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Creative to the core: John Hargiss and his handmade world


John Hargiss comes from a long line of Southern Missouri craftsmen who would never have thought to call themselves creatives, but that’s precisely what they were for the things they made with their hands and for the music they played with those same rough-hewn mitts. The owner of Hargiss Stringed Instruments is a chip off the old block who handmakes custom guitars, violins and mandolins with Old World care and craftsmanship. With those same hands, he makes and does a lot of other things, too, including repairing instruments. He took things to a whole new level recently by restoring an early 20th century vaudeville turned movie theater he discovered laying frozen in time in the complex of adjoining buildings he owns in North Omaha, one of which houses his business. The meticulously restored theater is now hosting live theater, music and assorted other events. Hargiss feels a deep connection to the people and the life rhythms from whence he came. He has found a home for himself and his work in North Omaha. This is my new Omaha Encounter Magazine profile about John and his creative life.His passion for making community in that neighborhood he moved lock, stock and barrel to from Benson is one of the angles I took in an earlier profile I wrote about Hargiss, for The Reader. Link to that earlier story at–

Entrepreneur and Craftsman John Hargiss Invests in North Omaha: Stringed Instrument Maker Envisons Ambitious Plans for his New Hargissville Digs

 

TE0816_125

 

 

Creative to the core: John Hargiss and his handmade world

©by Leo Adam Biga

©Photos by Bill Sitzmann

Appearing in the July-Auguat 2016 issue of Omaha Encounter Magazine (http://omahamagazine.com/category/publications/the-encounter/)

Master craftsman and stringed instrument maker John Hargiss learned the luthier skills he plies at his North Omaha shop from his late father Verl. In the hardscrabble DIY culture of their Southern Missouri hill and river bottom roots, people made things by hand.

“I think the lower on the food chain you are, the more creative you become. I think you have to,” Hargiss says.

He observed his late father fashion tables and ax handles with ancestral tools and convert station wagons into El Camino’s with nothing more than a lawnmower blade and glue pot. Father and son once forged a guitar from a tree they felled, cut and shaped together. The son’s hands are sure and nimble enough to earn him a tidy living at his own Hargiss Stringed Instruments at 4002 Hamilton Street. His shop’s filled with precision tools (jigs, clamps_, many of vintage variety.

Some specialized tools are similar to what dentists use. “I do almost the same thing – polish, grind, fill, recreate, redesign, restructure.”

Assorted wood, metal and found objects are destined for repurposing.

“I have an incredible way of looking at something and going, ‘I can use that.’ Everything you see will be sold or used one way or the other.”

In addition to instrument-making, he’s a silversmith, leather-maker and welder.A travel guitar he designed, the Minstrel, has sold to renowned artists, yet he still views himself an apprentice indebted to his father.

“He just made all kinds of things and taught me how to use and sharpen tools. Being around that most of my life it wasn’t very difficult for me to be like, ‘Oh, that’s how that works,’ For some reason my father and I had a connection. I couldn’t get enough of that old man. He was a mill worker, a mechanic, a woodsman. When he wasn’t doing that he was creating things. He was a craftsman. Everything I know how to create probably came from him. Everything I watched him do, I thought, ‘My hands were designed to do exactly what he’s doing.’ On his tombstone I had put, ‘A man who lived life through his hands.'”

Hargiss also absorbed rich musical influences.

“You were constantly around what we don’t see in the Midwest – banjo players, violin players, ukulele players, dulcimer players. There are a lot of musicians in that part of the world down there. Bluegrass. Rockabilly. Folkabilly, That would be our entertainment in the evenings – music, family, friends. Neighbors would show up with instruments and start playing. Growing up, that was our recreation.”

He feels a deep kinship to that music.

.”The roots of country music and the blues come out of being suppressed and poor,” he says. “All those incredible sad songs come from the bottom of the barrel.”

His father had a hand in his musical development

“My daddy was a good musician and he taught me to play music when I was about 9. By 11 I was already playing in little country and bluegrass bands. I can play a mandolin, a guitar, a banjo, a ukulele, but I’m pretty much a guitar player. And I sing and write music.”

