Broadway Rendition of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Coming to Oxford

The Yellow Brick Road leads to the Ford Center on Sunday

Nicholas Pearson performs the role of the cowardly lion in the national tour of ’The Wizard of Oz’ that will be at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m. Photo courtesy of Denise Trupe

OXFORD, Miss. – The national tour of “The Wizard of Oz” stops off at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 21).

The musical, based on the most recent Broadway production, is a celebration of the 1939 film, and audiences will find all the characters and songs they love, with a few surprises.

Nicholas Pearson, who performs the role of the Cowardly Lion in this production, is celebrating his one-year anniversary as a cast member. Even though he has been with this touring production since October 2017, Pearson said he continues to enjoy feeling the energy of each audience as the show travels across the country.

“(‘The Wizard of Oz’) is so iconic,” Pearson said. “I have always wanted to be a part of it and the fact that I get to play the Cowardly Lion now is just kind of the cherry on top of the sundae.”

Pearson said he hopes those who come to see the musical on Sunday, even if they have seen the film or stage production before, will leave the Ford Center with the show’s positive message.

“Everyone always thinks that the main idea in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is that there’s no place like home, (but) it’s a place where you’re never too much of one thing or another, you’re never too little of one thing or another, (but) you’re perfect just the way you are.”

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the sets and classic songs from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“This is a great opportunity for people on campus and in the community to see a Broadway production without having to go to Memphis or Birmingham,” Meacham said. “We want them to enjoy the experience of seeing this classic adventure live.”

Tickets are $75 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 box-level seating, $69 for mezzanine and Tier 2 box-level seating, and $63 for balcony seating. A 10 percent discount is offered to Ole Miss faculty, staff and retirees. Student tickets are $35 for balcony seats only.

Tickets can be purchased at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center or online at http://fordcenter.org/. Discounted and student tickets are available only at the UM Box Office with a valid Ole Miss ID.

For more information on “The Wizard of Oz,” visit http://fordcenter.org/event/the-wizard-of-oz-national-tour/.

St. Lawrence String Quartet to Perform at Ford Center

Concert is sponsored by the UM Artist Series

The St. Lawrence String Quartet ensemble has developed a reputation for its exuberant performances and is described as showing ‘not only virtuosity, intelligence and imagination, but also extraordinary passion.’ Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host a concert by the St. Lawrence String Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16.

The chamber music ensemble, which originated in Canada and has served as the ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University since 1998, has developed a reputation for its exuberant performances that The New York Times described as showing “not only virtuosity, intelligence and imagination, but also extraordinary passion.”

At the 2002 Grammy Awards, the ensemble received nominations for “Best Chamber Music Performance” and “Best Classical Contemporary Composition” with their renditions of works by Osvaldo Golijov.

“Last year, I researched the accomplishments of the St. Lawrence String Quartet and presented the idea of bringing them to the Ford Center to the Department of Music and the Artist Series Committee,” said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director. “Both groups were enthusiastic about the opportunity to see and hear this stellar ensemble on our campus this fall.

“It will be a wonderful performance that I believe will impress our university and Oxford communities.”

Members of the St. Lawrence String Quartet are two violinists, Owen Dalby and Geoff Nuttall, violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Cristopher Costanza.

Tickets for the performance are $20 for balcony seats, $25 for mezzanine and $30 for orchestra. Student tickets are $10 with a valid Ole Miss ID, and are available for all sections. Additionally, a 20 percent discount is offered at the box office for all Ole Miss faculty, staff and retirees.

For more information on the performance, along with other upcoming shows at the Ford Center, visit http://www.fordcenter.org or call 662-915-2787. 

LOU Symphony Treats Second-Graders to ‘Peter and the Wolf’

Show helps introduce children to orchestra while complementing other subjects

Second-grade students from Lafayette County and Oxford schools experience their own private concert as the LOU Symphony Orchestra presents Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ at the UM Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Second-grade students from Lafayette County and Oxford schools experienced their own private symphony concert Monday (Oct. 1) when the LOU Symphony Orchestra presented Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“We had a ball with the students,” said orchestra director Selim Giray, a UM assistant professor of music. “Prokofiev intended this music to tell a story and to show off the qualities of various instruments, which makes it a wonderful piece to enjoy with young students.”

