Tragedy and art are unbreakably linked for me. It’s a knot cinched in an early September now decades gone.
In 2001, my naivete stirred me to launch a support group for jazz, an art form with scant presence in Mobile. I assumed fans were disparate and unorganized, that a little nudge could spark change.
Our initial meeting exceeded expectations, garnering ample media coverage and bringing together supporters from both sides of Mobile Bay. The hands I shook then, the faces and names learned, became a dominant presence in my life.
The unanticipated success of that Monday night, Sept. 10, bolstered hopes and spirits. Then the sun rose, and a horrified world watched terrorists kill nearly 3,000 people.
From that historic benchmark, falling dominoes led to a new existence for me. An earth-shattering medical diagnosis forced a change in vocation. Unforeseen opportunities followed.
One of my post-9/11 changes involved work in local public radio, at a fine arts hub that accelerated my classical music education. While assembling musical programming for those somber 9/11 anniversaries still raw from the initial blow, I came across something by minimalist composer Steve Reich that symbolized the zeitgeist with unique voice.
Reich employed phasing and loops to break boundaries in the 1960s and ‘70s, and in the 1980s, melded digital sampling with classical instrumentation. His 1994 work “City Life” finished with a movement entitled “Heavy smoke,” an homage to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six. Field communications from the New York City Fire Department, sirens, and traffic noise were joined by woodwinds, strings and percussion to create an eerily prophetic soundtrack to Sept. 11.
Kronos Quartet’s David Harrington would later request Reich compose a “bookend” piece for them. That new work emerged in 2011 as “WTC 9/11,” a tribute to the victims and Reich’s New York City hometown.
Reich’s art was a transformative encounter in my life – “Different Trains” hit me like one of its locomotives – and it was little surprise he was influenced by jazz artists I admired. Their art led me in his direction, which further tied his work and that job to my 9/11 association.
When I ponder my world now – friends I cherish, projects I’ve relished, accolades I’ve received, contacts I’ve made around the world, and my most treasured experiences dwelling in the town-within-town that is Mobile’s arts realm – it all traces back to one September evening. I entered a more satisfying life, but did so beneath the crumbled towers’ toxic cloud that cast a shadow across our lives.
After a long dormancy, footlights will flare when Chickasaw Civic Theatre (CCT) debuts their production of “Big Fish: A Larger Than Life Musical” on Sept. 10. Inspired by Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel, the magical exploration of familial relationships and identity transfixed audiences when Tim Burton created a film adaptation nearly 20 years ago.
This local version was originally scheduled to run at the playhouse (801 Iroquois St.) in spring 2020, then was postponed to August 2020, then to the current date. It runs through Sept. 26. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.
To retain flexibility with the pandemic, CCT will not offer season tickets this year. The CCT website said they are “developing a reward for loyal audience members” who attend all five of the season’s productions.
Other pandemic measures are:
-only half the house seats will be available.
-ushers will space audience groups
-audience members are asked to wear masks while at CCT
Holding a ticket indicates the attendee’s agreement to these guidelines.
Tickets are $18, $15 for seniors, students and active military.
For more information, call 251-457-8887 or go to cctshows.com.
The Mobile Museum of Art (MMoA) has postponed a Sept. 8 Art Talk event featuring historian Scotty Kirkland’s insights on Mobile under Jim Crow, planned in conjunction with MMoA’s current Gordon Parks exhibit, “Segregation Story in Mobile, 1956.” The announcement explained the rescheduling as “for the health and safety of our visitors, students and all involved.” Considering the dominant health issues in the state, COVID exposure is a likely culprit.
Slated for the University of South Alabama’s Laidlaw Performing Arts Center, no makeup date has been announced.
Kirkland currently serves as coordinator of exhibitions, publications and programs at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. He studied at the University of South Alabama and previously served as curator of history for the History Museum of Mobile from 2011 to 2015.
For more information, go to mobilemuseumofart.com.
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