Hargiss once made his livelihood performing. “I like playing music so much. It’s dangerous business because it will completely overpower you. I knew I needed to make a living, raise my children and have a life. so playing music became my hobby. I worked corporate jobs, but I kept being pulled back. It didn’t matter how hard I tried. I’d no more get the tie and suit off then I’d be out in the garage making something else. The day I quit that job I went to my boss and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore, my heart’s not in it. I’m going to start building things.”

It turned into his business.

Hargiss directly traces what he does to his father.

“I watched him repair a guitar he bought me at a yard sale. The strings were probably three inches off the finger board. I remember my daddy taking a cup of hot coffee and pouring it in the joint of that neck and him wobbling that neck off, and the next I knew he’d restrung that guitar. I think that’s when I knew that’s what I’m going to do.”

The memory of them making a guitar is still clear.

“The first guitar I built me and my daddy cut a walnut tree, chopped it up and we carved us a dreadnaught – a traditional Martin-style guitar. I gave that to him and he played that up to the day he died.”

 

Hargiss Encounter III

 

Aesthetics hold great appeal for Hargiss.

“I’m fascinated by architectural design in what I create and in what I make. I study it.”

He called on every ounce of his heritage to lovingly restore a vaudeville house turned movie theater he didn’t know came with the attached North O buildings he purchased five years ago. The theater lay dormant and unseen 65 years, like a time capsule, obscured by walls and ceilings added by property owners, before he and his girlfriend, Mary Thorsteinson, rediscovered it largely intact. The pair, who share an apartment behind the auditorium, did the restoration themselves.

The original Winn Theatre opened in 1905 as a live stage venue, became a movie theater and remained one (operating as the Hamilton and later the 40th Street Theatre), until closing in 1951. Preservation is nothing new to Hargiss, who reclaimed historic buildings in Benson, where his business was previously located. At the Hamilton site he was delighted to find the theater but knew it meant major work.

“I’ve always had this passion for old things. When we found the theater I remember saying, This is going to be a big one.”

Motivating the by-hand, labor-of-love project was the space’s “potential to be anything you want it to be.” He’s reopened the 40th Street Theatre as a live performance spot.

Hargiss is perpetually busy between instrument repairs and builds – he has a new commission to make a harp guitar – and keeping up his properties. Someone’s always coming in wanting to know how to do something and he’s eager to pay forward what was passed on to him.

The thought of working for someone else is unthinkable.

“I get one hundred percent control of my creativity. I’m not stuck, I’m not governed by, Well, you can’t do it this way. Of course I can because the sound this is going to produce is mine. When you get to control it, then you’re the CEO, the boss, the luthier, the repairman, the refinisher, the construction, the engineer, the architect. You’re all of these things at one time.”

Besides, he can’t help making things. “There’s a drive down in me someplace. Whatever I’m working on, I first of all have to see myself doing it. Then I go through this whole crazy second-guessing. And then the next thing I know it’s been created. Days later I’ll see it and go, ‘When did I do that?’ because it takes over me and it completely consumes every thought I have. I just let everything else go.”

Creating is so tied to his identity, he says, “It’s not that I can’t find peace or can’t be content” without it, “but by lands I like it.”

Visit http://www.hargissstrings.com.

REMINDER: North Omaha Summer Arts presents Gospel Concert in the Park – Saturday, June 18


REMINDER: Gospel Concert in the Park this Saturday, June 18
Miller Park, 5 to 7:30 pm, Free, Hot dogs & refreshments provided.
Soak up the rays and the praise at this community concert.
Enjoy soul-stirring music for thanksgiving and healing.
Please come enjoy with friends and family. Hope to see you.

Gospel Concert in the Park
Saturday, June 18
5 to 7:30 pm
Miller Park (southeast section, Kansas Ave. between 24th and 27th Streets)
Free

North Omaha Summer Arts (NOSA) presents:
6th annual Gospel Concert in Miller Park

This free concert features soloists, duets, ensembles and choirs from North Omaha performing diverse gospel styles.