Music teachers Natalie Lewellen, from Oxford Elementary School, and Rayanne Adams, at Lafayette Elementary School, prepared students for the concert ahead of time.

Students at LES have been learning about composers and instruments, and even made their own instruments to play in the Lafayette homecoming parade. Oxford students discussed the story of “Peter and the Wolf” and its characters’ instruments, and reviewed good audience etiquette.

The concert supported other subjects in the curriculum besides music.

“In our English language arts collaborative classroom, second-graders have been learning about folk tales and how there are life lessons to be learned from reading this literature,” said Sandy Brown, second-grade chair at LES.

“Peter and the Wolf” supports both the music and language arts curricula by demonstrating how music can tell a story – in this case, a traditional folk tale like those the students have been studying in class.

Alex Urbina (right), a UM graduate student and section leader in the LOU Symphony Orchestra, lets Oxford second-graders get a close-up view of his playing during a special presentation of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ at the Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“An educational concert such as ‘Peter and the Wolf’ builds skills in many subject areas,” Lewellen said. “Sergei Prokofiev, a musical composer from Russia, introduces the instruments of the orchestra to children by using literature for children in a fun and interesting way, and so directly relates to subjects such as math, literature and history.”

Guest conductor Mark Laycock and narrator Bradley Robinson also got a kick out of the students’ reactions.

“I always enjoy being part of the symphony’s student concerts,” said Robinson, UM associate professor of music, who joked around with students before the concert and fielded questions about the instruments.

“The kids today were well-prepared and engaged; they were asking smart questions about what they saw on stage, and many were even conducting from their seats during the performance.”

While some students loved Peter best for vanquishing the evil wolf, others took a different view of the show’s bad boy.

“My favorite character was the wolf,” said Kaylee Malloy, a student in Simsie Shaw’s second-grade class at OES. “I sometimes like the bad people in the story because they’re more interesting.”

Classmate Bryars Pittman agreed: “I liked the cat because it was a little bit sneaky.”

The LOU Symphony Orchestra includes Ole Miss students and faculty, and community members. Its next outing is a holiday concert slated for Dec. 1.

Celebrating the Arts Sets Big Goal for Ford Center

Campaign launches to build endowment for performing arts

The Ford Center has cloisonne friendship balls for sale as part of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which runs through May 18. Photo by Kirsten Faulkner

OXFORD, Miss. – Adding $1.5 million in endowment for the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi is the goal of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which will increase the total endowment to $3 million.

Mississippi native and UM alumnus Gerald McRaney serves as the celebrity spokesperson.

“It’s important to support the arts, as opposed to supporting simple entertainment, because simple entertainment quite often will fund itself,” said McRaney, who majored in theatre arts at Ole Miss. “But all too often, the arts – like fine, old books in public libraries – won’t be supported on their own.

“They need us to keep them alive, and they are an essential part of our culture. … Without the arts, without those reminders, we’re lost. We’re a rudderless ship at sea with no direction home.

“The arts in Mississippi have a long, long history, and I don’t want to see that history overlooked, and I don’t want to see it end. I want us to continue to make history, not just appreciate it.”

To honor donors to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, the Ford Center has unveiled plans for a large bronze tree sculpture commissioned from Sanford Werfel Studio and hand-carved by artist Richard Teller. The sculpture will be a permanent installation in the theater lobby.

Major initial gifts already include those from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, of Jackson; Mary and Sam Haskell, of Oxford; and Nancye Starnes, of Charleston, South Carolina, with their names to be displayed on the tree trunks. Dr. Ralph Vance and his wife, Douglas, as well as Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon, also have made major gifts, bringing the early total for campaign efforts to more than $220,000.

Calling the 15-year-old Ford Center a world-class arts and entertainment venue for the state and region, Vitter said providing cultural arts experiences is a key component of the university’s mission to prepare well-rounded students and provide opportunities to the greater community.

