Vaudeville, the Arts and Positive Small Town Spirit
Theaters and Music Halls Build Positive Spirit
Whether it’s the Music Hall in downtown Portsmouth or the Opera House on the main street in Newport, there are music and art locations all across America that serve as magnets for bringing communities together.
Music inspires. It gives people a common bond and most certainly allows us to celebrate and elevate. Whether it be the local jazz festival or perhaps the occasional rock concert. Music speaks to our heritage and the opportunities of the future.
For instance, a great town right here in New Hampshire that has embraced music is Littleton. The town has created what has become known as the ‘Piano Project.’ Each summer, residents paint and then donate pianos to be left outside and enjoyed by all. It’s a mixing of two arts – music and painting - and showcases the local talent that might otherwise remain un-tapped. In fact, Littleton has even gone one step further and now incorporates the pianos into their local festivals - giving local citizens the ability to display their talents to outsiders and (perhaps most importantly) to their neighbors. I say ‘hooray’ for the Littleton effort as well as for so many other creative opportunities that bring people and communities together rallying around the arts!
The Arts in a Small Town: Newport
In the Sunshine Town – Newport – you can find art everywhere: dance classes, art shows, open mic nights at the local pub. But, Newport is not unique. In small towns across New England, especially New Hampshire, there are strong local communities inspired by the arts.
In Newport, for example, we are blessed with both the Newport Opera House and the Library Arts Center. Both nonprofits work tirelessly to bring new opportunity and ‘once in a lifetime experiences’ to Newport residents. Fran Huot and Kate Luppold of the Library Arts Center regularly host classes for all ages in the Arts Center studio, ranging from felt pointing, to a letterpress studio, basket weaving and so much more. You can also find beautiful exhibits year-round in their gorgeous gallery. The next big exhibit to open is the “Winners from the 2019 Juried Regional” which highlights artists from around the area and their multitude of talents. The team at the Library Arts Center never ceases to amaze me, just this last year they hosted a town art project where everyone was urged to paint a wooden bird. They then hung these birds from trees all around town. What a powerful image – and a unifying spirit throughout the community!
The Largest Stage North of Boston
Built in 1886, the Newport Opera House has been a focal point for Newport’s main street for more than 130 years. Back in the day, it was advertised as “the largest stage north of Boston,” and people from all across the region would travel to tiny Newport to see a show. Thanks to the leadership of Meg Cowan and her team, the Opera House is being restored to its original glory! Just this past fall, efforts began to replace all of the closed off windows with amazing stained-glass artwork and to bring the clock back to life that sits atop the Opera House. Not only does the place look stunning, but the schedule out front is full of fun things for families and people of all ages to enjoy. Comedians, music acts, even a production of the hit musical “Little Shop of Horrors”, make the Opera House a ‘must stop’ in 2020.
Patriotic Music – American Small Town Concerts
Every summer, small towns across New Hampshire host bandstand concerts on their town green. And often the highlight is a military band that plays inspirational patriotic music – as well as familiar tunes from an earlier era in our great country.
One of these great military bands is the Marine Corps Band, also known as "The President's Own.’ A fun fact to know is that it is the oldest band in our nation's military as well as the oldest professional musical organization in the United States. They band was actually founded and created thanks to an Act of Congress that dates all the way back to 1798! And, among their key responsibilities is to perform for both the President of the United States and the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
I invite you to take a moment to listen to their song "Semper Fidelis" and enjoy its beauty and grace. It’s definitely worth a quick ‘listen.’ I absolutely guarantee you will find it to be an uplifting moment in your day.
Profile of the Week: Peter Ramsey
The arts fill us with joy, and enlightenment. This week’s profile features a person who is a true leader in the arts in Granite State. A visionary and President of the Palace Theater, as well as a wonderful friend of mine, Peter Ramsey.
When the Palace first opened in 1915, the mills in the Queen City were busting at the seams, and Manchester’s downtown was the epicenter of cultural activity in the state. As the decades clicked by, however, and the silver screen took the place of the live performance, the Palace was forced to transition, and became yet another movie theater. The glitz and glamour of the majestic theatre slowly faded away.
However, thanks to the leadership of Peter Ramsey, the Palace Theater has made an exciting comeback. Over the past twenty-plus years Peter has tirelessly championed project after project and has made art and theater opportunities available to citizens throughout northern New England. From the rehabilitation and restoration program to summer camps, his efforts to promote the arts have been truly remarkable. And, even more, the revitalization of the Palace has been a catalyst and has helped reinvigorate the greater downtown community. Today, storefront after storefront is occupied, flourishing with commerce and excitement.
Not surprisingly, Peter’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2012, the Palace was recognized as an outstanding historic theatre and in 2013, Peter was honored as the recipient of the prestigious ‘Community Impact Award.’
Arts in the Queen City are alive and well – thanks in large part to the great work and leadership of Peter Ramsey.
Quotes of the Week: Art
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake.”
“Science provides an understanding of a universal experience. Arts provide a universal understanding of a personal experience.”
“I would have a workshop attached to every school, and one hour a day given up to the teaching of simple decorative arts. It would be a golden hour to the children.”
“O, had I but followed the arts!”