Performing artists include:
Dani Cleveland
D. Kevin Williams
Franklena Durham
Eric and Doriette Jordan and family
Allen and Angelica Stevenson and friends
First Lutheran Church choir
and more…

Free hot dogs and refreshments. Bring a blanket or chair, get comfy, and soak up the rays and the praise. Enjoy soul-stirring music for thanksgiving and healing. Lift up your own voice and sing along if the spirit moves you. Music in the park is a beautiful thing. Enjoy this family-friendly event.

NOSA is a completely free community-based arts festival dedicated to the proposition that art, in all its forms, can positively change the world. There is a full slate of events and activities for the whole family throughout the summer.

Like/Follow NOSA and see/share the schedule at–
https://www.facebook.com/NorthOmahaSummerArts/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1012756932152193/

 
 
Gospel Concert 2016
 
More 2016 Highlights include:
Art and Gardening Class
Saturday, July 910:30 am to 12:30 pm
Florence Branch Library
Combine your passion for making and growing things in a fun-filled session painting art on clay pots and planting flowers that attract pollinators.

NEW EVENT
Pop-Up Art
Various locations TBA
Happening throughout July, Pop-Up Art gives adults and children the opportunity to create art at different locations around North Omaha.

Arts Crawl
Friday, August 12
Reception at Charles Washington Branch Library
5:30-6:30 pm.
The Crawl at several venues on or near North 30th Street
6 to 9 pm
This walkable, continuous art show showcases the diverse work of emerging and established artists at venues on or near North 30th Street. The 6th Annual Crawl starts at the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus Mule Barn building and ends at the North Heartland Family Service – with Church of the Resurrection, Nelson Mandela School and Trinity Lutheran in between. Walk or drive to view art in a wide variety of mediums, to watch visual art demonstrations and to speak with artists about their practice. Enjoy live music at some venues.
NOTE: Watch for posts about The Crawl’s visual and performing artists roster.

Cover Photo

North Omaha Summer Arts Presents: Gospel Concert in the Park


 

Enjoy some of Omaha’s best gospel music talent at this free outdoor concert in the park.

 

Cover Photo

Gospel Concert in the Park
Saturday, June 18
5 to 7:30 pm
Miller Park (southeast section, Kansas Ave. between 24th and 27th Streets)
Free

North Omaha Summer Arts (NOSA) presents:
6th annual Gospel Concert in Miller Park

This free concert features soloists, duets, ensembles and choirs from North Omaha performing diverse gospel styles.

Featured performing artists include:
Dani Cleveland
D. Kevin Williams
Franklena Durham
Eric and Doriette Jordan and family
Allen and Angelica Stevenson and friends
First Lutheran Church choir
and more…

Free hot dogs and refreshments. Bring a blanket or chair, get comfy, and soak up the rays and the praise. Lift up your own voice and sing along if the spirit moves you. Music in the park is a beautiful thing. Enjoy this family-friendly event.

Let us know you’re coming by visiting the Concert’s Facebook Event page at–

https://www.facebook.com/events/108638452893197/notif_t=plan_user_joined&notif_id=1465825659929736

NOSA is a completely free community-based arts festival dedicated to the proposition that art, in all its forms, can positively change the world. There is a full slate of events and activities for the whole family throughout the summer.

Like/Follow NOSA and see/share the full schedule of visual and performing arts at–
https://www.facebook.com/NorthOmahaSummerArts/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1012756932152193/

 

Pamela-Jo-Gospel-Poster-Flyerv3

 

North Omaha Summer Arts (NOSA): Bringing together the experience of art in all its forms to the community of North Omaha.

For more info or to volunteer or to participate as an artist, call 402-502-4669.