“As a flagship institution, we’re committed to growing the capacity of our extraordinary arts and cultural resources and programs,” Vitter said. “The arts keep everything vibrant and relevant; the arts provide an enduring legacy that offers insight into ourselves, as well as cultures of other times and places.

UM alumnus Gerald McRaney is the celebrity spokesperson for the Celebrating the Arts campaign. Submitted photo

“Friends of the Ford Center have provided amazing ideas and are investing their time and energy to move the Ford Center forward. With continued support of alumni and friends, I am confident that we will have a successful campaign.”

The campaign will conclude May 18, 2019 at the Ford Center’s inaugural Friendship Ball. McRaney and his wife, actress Delta Burke, are expected to perform A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” a two-character piece in the form of a staged reading of the 50-year correspondence between East Coast bluebloods Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III.

Those interested in contributing to the campaign can choose from several levels of support with names engraved on different parts of the tree sculpture. The middle trunk represents the Muse of Music and features Gertrude C. Ford rising from the roots with her violin, while the other two trunks hold figures representing the Muses of Drama and Dance.

Nestled among the trees are various sized boughs – representing gifts of $20,000, $25,000 or $30,000 – and on the ground ensuring future trees, golden acorns for gifts of $10,000. In the engraver’s brass gold are also 750 donor recognition leaves, for gifts of $1,000. When a gift is made, the Ford Center will send the donor a form with instructions for personalizing the bough, acorn or leaf.

Most performing arts centers rely upon private contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and businesses to sustain operations and programming, and the Gertrude C. Ford Center is no different.

University resources can cover salaries and a nominal budget, and other resources come from the Ford Foundation, Friends of the Ford Center and other alumni and friends. These additional resources cover the costs of special appearances or series, as well as programming, advertising and other costs associated with running the facility.

The shows each season are major costs, as large-scale musicals can cost up to $70,000 to bring to campus, Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey said.

“We want to offer the biggest and the best that our facility can present, and this takes support beyond ticket sales,” she said. “The building is now 15 years old, and to maintain its beauty and functionality, we have to continually repair, replace and upgrade. Our technology also must be updated to keep competitive with today’s expectations.”

Investing time, energy and resources in the Ford Center is a worthy endeavor, said Ole Miss alumna and Ford Center volunteer Susan Meredith, of Oxford.

“The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is a magical place,” Meredith said. “Where else can live music make your heart soar? Where else can dance make you gasp in amazement? Where else can the spoken word bring tears of sorrow or joy to your soul?

“And we have this amazing facility right here in our own backyard!”

Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey joins UM alumni and friends recently to launch the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which intends to add $1.5 million to the center’s endowment, elevating it to $3 million. A bronze tree sculpture has been commissioned to recognize donors to the campaign. Photo by Robert Jordan

Among highlights of the center’s 2018-19 season are national tours of the “Wizard of Oz” (Oct. 21) and “Jersey Boys” (Nov. 9), as well as “Ferri-Cornejo-Levingston: An Evening of Dance and Music” (Sept. 20), St. Lawrence String Quartet (Oct. 16), Warren Wolf Quartet (Nov. 13), Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” (Nov. 30), ensemble 4.1 (Jan. 21), “We Shall Overcome – A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.” (Feb. 12), “In the Mood, a 1940s Musical Revue” (Feb. 16), Cirque Éloize Saloon: A Musical Acrobatic Adventure (Feb. 26), Billy Hart and the Academy (Feb. 26) and Junie B. Jones (March 30).

“I believe the arts reflect the heart of a culture and society,” Aubrey said. “We seek out paintings, sculpture and music from the past to learn what people were thinking or feeling – what was important to a previous generation.

“The performing arts that are presented in the Ford Center invite an audience to share someone else’s story for a brief period of time. Whether that story is told through music, drama or dance, we have a chance to share that visceral or intellectual experience. You leave laughing, thoughtful or both, and that makes one a more empathetic human being.”

