For most of the crowd, the opening set at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Nov. 22 pops concert was just a warm-up for the big event—the Indy debut of Portland, Ore.-based Pink Martini, a group that’s earned a rep for eclectic international music.
For me, though, the short, breezy ISO-only first act was the highlight of the evening, offering a seemingly effortless run of familiar music, with highlights from Bizet’s “Carmen” and Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” leading the way to a rousing take on Miami Sound Machine’s hit “Conga,” with an arrangement by guest conductor Steven Reineke (I’m not one to look for paranormal connections, but at the same time the ISO was playing the tune, the Pacers were in Miami trouncing the Heat. Coincidence? You be the judge.)
The set opened with “A Thanksgiving Overture,” with the familiar strains of “Simple Gifts” and “Harvest Home,” blended to generate maximum warmth.
So forgive me if this seems a little hokey—and if I’m a few days late for Thanksgiving—but during that number I stopped taking notes on the music and started jotting down some things I’m thankful for in the world of Indy arts.
For starters, I’m thankful to be in a city with a year-round professional symphony—one that strives for excellence and is as comfortable with pops and contemporary music as it is with the classics. I’m also thankful the ISO is willing to occasionally take a back seat to touring artists—sometimes by unselfishly taking the supporting role, the ISO shines even brighter. And I’m thankful the ISO is a downtown institution. I love leaving a show when downtown is bustling (or, at least, semi-bustling).
Yes, some see it purely as competition for Indianapolis, but I’m thankful for the additional touring offerings that the new Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts will bring to the region. And I’m thankful to Clowes Hall and other presenters who will continue to bring talented visitors here. My possibly naïve hope is that more offerings mean more audiences more willing to get away from their TV sets and computers and experience live performance. And that a greater influx of high-level national and international talent inspires our home-grown talent to continue to aim higher.
I’m thankful that Indy still has an opera company, even with a truncated 2010-2011
season. Here’s hoping that by hunkering down this year, the Indianapolis Opera will be able to grow into a company comfortable enough to take more risks and continue to offer a unique (and expensive-to-produce) art form to the city.
Coming off a weekend of seeing my local high school musical, twice, I’m thankful for the high schools in the area that continue to devote resources to school drama, music, dance and visual art. The best of these teachers, heroes in my eyes, don’t necessarily teach art as a possible vocation but, rather, as an approach to life that will pay enormous rewards for their students, no matter what field they end up pursuing. (And allow me a shout-out to my high school drama teacher, Marie Iaconangelo, and magical music teacher Betty King. I wouldn’t be here without you wonderful women.)
Speaking of music, I’m thankful for The Jazz Kitchen—even though I don’t get there nearly enough. And I’m thankful for Owl Studios, which is showing that a local label can produce outstanding jazz recordings. (Just give a listen to “Mezzanine,” the latest recording from the Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra or, better yet, stuff some stockings with it this holiday season.)
I’m thankful that the IndyFringe building has become a year-round arts venue and that Storytelling Arts continues to show that an individual can have a universe of characters and tales inside them. And for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where every gallery seems to be its own world and for the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, where, through art, I’m always reminded that I need to connect more to the natural world.
I’m thankful for the intimate excellence of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, thankful that Actors Theater of Indiana has secured the rights to bring back “A Year with Frog and Toad” in December, and thankful that professional artist-driven organizations such as ShadowApe (most recently seen at IndyFringe) and Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre (offering summer Shakespeare at White River State Park) continue to produce. They may not work on predictable schedules, but their aspirations and drive—and, oh, talent—make them well worth waiting for.
I’m also thankful for our dance companies and for the dancers themselves, who experience more pain for their art than just about any other creative people.
Now I’m feeling like one of those Academy Award winners who just won’t shut up for fear of neglecting someone important.
There are, of course, many more to thank—including many individual artists. I’ll wrap up, though, by expressing my thanks to the folks who write the big checks that help most of these organizations stay afloat. I’m thankful for business leaders and those in government who understand that central Indiana is a better place because of these groups.
I’m thankful for those of you who continue to read this column, my blog and IBJ’s A&E preview e-mail—and offer feedback. And I’m thankful for the powers that be at IBJ who, 3-1/2 years ago, decided to take a chance on increased arts coverage while just about every other publication in the country was cutting back on culture.
Happy belated Thanksgiving to all.•
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