of the Ai Weiwei: Bare Life exhibition.
Provided | Ai Weiwei Studio

St. Louis’ Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will reopen this fall with a big artistic bang: an exhibition by celebrated Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei.

The Kemper closed last April for a $12 million renovation, part of $280 million campus project. The work significantly increases the museum’s display space.

The Sept. 28 opening will feature three dozen Ai Weiwei pieces, including some created for the exhibition and others never before seen in the United States.

Amanda Doyle (left) and Steve Pick (right) wrote "St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline," which tells the rich history of music out of St. Louis.
Tom Lampe

Alongside contributions to the world such as beer and baseball, St. Louis also has a rich history of generating great music. The region is not only home to bands of various genres such as jazz, rock, Americana and hip-hop — but also to world-class institutions such as the St. Louis Symphony and the Fox Theatre.

Many well-known — and not-so-known — performers are included in a brand-new pictorial history of St. Louis and its music titled “St. Louis Sound: An Illustrated Timeline.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 19, 2010 - One family, three cars, seven days, 14 people, ranging in age from 2 to 83.

That could have been an unmitigated disaster, but for us, it all added up to an incredible vacation, with fleeting but memorable stops in some of the most breath-taking places in the world. Here's a whirlwind look at a whirlwind tour.

The St. Louis University chess team won the blitz competition in the U.S. Collegiate Rapid and Blitz Championships in March 2019.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The college chess scene is booming, and it is easy to see why. The inclusion of so many strong chess programs and the explosion of rivalries between universities that give scholarships based on chess naturally lay the groundwork for more and more tournaments to be added into the circuit.

Traditionally, it is clear that the two most important events of the year for collegiate chess are the Pan-American Intercollegiate Chess Championships and the Final Four. However, there is plenty of room for growth, and last weekend, the inaugural U.S. Collegiate Rapid and Blitz Championships was held on St. Louis University's campus. 

Salad with local wild greens, wild pickled mushrooms, huckleberry powder coated goat cheese and elk tenderloin.
Courtesy of Rob Connoley

Including Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, the Ozarks is a geographic region known for its mountainous topography, forests and tourism. The region also has a unique culinary history.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh was joined by St. Louis native and chef Rob Connoley. The James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Southwest is planning to open Bulrush, a restaurant rooted in Ozark cuisine, this April in Grand Center.

After retiring from a long career as a teacher in St. Louis, Beverly Buck Brennan opted to take up the art of cabaret. Her show "Love and Marriage" begins at 8 p.m. Friday at the Kranzberg Arts Center.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s been said that life is a cabaret. But what exactly is a cabaret? Ask storyteller and performer Beverly Buck Brennan, and she’ll list three key things: a singer, a piano and someone to play it.

“Cabaret also, by definition, is about getting to know the performer personally,” the lifelong St. Louisan told host Don Marsh on Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “It’s not like you’re in a musical or you’re playing a character – you’re just you up there, which I had to learn about … I had to really pull back [from musical-theater training] … and try to mellow out and be really in a conversation with the audience.”

Dorris Keeven-Franke leads several of Archer Alexander's descendants through a tour of Alexander's life. They're standing here at the Pitman family cemetery. The Pitmans were one of Alexander's owners.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past 30 years, Keith Winstead has been tracing the many generations of his family history.

“When I first started genealogy, I thought I’d be lucky to go and find a third great-grandparent. I got pictures now of 10 generations,” Winstead said.

On a cold and windy day he was at Bellefontaine Cemetery with about 15 other family members who hail from different parts of the U.S., such as Louisville, Atlanta, New York and Cincinnati.

(March 18, 2019) Award-winning composer/trumpeter Terence Blanchard talked about his unlikely venture into jazz opera and his work on various Spike Lee films, including "BlacKkKlansman."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The name Terence Blanchard is well known in the worlds of jazz and opera. The Academy Award nominee and Grammy Award-winning composer/trumpeter scored a big hit a few years ago with “Champion”, a joint co-commission by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL) and Jazz St. Louis about boxer Emile Griffith.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with Blanchard about his latest OSTL commissioned production, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” as well as his work on the recent Spike Lee film, "BlacKkKlansman."

Grandmaster chess player Susan Polgar will be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, the youngest woman to be awarded the honor.
Susan Polgar

A Webster University chess coach will today become the youngest woman to be inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.

Susan Polgár was the first woman to win the coveted grandmaster title through traditional tournament play in 1991. The Hungarian-born champion has broken gender barriers in the male-dominated chess world during a career that spans five decades.

“There will be naysayers, and there will be men that don’t want to see women succeed, especially in a male-dominated field,” she said. “But don’t let that hold you back — just work harder and prove them wrong.”