To make a gift to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, send a check made out to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Ford Center campaign noted in the check’s memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at http://www.fordcenter.org/celebrate. More information also is available on the site, and Vitter’s comments from the campaign launch dinner can be found at http://chancellor.olemiss.edu/celebrating-the-arts-campaign-launch-dinner/

The Ford Center also has cloisonne friendship balls available for $50 at its ticket office, with the design featuring the center and Oxford. For more information, contact Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, at kmeacham@olemiss.edu or 662-915-6502.

Ford Center Set for Thursday Jazz Concert

The Hot Sardines bring mix of classics and original numbers

The Hot Sardines are set to bring live jazz to the Ford Center for a 7:30 p.m. show Thursday. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host The Hot Sardines for an evening of jazz on Thursday (Sept. 13).

The band offers a traditional jazz music experience, playing original songs and covers. The group’s most recent album, “French Fries & Champagne,” held a No. 1 spot on iTunes’ Jazz Chart in the United States and internationally.

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the 7:30 p.m. performance.

“They seem to have a lot of energy,” Meacham said. “They are great musicians, but from what I have seen (they) are also great performers. It would be a great introduction to jazz for someone who has never seen a jazz performance before.”

The Hot Sardines was formed by bandleader Evan Palazzo and lead singer Elizabeth Bougerol in 2007. Within the past two years, the eight-member group has performed at the Newport Jazz Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival and sold out multiple New York City venues.

Tickets are $30 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 Box-level seating, $25 for mezzanine and Tier 2 box-level seating, and $20 for balcony seating. A 20 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees. Ole Miss student tickets are $10.

Tickets can be purchased at the Ole Miss Box Office at the Ford Center or online at http://fordcenter.org. Discounted and student tickets are available only at the Box Office with a valid ID.

For more information on The Hot Sardines, visit http://fordcenter.org/event/the-hot-sardines/.

Celebrated Dancers, Acclaimed Pianist Return to Ford Center

International artists to perform Sept. 20 at UM Honors Convocation

Alessandra Ferri (left) and Herman Cornejo dance during their previous appearance with Bruce Levingston at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Legendary dancer Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo, star principal of American Ballet Theater, return to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts for the Fall Convocation of the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

They will be joined by longtime friend and musical partner Bruce Levingston, acclaimed concert pianist and holder of the prestigious Fant Chair and Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-in-Residence at the university. The performance will reunite three renowned artists for an evening of dance and music.

The performance, open to the public, is set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20. Tickets, priced from $25 to $35, can be purchased at the Ole Miss Box Office. Box office hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

“Ferri and Cornejo are two of the most amazing and gifted artists on the planet,” Levingston said. “They each bring a depth of communication and artistry to the stage that is extraordinarily rare. It is a distinct honor and joy to perform with them here once more.”

Ferri, one of the world’s most celebrated dancers, holds the rare title of prima ballerina assoluta. She was recently awarded the coveted Olivier Award for a second time in London.

Cornejo, an Argentinian ballet star who, at 16, was the youngest winner of Moscow International Ballet Competition, is a virtuoso dancer in the American Ballet Theatre.

Levingston, who recently performed a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall, has been hailed by The New Yorker as “a force for new music” and The New York Times for his “mastery of colors and nuance.”

Ferri, Cornejo and Levingston will present a night of choreographed works, and Levingston will perform the music of Chopin, Debussy, Glass, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Satie. Levingston also will be joined by other musicians from Ole Miss to create a musical ambiance that will highlight these illustrious dancers’ magical art.

The three performers have performed to critical acclaim throughout the world. One critic wrote of their New York City premiere performance together: “The combination of these three great artists is more than the sum of its parts. The Ferri-Cornejo partnership is as full of rapture and poetry as that legendary pairing of Fonteyn and Nureyev.

“For his part, pianist Bruce Levingston was the perfect third to bring in and elevate this into a true concert and dance performance. Levingston’s playing was sublime throughout.”

Ferri, Cornejo and Levingston will perform works together that have been created especially for them by such distinguished choreographers as Russell Maliphant and Wayne McGregor. Cornejo also will perform a tango that he choreographed, and Levingston will play a number of solo works from his most recent recording.

