MUSIC REVIEW: 'Celebrate Sarasota'


MUSIC REVIEW: 'Celebrate Sarasota'


Date: September 16, 2013
by: June LeBell | Contributing Columnist


Generosity always pays off. Give and you receive even more. Of course, that’s not the reason to give, but, be assured that if you do, you’ll get at least double your gift.

That’s a lesson The Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota has always known and practiced. In 2012, the group, which usually presents concerts and recitals by world-renowned musicians, turned to hometown talent with its first Celebrate Sarasota — that series of performances took place in nine venues in six days.

This time, the group chose September instead of June, and, although expanding the concept, it limited the venue to the Sarasota Opera House and jam-packed 19 groups into two performances, which took place Sunday afternoon and evening.

How did they do it? The Artist Series Concerts paid for everything — with some in-kind help from foundations and underwriters — and the performing ensembles not only got time in the spotlight, they also got free ads in the program book. Even the city of Sarasota proclaimed Sunday “Celebrate Sarasota Day.”

“Ticket sales pretty much cover our costs,” said John Fischer, executive director of the series. “Participating ensembles have no financial obligation at all. And the audience members will each get a tote bag at the end of the performances with the names of all the participants listed.” Certainly a win-win situation for everyone.

The thing is, each organization is responsible for its presentation and that means each is represented as it is, so it was a great smorgasbord of talent — amateur and professional — that appeared Sunday under the auspices of the Artist Series Concerts. But, it was Lee Dougherty Ross, the artistic director of the series, who had the idea to do this presentation in the first place. She proved, with great enthusiasm and pride, that Sarasota does, indeed, have more culture per capita than Manhattan, N.Y.

Heading both the matinee and evening performances, and representing the Artist Series, itself, was the well-known cabaret singer, KT Sullivan, leading off each segment with a song from Cole Porter to Stephen Sondheim and then easily seguing into her role as emcee and host with a style that rolled Sophie Tucker and Mae West into one.

This was not the kind of event one reviews because the spectrum of abilities was so wide, it would be unfair to attempt a critique. The very idea that some 160 performers could pull together presentations before their real seasons even started is something to inspire pride in the listener. The most important thing is that Sarasota’s vast array of talented, avid performers sets this city apart from most others. Our orchestras, choruses, soloists, dancers and actors have chosen to live here, because Sarasota offers them venues and audiences that feed their talents. Whether they are Juilliard-trained professionals or music-loving amateurs, Sarasota is a magnificent artists’ colony that inspires pride in audiences and performers, alike. And the Artist Series Concerts must be commended for bringing them all together to spread their joy.

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