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for March 17, 2019will be “The Career of Paul Chambers.”   In his short career, bassist Paul Chambers was known for his accurate intonation, time keeping and imaginative and sometimes bowed bass solos.  In addition to long stints with Miles Davis and Wynton Kelly Trio, Chambers was in great demand during his lifetime.  This week’s show will also present him with Bill Evans, the Quincy Jones Orchestra, Sonny Clark, Hank Mobley, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Abbey Lincoln, King Pleasure, the Gil Evans Orchestra and Joe Henderson.

Taran Davies, one of the producers of "Superpower Dogs," joined host Don Marsh to discuss the documentary. March 15, 2019
Cosmic Picture Limited

Dogs are often regarded as “man’s best friend,” but to many, they can be so much more. “Superpower Dogs,” a new IMAX film which opens Friday and plays through July at the St. Louis Science Center, shows working dogs all over the world and the ways they are vital – from search and rescue missions to protecting endangered wildlife.

Taran Davies, one of the film’s producers, joined host Don Marsh on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air to discuss the project. He explained that it was only during filming the dogs in action that he and the crew realized the extent of the dogs’ abilities. 

Poet Haki R. Madhubuti and musician Nicole Mitchell collaborated on a collection of poems set to music. 3/15/19
New Music Circle

Jazz flautist Nicole Mitchell was taking a break from college when she started volunteering at Third World Press, a Chicago bookstore and publishing house. That move sparked a lifelong mentorship with the press’s founder, poet and activist Haki R. Madhubuti.

Twenty years later, the two collaborated on a collection of his poems set to music. They’ve performed the material only a few times, and never outside Chicago. That changes Saturday, when they play a New Music Circle concert at St. Louis University.

Radio One St. Louis invited St. Louisans to gather at Art Hill for a self-portrait of St. Louis March 14, known as 314 Day, in 2014.
Lawrence Bryant

March 14 is celebrated nationally as Pi Day in honor of the mathematical constant π. But in St. Louis, the local community acknowledges another aspect of the 314 numerical value – the city itself.

For years, locals – especially in the black community – have embraced showing pride for St. Louis through informal gatherings or St. Louis-themed parties in clubs and venues such as 2720 Cherokee Performing Arts Center.

Sam Shankland, the 2018 U.S. Chess Champion.
Lennart Ootes | St. Louis Chess Club

It is that time of year again at the St. Louis Chess Club. The most coveted event in American chess is upon us: the 2019 U.S. Chess Championship and U.S. Women’s Chess Championship.

Every year, the best chess players this nation has to offer gather in the capital of chess, St. Louis, to compete in one of the strongest national championships on the planet. With new talent joining the mix, this year’s edition is going to have the highest rating average in the event’s history.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 5, 2011 - The village of Plato, Mo.,  in Texas County, will be holding a celebration next Monday in honor of its selection as the "2010 Census Center of Population."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Plato represents "the mean center of population ... the point at which an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly if all 308.7 million residents are counted where they live and all weigh exactly the same."

Sarah Bockel performs as Carole King in "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical," which returns to the Fox Theatre March 12 through 17.  March 12, 2019
Joan Marcus

When “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” opens its 2019 North American tour at the Fabulous Fox Theatre Tuesday evening, it will be a bit of a homecoming for stage producer Paul Blake.

Blake, who joined host Don Marsh on Tuesday’s St. Louison the Air, spent 22 years as executive producer at the Muny. He left the Forest Park summer stage after the 2011 season while he was putting “Beautiful” together, and he told Marsh that his experience at the Muny was vital to developing the show.

“Had I not been at the Muny for 22 years, 'Beautiful' would not be what it is. Those years educated me so much,” he said.

County music superstar Garth Brooks talked to the media the day before the concert. | March 8, 2019
Jon Lewis | St. Louis Public Radio

Country music superstar Garth Brooks said he was terrified to take the stage Saturday night at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis.

He acknowledged that feeling of performance anxiety to a sold-out audience of some 75,000 fans – a record for the venue – and at a press conference the day before the concert.

“[I’m] scared to death to go into stadiums and arenas,” Brooks said. “I came [to St. Louis] because I’ve been here. It’s going to be like eating ice cream with two spoons.”

Ms. Paige Alyssa sings at the Tiny Desk STL Happy Hour Concert in 2018. She was one of three local favorites picked by voters.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Tiny Desk Contest is now open for 2019, with the minimum age requirement dropped to 18 from 21 years old.

Women In Current Jazz

Mar 10, 2019
Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for March 10, 2019 will present “Current Women in Jazz.”   Google the phrase, “Female Jazz Artist” and you will find references to mostly vocalists.  Since the early 1990’s, female jazz artists are increasingly heard as instrumentalists, and we will play the music of over 40 of these musicians.  Included on this show are Jane Bunnett, Maria Schneider,  Renee Rosnes, Regina Carter, Grace Kelly, Jami Dauber, Janelle Reichman, Tomoko Ohno, Noriko Ueda, Sherrie Miracle, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lynne Carrington, Tia Fuller, Shamir Royston, Mimi Jones, Shirazette Tinnin,

Keith O'Brien is the author of "Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Ninety years ago, daring air races across the U.S. routinely attracted crowds that would dwarf attendance at spectacles such as the Super Bowl today.