“We are excited and humbled to welcome back to our university Italy’s famed prima ballerina assoluta, Alessandra Ferri, and the great dancer Herman Cornejo, who will perform with our own renowned Honors College Artist-in-Residence, Bruce Levingston,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean.

“These splendid artists will engage our students and the Oxford community with their graceful dance and music. Their performance three years ago was breathtaking and kicked off their world tour to famed venues. I expect their return will be a historic performance that will be the talk of the town for years to come.”

Ferri, born in Milan, trained at the school of the Teatro alla Scala opera house and attended the Royal Ballet School in London. Winner of the prestigious Prix de Lausanne in 1980, she joined the Royal Ballet that year and was soon made a principal dancer with the company.

In 1985, she was invited by Mikhail Baryshnikov to join American Ballet Theatre, where she danced as a principal until 2007. She has received numerous international awards, including the Sir Lawrence Oliver Award, the Dance Magazine Award and the Benois de la Danse Prix. She was presented the Cavaliere della Republica Honoris by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, then-president of the Italian Republic, and holds the title of prima ballerina assoluta.

“We are so pleased to return to Mississippi and the beautiful town of Oxford,” Ferri said. “Performing with Bruce Levingston and Herman Cornejo is always a very special and moving occasion, and we look forward to once again sharing our art with the wonderful audience at the University of Mississippi’s Ford Center.”

Cornejo, a native of Argentina, began his training at Teatro Colon’s Instituto Superior de Arte in Buenos Aires and continued his studies at the School of American Ballet in New York. He performed as a guest artist with numerous ballet companies around the world and in 1997 won the Gold Medal at the VIII International Dance Competition in Moscow.

He joined the American Ballet Theater in 1999 and was promoted to principal dancer in 2003. Considered among the world’s greatest dancers, he has received many awards and distinctions, including the Benois del la Danse Prize and Dancer of the Year by The New York Times.

“Mississippi gave birth to our first magical trio performance,” Cornejo said. “I am so happy to return there and share this magic again with Bruce Levingston and Alessandra Ferri.”

For tickets or more information about the performance, call the Ford Center Box Office at 662-915-7411 or visit http://fordcenter.org/event/ferri-cornejo-levingston-an-evening-of-dance-and-music/.

Famed Actor Stars in Production of ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business’

Gordon Clapp of 'NYPD Blue' performing in one-man show Thursday at Ford Center

Emmy winner Gordon Clapp stars in the one-man show ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business,’ coming Thursday to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Copyright 2017 Robert C Strong II

OXFORD, Miss. – Emmy-winning actor Gordon Clapp, of “NYPD Blue,” stars in the one-man show “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 30) at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Frost, who for nearly 50 years traveled around the country charming audiences with his celebrated verse and rascally sense of humor, was one of America’s most celebrated poets. “This Verse Business” gives audiences insight into what seeing Frost in person was like through Clapp’s acclaimed performance.

The show’s playwright, Andy Dolan, said Frost’s wit and perception of the world around him was on par with that of a celebrated author from Oxford. 

“Both Oxford’s own William Faulkner and Robert Frost hand a unique ability to find the universal by means of an intense focus on their local environments,” Dolan said. “Both writers could hear poetry in the everyday speech of their neighbors.”

Clapp, who is best known for his Emmy-winning role as Detective Greg Medavoy on ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” brings uncanny authenticity and joy to his Frost, the American literary “rock star” of his day. Using materials pulled from actual recordings and interviews, Clapp shares the funny and flinty icon’s poems and pointed “wild surmises” on religion, science and politics.

Dolan and Clapp also will host a master class in the Ford Center Studio Theater at 1 p.m. Friday (Aug. 31). The class is free and open to the public.

Tickets are $25 for the orchestra/parterre, $20 for the mezzanine and $15 for balcony seats. Tier 1 box seats are $25, tier 2 box seats are $20. A 20 percent UM faculty/staff/retiree discount is available at the UM Box Office with a UM ID.  Student tickets are $10 for all seats, with an Ole Miss student ID required, also at the UM Box Office.

