Pandemic Leads to Innovation Among KC Artists

Beau Bledsoe, virtuoso guitarist and multi-stylist musician, has spent part of the pandemic performing with his 15-year-old bass-playing son, Aidan.

Our print story in the September/October issue about KC artists’ responses to the pandemic represents just a fraction of what’s been going on in studios, neighborhoods and online.

Read on for more great projects and performances compiled by “KC Studio” contributing writer Rebecca Smith.

Calvin Arsenia, artist and musician, offered ukulele lessons from home and from Powell Gardens for adults and families. Online, he participated in nine solo and joint concerts broadcast from KC, New Orleans, the UK and San Francisco. He also performed at TEDx in between talks.

Beau Bledsoe, virtuoso guitarist and multi-stylist musician, performed with his 15-year-old bass-playing son, Aidan, debuting beside him. Father and son did virtual concerts for Village Presbyterian Church and KC Bands Together, as well as a few socially distanced gourmet picnic event performances.

Victoria Sofia Botero, soprano and musicologist, began work on a Gabriel García Márquez-themed word and music concert to honor her Colombian grandmothers and the struggles they endured. With the pandemic and civil unrest, we, like her grandmothers, are “having to make sense of a world that is utterly out of control.”

Nicole Marie Brown, actor and director, was certified last year in Dell’arte Balinese Mask and Dance from a one-month intensive training course held in the Balinese town of Ubud. The pandemic moved Brown to incorporate elements from the course into her virtual yoga classes. She also held Sunday night script circle readings.

In June, Charles Dickinson, pianist, and Eki Taula, tenor, teamed up to present “Potpourri,” their MCC Blue River recital, online.

Kevin Clark, director of KC Youth Percussion Ensemble, kept the group engaged by creating content “in the model of the Disney Sing-Along Songs tapes of our childhoods” for the young musicians to study and practice. He also distributed instruments to students in need.

Charles Dickinson, pianist, and Eki Taula, tenor, chose a Sunday afternoon in June for “Potpourri,” their MCC Blue River recital: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXzo1jQxMo8. The online concert was played in the beautiful reception space of Simpson House, which Dickinson and his wife, pianist Miho Komatsu, co-manage, and encompassed a multitude of styles from classical to pop to opera.

Katie Gilchrist fulfilled her personal dream June 16 when she hosted a virtual “Bloomsday,” the traditional celebratory reading of “Ulysses” by James Joyce, for the Consulate General of Ireland in Austin.

Susan Goldenberg, violinist with the KC Symphony, performed Plaza Porch concerts in front of her apartment Sundays at 2 p.m. through Sept. 6. Masked listeners brought chairs or sat in their cars and relished the “light classical/popular” selections.

Kansas City Symphony violinist Susan Goldenberg has been performing free Sunday porch concerts during the pandemic. The final concert was on Sept. 6. (Kansas City Symphony)

Manon Hallliburton, actress and photographer, turned to movement with “20-minute quarantine core” sessions. She’d never led an exercise class and initially just did it for herself, but she ended up with a steady group of followers. Linda Robertson, 74, commented, “Kind of like the whole quarantine thing, it’s hard, but some positive things are coming out of it.”

Annie Kalahurka, actress/singer, changed gears and created a new Podcast, “The Big Cookie,” with fellow artist Danielle Anderson. In it, they “read and reflect on our experiences” and connect them to popular daily self-improvement exercises “to help you attract the love of your life.”

KC Fringe went digital with 32 separate entertainment entries available July 12 – 26. Twenty local, nine national and three international artists offered performances or play readings. Additionally, 13 visual artists exhibited their work on the KC Fringe website.

Karen Lisondra, actress/dancer, polished her new play, “El Amor que Mueve al Sol y Las Demás Estrellas (The Love that Moves the Sun and Other Stars),” to be performed by KC Public Theatre next year; she also developed meditations for children and learned Sanskrit. Lisondra and her husband, Amado Espinoza, performed concerts for adults and children through Mid-Continent Public Library and Inter-Urban Art House.

Deborah Moreno, artist/portraitist, who personalizes caricatures for hospitalized children at Children’s Mercy and at various events and social gatherings, developed custom commissions from photos (often of pets) and offered online line-by-line drawing lessons of animals and cartoon characters. Bugs Bunny was a hit.

 Quixotic Experiential Concepts and Performance Company offered an online streaming cabaret and other performance events over the summer. (Quixotic)

The Opus 76 Quartet spent recent months preparing for its six-concert Beethoven cycle celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday. The concerts began in August and continue at 8 p.m. Sept. 5, 12 and 19 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, followed by a Sept. 26 concert, “Becoming Beethoven: Master of the String Quartet,” at the Carlsen Center. In November, the group will offer free online viewing of the Beethoven concerts, accompanied by the opportunity to make donations to six centers of help for the disadvantaged in Kansas City. For more information, opus76.org.

Lauren Parks, violinist, worked on second albums for “Of Tree,” her duo with husband Ben, and “In the Pines,” her indie band. Parks and cellist Sascha Groschang, partners in the classical music duo The Wires, expanded their instruction program, “Drunken Fiddles” (already with 100 students), online for adults wishing to learn the fiddle or cello. They also prepared new holiday music and compiled new material, highlighting owl and other bird sounds, for their “Underground Concert Series,” newly arranged for small, socially distanced private shows.

Quixotic Experiential Concepts and Performance Company offered an online streaming cabaret, showcasing performers at home or outdoors and merged in a portion of the Zoom audience so people could banter with the performers. Some of them even dressed up their spaces and wore costumes, especially for the Zoom dance party afterwards. The troupe also produced two memorable events — a “Live Music, Fire Performance and Wall Dance” on the ground and on the side of the building at Tom’s Town, and an innovative water spectacular at Lake Lotawana, where guests and families watched a full-scale performance from their boats, drive-in-movie-style.

Rebecca Smith

Rebecca Smith is an impassioned supporter of local performances of all types, who welcomes the  opportunity to promote them to KC Studio readers.

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