Let Us Entertain You

MONMOUTH — This year’s Edgar H. Smith Fine Arts Series promises another season of world-class performances in Monmouth at Western Oregon University.

“Judging from the phone calls I have received, folks are very excited about our season,” said Sandy Newland, program manager. “We have patrons coming all the way from Newport, Corvallis, Albany, McMinnville, Portland, Beaverton, and all parts of Polk and Marion counties.”

The annual series, now in its 38th year, also attracts audience members from across the nation, said Keller Coker, executive director of the series. Coker has been organizing these types of events for about 20 years, and has worked with the Smith Fine Arts board for six years.

This season is jam-packed with talented artists coming to Monmouth, but the return of Allen Toussaint on Dec. 6 is particularly special, he said.

“We had people flying in from Vermont,” Coker said. “The last time Allen Toussaint was here, people came from Texas, Arizona, New Orleans, California and Nevada.”

The 2014-15 Smith Fine Arts Series kicks off Friday with a performance by the 2014 Grammy-winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra.

Planning for the season takes between 12 and 18 months, Coker said. He is already working on the 2015-16 season.

“As the Smith Fine Arts board and I work together each season, we discuss the various types of shows we may want and the opportunities that I’ve found that the board may want to look at,” Coker said.

Mark Fancey, president of the Fine Arts Series Board of Directors, said he is proud that the series brings such a high caliber of artists to Monmouth.

“This series is just another element that makes this such a wonderfully unique city,” he said, adding that the performance he is most anticipating is Dr. Lonnie Smith with the Hammond B-3 organ, scheduled April 3, 2015.

Performances are open to everyone, and attract interest from WOU students, faculty and staff, as well as the community at large.

“People can expect a welcoming atmosphere and a great show,” Coker said. “Our series has a great reputation with the students, community members, faculty, staff and the artists who come and perform.”

PACIFIC MAMBO ORCHESTRA – Friday, Oct. 10, 2014

Pacific Mambo Orchestra, which won the 2014 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Album, performs Friday at WOU.

2014 Grammy winner for Best Tropical Latin Album, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra is a powerhouse of Latin American music. The group’s self-titled debut honors the sounds of the great Latin big bands of the 1940s through 1960s, while infusing them with an intoxicating new energy.

The band is a dynamic 19-piece Latin Big Band that plays salsa, mambo, Latin jazz and cha cha, and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, featuring some of Northern California’s finest musicians.

ALLEN TOUSSAINT and the Western Hemisphere Orchestra

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014

Photo of Allen Toussaint
New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint has played with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.

New Orleans music legend Allen Toussaint has played with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney.

Allen Toussaint and the Western Hemisphere Orchestra is no stranger to the Smith Fine Arts Series stage.

Dubbed the “Amadeus of New Orleans,” the piano professor has influenced artists from the 1950s to present day. His catalog of songs has generated hits on the pop, rhythm and blues, country and dance charts, and many remain on heavy rotation in various radio formats. His tunes continue to pop up as TV themes and advertising jingles.

Toussaint is an instrumentalist of uncanny sure-fingeredness and a prodigious inventor of melodies that remain fresh in the ear for years. He has a poet’s ear for lyrics and a honey-toned singing voice.

Since 1996, he has recorded seven albums and collaborated with the likes of Eric Clapton and Elvis Costello. He has been Grammy nominated and inducted to several halls of fames. President Barack Obama presented him with the National Medal of Arts

RAINBOW DANCE THEATRE – Friday, Jan. 9, 2015

Dancers on stage
A variety of dance forms and styles will be performed by the Monmouth-based Rainbow Dance Theatre on Jan. 9.

 

A variety of dance forms and styles will be performed by the Monmouth-based Rainbow Dance Theatre on Jan. 9.

Comprised of eight dancers, the Rainbow Dance Theatre will bring its new show to Rice Auditorium. iLumiDance is comprised of works that feature the interplay of dance and illumination.

The dance troupe is known for its athleticism, fusing West African dance, Haitian dance, hip-hop, martial arts and African modern dance with computer animation and aerial choreography. This high-impact, rapid-fire performance style features a rugged athleticism and gravity-defying partnering.

Three-dimensional backdrops, interactive full-stage sets and lavish costuming add a unique visual element that transforms the dance performance into an entertaining and provocative theatrical event.

The dance company was founded in Hawaii, the land of rainbows, and has been based in Monmouth since 1998.

TURTLE ISLAND STRING QUARTET – Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

Photo of Turtle Island String Quartet
Turtle Island String Quartet won Grammy Awards in 2006 and 2008 for Best Classical Crossover Album.

