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T-MINUS ONE YEAR AND COUNTING: Kauffman Center Celebration Features Local Talent, R&B legend

A year from now, Kansas City audiences will be taking in opera, symphony, ballet, country music, jazz, rock, Broadway and all manner of things in one of the finest performing arts centers in the world. On September 26th on the KC Live Stage of the Kansas City Power & Light District, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts and its Ambassadors presented an all-day party and series of performances to mark the year-out status of the Center’s opening in the fall of 2011. It culminated in a splendid, highly charged appearance by R&B legend Chaka Khan.

The 1YEAR2GO Countdown Celebration featured donor suppers at Power & Light restaurants and included an afternoon of performers ranging from Paseo Academy students to Störling Dance Theater, from rock bands to KMBC-TV meteorologist Bryan Busby on the timpani. Kansas City Symphony musicians played bits of Vivaldi and others, Lyric Opera apprentices Amy Cahill and Benjamin Gulley sang the Brindisi from La Traviata, and the Kansas City Ballet performed excerpts from Donald McKayle’sHey-Hay, Going to Kansas City.

After the community performances but before Chaka’s appearance, community and Center leaders took to the mike to express gratitude to donors and excitement about Our Town’s future. “The construction is on time and on budget,” said Julia Irene Kauffman in a taped statement about the $413 million Center, a substantial portion of which she has funded herself and through the foundation set up in honor of her late mother, Muriel McBrien Kauffman (who herself began to envision the Center two decades ago). “Over the next year we’re going to go all the way.”

Center CEO Jane Chu took to the stage to thank donors and Ambassadors for their soldierly work in bringing the fundraising to 90 percent of the goal. “In just 12 more months, we’ll have another celebration,” Jane said, stressing the variety of arts groups that would be using the center, as the day’s programming had indicated. The center is deeply committed to connecting the arts to youth programs, she said. Ambassador President Anne Peterson spoke of her fellow Ambassadors and of their dedicated work. “We love — we are passionate about the arts.”

Celebration chairman Barbara Spilker then introduced Leslie and George Brett, honorary chairs. The KC Royals baseball legend commented that, despite his image as a sportsman, he too was rooting for the Kauffman Center. “This is going to be bigger than the Chiefs going 3-and-0,” he joked, alluding to that afternoon’s home-team victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Then Chaka took to the microphone and she and her band rocked the audience with a generous set of hits including “I Feel for You,” “Tell Me Something Good,” “Angel,” “Through the Fire” and “I’m Every Woman.” Between songs she sprinkled poignant, heartfelt comments about her own family crises and battles with addiction. She concluded on a happy tone, though, with “The Greatest Love of All,” in which she was joined by a stage full of energetic youngsters.

* Young British violinist Chloé Hanslip performs on the first Discovery Concert of the Harriman-Jewell Series’ 2010-2011 season, at 8 p.m. on October 15th at the Folly Theater. Admission is free but you’ll need to reserve a ticket, and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. She and pianist Ashley Wass serve up a generous program that includes Beethoven’s G-major Sonata (Op. 30, No. 3), Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, Saint-Saëns’ Sonata No. 1 and a little-heard gem by Szymanowski called Myths. Call 816-415-5025 or go to www.hjseries.org.

* One of the highlights of the Performing Arts Series of Johnson County Community College is coming up next week, as the worldwide tour of The Seasons Project stops by Our Town. On October 16th at Yardley Hall, violinist Robert McDuffie and the Venice Baroque Orchestra present the Violin Concerto No. 2: The American Four Seasons, a new work by American composerPhilip Glass co-commissioned by McDuffie, JCCC and four other organizations. They’ll play the Glass on the first half and follow up with Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons on the second half. For tickets and information call 913-469-4445 or go to www.jccc.edu.

* The Friends of Chamber Music presents Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel in recital, at 8 p.m. on October the 16that the Folly Theater. Gilles made news this summer when he jumped in at the last minute to perform Brahms’ Concerto No. 1 with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, when Peter Serkin withdrew due to illness. He’s filling in for an ailing pianist here, too — Czech pianist Ivan Moravec, who was originally scheduled to perform. Gilles, who won an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2008, presents an intriguing program that includes Debussy’s Images, Ravel’s Sonatine and Gaspard de la Nuit, Poulenc’s Le Soiress de Nazelles and Honegger’s Hommage à Ravel. Call 816-561-9999 or go to www.chambermusic.org.

To reach Paul Horsley, performing arts editor, send email to phorsley@sbcglobal.net.

Paul Horsley, Performing Arts Editor 

Paul studied piano and musicology at WSU and Cornell University. He also earned a degree in journalism, because writing about the arts in order to inspire others to partake in them was always his first love. After earning a PhD from Cornell, he became Program Annotator for the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he learned firsthand the challenges that non profits face. He moved to KC to join the then-thriving Arts Desk at The Kansas City Star, but in 2008 he happily accepted a post at The Independent. Paul contributes to national publications, including Dance Magazine, Symphony, Musical America, and The New York Times, and has conducted scholarly research in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic (the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship). He also taught musicology at Cornell, LSU and Park University.

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