Ford Season Features National Tours and Performances for All Ages

Tickets available for public Aug. 1, Friends members can purchase this week

The Broadway national tour of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning true-life musical phenomenon ‘Jersey Boys’ comes to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 9. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Two Broadway national tours of classic musicals, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Jersey Boys,” will make stops at the University of Mississippi as part of the 2018-19 season at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Other shows coming to the Ford Center this season include “In the Mood,” a big band USO show with live musicians, singers and dancers; an acrobatic comedy set in the American West of the 1800s; a production of the “Nutcracker” by the Moscow Ballet; a musical based on the Junie B. Jones children’s book series; the comic Gilbert and Sullivan opera “H.M.S. Pinafore” and much more.

“We present another wonderful season in 2018-19 to celebrate the arts,” said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director. “A diverse and interesting group of shows is scheduled, and you won’t want to miss a single one.”

While tickets to the general public go on sale Aug. 1, those who are members of the Friends of the Ford Center or who become members before the end of July can purchase tickets early. Through July 31, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, Ford Center representatives will be available to advise and assist those who want to purchase tickets before they are available to the public.

The season begins next month when Emmy Award-winning actor Gordon Clapp stars in the one-man show, “Robert Frost: This Verse Business.” Clapp, who played Detective Medavoy in the hit TV series “NYPD Blue,” will bring his acclaimed performance of one of America’s most celebrated poets to the Oxford community at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30.

“We will offer our first friends reception in the Studio Theatre before this show,” Aubrey said.

The Robert Frost play is part of the 2018-19 Artist Series that will also include:

  • An Oct. 16 concert by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, described as “modern … dramatic … superb … wickedly attentive … with a hint of rock ‘n’ roll”
  • A Jan. 31 concert by ensemble 4.1, described as the only “piano windtet” in the world
  • A Feb. 12 concert of “We Shall Overcome – A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.,” which features traditional and modern gospel, classical, jazz, Broadway and spirituals.

The Ford Center’s 2018-19 season begins Aug. 30 with ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business,’ a one-man show featuring Emmy-winning actor Gordon Clapp, who brings the acclaimed poet to life. Submitted photo

This year’s Ford Series begins with the Oct. 21 performance of “The Wizard of Oz,” which promises to be a spectacular celebration of the classic 1939 MGM movie that the entire family can enjoy. “Jersey Boys,” the Tony- and Grammy-winning musical that tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, comes to Ole Miss on Nov. 9.

Just in time for the holidays, Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” dances onto the Ford Center stage on Nov. 30. However, two months before the performance, the Moscow Ballet will host open auditions for student dancers ages 6 to 18 so some of the younger members of the community will be able to perform with the full Russian company. For information on the Sept. 11 auditions, join the email list at http://fordcenter.org/nutcracker-auditions/.

The final two shows in the Ford Series will be “In the Mood” and a production by Cirque Éloize. “In the Mood,” the 25th Silver Celebration Tour that celebrates the big band era with the 13-piece String of Pearls Big Band Orchestra and the “In the Mood” singers and dancers, will be here Feb. 16.

Cirque Éloize, one of the leaders in contemporary circus arts, will present “Saloon: A Musical Acrobatic Adventure.” This traveling company will close out the Ford Series on Feb. 26 with a show featuring a combination of infectious energy and acrobatic comedy that has been described as a music-packed theatrical thrill ride.

This year’s Jazz Series, sponsored by John and Marty Dunbar, kicks off Sept. 13 with The Hot Sardines, a New York-based ensemble that has been featured at the Newport and Montreal jazz festivals, as well as several sold-out New York City venues. The Warren Wolf Quartet, which has taken the jazz world by storm, follows on Nov. 13. This series concludes with a March 7 performance by Billy Hart & the Academy, featuring master jazz drummer Billy Hart.

