Big changes are afoot regarding Aiken’s oldest multidisciplinary performing arts series. This past weekend, at a launch party at the Etherredge Center, the 2013-2014 USCA Cultural Series was announced or, to put it more accurately, at least four different series were unveiled.
Breaking with longstanding tradition, Jack Benjamin, executive director of the Etherredge Center, is offering the public at least four programming options for the upcoming year. Three are pre-packaged, and one is essentially do-it-yourself.
The first option involves subscribing to the full series of seven events, which run the gamut from classical to popular music with a one-man theatrical performance thrown in for good measure. As shorter alternatives, one can purchase tickets for two different abbreviated series of four events each; one is labeled “Etherredge Classic” and the other “Etherredge Light.”
The Etherredge Classic lineup showcases two of the leading virtuosos of modern music performing as soloists and collaborators: pianist and radio personality Christopher O’Riley (he hosts the weekly program “From the Top” for National Public Radio) and cellist Matt Haimovitz. I first heard the latter play during the highly popular chamber music series at Charleston’s Spoleto Festival when he was just a teenaged phenomenon; he’s now grown up and one of the most accomplished musicians of his generation.
The other two instrumental offerings in the Etherredge Classic Series feature larger musical ensembles. The first is Presidio Brass, a California-based quintet best known for its original arrangements of motion picture scores; and the second is A Far Cry, a self-conducted Boston-based chamber orchestra with 17 members.
The fourth selection in the Etherredge Classic Series can also be experienced by those who sign up for the Etherredge Light option. It is a one-man show by film and stage actor Stephen Lang, whose motion picture credits include “Tombstone,” “Avatar,” “Gettysburg” and “Public Enemies” (the actor considers his finest performance to be that of Stonewall Jackson in “Gods and Generals”). He also starred in the television series “Terra Nova.”
Lang will be bringing to Aiken his own one-man play “Beyond Glory,” which premiered in New York City in 2007; it tells the stories of eight veterans of three wars – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam – all of whom won the Medal of Honor.
The other three offerings in the Etherredge Light Series include an evening with Tony Award-winning actor Hal Linden, who is best known for his role as the title character in the television comedy series “Barney Miller.” Linden released his first album of pop and jazz standards in 2011; he tours with a back-up group of seven musicians.
Vocal music is also featured in the performance of the six-member Broadway Boys, young New York stage performers reinterpreting, often in six-part harmony, classic pop songs and show tunes. The final act of the Light Series is the Southern Fried Jazz Band based in Charlotte, N.C.
For those audience members who want to mix and match the offerings from the Classic and the Light Series, there is a fourth option. One can pick any four performances to create a personal Cultural Series combo for the same price as the four-event Classic or Light Series.
Current subscribers have until June 30 to purchase one of the series options in order to guarantee the same seats that they have this year; new subscriptions are also being solicited now. The full series of seven events is $224 plus a handling fee; any of the four-event options is just $128 plus the cost of handling.
Curtain times will be different this year; all performances will begin at 7:30 p.m., a half hour earlier than has been the case in the past. In addition, online ticketing will be possible starting July 1. With online ticketing, individuals will be able to select seats and print their tickets on their home computer.
For more information on the four options in this year’s USCA Cultural Series – full-season, Classic, Light, or do-it-yourself, call the USCA Etherredge Center Box Office at 803-641-3305.
A recipient of the prestigious Carolina Trustee Professorship in 2008, Dr. Tom Mack holds the G.L. Toole Chair at USC Aiken.
His new book “Hidden History of Aiken County” will be featured at the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia (May 17-19).