“I’m talking about a half million people – paying customers – during the Great Depression coming out to watch races over the course of a weekend,” Keith O’Brien said during Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “An additional half million would watch for free from the hoods of their automobiles parked on nearby highways … in this little window of time, air racing was one of the most popular sports in America.”

The pilots vying for the prize were usually men, and the few women pilots were often ridiculed – until they combined forces to break down barriers and make aviation history.

Instructor Mike Pagano works with participants of Continuity's film-training program on interview techniques.

A local nonprofit aims to attract diverse voices to participate in the local film and media-production scene.

Continuity, a nonprofit media company, is recruiting applicants for its third-annual film-training program. It prepares people of color, women, and members of other underrepresented groups for jobs in the industry. Continuity will accept applicants through the end of April.

A total of 10 participants will be selected for the one-year program, which beings in August. The free training, which takes place at Continuity's Cortex location, will teach participants a wide variety of skills, from the basics of editing to how to create non-narrative projects. The participants will also recieve a paid stipend.

Commentary: Paper Has A Long And Fascinating History

Mar 7, 2019

I picked up a copy of "The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and The Rise of Western Civilization" by John Gaudet. What a fascinating read it was. Gaudet in his author's note says, "When is paper not paper? Many modern dictionaries and writers reserve the term paper for modern paper made from wood and rag pulp. Since paper made from papyrus was made with thin strips rather than from pulp, it is often placed in the category of "writing materials," and falls outside the modern classification for paper, even though the Victorians called it "natural paper."

(March 05, 2019) Moacyr Marchini (at left) and Mack Bradley compared Mardi Gras festivities here in St. Louis and Brazil, where the holiday is referred to as Carnival.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On the Saturday before Fat Tuesday – or Mardi Gras – thousands fill the streets of St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood to celebrate with music, colorful beads and booze. The holiday is one of St. Louis’ biggest events, but it’s even bigger in cities across the country and world.

The holiday dates back to the middle ages and has evolved over time. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh explored Mardi Gras festivities here in St. Louis and Brazil, where the holiday is referred to as Carnival.

Dishes from Balkan Treat Box, located on 8103 Big Bend Blvd, Webster Groves, MO 63119.
Meera Nagarajan | Sauce Magazine

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about some of the latest additions to the St. Louis region’s food-and-beverage community. Joining Marsh for the Hit List segment were Sauce Magazine managing editor Catherine Klene and staff writer Matt Sorrell.

In addition to highlighting the top food spots to visit, Klene and Sorrell discussed the local chefs honored by the James Beard Foundation. The organization awards chefs and industry professionals for excellence in the culinary industry. This year, six St. Louis-area chefs and one bar received semifinalists nominations.

Dennis C. Owsley / Copyright Dennis C. Owsley

Jazz Unlimited for March 3, 2019, will be “The Compositions and Arrangements of Oliver Nelson.”   Born in St.

Greg Rannells

St. Louis on the Air’s latest Sound Bites segment with Sauce Magazine explored how local chocolatiers create confections ranging from truffles and sauces to classic chocolate bars – and what makes them different from mass-produced chocolates from companies such as Mars and Hershey’s.

On Thursday’s program, host Don Marsh talked with Sauce Magazine managing editor Catherine Klene and Brian Pelletier, chief chocolatier and owner of Kakao Chocolate.

It’s one thing to make chocolate, but another to whip it up as a delicacy.

Fans crowd to watch champions play rounds of rapid and blitz matches at the St. Louis Chess Club during the Champions Showdown last week. Feb. 27, 2019
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The top five American chess players headlined the recently completed Champions Showdown at the St. Louis Chess Club. As per tradition, each player chose their opponent for the unique head-to-head matches. The opponents varied from young, up-and-coming talents to a former World Champion.

Members of IN UNISON Chorus rehearse for a recent concert. Charter member Gwendolyn Wesley is seen, bottom center.  2/28/19
Jeremy D. Goodwin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Symphony formed IN UNISON Chorus for a 1994 concert meant to help bridge the black church and the overwhelmingly white world of classical music. Twenty-five years later, the chorus is still singing. Each season it plays two concerts at Powell Hall with the orchestra, plus one a cappella performance and occasional guest appearances, like at the annual season-opening concert at Forest Park.

The chorus specializes in music by African-Americans, from 19th-century spirituals arranged for 120-voice chorus to contemporary gospel and pieces by black composers. The melding of black-American and European classical styles is heard vividly in the finale of the chorus’s February concert, the pathbreaking “Gospel Mass” by IN UNISON’s founding director, Robert Ray.