In my most recent trip to New York City last week, I happened to run across a picture that reminded me of Van Wert, Ohio. I was actually roaming the halls of the prestigious Carnegie Hall and ran across a picture of a performer who has performed in Van Wert.
If you have ever had the privilege to tour or attend a performance in Carnegie Hall, you would notice pictures of performers who have graced the stage of Carnegie Hall over its 120 years of existence. It's like a who's who of music and arts. I certainly felt in awe as I read the personal comments many have written to Carnegie Hall about their performance experiences there. Names like Wagner, Copland, Sinatra, Bernstein, and the list goes on and on.
One picture that especially captured my attention was that of singer William Warfield. Some may not remember this famous bass/baritone singer, but one of his claims to fame is singing "Ol' Man River" from the musical "Showboat". He actually became popular singing it in the 1951 movie of "Showboat," but also sang it in several revivals on Broadway.
Some of you long-time Community Concert patrons might remember William Warfield's appearance on the stage of the Marsh Auditorium right here in Van Wert. It was Feb. 21, 1963, when he rang the Marsh Auditorium walls with "Ol' Man River" as well as many other songs from his vast repertoire. Although I would have been a young boy at the time and was not in attendance, I have talked with many who were and it was a memorable night in Van Wert.
Community concerts always existed under the motto of "Bringing Carnegie Hall performers to towns throughout America!" As I was standing in the halls of Carnegie Hall, it all came into reality for me - a true American musical icon who had literally brought Carnegie Hall to Van Wert, Ohio. As an aside, I also had the privilege of performing with William Warfield late in his life as he came to Lima to perform with the Lima Symphony Orchestra. William Warfield died in 2002 and left a heritage of great musical theater, but not before sharing a bit of it with those fortunate 500 concert goers in Van Wert back on a cold night in February 1963. The picture above is the one that graces the halls of Carnegie Hall.
It also made me think of what we have established now with the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio. Our Green Room is graced with pictures of performers who have graced our stage over the past six years. Many of them have written some very flattering comments about their experience of performing in Van Wert. I wonder if years from now, someone will roam our halls and have the same feeling of awe that I had as I roamed Carnegie Hall. We said we were building a Legacy when the Niswonger PAC was built. I trust we are being good stewards and creating wonderful memories for others to share for years to come.
I do know that we are looking at some performers for next season that I saw will soon be performing at Carnegie Hall. Want a hint? Check out the Carnegie website and see who is coming soon.
We return to the concert stage this Saturday with the Smooth Jazz sounds of The Rippingtons. For 25 years, The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman have been exciting contemporary jazz audiences all over the world. They now bring their live concert to Van Wert this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for everyone to enjoy. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance at the box office. We thank the Jim Robideau Family and Koch Law Office, two fine jazz supporters of jazz for their support of helping underwrite this concert.