North Omaha Summer Arts (NOSA) presents: Gospel Concert in the Park


Cover Photo

North Omaha Summer Arts (NOSA) presents:

Gospel Concert in the Park

6th annual Gospel Concert in Miller Park
Saturday, June 18
5 to 7:30 pm
Miller Park (southeast section, Kansas Ave. between 24th and 27th Streets)
Free

This free concert features soloists, duets, ensembles and choirs from North Omaha performing diverse gospel styles. Free hot dogs and refreshments. Bring a blanket or chair, get comfy, and soak up the rays and the praise. Lift up your own voice and sing along if the spirit moves you. Music in the park is a beautiful thing. Enjoy this family-friendly event.
NOTE: Watch for announcements about the concert’s performing artists lineup.

Visit the Facebook event page for the concert and let us know you’re coming
https://www.facebook.com/events/108638452893197/

 

 

More 2016 NOSA events, including classes and Pop-Up Art and the Arts Crawl:

Women’s Writing Classes and Retreats
Running Wednesdays through July 27
5:30 pm dinner followed by 6 to 8 pm class
Trinity Lutheran Church, 30th and Redick
This summer the focus is on Getting Published.
Facilitator Kim Louise is a playwright and best-selling romance novelist who guides participants in finding their inner writer’s voice.

Art and Gardening Class
Saturday, July 9
10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Florence Branch Library
Combine your passion for making and growing things in a fun-filled session painting art on clay pots and planting flowers that attract pollinators.

NEW EVENT
Pop-Up Art
Various locations TBA
Happening throughout July, Pop-Up Art gives adults and children the opportunity to create art at different locations around North Omaha.

Arts Crawl
Friday, August 12
Reception at Charles Washington Branch Library
5:30-6:30 pm.
The Crawl at several venues on or near North 30th Street
6 to 9 pm
This walkable, continuous art show showcases the diverse work of emerging and established artists at venues on or near North 30th Street. The 6th Annual Crawl starts at the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus Mule Barn building and ends at the North Heartland Family Service – with Church of the Resurrection, Nelson Mandela School and Trinity Lutheran in between. Walk or drive to view art in a wide variety of mediums, to watch visual art demonstrations and to speak with artists about their practice. Enjoy live music at some venues.
NOTE: Watch for posts about The Crawl’s visual and performing artists roster.

NOSA is a free, grassroots, community-based arts festival. Our mission is to bring the experience of art in all forms to the community of North Omaha. NOSA classes and events are open and free of charge to everyone. NOSA is dedicated to the proposition that the arts can positively change the world and the community. Support local arts and local artists because they are making a difference through their work. Let’s make this a beautiful, arts-filled summer. And we hope to see you at our family-friendly, community-based events.

Like/follow/share NOSA on social meda–
NOSA Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/NorthOmahaSummerArts/?fref=ts
NOSA Facebook Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/1012756932152193/

For more information, to be a participating artist or to partner with NOSA, call 402-502-4669.

North Omaha Summer Arts's Profile Photo

6th Annual North Omaha Summer Arts festival now officially underway


6th Annual North Omaha Summer Arts festival now officially underway

 

NOSA kicks off with the first in a series of:

Women’s Writing Classes and Retreats
Running Wednesdays, June 1 through July 27
5:30 pm dinner followed by 6 to 8 pm class
Trinity Lutheran Church, 30th and Redick
This summer the focus is on Getting Published.
Facilitator Kim Louise is a playwright and best-selling romance novelist who guides participants in finding their inner writer’s voice.

The Classes and Retreats are just one aspect of NOSA. a free, grassroots, community-based arts festival. Our mission is to bring the experience of art in all forms to the community of North Omaha. NOSA classes and events are open and free of charge to everyone. NOSA is dedicated to the proposition that the arts can positively change the world and the community. Support local arts and local artists because they are making a difference through their work. Let’s make this a beautiful, arts-filled summer. And we hope to see you at our family-friendly, community-based events.