Turtle Island String Quartet won Grammy Awards in 2006 and 2008 for Best Classical Crossover Album.

Its name derived from creation mythology found in Native American folklore, the Turtle Island Quartet has been a force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings.

Winner of the 2006 and 2008 Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album, the group fuses the classical quartet esthetic with contemporary American musical styles. By devising a performance practice that honors both, the state of the art has been redefined.

Turtle Island has journeyed through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, rhythm and blues, new age, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India, a repertoire consisting of hundreds of ingenious arrangements and originals.

Another unique element of Turtle Island is its revival of venerable improvisational and compositional chamber traditions that have not been explored by string players for nearly 200 years.

APRIL VERCH BAND – Thursday, Feb. 5 and Friday, Feb. 6, 2015

Photo of April Verch
Canadian fiddler, step dancer and singer-songwriter April Verch tours with Cody Walters (left) and Hayes Griffin.

Canadian fiddler, step dancer and singer-songwriter April Verch tours with Cody Walters (left) and Hayes Griffin.

This young artist has accomplished a lot in her years. She is now in the second decade of her career as an internationally touring Canadian fiddler, step dancer and singer-songwriter.

By the time she graduated from high school, she had won the Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship and released a pair of albums, followed by a year at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music and a win at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Competition, which made her the first woman ever to take both of her country’s two top contests.

Now her energetic, virtuosic, tradition-celebrating outfit will grace the Smith Recital Hall for two nights. The thrilling grand finale involves Verch fiddling and step dancing, often executing two entirely different intricate rhythmic patterns at once.

DR. LONNIE SMITH – Friday, April 3, 2015

Photo of Dr. Lonnie Smith
Dr. Lonnie Smith has been named Organ Keyboardist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association multiple times.

Dr. Lonnie Smith has been named Organ Keyboardist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association multiple times.

An unparalleled musician, composer, performer and recording artist, Dr. Lonnie Smith has been an authentic master and guru of the Hammond B-3 organ for more than five decades.

Smith has been featured on more than 70 albums and has recorded with a virtual “who’s who” of the greatest jazz, blues, and rhythm and blues giants in the industry. Gifted with a natural ability, Smith has played the organ since he was a young boy in Buffalo, N.Y.

Since 1969, when Downbeat magazine named him “Top Organist” of that year, Smith has won a plethora of critics’ polls as the world’s premier organist/keyboardist. He was recently inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, as well as the Jazz Organ Fellowship’s Hall of Fame.

JOSE JAMES and the American Metropole Orchestra

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Photo of Jose James
Jose James adeptly weaves elements of indie rock, folk, funk, blues, hip-hop, and rhythm and blues into his music.

 

Jose James adeptly weaves elements of indie rock, folk, funk, blues, hip-hop, and rhythm and blues into his music.

Singer-songwriter Jose James has always been on the quest for new musical horizons, constantly evolving and blurring the lines between genres in the process.

Since the beginning, the Minneapolis native has taken inspiration from a variety of artists, eagerly awaiting the release of new albums from the likes of 10,000 Maniacs and Ice Cube. He keeps his trademark soulful baritone at the forefront and adeptly weaves elements of indie rock, folk, funk, blues, hip-hop and rhythm and blues into an experience journeying from desire to introspection and spiritual epiphany.

The American Metropole Orchestra will join James as they debut a show tailor-made for his exceptional talent.

If You Go …

What: 38th season of the Edgar H. Smith Fine Arts Series.

Where: Western Oregon University, 345 N. Monmouth St., Monmouth.

When: Friday, Oct. 10 (Pacific Mambo Orchestra); Saturday, Dec. 6 (Allen Toussaint and the Western Hemisphere Orchestra); Friday, Jan. 9, 2015 (Rainbow Dance Theatre); Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 (Turtle Island String Quartet); Thursday, Feb. 5 and Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 (April Verch Band); Friday, April 3, 2015 (Dr. Lonnie Smith); and Saturday, April 11, 2015 (Jose James and the American Metropole Orchestra).

Of note: All performances start at 7:30 p.m. and take place in Rice Auditorium on the WOU campus, except the Feb. 5 and Feb. 6 performances by April Verch Band will be held in Smith Recital Hall.

Tickets: Season tickets for all seven shows are $129 for adults and $62 for students. You can also choose six-show packages ($119 adults, $52 students) and five-show packages ($99 adults, $42 students). Individual performance tickets are $25 in advance and $28 at the door. Student tickets are $11 per show.

For more information: 503-838-8333; email to fineart@wou.edu; online at wou.edu/sfa.

Polk County Itemizer-Observer
by Emily Mentzer

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