Inspired by the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr., producer and musical director Damien Sneed’s ‘We Shall Overcome’ showcases repertoire from across the African-American music traditions with interwoven spoken words from King’s recorded speeches. The production comes to town Feb. 12. Submitted photo

Other highlights of the 2018-19 season include a special return engagement on Sept. 20 of acclaimed ballet stars Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo as they once again join Bruce Levingston, piano virtuoso and UM Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-in-Residence, for an unforgettable evening of dance and music.

“Junie B. Jones,” a delightful family-friendly production, comes to the Ford Center on March 30. This musical, centered on the popular children’s book character, contains funny songs that kids of all ages will enjoy.

The 2018-19 Ford Season goes out in lighthearted style on April 26-27 when UM Opera Theatre and Orchestra stage the much-loved comedic operetta “H.M.S. Pinafore.” This production is part of the Ford Center’s Campus Connection Series, sponsored by the Madison Charitable Fund through Joc and Leigh Anne Carpenter, and offers faculty and community members an opportunity to join UM students on stage and in the orchestra.

For more information about the performances, visit http://fordcenter.org/.

Ford Center Hosts North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra

Sunday performance features German pianist Andreas Klein

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, with special guest and acclaimed German pianist Andreas Klein, for a Sunday (March 25) concert.

The performance, titled “Revolutionaries,” will contrast the styles of Beethoven with 20th-century Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera. The orchestra will perform Beethoven’s “Corioloan Overture” and “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major,” as well as Ginastera’s “Variaciones Concertantes.”

The two renowned composers were born centuries apart, but both were part of political turmoil during their times and are known for their revolutionary work. To explore the work Beethoven and Ginastera more in-depth, the concert also will feature commentary from Klein and the orchestra’s conductor, Steven Byess.

“This performance offers our audiences a unique opportunity to explore two exceptional composers and learn how Beethoven and Ginestera were involved in the events of their times and how they influenced them,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director.

Tickets for the 3 p.m. performance are available at the UM Box Office inside the Ford Center, or online at https://olemissboxoffice.com/. They are $30 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $26 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels and $22 for the balcony level. A 20 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office. All UM student tickets are $8.

The North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1971 as the Tupelo Symphony Orchestra by attorney Wade Lagrone. The orchestra has drawn musicians from around the South and has become well-known in the region, which led to its renaming in 2013.

The goal of the orchestra is to provide classical music for north Mississippians and to reach out to the community through diverse programming and music education for people of all ages.

For more information about NMSO, visit http://nmsymphony.com. To learn more about upcoming Ford Center events, visit http://fordcenter.org/.

Ford Center Hosts ‘Celebrating Gershwin’

Clarinetist Julian Bliss also to conduct master class at Nutt Auditorium

Clarinetist Julian Bliss is set to perform ‘Celebrating Gershwin’ with the Julian Bliss Septet Thursday (March 1) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Ben Wright

OXFORD, Miss. – The acclaimed Julian Bliss Septet will take audiences on a stroll down Tin Pan Alley when the group visits the University of Mississippi for a Thursday (March 1) concert at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“Celebrating Gershwin: A Stroll Down Tin Pan Alley” is set for 7:30 p.m.

Clarinetist Julian Bliss formed the group in 2010 with a hand-picked selection of some of the best jazz players available. Since then, the group has explored the music of Benny Goodman and Latin and American music styles, including the music of American composer and pianist George Gershwin.

“We are looking forward to welcoming the Julian Bliss Septet back to the Ford Center,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “Their performance at their last visit to the Ford Center was outstanding. We expect this show, with its focus on George Gershwin and the Tin Pan Alley composers, to be great time as well.”

The septet is slated to perform renditions of beloved melodies from “Porgy and Bess,” an excerpt from “Rhapsody in Blue” and other songs, including “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You” and “Lady Be Good.”

Bliss also will conduct a master class at 4 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 28) in Nutt Auditorium. The session is free and open to the public.

Tickets for the Thursday performance are available at the UM Box Office, inside the Ford Center. They are $25 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $20 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels and $18 for the balcony level. A 20 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office. All UM student tickets are $8.