The summer-long fest is the creation of North Omaha native and North High graduate Pamela Jo Berry. She is a veteran artist and art educator who lives in North Omaha. Pamela began NOSA in the summer of 2011 with the support and assistance of fellow parishioner Denise Chapman and Pastor John Backus when she saw a need for more art to be infused into her community. She also wanted to provide more opportunities for area artists to exhibit their work and talent. Under the NOSA banner she organized community arts events and activities, including writing classes, a Gospel Concert and an Arts Crawl, open to all. As the community has embraced the offerings, NOSA has added new programming and partners. The goal is for this arts festival to continue growing and flourishing, but it needs help to do that.

Pamela administers NOSA with the help of volunteers. She has found success paired with a volunteer board who has history and interest in the areas of both North Omaha and the arts. NOSA has attracted a loyal following for its annual events. New programs and opportunities continue to be added. It is truly a privilege for everyone involved to celebrate the arts in North Omaha and to provide these enriching experiences.

More 2016 Highlights include:
Gospel Concert in the Park
Saturday, June 18
5 to 7:30 pm
Miller Park (southeast section, Kansas Ave. and 27th Street)
The 6th annual Gospel Concert in Miller Park features soloists, duets, ensembles and choirs from North Omaha performing diverse gospel styles. Free hot dogs and refreshments. Bring a blanket or chair, get comfy, and soak up the rays and the praise. Lift up your own voice and sing along if the spirit moves you. Music in the park is a beautiful thing. Enjoy this family-friendly event.
NOTE: Watch for announcements about the concert’s performing artists lineup.

Art and Gardening Class
Saturday, July 9
10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Florence Branch Library
Combine your passion for making and growing things in a fun-filled session painting art on clay pots and planting flowers that attract pollinators.

NEW EVENT
Pop-Up Art
Various locations TBA
Happening throughout July, Pop-Up Art gives adults and children the opportunity to create art at different locations around North Omaha.

Arts Crawl
Friday, August 12
Reception at Charles Washington Branch Library
5:30-6:30 pm.
The Crawl at several venues on or near North 30th Street
6 to 9 pm
This walkable, continuous art show showcases the diverse work of emerging and established artists at venues on or near North 30th Street. The 6th Annual Crawl starts at the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus Mule Barn building and ends at the North Heartland Family Service – with Church of the Resurrection, Nelson Mandela School and Trinity Lutheran in between. Walk or drive to view art in a wide variety of mediums, to watch visual art demonstrations and to speak with artists about their practice. Enjoy live music at some venues.
NOTE: Watch for posts about The Crawl’s visual and performing artists roster.

COMING SOON: Look for our announcement about an opportunity to help NOSA continue offering these and other arts experiences free of charge to the community.

Like/follow/share NOSA on social meda–
NOSA Facebook Pagehttps://www.facebook.com/NorthOmahaSummerArts/?fref=ts
NOSA Facebook Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/1012756932152193/

For more information, to be a participating artist or to partner with NOSA, call 402-502-4669.

North Omaha Summer Arts's photo.
North Omaha Summer Arts
 

 

North Omaha Summer Arts back for 6th annual free arts festival

May 23, 2016 1 comment

North Omaha Summer Arts back for 6th annual free arts festival

 

NOSA is dedicated to the proposition that the arts can positively change the world and the community. Support local arts and local artists because they are making a difference through their work. Let’s make this a beautiful, arts-filled summer. And hope to see you at our family-friendly, community-based events.

Check out the schedule below:

 

Cover Photo

We are delighted to announce that June 2016 marks the beginning of the 6th year for North Omaha Summer Arts (NOSA), a free, grassroots, community-based arts festival!

Our mission is to bring the experience of art in all forms to the community of North Omaha. NOSA classes and events are open and free of charge to everyone.

The summer-long fest is the creation of North Omaha native and North High graduate Pamela Jo Berry. She is a veteran artist and art educator who lives in North Omaha.

