Art & Music Festival garners ovation

Kane County Chronicle (IL)-July 25, 1995
Author: Roald Haase. Kane County Chronicle.

It’s all over but the shouting. And the clapping, the cheering and the praise.

Now, it’s on to 1997.

Organizers of the third St. Charles Art & Music Festival expressed all-around satisfaction – even elation – Monday about the festival’s two-week run that concluded Saturday.

They acknowledged it may be a tough act to follow when the next Art & Music Festival comes around in 1997. That is the date the festival board chose recently for the fourth such extravaganza.

“It surpassed our greatest expectations,” festival Executive Director Rob Murphy said of the festival’s most recent edition.

Board President Bob White was even more descriptive, terming this year’s festival a “knockout punch.”

“Without a doubt, it’s the best one ever,” White said. “We hit a crescendo here.”

Even the hospitalization of one of Saturday’s gala concert headliners, Margaret Jane Wray, failed to halt the concluding performance, with organizers putting in an almost heroic effort to find substitute artists at literally the last moment.

Cynthia Haymon, a Lyric Opera soprano and wife of gala concert tenor Barrington Coleman, was one of two artists to fill in. The other was Rose Guccione, a dramatic soprano now in the Lyric’s apprentice program, Murphy said. They joined Coleman, the Festival Chorus and the Illinois Chamber Symphony to ring down the city’s latest arts and music effort.

A native of St. Charles, Wray was hospitalized Friday at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge as a precautionary measure related to her pregnancy, the artist told a Chronicle reporter Monday.

Both mother and her unborn baby were doing well Monday afternoon, she said.
White and Murphy counted their blessings as the final gala at the Norris Cultural Arts Center was able to go on as planned, albeit with a slightly altered line-up of performers.

White said Grace Hunt, the wife of incoming festival board President Jeff Hunt, scrambled to make the arrangements for the substitutes Saturday morning.

“She solved the problem,” White said. Haymon literally performed two of the works for the first time in her career Saturday night, Murphy said. “She brought the house down,” Murphy said. “Both of them did. It was really an incredible concert, with multiple curtain calls after every work. They even got a standing ovation before the intermission.” The evening, which included Stephen Squires conducting the Illinois Chamber Symphony, provided a vivid and colorful conclusion to the two-week parade of concert, competitions and art exhibitions. White said each major concert was a sellout. “We met our sales budget, which was 40 percent above two years ago, with less effort,” White said. “Now, we don’t have to run around with tickets in our hands.” That, in part, may be due to a generally enhanced awareness of the festival, he said. “This is not ‘has-been’ talent,” White said. “This is not a ‘60s group coming back on its reunion tour.” The expansion of visual arts events this year, including a special exhibition of student artwork at the St. Charles Public Library, helped set off this year’s events from past years, according to White and Murphy. “We continue to evolve the programming,” Murphy said. “We continue to look at what we have done, to decide if those are the general types of parameters we want to be in.” He said the board is particularly interested in involving teens and others in the festival. White said that the board continues to seek to have 80 percent of the events open free. White said he hopes the festival’s success convinces St. Charles city officials of the continuing need of city subsidy through the means of the city’s hotel-motel tax. Approximately 10 percent of the festival’s budget comes through the hotel-motel tax funds, he said. No arts festival can totally support itself from gate revenues, White said. “If we wanted to (self-) sustain ourselves financially, we wouldn’t have all those free events that we have,” White said.

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