Lincoln Festival honors the 16th president through music

SUNDAY, JAN. 18, 2009

Spokane is hosting a Lincoln Festival over the next month and a half – and now we have more information on what, exactly, that means.

First of all, it means that an opening ceremony will be held Friday, 11:30 a.m., at the Lincoln statue at Main Avenue and Monroe Street, with festivities immediately moving over to the drier and warmer Spokane City Council Chambers.

There’ll be a mayoral proclamation, student musical performances and a rendition of the Gettysburg Address.

Then, the Spokane Symphony’s Family Concert on Saturday, 2 p.m., will have a Lincoln-related theme, “The World Comes West.”

It will explore the repercussions of Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1865, which launched a wave of settlement in the West and directly shaped our region.

The symphony’s next Chamber Soiree, titled “Music Lincoln Should Have Heard,” will feature compositions from his era, including pieces by Strauss, Puccini and Schumann.

The performances will be Feb. 3 and 4 at the Davenport Hotel, and Feb. 5 at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center at the Old Church in Post Falls.

The centerpiece of the celebration, without a doubt, comes Feb. 28 and March 1, when the symphony performs the world premiere of Michael Daugherty’s composition “Letters From Lincoln,” sung by Spokane’s homegrown opera star, Thomas Hampson.

The symphony commissioned Daugherty, one of the nation’s top composers, to write a piece that could sit alongside Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” as a fitting musical tribute.

In the words of music director Eckart Preu, the symphony wanted a “companion piece – or a counter piece” to Copland’s work, something more “human,” something to “take Lincoln down from the pedestal and show us the man as he was.”

Tickets for all of these concerts can be purchased by calling the symphony ticket office at (509) 624-1200 or through TicketsWest outlets (509-325-SEAT, 800-325-SEAT, www.ticketswest.com).

The Spokane International Film Festival and the Chase Gallery also have Lincoln Festival tie-ins.

The festival has been sanctioned by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

A challenging First Night

Attendance at First Night Sp okane was down by approximately one-third, which should come as no surprise to those who remember how challenging the weather conditions were in Snow-kane on New Year’s Eve.

Actually, that wasn’t a bad turnout considering that the city was still shell shocked from its snowiest month in history.

Let’s put it this way: The snow was so deep, First Night had to cancel its snowboard event.

It also had to cancel the world record soap bubble attempt by Spokane “bubbillusionist” Jarom Watts.

Watts said bubbles would freeze instantly in those conditions, and it was impossible to find a suitable indoor location. He wanted to blow a bubble the size of an elephant.

Yet Watts has not given up. He will attempt the world record in February, at a date and place to be announced soon.

Spokane Children’s Theatre

The Spokane Children’s Theatre, one of our cultural treasures, has announced its 2009-2010 season, which looks to be a big crowd-pleaser:

“High School Musical 2” – The stage version of the popular ’tween sequel, and the perfect follow-up to last season’s “High School Musical,” which may have been the Spokane Children’s Theatre’s biggest hit ever (people were offering $100 for aftermarket tickets).

“Babes in Toyland” – The holiday musical classic.

“A Year With Frog and Toad” – A Tony-winning musical based on the books by Arnold Lobel.

“The Boxcar Children” – Based on the beloved book series.

“Charlotte’s Web” – A musical version of the E.B. White classic.

Dates will be announced later.

Meanwhile, don’t miss “Alexander, Who’s Not, Not, Not, Not, Not, NOT Going to Move!” which runs Jan. 31-Feb. 15 at Spokane Community College’s Lair Auditorium.

For information, go to www.spokanechildrenstheatre.org or call (509) 328-4886. Tickets are available through TicketsWest outlets.

A family ‘Magic Flute’

Spokane Opera’s “Magic Flute” is coming up Jan. 29 to 31 at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, with the Jan. 31, 1 p.m., matinee being of particular interest to families.

This is the Spokane Opera’s first family matinee, an abridged version of the production with special family prices. An adult who purchases a ticket at full price can then buy up to four children’s tickets at $7 each.

This Mozart comic opera is one of the more whimsical in the opera repertoire, full of lighthearted fun. It also has the advantage of being sung in English. This matinee version cuts out a few arias, which brings the whole thing in under two hours.

Tickets for all performances are available through all TicketsWest outlets, but for the special family prices you should call the Fox box office at (509) 624-1200.

By the way, the Spokane Opera’s annual gala, “Diamonds and Divas,” was quite the scene at the Davenport Hotel on New Year’s Eve. I’ve never seen quite so many Spokane residents in tuxedoes and gowns (although some revelers had to wear snow boots to navigate the sidewalks).

All in all, it was like being in a real-life version of an elegant PBS New Year’s Eve special.

Jim Kershner can be reached at (509) 459-5493 or by e-mail at jimk@spokesman.com.

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