Pamela began NOSA in the summer of 2011 with the support and assistance of fellow parishioner Denise Chapman and Pastor John Backus when she saw a need for more art to be infused into her community. She also wanted to provide more opportunities for area artists to exhibit their work and talent. Under the NOSA banner she organized community arts events and activities, including writing classes, a Gospel Concert and an Arts Crawl, open to all. As the community has embraced the offerings, NOSA has added new programming and partners. The goal is for this arts festival to continue growing and flourishing, but it needs help to do that.

Pamela administers NOSA with the help of volunteers. She has found success paired with a volunteer board who has history and interest in the areas of both North Omaha and the arts.

NOSA has attracted a loyal following for its annual events. New programs and opportunities continue to be added.  It is truly a privilege for everyone involved to celebrate the arts in North Omaha and to provide these enriching experiences.

2016 Highlights include:

Gospel Concert in the Park
Saturday, June 18
5 to 7:30 pm
Miller Park

The 6th annual Gospel Concert in Miller Park features soloists, ensembles and choirs performing a variety of gospel styles.

NOTE: Watch for announcements about the concert’s performing artists lineup

Women’s Writing Classes and Retreats
Wednesdays, June 1 through July 27
5:30 pm dinner followed by 6 to 8 pm class
Trinity Lutheran Church
This summer the focus is on Getting Published.

Facilitator Kim Louise is a playwright and best-selling romance novelist who guides participants in finding their inner writer’s voice.

Art and Gardening Class
Saturday, July 9
10:30 am to 12:30 pm
Florence Branch Library

Combine your passion for making and growing things in a fun-filled session painting art on clay pots and planting flowers that attract pollinators.

 

NEW EVENT
Pop-Up Art
Various locations TBA

Happening throughout July, Pop-Up Art gives adults and children the opportunity to create art at different locations around North Omaha.

 

Arts Crawl
Friday, August 12
Reception at Charles Washington Branch Library
5:30-6:30 pm.
The Crawl at several venues on or near North 30th Street
6 to 9 pm
This walkable, continuous art show showcases the diverse work of emerging and established artists at venues on or near North 30th Street. The Crawl starts at the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus Mule Barn building and ends at the North Heartland Family Service – with Church of the Resurrection, Nelson Mandela School and Trinity Lutheran in between. Walk or drive to view art in a wide variety of mediums, to watch visual art demonstrations and to speak with artists about their practice. Enjoy live music at some venues.

NOTE: Watch for posts about The Crawl’s visual and performing artists roster.


COMING SOON: Look for our announcement about an opportunity to help NOSA continue offering these and other arts experiences free of charge to the community.

Like/follow NOSA on Facebook–

NOSA Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/NorthOmahaSummerArts/?fref=ts

NOSA Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/1012756932152193/

For more information, to be a participating artist or to partner with NOSA, call 402-502-4669.

North Omaha Summer Arts's Profile Photo

 

 

BRAVO! Sing for the Cure


I recently found a trove of stories I have written and had publshed in pint but that I had never gotten around to posting on my social media platforms – until now. This is one. It is about a charitable Opera Omaha concert from 2010 that was staged as a fundraiser in support of breast cancer awareness and research. The moving personal stories of survivors were integrated into the concert. The program was called Sing for the Cure. I wrote about it for Metro Magazine.(http://www.spiritofomaha.com/Metro-Magazine/The-Magazine/).

 

BRAVO! Sing for the Cure


It used to be the mere mention of cancer connoted a fatal prognosis.Thanks to medical science advances, however, many forms of the disease are highly treatable and survivable today. While it’s true the “Big C” doesn’t mean a sure death sentence anymore, it’s still a scary, serious, and often life-threatening condition. Indeed, cancer is so prevalent in America that almost everyone at some point is affected by it directly or indirectly. The diagnosis, even the word, still conjures feelings of anxiety, fear, resentment and other intense emotions.

Genetic and lifestyle factors play a role, but cancer is largely indiscriminate in who it attacks. Everyone close to a cancer patient is impacted in one way or another. Behind every cancer case is a human story of life, pain, hope, and healing.

Art is a powerful medium for honoring life and death experiences, which is why Opera Omaha and the Nebraska Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure have partnered to present Sing for the Cure: A Proclamation of Hope.

Sing for the Cure concerts, like the Opera for the Cure, help raise awareness and funds for breast cancer care and research. Five dollars of each purchased ticket benefits Nebraska Komen. The performances, which kick off Opera Omaha’s 53rd season, coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The dramatic, multimedia Opera for the Cure concerts are Omaha’s version of the Sing for the Cure programs. Sing for the Cure is a national program that has worked with the Komen foundation since 2000. “Opera for the Cure represents a great example of how two organizations, with completely different missions, can come together on a project that will have a powerful impact,” said Nebraska Komen Executive Director Lynette Farhart.

“While I have seen only a few of the pieces from the production, I am positive anyone who experiences Opera for the Cure will walk away inspired. It is a unique opportunity to further educate people about breast cancer as the production takes you through one woman’s journey. The production encapsulates the emotions experienced from diagnosis to treatment and recovery, and ends with a message of hope. You will walk away wanting to make a difference.”

“Throughout this emotional performance Opera Omaha will pay tribute to survivors and their families, as well as to those we have lost, through music, singing, photography and stories,” said Opera Omaha general director John Wehrle. “The performance itself is a journey, and it’s the journey of life that counts. This proclamation of hope will be uplifting and will leave the audience inspired.”

“Ultimately the message is: What are we going to do about this, and who is going to do it? It’s the community that’s going to make the difference and help each person get through it,” said Farhart.

This is why the public was invited to participate by submitting survivor and co-survivor stories and photos online at operaforthecure.org. The special website displays these inspirational tales and images through October 17. A few of the testimonies and snapshots will be variously projected on stage, exhibited in the Orpheum lobby and featured in concert promotional materials. What Angels in America did for AIDS, Sing for the Cure has done for cancer. Just as Angels used dramatic musical theater to express the searing emotions and experiences of AIDS, Sing for the Cure uses music and testimony as the prism for its cathartic look at cancer.

 

 

The concert program features classical and concert music by leading contemporary composers, including Joseph M. Martin and Michael Cox. The libretto speaks to the personal, family and communal impact of cancer, drawing on real-life stories in some cases. Professional and nonprofessional actors on stage will share various cancer stories. Dancers will help interpret the spoken and sung narrative.

Guest conductor Richard Buckley leads the Omaha Symphony, joined by the Opera Omaha Chorus and the Opera Omaha Valmont Voices in Residence, featuring: American baritone Kyle Albertson, tenor Neil Darling, mezzo soprano Jennifer Forte and soprano Alyssa Nance. Collaborating with Buckley are visiting artists Helena Binder, who directs, and Opera Omaha Chorus Master/Resident Music Director J. Gawf.

Dramatic lighting and an array of screens projecting video images will key music, words, emotions, and meanings. Musically, audiences can expect “a very accessible oratorio that speaks to the emotions of having cancer, dealing with it, how it affects all around you and the knowledge that many are there to support you in your personal journey,” said Buckley.

“The style of the music is quite popular and deals with ten different moments of a woman’s journey with breast cancer. But it is not all dark, because life isn’t. There is humor, compassion, farewells to loved ones. The music has full chorus numbers, solos both legit and jazzy.” Stage director Helena Binder worked hard to ensure the concert has a narrative flow, complete with peaks and valleys and a mix of poignancy and humor.

“I feel it’s my job to bring it to the audience in a way they can feel that range of emotions,” she said. The many expressive facets she has to play with remind her of working on operas. “It’s kind of the same thing where all these different artistic elements come together to tell a story to give an overall experience,” she said. “It’s really exciting to me because you have so many pieces and yet the idea is to weave it into a whole. It’s like a tapestry.”

She said the evening will conclude in a spirited way. “It has to be something that people walk away from with a feeling of urgency, of commitment, of hope.”

Performances are October 15th at 7:30 p.m. and October 17th at 2 p.m. For ticket information visit ticketomaha.com or call 345-0606.

 

 

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